Fighting the Barbarians

Michael Voris
The Vortex
March 20, 2017


Rod Dreher’s new book, The Benedict Option, is burning up the sales records on the internet among various Christians. On a recent TV interview, Dreher explained that the main thesis of his book is that Christians have to accept that we are now in a post-Christian age, and we have to live as committed, even radical, Christians in order to recapture the Christian culture that has been lost.

Dreher converted from being a Methodist to a Catholic in 1993 and then, when the homosexual priest child sex abuse scandal erupted, he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy because “the sexual abuse of minors is facilitated by a secret, powerful network of gay priests.”

On that score he’s dead on, and it’s still going on. And those clergy who die in their sins will face the wrath of Almighty God, and it will be justly deserved. But to the larger point of this Vortex episode, Dreher is missing a gigantic point; in fact, it is so big that it renders his solution to living as a Christian in a post-Christian world completely null and void. It is a classic case of perfect diagnosis and wrong cure.

America is post-Christian precisely because the understanding of “Christian,” in its original and authentic sense, has been completely stripped bare of its meaning. In a theological sense, “Christian” refers to anyone baptized, and that’s about it. In every other sense, the word has no real meaning because practical Christianity has been utterly neutered owing to the heresy of Protestantism.

The reason “Christian America” has been wiped away is because “Christian America” was always primed to be wiped away. All that was needed was for the right set of circumstances to occur. There are 40,000 different Protestant denominations — each one with its own form of Jesus Christ. In some denominations, Jesus allows divorce and remarriage. In another, He does not. In one denomination, Jesus wants the Bible interpreted literally, and in another He does not. One Protestant Jesus says abortion is okay; another Protestant Jesus says it’s not. One Protestant Jesus is down with same-sex marriage; another one condemns it. One Protestant Jesus allows the use of birth control; another Protestant Jesus doesn’t.

And so it goes. Every single moral, theological, scriptural, liturgical, worship, ethical, devotional, authority question is always up for grabs in Protestantism, and no agreement is possible. This is what has destroyed Christian culture, meaning Catholic culture: Protestantism! Period. It is a heresy.

And since this nation from its earliest beginnings tied itself to a heretical system of beliefs and then tied the political course of the country to this fake Christianity, it can hardly be shocking to anyone that as the heresy dissolved — as all heresies do — that the nation tied to it would also break apart and descend into neo-paganism.

Look, there are only two choices: Catholicism or atheism, nothing more. For anyone to try and pretend that there is something salvific in a system of heresy is beyond stupid. What truth that does exist in Protestantism is Catholic truth. All the rest is heresy and ignorance and distortion and pride. Until American Protestants reject their heresies — for that is what they are —and convert to the One True Faith, America will continue to degrade into a more barbarous pagan nation.

Protestantism set the philosophical stage for Freemasonry, which set the political stage for the fake “freedoms” of liberty, equality and fraternity — purely humanistic views of man ever spinning more and more away from God.

The Benedict option refers to St. Benedict of Nursia of the sixth century, who retreated from the decadence of the Roman pagan world and went to the forest of Subiaco south of Rome. Eventually other men joined him and the movement grew into the monastery system for which St. Benedict is recognized as the Father of Western Monasticism.

In the monasteries was preserved the culture. Given the case of what “Christians” must do now — faced with the same decadence or even worse — Dreher queries, “What must the Church do in order to live and witness faithfully as a minority in a culture in which we were once the majority?”

His answer is the Benedict option — but here is the problem. When Benedict retreated into the woods at Subiaco, the term “the Church,” which Dreher uses, referred to the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, not the broader heresy encompassing term that the generic, blasé word “Christianity” has been allowed to morph into.

Any attempt of generic Christians banding together to batten down the hatches against cultural paganism is guaranteed to fail because generic Christianity, meaning heretical Protestantism, is the parent of the neo-paganism now engulfing the world. Taking the disease into the bunker will kill everyone in the bunker. That would be like Noah taking the wicked who were to be drowned on board the ark — sheer stupidity. Protestantism fails completely because it denies a final, authoritative authority outside itself, and that only resides in the Catholic Church established on Blessed Peter. Period.

So when the Benedict option communities, in imitation of the original Benedict option communities, eventually get into it over questions of sexual ethics and abortion and scriptural interpretation and divorce and remarriage and so on, how will that be any different than what’s already going on right now? No! There is only one answer as there has always ever been only one answer: the Holy Roman Catholic Church in all Her terrible glory and beauty and agony, as She longs for the return of her Groom on the clouds of Heaven.

In the meantime, for authentic Christians (meaning faithful Catholics), the Benedict option has already been developing. Church Militant itself is a reflection of that, as are some other groups. The Benedict option worked for us once before in our 2,000-year sacred history, 1,000 years before the world was beset with the heresy of Protestantism. It could work again, but there can be no compromise on who gets inside the walls, just as St. Benedict refused entrance to the pagans.

