Dreher's solution is what he has called the Benedict Option and he wrote about it on more than one occasion. One such occasion is in a Christianity Today article (click here for the article). And though it would be good to review the whole article, time does not permit that. Rather, this blog will examine Dreher's analysis of today and take an initial look at his proposed solution.
The idea that the sexual values taught and practiced in American culture today are beyond the pale have become much more widely accepted by religiously conservative Christians especially since the Obergefell decision. The belief that we Christians have lost a fiercely fought culture war to an unrelenting enemy that takes no prisoners is now popular among many of my fellow religiously conservative Christians. Dreher looks at the conflict between the Christian view of sex and our culture's view as two gunfighters saying to each other that 'this town isn't big enough for the both of us.' At least that is his perception. And we have to realize that there is some evidence for this perception.
For one thing, Christianity use to have a degree of dominance over our culture's sexual values. Earlier in our nation's history, certain sexual practices warranted incarceration or even the death penalty. Eventually the death penalty was phased out, but I remember when homosexuality, for example, was punished as a crime. In fact, it was not too long ago when certain sexual practices were criminalized even when practiced by heterosexual couples. Starting with the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and culminating in the legal recognition of certain rights for the LGBT community, that dominance was lost. And thus, the following paragraph from Dreher's article is confusing for it seems to lack self-awareness.
Today, Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage have the same status in culture and, increasingly, in law, as racists. The culture war that began with the sexual revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives. The cultural left—which is to say, the American mainstream—has no intention of living in postwar peace. It is pressing forward with a harsh, relentless occupation, one that is aided by the cluelessness of Christians who don’t understand what’s happening.
The confusion is seen in the parts where Christians are seen as persecuted while the 'cultural left' is portrayed as being overly aggressive. For how is it that history could not paint the LGBT community as victims and Christians as being the uuncompromisingly aggressive ones? And even now, when legal action is taken against or disdain shown for taking a "Christian position" on sexual issues, it is when the rights of the LGBT community are being threatened by Christians.
In fact, to claim that we have had a culture war starting with the Sexual Revolution means that we have viewed ourselves as being in a battle to conquer an enemy. In fact, it wasn't until the Obergefell decision when many of us Christians acknowledged that we had lost the war. And even now, some Christians are battling to pass laws that would take away the rights gained by those in the LGBT community. So when Dreher complains that the cultural left refuses to live in a postwar peace, he demonstrates the self-awareness of a bull in a china shop.
We also have to note that in looking at his proposed solution, why does it take the Sexual Revolution to make us want to exit from society? Yes, Dreher acknowledges the problems that the materialism of our culture can cause. And yet for Dreher, culture is irrevocably lost not to materialism or during slavery, Jim Crow, the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the land, or through the wars and interventions it has taken to build and maintain our empire. Instead, our culture is without hope because its sexual values have changed.
Now when we look at Dreher's solution, we find that it is not based on any New Testament example. For the worst case New Testament scenario was in Corinth and yet the Corinthians were never encouraged to leave their culture in order to protect themselves. Rather, they were to live out their faith in a community of believers so that they could live righteously as a witness to their culture by being a part of the culture.
But something else could be said. Dreher's Benedict Option demonstrates an immaturity that revolves around self-absorption. For what it is really saying is that we Christians should take our toys and go home because we lost a game. Thus, we will play with our toys by ourselves rather than sharing with others because we can't tolerate not winning.
However, there is one point where we should give Dreher his due. Unbiblical sex is a very strong temptation. And we do need each other to battle that temptation. But there are more issues than just our own self control here. How we will share society with others is one such issue. And we cannot afford to take our own weaknesses out on our culture. We can't afford to because, just like falling to temptation, it brings dishonor to the Gospel.