Just after our post on The Benedict Option yesterday, Noah Millman posted a friendly, but nevertheless formidable, critique of it over at The American Conservative. His point is quite simple– To really do what it sounds like The Benedict Option wants to do, you need a religion other than Christianity. And if The Benedict Option means political or semi-political separation, along the lines of parallel marriage laws and other legal or structural boundary markers, then Mr. Millman is correct. Though there have been groups within Christianity who have attempted that, they have always been viewed as sectarian and atypical.
Mr. Dreher most likely will not want to go for this more consistent approach of an outright sectarian or oppositional community, and he has posted another clarification today with added perspective confirming this. He is not calling for a literal withdrawal from society, nor even from full civic participation, but is, rather, asking believers to attempt to create their own culture from within their ecclesiastical communities rather than borrowing or attempting to piggyback on to any sort of “mainstream” culture from the outside. And though we could say more about this (my misgivings about the postmodern ideological foundations remain), it does make me wonder.
Has Rod Dreher ever considered visiting Moscow, Idaho?
Now, I don’t expect that their kind of religion, theology, or culture will exactly be his cup of tea, but it is probably one of the more noteworthy examples of a what he seems to be looking for. Ross Douthat even thought it worth mentioning in his book Bad Religion, towards the end when he was offering up ways to recover a public Christian presence in America. The community that has grown up around Christ Church in Moscow certainly retains its right to interact with American politics, and Douglas Wilson has been critical of attempts to withdraw from legal marriage licensing. Still, they have created something worth noticing, and it is the first thing that comes to my mind when I read Dreher’s various follow-ups.