The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

  • Introduction - The Awakening

    • from his previous book: Alasdair MacIntyre, who declared that Western civilization had lost its moorings. The time was coming, said MacIntyre, when men and women of virtue would understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who wanted to live a life of traditional virtue. These people would find new ways to live in community, he said, just as Saint Benedict, the sixth-century father of Western monasticism, responded to the collapse of Roman civilization by founding a monastic order. LOCATION: 61 (cf 2020-11-18-After Virtue)

    • The cultural left—which is to say, increasingly the American mainstream—has no intention of living in postwar peace. It is pressing forward with a harsh, relentless occupation, one that is aided by the cluelessness of Christians who don’t understand what’s happening. LOCATION: 83

    • ...Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable. LOCATION: 85

    • we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs. LOCATION: 89

    • Book outline:



      • first part of this book, I will define the challenge of post-Christian America as I see it. LOCATION: 100


      • second part, I will discuss how the way of Christian living prescribed by the Rule can be adapted to the lives of modern conservative Christians LOCATION: 103



    • Jesus Christ promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, but He did not promise that Hell would not prevail against His church in the West. That depends on us, and the choices we make right here, right now. LOCATION: 110

  • Chapter 1 - The Great Flood (where we are today)

    • Pope Benedict XVI: the spiritual crisis overtaking the West is the most serious since the fall of the Roman Empire LOCATION: 131

    • Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). LOCATION: 162, is the natural religion of a culture that worships the Self and material comfort. LOCATION: 175



      • God created the world


      • God wants people to be good and nice as taught by the bible and other religions


      • Goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself


      • God doesn’t need to be involved in your life except to solve problems


      • Good people go to heaven when they die



    • THESIS OF THE BENEDICT OPTION: Could it be that the best way to fight the flood is to quit piling up sandbags and to build an ark in which to shelter until the water recedes and we can put our feet on dry land again? Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation. LOCATION: 199

    • City of God: refocused the minds of Christians on the imperishable heavenly kingdom. LOCATION: 214

    • (St. Augustine talks about the current City of Man on Earth, as contrasted with the eternal City of God in Heaven)

    • in 2020-11-18-After Virtue, philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre likened the present cultural moment to the fall of the Roman Empire in the West (when City of God was written). Instead of faith and reason, Macintyre says we are governed by emotivism: the idea that all moral choices are nothing more than expressions of what the choosing individual feels is right. LOCATION: 257 This society is a “collection of strangers, each pursuing his or her own interests under minimal constraints”:



      • abandon objective moral standards


      • don’t accept a religious narrative outside of yourself unless chosen


      • repudiate memory of the past as irrelevant


      • distance yourself from community and any unchosen social obligations



    • As how Roman culture was beyond saving after its fall and needed St. Benedict to start afresh, so too our culture is waiting for a “new St. Benedict”, hence the title of the book

  • Chapter 2 - The Roots of the Crisis (a history of how we got here)

    • There were five landmark events over seven centuries that rocked Western civilization and stripped it of its ancestral faith: LOCATION: 339



      • In the fourteenth century, the loss of belief in the integral connection between God and Creation—or in philosophic terms, transcendent reality and material reality


      • The collapse of religious unity and religious authority in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century


      • The eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which displaced the Christian religion with the cult of Reason, privatized religious life, and inaugurated the age of democracy


      • The Industrial Revolution (ca. 1760–1840) and the growth of capitalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries


      • The Sexual Revolution (1960–present) LOCATION: 340



    • in contrasting a medieval worldview from our own: medievals experienced everything in the world sacramentally. LOCATION: 359



      • Yet despite the radical brokenness of their world, medievals carried within their imagination a powerful vision of integration. In the medieval consensus, men construed reality in a way that empowered them to harmonize everything conceptually and find meaning amid the chaos. LOCATION: 378 NOTE: We need to emulate this today



    • The Discarded Image, C. S. Lewis, LOCATION: 381 (An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature)

    • St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): The core teachings of Scholasticism include the principle that all things exist and have a God-given essential nature independent of human thought. This position is called “metaphysical realism.” LOCATION: 391



      • The world and everything in it is part of a harmonious whole ordered by God and filled with meaning—and all things are signs pointing to God.


      • Society is grounded in that higher reality.