Anyone of good will willing to embrace the Bride of Christ is welcome. Heretics stay out and be consumed by the world you birthed into existence 500 years ago.

Get AQ Email Updates


  1. ‘The Benedict Option risks becoming a ghetto mentality’: an interview with Fr George Rutler

    by Francis Phillips
    posted Monday, 13 Mar 2017

    The New York priest and author tells Francis Phillips about his biggest influences, cultural retreat, and Lenten exercises

    Fr George Rutler’s new book, which I blogged about last week, is the product of an original mind. So I wanted to ask him: what were his formative influences? “My parents,” he tells me. “That usually is the case or should be in a healthy culture, but mine had a strong experience of two world wars, the Great Depression and various challenges that made them special proofs of the power of virtue.”

    Fr Rutler adds that “several clergymen, Anglican and Catholic” had shaped his idea of the priesthood, and that “enjoying academic life in the early 1960s, before the social revolution sent universities into virtual chaos, let me appreciate the ideals of classical culture before they faded.”

    Knowing that he had been a priest in Manhattan for many years, I was curious to know what changes he has seen in his pastoral work. He points out, only half joking: “New York City ‘never sleeps’, and the same may be said of the parish. A parish priest could write a good novel about each day in his life; this is true of any parish community anywhere, but especially in the Manhattan metropolis.”

    He thinks there are two conspicuous factors to change: “First, the ever-increasing international character of parish life, which was always cosmopolitan but is now more so; secondly, the secularisation of culture has minimalised the practice of faith as a social routine, but at the same time the transition to Catholicism as counter-cultural has created a more lively spiritual earnestness, especially among younger people and converts, despite or in part because of a shrinking demographic.”

    What does Fr Rutler think of the “Benedict Option”, proposed by Orthodox writer Rod Dreher and named after St Benedict of Nursia, who retreated from Rome for the solitude of the hills where he founded his first monastic community? Fr Rutler reminds me that it was first proposed by the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, and reflects, “There are merits to living as Catholics more conscious of what sets them apart from a materialist and narcissistic culture. But the ‘Benedict Option’ seems inchoate and runs the risk, even though this may not be its intent, of a ghetto mentality. Such would be cultural retreat.”

    He adds: “Surely prudence must discern what battles to engage, how and when,” adding that “Christ sends his disciples into the world. Benedict knew that and did not envision his Rule as a universal template for Christian life, but as a compass point to guide Christians on their journey.”

    “That”, Fr Rutler suggests, “is why there are friars as well as monks. You might speak of the Dominican Option or the Franciscan Option as well as the Benedict Option, but none of them is adequate alone.” If we are looking for a model of “Christian life in a pagan world”, he says, we should look to the 2nd-century Letter to Diognetus, which says: “As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world.”

    In that case, what advice would he give to Catholic parents raising their children in today’s hostile environment? Fr Rutler is clear: “Be the first and best teachers, above all by example. In a culture of indifference, uncertainty and sadness, they can show love, faith and hope; nothing self-conscious but with lots of sacrifice and cheerfulness.”

    As his book shows evidence of wide reading, I want to know if there are particular authors he has enjoyed. Father tells me he could “not exhaust such a list”, adding that “there are the ante-Nicene Fathers, Aquinas, Newman, the spiritual writer Scupoli as well as Ratzinger and Ronald Knox.”

    Given the ferment both before and after the US Presidential election I ask him which candidate he voted for and why. Father relates that he voted for Donald Trump “while all the time praying for another kind of Lepanto miracle.” He reflects, “I think things will work out much better than many expected. Had Trump lost, we would be entering a nightmare worse than the past eight years.”

    Not surprisingly, he adds that he does not now take seriously “any advice from those whose predictions about the election were so wrong. Something similar might be said of the Brexit vote.”

    In conclusion and now that we are in the period of Lent, I ask Fr Rutler for some words of pastoral advice. He suggests that “along with an examination of conscience and Confession, spend each day with a different saint, reading a brief biography of each in the Catholic Encyclopaedia or in the Oxford Dictionary of Saints.”

  2. All groups who withdraw from active engagement with the culture risk being marginalized or becoming too insular, but it’s unfortunate that the anti-Catholic jargon of “ghetto mentality” used also by progressive modernists in their propaganda was invoked. There were MANY positive aspects to the Catholic communities, neighborhoods, and schools of pre-Vatican II Irish Catholic life often stereotyped by the “ghetto mentality” rhetoric and ridicule. Indeed, there would not be much of a Catholic Church for Episcopalians or other Protestants to convert to without traditional pre-Vatican II Catholicism and its spurned “ghetto mentality” which was egged on by hysterical WASP anti-Catholic bigotry. Dreher and other advocates of the Benedict Option might do well by becoming more familiar with that history and its heroic achievements, as would some of the smug critics. One thing about the Catholic ghetto, at least most young women were not openly sluts and whores exhibiting skanky tattoos and marching in Planned Parenthood rallies.

