Rod Dreher thinks that Christians will soon be a tiny, embattled minority in the West – unless they embrace the radical ‘Benedict Option’. Interview by Michael Duggan
Your book The Benedict Option [which calls on the faithful to step back from politics and embrace a traditional, Christian way of life] and recent books by RR Reno, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Anthony Esolen are based on the premise that Christian civilisation in America has reached a new low. Do you feel that you are in the vanguard of a fundamental reassessment of the standing and future of Christian culture in America?
ROD DREHER Without question. There is nothing coordinated about this, I hasten to say. We are simply taking stock of the direction of trends, and the wherewithal of American Christians to withstand them. The picture is disheartening. Nobody likes to hear bad news. Americans, with our congenital optimism, are especially resistant. But somebody has to say it. Perhaps the best thing I’ve done for this reassessment is to give it a name: the Benedict Option. Suddenly people pay attention, want to talk about it, fight about it, argue over it.
You position Christianity as the new “counterculture”. How do you think traditional Christians will react to occupying this kind of ground, which the Left would normally claim?
RD The vast majority of conservative Christians in America simply cannot fathom what it’s like to be a cultural minority, and struggle to accept the Benedict Option diagnosis because of that. Many of my fellow believers have this groundless faith that everything is going to work out for us, because, well, it has to. It’s a failure of imagination. Eventually reality will catch up with them. When it does, I am afraid that more than a few Christians will find some way to rationalise accommodating themselves to the anti-Christian order, because the idea of being an outsider terrifies them more than the fear of the Lord.
You picked up the idea of the “parallel polis” from the late Czech dissident Václav Benda. How would you assess the health of the parallel polis in America right now?
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