      • The world is charged with spiritual force. LOCATION: 395



    • William of Ockham (1285-1347) toppled scholasticism and introduced nominalism: objects have no intrinsic meaning, only the meaning assigned to them LOCATION: 403

    • Renaissance does mark a distinct change in European culture, which shifted its focus from the glory of God to the glory of man. LOCATION: 450



      • Martin Luther challenged the Church’s entire structure of sin, forgiveness, and ecclesial authority LOCATION: 473


      • “Because Christians disagreed about what they were to believe and do, they disagreed about what the fruits of the Christian life were” (Brad Gregory)



    • Enlightenment



      • Copernicus (1743-1543): earth is no longer the center LOCATION: 496


      • Francis Bacon (1561-1626) inventor of the scientific method: nature turns from God to man LOCATION: 503


      • Isaac Newton (1642-1727): God as the “divine watchmaker" LOCATION: 508


      • Descartes (1596-1650): reduced the scope of what we can accept as true: “I think, therefore I am” and opened the door to the Enlightenment LOCATION: 514


      • John Locke (1632-1704): the individual as the fundamental unit of society LOCATION: 538





        • John Adams: Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. LOCATION: 554






    • 19th Century: Democracy, Capitalism, Romanticism



      • Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778): father of Romanticism: man is born good but corrupted by society LOCATION: 574


      • Alexis de Tocqueville: ~Democracy in America, but only survive as long as “mediating institutions” like churches are strong LOCATION: 576


      • Karl Marx: “All that is solid melts into air”


      • Nietzsche: “God is dead and we have killed him”



    • Eros



      • Sigmund Freud: founder of psychoanalysis who replaced Self as the deity to replace Christianity LOCATION: 615


      • Philip Rieff: “Religious man was born to be saved. Psychological man is born to be pleased" LOCATION: 627


      • this brings us to the sexual revolution…and to transgenderism, etc. today


      • Anthony Kennedy in PP v Casey shows how the Sexual Revolution depends on a radical, nihilistic, conception of freedom: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." LOCATION: 665


      • Churches—Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox—that are nothing more than a loosely bound assembly of individuals committed to finding their own “truth,” are no longer the church in any meaningful sense, because there is no shared belief. LOCATION: 677



    • SUMMARY:

    • Fourteenth century:



      • defeats of metaphysical realism by nominalism un-links the transcendent and material worlds. Nominalism says that meaning is extrinsically defined.



    • Fifteenth century:



      • Renaissance dawned and West begins to shift focus from God to Man



    • Sixteenth century:



      • Reformation dissolves Christian unity, creating crisis of authority for Protestants



    • Seventeenth century:



      • Scientific Revolution replaces organic medieval cosmos with vision of universe as a machine



    • Eighteenth century:



      • Enlightenment framework absent of religion, replaced by only human reason



    • Nineteenth century:



      • Industrial Revolution causes relations to be defined economically. Romanticism and individualism



    • Twentieth century:



      • Technology, self, sexual revolution,



  • Chapter 3 - A Rule for Living

    • “Your majesty,” the cardinal replied [to Napoleon, trying to destroy the Church], “we, the clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last eighteen hundred years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.” LOCATION: 733

    • Benedict’s Rule adds three distinct vows: obedience, stability (fidelity to the same monastic community until death), and conversion of life, which means dedicating oneself to the lifelong work of deepening repentance. LOCATION: 762

    • “The purpose of the Rule is to free you. LOCATION: 775

    • “A Rule works that way, to channel your spiritual energy, your work, your activity, so that you’re able to accomplish something,” LOCATION: 779

    • You can achieve the peace and order you seek only by making a place within your heart and within your daily life for the grace of God to take root. LOCATION: 785

    • The Rule is for monastics, obviously, but its teachings are plain enough to be adapted by lay Christians for their own use. LOCATION: 804



      • Order


      • Prayer


      • Work





        • ora et labora—Latin for “prayer and work.” LOCATION: 906



        • “Idleness is the enemy of the soul,” says Saint Benedict in Chapter 48 of the Rule. LOCATION: 909



        • The work must serve not ourselves but God and God alone. In a chapter instructing monastic craftsmen, Benedict says that if they come to be proud of their work, the abbot must find something else for them to do. LOCATION: 916



