What Rod Dreher calls the Benedict Option has been getting a lot of pushback from critics — and Rod hasn’t even explained in any detail what he means by it! So before you develop your own premature opinion about it, or even if you have already given your premature opinion about it, here are some things to keep in mind:
1) The Benedict Option, whatever form it ultimately takes, arises from a concern for strengthening the church of Jesus Christ. If you don’t really care about strengthening the church of Jesus Christ, you have no skin in this game, so you’d be doing everyone, including yourself, a favor by, you know, just moving along to other things.
2) Christians, by commandment and by experience, have a complicated relationship to “the world” — the saeculum. In his farewell talk to his disciples, Jesus prays to the Father: “I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world … I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” And St. Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” None of this is easy to parse; there can be great disagreement over how to implement this vision of believers who are in the world but not of it. It would be foolish to expect unanimity.
3) Moreover, from the very beginnings of the church it has been understood that Christians will not fulfill this divine vision in a single way, but rather in very many ways, according to particular vocations: “many members [organs] of one body” and all that. So if other Christians are discerning a calling that you do not discern for yourself, there’s no need to be consumed by agita — even if the New Benedictines are running for the hills, you can just wish them well and return to whatever calling you perceive to be your own. Nobody is going to make you run for the hills, so relax. (N.B.: the Benedict Option, whatever it is, is not about running for the hills.)
4) Whatever else it is, the church is ekklesia — assembly — and koinonia — community, fellowship. It is therefore a shared culture, or subculture, or counter-culture. Christians cannot simply and wholly offload the responsibility for culture-making to non-Christian members of society. So if you are a Christian, and you don’t think the Benedict Option, whatever you believe it to be, is a valid model of culture-making, then you have an obligation to articulate an alternative model. “I don’t like it” is Not. Good. Enough.