  3. Actually, it was better than what we have now. It’s a scandal that Catholic young men are subjected to anti-Catholic harassment and agitation by anti-Catholics on Catholic campuses. Also, Notre Dame football was better then. We had more priests, more parishes, more schools, etc. None of that real estate would be there for converts. Anti-Catholic Protestants pushing the “ghetto mentality” ridicule were also the first to subject Catholics to anti-Catholic hazing when they wandered beyond the ghetto. Which is it, folks? Do you want us in the game or to be blackballed at the gait? Sin makes people stupid but the contradiction is ridiculous.

    The anti-Catholic pressure put on the Little Sisters of the Poor by the Obama regime with the contraception mandate was a taste of the old anti-Catholic bigotry which was routine in the old days. Oh, and what do you know, he’s a puppet for the Illuminati and their Malthusian population control agenda. Well, well…”The more things change…”

  4. I just read an article about this yesterday. I can’t remember where, but they said the problem with the Benedict Option is that you’ll have the culture built up around the monks, but you’ll also have the thieves and barbarians that liked to steal and destroy, so these enclaves would also need to be well prepared to do battle with those groups.
    I believe the late Dr. John Senior promoted the Benedict Option.

    • The Benedict Option & the Barbarians at the Gate

      by John Horvat

      Scratch the soul of many a conservative and beneath you will find a villager. Something is there that attracts these Americans to more natural and simpler lifestyles. Perhaps it is because organic and authentic things appear restful and reassuring in a world of uncertainties and anxieties.

      However, what makes the organic option particularly attractive to conservatives is that it seems to be a solution to a neo-pagan world that corrupts and attacks family life. These conservatives believe, not unreasonably, that families fare better when surrounded by organic produce, home remedies, and whole grain granola. Journalist Rod Dreher wittingly dubbed these rustic conservatives as “crunchy cons.” He described the phenomenon of those who desire to find a “village” of like-minded people to get away from the maddening liberal crowd.

      Such attractive dreams of an organic Christian society have circulated for decades. The idealized community generally involves a fair amount of acreage far enough away from the city. Community members might build a homestead on some ten or twenty acres. There would be huge gardens full of organic vegetables and produce. Livestock, free-range chickens, or goats would supplement diets. Add an orchard and maybe a vineyard. One could make one’s own beer, cider, or wine. Self-sufficiency would reign as people would get off all the grids. There would be children aplenty to make things merry. One would simply walk away from secular society. There would be no time for sin and war, since all would be busy on their farms with wholesome work.

      Of course, at the center of the village there would be a church, ideally a monastery, a Benedictine monastery, where holy priests would celebrate the Divine Liturgy and bells would call people to prayer. Monks would intercede before God for our sinful world. A sacredness would be conferred upon all society where a love of beauty in a God-centered life would propel men toward their final end. Eventually, a school or university would form around this community and a new culture would be born.

      Indeed, such a community would be full of culture. Like-minded people would be gathering, singing, eating and praying together. People would rediscover poetry and wonder. Let the neo-pagan world party to its destruction, but let it leave us alone in our “backward” and godly bliss!

      The idea of the Christian village has recently gained more traction with the defeat of Indiana’s religious liberty law, which is seen as a foretaste of a coming persecution. Writers like Rod Dreher are urging people to make a strategic withdrawal from modern society that would allow Christians to reassess their situation and explore their identity in a liturgy-rich context. It need not be the full village version but it does entail something of a withdrawal. He calls it the Benedict or “B-option” and proposes that people find their strategic retreat parishes/communities to weather the liberal storm.

      It must be said that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea of a Christian village centered on family and faith. It is entirely according to our social nature to desire to live in a community committed to virtuous life in common. Such communities help individuals put their lives in order and control their disordered passions. They satisfy the longings of the postmodern heart that crave community and wholeness. Such villages would return God back to the center of things where He belongs. It is where we need to go but…

      Such communities are not enough. Benedict alone does not suffice.

      There is one major problem with the B-option and that is what might be called the “B-challenge.” Benedictine communities may have flourished, but they also seemed to attract barbarians who ravaged and plundered them. Those who adopt the B-option of Benedict must find a way to deal with the B-challenge of barbarians.

      Such a task consists of understanding the nature of the barbarian. Historically, barbarians were those who gave in to their whims and destroyed indiscriminately. They devastated ordered society and redistributed its wealth. They did not leave Christians alone, but rather sought them out, often coming from afar, to loot and plunder their communities wherever they might be found.