        • This is how we must approach our jobs: as opportunities to glorify God. LOCATION: 919





      • Asceticism





        • asceticism—taking on physical rigors for the sake of a spiritual goal—is LOCATION: 946



        • The ascetic knows that true happiness can be found only by living in harmony with the will of God, and ascetical practices train body and soul to put God above self. LOCATION: 954





      • Stability


      • Community


      • Hospitality


      • Balance



  • Chapter 4 - A New Kind of Christian Politics

    • The Benedict Option calls for a radical new way of doing politics, a hands-on localism based on pioneering work by Eastern bloc dissidents who defied Communism during the Cold War. A Westernized form of “antipolitical politics,” to use the term coined by Czech political prisoner Václav Havel, is the best way forward for Orthodox Christians seeking practical and effective engagement in public life without losing our integrity, and indeed our humanity. LOCATION: 1167

    • If conservative church leaders aren’t extraordinarily careful in how they manage their public relationship to the Trump administration, anti-Trump blowback will do severe damage to the church’s reputation. Trump’s election solves some problems for the church, but given the man’s character, it creates others. Political power is not a moral disinfectant. LOCATION: 1206



      • There is also the danger of Christians falling back into complacency. No administration in Washington, no matter how ostensibly pro-Christian, is capable of stopping cultural trends toward desacralization and fragmentation that have been building for centuries. To expect any different is to make a false idol of politics. LOCATION: 1212


      • Will the law as written by a conservative legislature and interpreted by conservative judges overwrite the law of the human heart? No, it will not. Politics is no substitute for personal holiness. LOCATION: 1223



    • The times require much more wisdom and subtlety for those believers entering the political fray. LOCATION: 1235

    • Religious liberty is critically important to the Benedict Option. LOCATION: 1249

    • Given the post-Christian turn in American culture, that is no longer enough. Kinzer has plunged more deeply into the life of his congregation, teaching a class on Augustine’s City of God and organizing a new prayer meeting for men and women. The former legislator sees this as vital work to prepare his own congregation for the new reality—one that American Christians still don’t grasp. LOCATION: 1278



      • Get active at the state and local level, engaging lawmakers LOCATION: 1297


      • Focus on prudent, achievable goals. LOCATION: 1298


      • Nothing matters more than guarding the freedom of Christian institutions to nurture future generations in the faith. LOCATION: 1299


      • Reach out to local media and invite coverage of the religious side in particular religious liberty controversies. LOCATION: 1301


      • Stay polite and respectful. LOCATION: 1302


      • form partnerships LOCATION: 1303



    • faithful Christians may have to choose between being a good American and being a good Christian. LOCATION: 1328



      • If a democratic nation loses religion, he wrote, then it falls prey to inordinate individualism, materialism, and democratic despotism and inevitably “prepares its citizens for servitude.” Therefore, said Tocqueville, “one must maintain Christianity within the new democracies at all cost.” LOCATION: 1332



    • Conserving America?: Essays on Present Discontents, Patrick J. Deneen, LOCATION: 1340

    • Because it prescribes government of the people, liberal democracy can be only as strong as the people who live under it. LOCATION: 1349

    • “Politics is about how we order our lives together in the polis, whether that is a city, community or even a family,” writes Moore. LOCATION: 1361



      • and preserve that which is most important, how we cultivate friendships and educate our children, how we learn to think and talk about what kind of life really is the good life.”3


      • In thinking about politics in this vein, American Christians have much to learn from the experience of Czech dissidents under Communism. The essays that Czech playwright and political prisoner Václav Havel and his circle produced under oppression and persecution LOCATION: 1362


      • 1978 essay titled “The Power of the Powerless,” which electrified the Eastern European resistance movements when it first appeared.4 It is a remarkable document, one that bears careful study and reflection by orthodox Christians in the West today. LOCATION: 1369


      • Those who “live within a lie,” says Havel, collaborate with the system and compromise their full humanity. LOCATION: 1375 NOTE: Like Silence


      • Benda: we must consider the area of schooling and education as one of our main priorities. LOCATION: 1406


      • You have to want to do something because it’s worth doing, not because you think it will make the Communist Party fall in four years.” Building Benedict Option communities may not turn our nation around, but it’s still worth doing. LOCATION: 1454



