Why would I want to call a blog “Being Benedict”? Do I aspire to live my life as a famous actor who is the modern embodiment of Sherlock Holmes? Shall I become the most comforting and decadent of brunch dishes. Am I channelling a fifth-century Italian saint? Certainly not.
The name “Being Benedict” is a nod to Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option. He took the name from Alastair MacIntyre’s 1981 book After Virtue, in which MacIntyre draws parallels between the fall of the Roman Empire and our current state of moral and Christian decline, and exhorts Christians to once again “cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents.” A figurative (but not literal) call to “head for the hills, the heathens are coming.”
The Benedict Option created quite the buzz in conservative religious academic circles when it was released in early 2017, and although I do not frequent those circles (physically or virtually), I noticed. And so did my husband. As my husband and I agree strongly on everything and nothing (because marriage) and both being total nerds when it comes to conservative culture and politics, the BenOp topic dominated much of our extracurricular conversations for the better part of three weeks. We both agreed with the BenOp tenants in principle, but entertained ourselves by debating on various points of Mr. Dreher’s book and whether he effectively communicated them. And it was great fun.
At some point in the midst of the Great BenOp Debate of 2017, the irony occurred to me: we weren’t just debating the Benedict Option — we were already living it. Over the past three years, we had re-oriented the lifestyle of our entire family away from the normative choices of middle-class, middle America and began retreating from the common culture. It started with the startling but now obvious realization that our well-rated, highly-scoring public school was not serving our youngest daughter, and was it never going to. So homeschooling. (Yeah, it was that easy – not.) We cut the cable and the landline, and became more intentional with our media choices. I took a job that that was centered on my faith. We steered our college-bound daughter away from a private, top-ten, liberal-elite research university (her “dream school”), towards a small, classical Christian liberal arts college. After seven years, we dropped out of Girl Scouts and became very involved with American Heritage Girls, a non-denominational Christian scouting organization for girls. And so on and so on. And most importantly, through homeschooling, we found a new community within our parish of like-minded families who were also living an “alternative” conservative-Christian lifestyle, and we found a home there. Our own Benedict Option.
My hope is that blog will capture the steps we took, in practical terms, in accidentally arriving at our BenOp life, the many mistakes I’ve made in the process of changing nearly everything in our lives, how we navigate living within and apart from mainstream America, and thoughts I’ve had along the way.
Ad altiora tendo.