      There can be no doubt that we live in a neo-barbarian world inside a culture of death. Today’s tattooed and wired neo-barbarians are likewise aggressive. They also redistribute the wealth, albeit through taxes and entitlements. They do not live and let live, but insist that all approve their disordered lifestyles. Indeed, it is the very brutality of the neo-barbarian mandate that impels those considering the Benedictine option to flee.

      The lessons of history are particularly expressive regarding the triumph of barbarians. Vikings, Huns, Goths, Moors, and communists all devastated the tranquility of even the most isolated of organic societies. There is no escaping. There is a kind of impossible co-existence between barbarian and villager. Thus, in our case, the B-challenge can only consist in confronting the brutal neo-barbarians at the gates.

      That is not to say that Benedict loses his validity as an option. After all, the core of what is to be defended and gives meaning to life is found inside his liturgical framework turned toward the worship of God.

      But Benedict must be defended against the ravages of the barbarian. The barbarian must be fearlessly confronted, contested, fought against, defeated…and converted.

      To the efficacious prayer of Benedict must be added the zealous action of a Boniface, apostle of Germany. He did not dialogue with the barbarians, but chopped down the great oak tree which they worshiped as their god, and brought them to the knowledge of the true Faith. To Boniface can be added legions of saints like Patrick in Ireland or Remigius in France, all of whom overcame the barbarian and secured Benedict’s peace.

      It would be wrong to assume that Boniface plays only a temporary role inside a B-option. Successive waves of barbarians followed after Boniface’s triumph. Saintly kings, knights, and crusaders rose to the occasion to engage and defeat them. Even our modern times saw the need to defend the West from yesterday’s Nazi and communist brutes and today’s Islamic beheading savages.

      In this vale of tears, we must be continually engaged in the fight for order since there will always be those who oppose God’s law and undermine the family, marriage, and all those other institutions that make up the heart and soul of an economy, a culture, and the Christian village. There will always be those who never live and let live and they will seek us out.

      Like it or not, when we cease to fight for our Christian culture, we prepare ourselves for defeat. Unless there be Bonifaces with the fortitude needed to confront this great struggle, all our efforts will come to nothing.

      Indeed, an organic order only becomes possible when there are those who, by their spirit of self-sacrifice and dedication, practice fortitude to the highest degree. This can be seen in the dedicated spirit of the soldier who leaves everything to face suffering, separation from family, and even imprisonment or death to defend the West against the barbarian. It can be found in today’s cultural warrior who endures so much scorn and risks everything to defend life, marriage and ordered liberty. It needs to be seen in those representative figures in society who make the great sacrifice of setting the tone and being role models for all society. When such key figures practice fortitude to a high degree, all society becomes permeated by this virtue, thus fortifying the whole social order.

      When Benedict and Boniface are fused together in grace and fortitude, it sets the stage for a Christian society that is practically indestructible. The barbarian can then be subdued by the arm of Christian fortitude and converted by the sublime call of Christ. Because of their intense dynamism, the converted barbarians often become vibrant Christians. We might even say that it is in the crucible of combating the neo-barbarian at the gates and restraining our own disordered passions (the barbarian within) that we will find the elements of a true culture that will meld people together into communities.

      If we truly desire the B-option, then let us not withdraw from modernity, for strategic retreats easily turn into routs. Let us rather engage our neo-barbarian culture by both cultivating our Benedictine identity when projecting Boniface’s strength. It is the only option.

      John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.

  5. We didn’t exactly have granola bars at the Catholic school I attended, but we didn’t have anti-Catholic agitators on the faculty either. Does the Benedict Option require a granola diet and bourgeois Bohemian denim jeans? Or is that optional? Who decides on the dress code and diet for fastidious bourgeois Bohemian conservatives? Is there a secret meeting and secret handshake? Is it OK not to dress like a 1990s grunge slacker from Seattle or one of the Ramones while fussing about the menu?

    The problem with small enclaves is self-appointed control freaks and the full spectrum of neurotic obsessions that plague Jansenists and ascetic religious extremists making things up as they go along. We were better off with the Catholic Option when “Catholic” meant Catholic, when most priests knew how to say Mass correctly, and when Catholic schools were run by believing Catholics. You don’t have to move to the wilderness to have your own culture.

    If we are going to talk about a Catholic “ghetto mentality” with the Benedict Option and not have a frank and open discussion of freemasonry, anti-Catholic secret societies and their role in imposing the Malthusian population control agenda of the Illuminati, anti-Christian multiculturalism, gender bending, and the secular humanist dictatorship of relativism, what are we talking about? Some people are just fed up and don’t want to live in a society dominated by corporations and anti-Christian liberal cabals pushing that agenda constantly while gaslighting conservative Christians and pro-life Catholics in the style of North Korean mind control. The neocon writer at The New York Times thinks Manhattan in modernity is just fine? Really? Really??? Conservatives who are that disengaged need to get around more.

Leave a Reply