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Ben Boychuk

is associate editor of City Journal, where he writes on education and California politics. Previously, he served as managing editor of the Heartland Institute's School Reform News and the Claremont Review of Books. He is also a former editorial writer for Investor's Business Daily and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California. Reach him at

Boychuk writes a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee and Scripps-Howard News Service. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York PostNational Review Online, the Korea Times and newspapers across the United States.


‘Benedict Option’ may be in order for those of faith


Manhattan Institute’s City Journal
f you haven’t heard about the “Benedict Option” yet, you will soon enough. Some serious Christians are starting to think through what their lives might be like living in a country that isn’t merely indifferent to their faith but overtly hostile to it. “Benedict” here refers not to the recent Roman Catholic pope, Benedict XVI, but rather his namesake, St. Benedict of Nursia, whose monasteries helped preserve the remnants of Western Civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire around the 4th century A.D. The idea of a 21st century “Benedict Option” has nothing to do with Christians yearning for a return to life in the Middle Ages. No, it means carving out space within a culture that exalts ignorance, sexual license and gratuitous violence — space that would allow Christians to live humbly according to their doctrines and freely pass their beliefs down to their children. Credit for the term goes to Scottish philosopher Alasdair McIntyre, who wrote in 1981 about the need for local communities that could sustain “civility and the intellectual and more life … through the new dark ages (that) are already upon us.” McIntyre is nobody’s idea of light reading, but the Benedict Option is gaining traction thanks to the work of conservative author Rod Dreher. Dreher concedes he is “very far from a definitive statement on what the Benedict Option is.” But he is clear about this much: American Christians need to have a dialogue about developing new habits away from a noisy world that bombards them ceaselessly with messages that say “Follow your bliss,” “Be true to your authentic self” — and pay no mind to the consequences.

George Washington famously said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” That was an unremarkable statement in 1796.

That it would be controversial today underscores why discussing a Benedict Option is so important. 

Reach Ben Boychuk at .