People who see the horrors of our chaotic world frequently segue to looking for a dangerous non-solution—the Benedict Option. That is why we must resist the temptation of simply writing off the present system with all its problems and isolating ourselves. In resisting, we reaffirm our certainty in Our Lady’s triumph foreseen at Fatima.
If things are as bad as we say they are, then why not just leave? Drop out? Find a cave, gather supplies, a blessed candle, and await better days? That is one non-solution being proposed in America today.
The New Preppers
Granted, it is a very American way of addressing problems. If something bothers me, I just take care of it and let everyone else do their own thing.
One way this is done is through what is called prepping—the stockpiling for disasters and doomsday. The number of people who are prepping is growing by leaps and bounds.
There have always been Americans who have prepared for apocalypses, revolutions, or the great chastisement. Some have taken reasonable measures to stash essentials. There is nothing wrong with that.
However, others have taken a doomsday approach and indulged in elaborate concrete bunkers with every material comfort. Hardcore amassing of food, weapons, medicine and other supplies used to be reserved for people on the fringe of things. Now, Middle America is getting involved.
A Culture of Fear
A new report in the Journal of American Studies claims that a culture of fear is gripping America and that prepping is now going mainstream as people prepare for uncertainty and fear. They want to be ready “just in case” something terrible happens.
In a way, it is understandable, since in polarized America, many experience a sense of foreboding about the future. It is hard to feel safe when even a trip to Walmart can become a risky, even deadly adventure.
My purpose in bringing up the growth of doomsday prepping is twofold. The first is to show that we, as concerned Catholics, are not alone in our fears for society. We are not the only ones who have shed their illusions; others too have done this. They see through the glossy images of society. Fatima’s chastisement scenario is increasingly mainstream.
The Attraction of the Benedict Option
The second is to show why the Benedict Option is so attractive to some. This fear of danger is driving people off the cultural battlefield where they belong. They hope the Benedict Option will help them escape.
For those unfamiliar with what is meant by the Benedict Option, let me explain.
Where the Benedict Option Comes From
The term comes from a book by the same title, written by Rod Dreher. Mr. Dreher was a Protestant from Louisiana who turned traditional Catholic and then became Russian Orthodox.
He claims we must imitate Saint Benedict, who fled from the barbarians and formed his own little cultural communities awaiting better times. Just a historical note, Saint Benedict never did this. He engaged the culture of his time. If there was one person who did not take the Benedict Option, it was Saint Benedict.
But Rod Dreher is not to be bothered with historical details. He declares that the Culture War is over. Conservatives lost. And we need to get over it. We need to bundle up in little arks (yes, like Noah’s) and float away from the crisis.
Thus, he proposes a program of action for all those boarding their arks.
A List of Things to Do
It is a list of eleven items:
- Turn off the television.
- Put the smartphones away.
- Read books.
- Play games.
- Make music.
- Feast with your neighbors.
- Start a church or a group within your church.
- Open a classical Christian school, or join and strengthen one that exists.
- Plant a garden, and participate in a local farmer’s market.
- Teach kids how to play music.
- Join the volunteer fire department.
With the exception of starting a church, none of these things are bad in themselves, but they are not going to solve our problem.
Dreher proposes we shy away from political activism: “Losing political power might be just the thing that saves the church’s soul.”
He also sees a limited role for America in the world. He declares that “Ceasing to believe that the fate of the American Empire is in our hands frees us to put them to work for the kingdom of God in our own little shires.”
Impossible to Escape
He does not offer suggestions as to what you should do when a transgender activist joins the fire department where you volunteer or when a city government bans you from selling your produce at the local Farmer’s Market because of your faithfulness to traditional marriage, as happened to one farmer in East Lansing, Michigan.
Indeed, the Benedict Option must be rejected because you can never escape the Revolutionary modern world; it will always come after you. The enraged left will not leave you alone. We must constantly and resolutely fight back, legally and peacefully.
We should do the opposite of the Benedict Option. Some action suggestions might be:
- Read counter-revolutionary books, not just books.
- Join a TFP protest instead of playing games.
Instead of volunteering for a fire department, sign up as a telephone volunteer for a couple of weeks in the summer, and help recruit hundreds more Rally Captains for America Needs Fatima’s annual Public Square Rosary Rally Crusade every October.
Waiting For Our Lady’s Triumph
However, the most important reason why the Benedict Option is not an option is that it defeats the purpose of why we await the intervention of Our Lady in the events. The best reason for not leaving the Culture War is because when Our Lady comes, you will not be there.
Our Lady Is the Center
You will be like the foolish virgins who, when the bridegroom arrives, will be putting out local fires or feasting with neighbors. We need to be engaged in the fray while we await Heaven’s intervention. All our attention should be turned to Our Lady for whom we wait and fight. She is the center of the fight. She is the true solution.
It is worth noting that The Benedict Option was written for a Catholic audience—after all, Rod Dreher took our Catholic Saint Benedict as his model. However, much of the book is about successful Protestant, Jewish and Orthodox communities that are presented as models.
Our Lady is barely mentioned and plays no central role. What Dreher proposes is a Benedict option without Benedict and a Reign of Mary without Mary, and thus, it must be entirely rejected.