    • Secede culturally from the mainstream. Turn off the television. Put the smartphones away. Read books. Play games. Make music. Feast with your neighbors. It is not enough to avoid what is bad; you must also embrace what is good. LOCATION: 1467

  • Chapter 5 - A Church for All Seasons

    • Wilkes: At this moment in the Church’s history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, LOCATION: 1497

    • Rediscover the Past



      • Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Augustine, John Chrysostom, the Cappadocians, Jerome, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Maximus the Confessor, Irenaeus, and so many more: these voices from the first eight centuries of the Christian church still speak to us today. LOCATION: 1557



    • Rediscover the Liturgy



      • Liturgy restores the stability we’ve lost by cementing the story of the gospel in our bodies. LOCATION: 1619



    • Relearn the Traditional Christian Habits of Asceticism

    • Tighten Church Discipline

    • Evangelize with Goodness and Beauty



      • The first Christians gained converts not because their arguments were better than those of the pagans but because people saw in them and their communities something good and beautiful—and they wanted it. This led them to the Truth. LOCATION: 1768


      • when I had a road-to-Damascus moment in the medieval cathedral of Chartres. LOCATION: 1774



    • Embrace Exile and the Possibility of Martyrdom

  • Chapter 6 - The Idea of a Christian Village

    • Michael Medved: “When your child leaves home to go play with the neighborhood kids, you have to be able to trust that the values in your home are not undermined by the company he keeps.” LOCATION: 1827

    • Tocquevillian contention made by the sociologist Robert Nisbet, who said that religious liberty itself depends on strong religious communities. LOCATION: 1844

    • Turn Your Home into a Domestic Monestary



      • maintaining regular times of family prayer. LOCATION: 1862



    • Don’t Be Afraid to Be Nonconformist

    • Don’t Take Your Kids’ Friends For Granted

    • Don’t Idolize the Family



      • When members of the family consider its existence to be an end in itself, as opposed to a means to the end of unity with God, the family risks becoming tyrannical. LOCATION: 1926



    • Live Close to Other Members of Your Community



      • earlier, the church can’t just be the place you go on Sundays—it must become the center of your LOCATION: 1957


      • American Christians have a bad habit of treating church like a consumer experience. LOCATION: 1970


      • “A lot of the choices we make about how we live have tremendous consequences spiritually,” LOCATION: 1984



    • Make the Church’s Social Network Real

    • Reach Across Church Boundaries to Build Relationships



      • Its signature event, though, may be the Hall of Men, a twice-monthly gathering in EDI’s clubhouse, a kind of Christian speakeasy next door to the bookstore. Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant men have been coming together there since 2008 to pray, to discuss and debate the works of a great figure of Christian history, then to sit around the table drinking pints of beer and enjoying each other’s company. LOCATION: 2035



    • Love the Community but Don’t Idolize It



      • “If you isolate yourself, you will become weird,” Father Marc continued. LOCATION: 2070



    • Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good

  • Chapter 7 - Education as Christian Formation

    • Today, across the Christian community, there is a growing movement called classical Christian education. It is countercultural in both form and content and presents to students the Western tradition—both Greco-Roman and Christian—in all its depth. Doing it right requires a level of effort and commitment that contemporary Americans are not accustomed to—but what alternative do we have? LOCATION: 2161

    • Give Your Family a Rightly Ordered Education



      • Every educational model presupposes an anthropology: an idea of what a human being is. In general, the mainstream model is geared toward equipping students to succeed in the workforce, to provide a pleasant, secure life for themselves and their future families, and ideally, to fulfill their personal goals—whatever those goals might be. The standard Christian educational model today takes this model and adds religion classes and prayer services. But from a traditional Christian perspective, the model is based on a flawed anthropology. In traditional Christianity, the ultimate goal of the soul is to love and serve God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, to achieve unity with Him in eternity. To prepare for eternal life, we must join ourselves to Christ and strive to live in harmony with the divine will. LOCATION: 2179


      • To compartmentalize education, separating it from the life of the church, is to create a false distinction. LOCATION: 2189


      • Educator Martin Cothran, a national leader in the classical Christian school movement, says that many Christians today don’t realize how the nature of education has changed over the past hundred years. The progressivism of the 1920s involved using schools to change the culture. The vocationalism of the 1940s and 1950s tried to use schools to conform children to the culture. But the traditional way of education, which reigned from the Greco-Roman period until the modern era, was about passing on a culture and one culture in particular: the culture of the West, and for most of that time, the Christian West. LOCATION: 2199



