The problem is modern Western culture — Modernism — and this is what is discussed in the book The Benedict Option. Our Modernist culture is just too overwhelming for parents to be able to do their jobs anymore. It is virtually impossible for parents to raise godly children, in the self-sacrificial Catholic faith, when the message of the world (even the message of consumer Christianity) is that of self-gratification. Like ancient Rome, the culture is destined for collapse. It’s hard to say if or when such a collapse would be political, but it most certainly is cultural.
On a personal side note, living here in the Bible Belt of the United States, I am constantly hearing local Protestants refer to the November 2016 election of Donald Trump as some kind of “turning point” for the culture, and they fully expect things to get better now. I’m sorry to report to you that our Evangelical brethren are sorely mistaken on this, and will be in for a rude awakening sometime in the not-too-distant future. Politicians cannot solve this problem. Those who believe the election of Trump marks some kind of cultural turning point are sadly deceiving themselves.
So with a culture that is overwhelmingly Modernist, wherein Catholic parents have no choice, what is this Benedict Option in modern terms? No, it’s not what you think. It’s not about going out into the wilderness to live as the Amish do. I suppose that might be a viable choice for some, but certainly not for most. For the average Catholic, the Benedict Option heavily involves your local Catholic parish.
The Catholic parish must be revived, or rebuilt, to become a truly communal place, as it was originally meant to be. Catholics can no longer look at Catholicism as just one aspect of their lives. Rather, they must now look at it as their entire lives. Catholicism can no longer influence us. It must define us, and yes, the local Catholic parish is the key to making this whole thing work. Without it, any attempt at a Benedict Option will fail miserably.
Go on over and read the whole thing.
And while we’re on the topic of Rod Dreher, who writes at The American Conservative, and is always interesting, I came across this piece of his at the site.
It is a review of a book by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Harari understands that modernity has a way of dissolving all inherited sacred stories. Here is a key paragraph that is incredibly important:
“Yet in fact modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarized in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.”
Read that again. Think about it. What he’s saying is that ceasing to believe that there is fixed meaning in the universe leaves us in an unstable situation, but it gives us more agency to remake the world in our own image. Very few people are what Damon Linker calls “honest atheists” — that is, atheists who understand what it means to surrender the meaning that comes with theism. Most of them end up becoming sentimentalists of some sort or another — and that is the fate of Yuval Noah Harari, who is an incorrigible nostalgist for the future.
He believes that having been freed from the old myths is a very good thing indeed, because it liberates us to do what we like. Harari believes that capitalism is a force for good in the sense that it responds to human desires. Human desire is good. The desire to be free from pain, suffering, and death is good. Therefore, anything done in service of those goals is good. He eagerly anticipates the power of redefining what it means to be human that will soon be delivered to us via science and technology.