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Rod Dreher - The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation

Sentinel £16.99 262 pages ISBN 978 0 7352 1329 6

This has been a book that has got people talking on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Spectator magazine, which published an article by the author in April, and set up a podcast discussion with journalist and atheist Matthew Parris, who has some respect for the Christian faith.  It has gained the attention of a wide range of Christians and non-Christians.

The book contains an interesting diagnosis of a perceived crisis in contemporary Christianity in his native United States. He suggests that for all the churches talk about various issues of the day, like abortion and gay marriage: “We seemed content to be the chaplaincy to a consumerist culture that was fast losing a sense of what it meant to be Christian.”

The aforementioned podcast explored the relevance to the UK of the book’s pessimistic outlook on the state of Christianity. Matthew Parris commented: “I don’t see your attack so much a defence of Christianity as an attack of one kind of Christian on other kinds of Christians.”

That is a fair comment. It is possible to be too pessimistic about branches of Christianity with which we have become disenchanted, and overly optimistic about our fresh discoveries. 

Parts of the book reminded me of books written by Richard Foster or David F Wells, Dallas Willard, and the media scholar, Neil Postman, who share some of his interesting diagnosis but would differ with him concerning the suggested remedies.  

Not everyone will be convinced that the solution is The Benedict Option, based on the Rule of the sixth century monk, which was a structured Christian response to the fall of the Roman Empire, and created pockets of light in the Dark Ages. It is not the author’s intention to rally a retreat into Christian ghettos but this could well be the message that some readers take from the book.

Yet, if we are heading for a new Dark Age, we would all do well to hear this wake-up call, and be stimulated to find creative ways to engage in a Christian life that touches the whole of our lives, both inside and out.

John Woods

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