    • Teach the Children Scripture

    • Immerse the Young in the History of Western Civilization



      • education is key to the recovery of cultural memory. LOCATION: 2256


      • We cannot understand the West apart from the Christian faith, and we cannot understand the Christian faith as we live it today without understanding the history and culture of the West. If future generations fail to learn to love our Western cultural heritage, we will lose it. LOCATION: 2264


      • I can relate to this: I am a college-educated American. In all my years of formal schooling, I never read Plato or Aristotle, Homer or Virgil. I knew nothing of Greek and Roman history and barely grasped the meaning of the Middle Ages. Dante was a stranger to me, and so was Shakespeare. The fifteen hundred years of Christianity from the end of the New Testament to the Reformation were a blank page, and I knew only the barest facts about Luther’s revolution. I was ignorant of Descartes and Newton. My understanding of Western history began with the Enlightenment. Everything that came before it was lost behind a misty curtain of forgetting. Nobody did this on purpose. Nobody tried to deprive me of my civilizational patrimony. But nobody felt any obligation to present it to me and my generation in an orderly, coherent fashion. Ideas have consequences—and so does their lack. The best way to create a generation of aimless know-nothings who feel no sense of obligation beyond themselves is to deprive them of a past. LOCATION: 2284



    • Pull Your Children Out of Public Schools

    • Don’t Kid Yourself About Christian Schools

    • Start Classical Christian Schools



      • CiRCE Institute, a North Carolina–based Christian organization that trains teachers in the classical model, LOCATION: 2372


      • 1947 essay “~The Lost Tools of Learning” LOCATION: 2382


      • Existing under the umbrella of a church offers legal protection not available to other Christian schools. Legal experts say that Christian schools facing antidiscrimination challenges in court have greater protection if they can demonstrate that they are clearly and meaningfully guided by established doctrines of a particular church and can demonstrate that they enforce these doctrines. LOCATION: 2404


      • Association of Classical and Christian Schools (accsedu.org), LOCATION: 2443


      • Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (www.catholicliberaleducation.org) is a resource-rich organization for Catholics and includes on its Web site the educational plan of St. Jerome Academy. LOCATION: 2445



    • No Classical Christian School? Then Homeschool

    • The Benedict Option and the University



      • St. John’s, the one at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, LOCATION: 2477



    • Go Back to the Classics and Forward to the Future



      • “A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing goes against it,” said G.K. Chesterton. That quote from The Everlasting Man LOCATION: 2574



  • Chapter 8 - Preparing for Hard Labor

    • First of all, the Benedictine model reminds us that work and worship are integrated and that our careers are not separate from our faith. Second, it reminds us that manual labor is a gift—a gift that Christians may have to rediscover if post-Christianity squeezes us out of the professions. Finally, we see work as a gift given back to God and to the community. LOCATION: 2620

    • Be Prudent

    • Be Bold

    • Be More Entrepreneurial



      • “Our churches need more entrepreneurs, and we need to teach our children how to think entrepreneurially about their futures,” says Calee Lee, an Eastern Orthodox Christian in Irvine, California. LOCATION: 2766



    • Buy Christian, Even if it Costs More

    • Build Christian Employment Networks



      • Distributism, an economic model based on Catholic social teaching LOCATION: 2808



    • Rediscover the Trades

    • Prepare to be Poorer and More Marginalized

  • Chapter 9 - Eros and the New Christian Counterculture

    • Wendell Berry: “The point about temperance, including sexual discipline, is not that it reduces pleasure, but that it safeguards abundance.” LOCATION: 2899

    • Sex and the Incarnation



      • Chastity—the rightly ordered use of the gift of sexuality—was the greatest distinction setting Christians of the early church apart from the pagan world.4


      • The point is not that Christianity was only, or primarily, about redefining and revaluing sexuality, but that within a Christian anthropology sex takes on a new and different meaning, one that mandated a radical change of behavior and cultural norms. In Christianity, what a person does with their sexuality cannot be separated from what a person is. LOCATION: 2938


      • Anything we do that falls short of perfect harmony with the will of God is sin. Sin is not merely rule breaking but failing to live in accord with the structure of reality itself. LOCATION: 2954


