Having lost the culture wars, should Christians withdraw?

Conservative Christians in America are enjoying fresh winds of political favor. In his first month in office, President Trump upheld his promise to nominate a conservative Supreme Court justice.

Last week, his administration rescinded former guidelines allowing transgender students to use the public school bathrooms of their choice.

And evangelical leaders report having direct access to the Oval Office. For all his clear foibles, Trump seems to be heeding concerns that drew much white evangelical and Catholic support during the 2016 election.

So it’s an interesting time for conservative Christians — traditional Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Protestants — to consider withdrawing from American public life.

And yet in the coming weeks and months, expect to hear a lot about the Benedict Option. It’s a provocative vision for Christians outlined in a new book by Rod Dreher, who has explored it for the past decade on his lively American Conservative blog.

To Dreher, Trump’s presidency has only given conservative Christians “a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable.”

He predicts for traditional Christians loss of jobs, influence, First Amendment protections and goodwill among neighbors and co-workers. Even under Trump, says Dreher, the future is very dark.

The Benedict Option derives its name from a 6th-century monk who left the crumbling Roman Empire to form a separate community of prayer and worship. Benedict of Nursia founded monasteries and a well-known “Rule” to govern Christian life together.

By many accounts, Benedictine monasteries seeded the growth of a new civilization to blossom throughout Western Europe after Rome’s fall.

In his book for a mainstream publisher (Penguin’s Sentinel), Dreher insists that conservative Christians today should likewise withdraw from the crumbling American empire to preserve the faith, lest it be choked out by secularism, individualism and LGBT activism. Continue reading

  • Katelyn Beaty is editor at large at Christianity Today magazine and author of “A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World” (Simon & Schuster).
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