“The Benedict Option” A Necessary Preface

by Jefrey D. Breshears

Our Areopagus Dinner & Dialogue series this summer focused on Rod Dreher’s new book, The Benedict Option. Dreher is a writer and senior editor at The American Conservative blogsite, and The Benedict Option is one of the most relevant and important Christian books in recent years. Not only has the book sparked considerable interest, but also considerable controversy. In the course of reading reviews and listening to comments over the past several months related to The Benedict Option, it occurred to me that some kind of Preface needed to precede any  thoughtful and focused discussion of the book.

In particular, there are three basic questions that should be addressed in order to clearly understand Dreher’s thesis and his seminal arguments. Unless there is a consensus agreement on these issues, any discussion and debate on the relative merits of the book are probably fruitless and futile. The following is a condensed version of my article, “The Benedict Option: A Necessary Preface” that I distributed to the class and is now posted on our website at

1. Is American culture getting better or worse? Since cultural deterioration is a fundamental assumption of Dreher’s book, this is an issue on which readers should be clear. For most traditional Christians, the answer to this question would appear to be an obvious “no-brainer.”  The massive expansion of the welfare state over the past 50 years along with dramatic increases in crime, drug abuse, civil unrest and disrespect for authority, pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, divorce, the illegitimate  birthrate, cohabitation, homosexuality, the pervasive promotion of moral decadence in mainstream entertainment, and declining standards in most every area of civic and cultural life should be sufficient to convince all but the most unobservant that America is in a perilous state.

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