With the rapid realization by Christians that American culture is more like an adversary than an ally, church leaders, writers, pastors, and lay people within orthodox Christianity have begun to ask where does the American church go from here. Though some like Russel Moore are more optimistic about “keeping Christianity strange”, others are more skeptical about the church’s days ahead. One of those who remains skeptical is lay person, writer, and blogger Rod Dreher. Known for his blog at The American Conservative, and his book How Dante Saved Can Save Your Life, Mr. Dreher believes that the church will face a continuing hostile culture which will force her to entrench for decades to survive the coming battle. He takes the title for his book, as well as the concept for the church’s health, from St. Benedict of Nursia (480 AD-547 AD). In creating a rule to help the Church, Benedict also set in motion systems that would create institutions to preserve Western civilization during the coming Dark Ages. Thus the title of the book: Mr. Dreher sees a coming Dark Age for the American church.
According to Mr. Dreher, he is not advocating “running to the hills to hide,” but a focus on ingraining a Christ-centered mentality in the church. To do this, he contends that there must be some withdrawal from mainstream culture which is quickly moving away, if not against, the Church. By withdrawing, yet being a faith presence within culture, he contends that the Church will reemerge at some future time to lead the culture back to Christ. He is talking a long view of the cycles of Christianity. I personally think he is on to something that we Christians need to really ponder.
In a year when many evangelicals seemed to think that a Trump presidency would roll back the hands of the cultural clock, The Benedict Option will be an interesting, and perhaps, needed tonic to purge an overly confident evangelical church. Though I respect Mr. Dreher and appreciate his writings, I don’t know if I will agree with everything that he will say in his book. But I do know that it will be one of the books that every serious-thinking Christian should be familiar with going forward. I have already pre-ordered my copy.
The Benedict Option is due to be out March 14, 2017.