Benedict Option Reading Suggestions (Updated)


Tomorrow in DC several FFers and other interested parties will gather to discuss the “Benedict Option” and practical steps we can take in the next six months to a year to align our lives with this approach. In preparation for the event, participants have suggested pieces they’ve found helpful in thinking through what the Benedict Option is and what it means for our lives. What follows is a curated list of those, and other, pieces:

1.  “Benedict Option” by Rod Dreher. The term “Benedict Option” originated with Alasdair MacIntyre, in his book After VirtueMacIntyre argues that we are seeing a comprehensive collapse of the language, theory, and practice of moral virtue in the contemporary west, and the solution lies with “another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict” (a reference to the way Benedictian monasticism kept the practice of virtue alive during the Middle Ages). But Rod Dreher is the most prolific author on the subject at the moment, and this is one of his original, and longer, reflections on it. Here Dreher also offers some books that might make relevant reading, and one more from Dreher explaining how his vision is different from fundamentalism.

2.  “Give Us Bread, Roses, and Benedict Options” and “Accidental Stylites and the Benedict Option” both by Leah Libresco, an editor at FF and the host of tomorrow’s discussion. Libresco argues that the Benedict Option is about “rearranging your life and community so there are spaces where joyful piety happens to you more often” and “mak[ing] sure that Christians clear space for some distinctly Christian communal spaces.”

3. In “The Benedict Option: Why the religious right is considering an all-out withdrawal from politics,” Damon Linker argues that the Benedict Option is a new kind of strategy for Christians in America, different from the majoritarian approach taken when Christians were more confident in their cultural and political power.

4. Noah Millman asks some “serious, non-sarcastic questions” about what, specifically, Benedict Optioneers actually want to do.  He offers some concrete changes he would expect Benedict Option proponents would endorse, including “take your kids out of public school” and “create wealthy, independent institutions from communal property.”

5. At Fare Forward itself, Will Seath penned “This Is What We Do,” a profile of a community living out something like the Benedict Option in Hyattsville, Maryland. Also relevant from FF is this excerpt from a book by Jonathon Wilson Hartgrove, a writer on stability and the Christian life.

6. “A Brief Thought on the Benedict Option” by Jake Meador. Jake, also an FF editor, wonders whether there’s anything so unique about our age and its discontents: “So while it feels like we’re having to articulate a response to unique cultural challenges maybe all that’s really required is a return to the basics of Christian discipline and church life?”

7. In “Withdrawals and Commitments,” Alan Jacobs warns against the language of withdrawal, suggesting it’s better to think in terms of “a strategic attentiveness to the institutions and forms of life within which Christians can flourish.”

8. Both Frater Urban Hannon and Prof. Chad Pecknold have written about the possibility of a ‘Dominican option.’  The Order of Preachers offers a model of a faithful, disciplined life that remains engaged with the world without being suborned by it.

9. And, because this list is under my curatorial control, I’m just going to drop in a link to “Licensing the Kingdom,” a piece about the Catholic Worker, which I think remains an excellent model. It’s behind a paywall, but the publication is First Things, so I would imagine a good amount of readers will have access.

Subsequently suggested:

1. “Engagement is Discipleship” by Matthew Loftus at Mere O 

2. “What Would Jeremiah Do?” by Samuel Goldman at The American Conservative 


Peter Blair

Peter Blair lives in Washington, DC. A 2012 graduate of Dartmouth College, he works as Campus Program Coordinator for the Thomistic Institute. Peter is editor-in-chief of Fare Forward. He is on Twitter: @PeterAWBlair.