      • “The significance of sexual difference has never before been contingent upon a creature’s preferences, or upon whether or not God gave it episodically to a particular creature to have certain preferences,” writes Catholic theologian Christopher Roberts. He goes on to say that for Christians, the meaning of sexuality has always depended on its relationship to the created order and to eschatology—the ultimate end of man. LOCATION: 2960



    • Sexual Revolution



      • “The death of a culture begins when its normative institutions fail to communicate ideals in ways that remain inwardly compelling,” Rieff writes. By that standard, Christianity in America is in mortal danger. LOCATION: 3015



    • Don’t Compromise to Keep the Young



      • Watering down or burying biblical truth on sexuality for the sake of keeping Millennials won’t work. LOCATION: 3018



    • Affirm the Goodness of Sexuality



      • Andrew T. Walker, a Southern Baptist lay leader of the Millennial generation, says he grew up in a good church but never heard a single sermon about Christian anthropology (i.e., what is man?) or biblical sexuality beyond conservative platitudes. LOCATION: 3029



    • Moralism is Not Enough



      • As Pope Benedict XVI has written, “God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love. This close connection between eros and marriage in the Bible has practically no equivalent in extra-biblical literature.” LOCATION: 3082


      • Unbridled erotic passion creates chaos and disintegration. Eros that submits to Christ bears fruit in the gift of children, stable families, and communities. The contemporary Orthodox theologian Olivier Clément says that the spiritual secret of Christianity is that the love of God comes through the human body and flows throughout the universe to which it is joined. In Christianity, the individual’s desire (eros) is purified and transformed into agape—unconditional, selfless love. LOCATION: 3090


      • As novelist Walker Percy advised, we have to attack the fake in the name of the real. Christians are going to have to become better tellers of our own story. LOCATION: 3106



    • Parents Must Be Primary Sex Educators



      • The Humanum Series, six short movies, all available for free on YouTube, presenting the traditional Christian vision of sex, gender, marriage, and family. LOCATION: 3123



    • Love and Support Unmarried People in the Community

    • Fight Pornography with Everything



      • As with so many other things in contemporary society, we modern Americans see sex as wholly a private matter, one of individual rights. But this is false. The rules, rituals, and traditions of a community pertaining to sexuality, says Berry, intend “to preserve its energy, its beauty, and its pleasure; to preserve and clarify its power to join not just husband and wife to one another but parents to children, families to the community, the community to nature; to ensure, so far as possible, that the inheritors of sexuality, as they come of age, will be worthy of it.” LOCATION: 3204



  • Chapter 10 - Man and the Machine

    • Technology is Not Morally Neutral



      • In a powerful address to a 2015 Catholic gathering in Philadelphia, philosopher of science Michael Hanby explained that “before technology becomes an instrument, it is fundamentally a way of regarding the world that contains within itself an understanding of being, nature, and truth.” LOCATION: 3248


      • More deeply, though, technology as a worldview trains us to privilege what is new and innovative over what is old and familiar and to valorize the future uncritically. It destroys tradition because it refuses any limits on its creativity. Technological Man says, “If we can do it, we must be free to do it.” To the technological mind, questions of why we should, or should not, accept particular technological developments are hard to comprehend. LOCATION: 3263



    • The Internet is the Floodgate of Liquid Modernity



      • The result of this is a gradual inability to pay attention, to focus, and to think deeply. Study after study has confirmed the common experience many have reported in the Internet age: that using the Web makes it infinitely easier to find information but much harder to devote the kind of sustained focus it takes to know things. LOCATION: 3322


      • in ancient Greek, techne, or “craftsmanship,” versus episteme, or “knowledge gained through contemplation.” Techne refers to knowledge that helps you do things, while episteme refers to knowledge of how things are, so that you will know what to do. LOCATION: 3326



    • Take on Digital Fasting as an Ascetic Practice



      • In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the pilgrim protagonist (also named Dante) learns that sin is disordered love. The source of all disorder is loving finite things more than the infinite God. Even loving good things, like family and country, can be a source of damnation if one loves them more than one loves God and seeks fulfillment in those things rather than in the Creator of those things. LOCATION: 3338


      • If you don’t control your own attention, there are plenty of people eager to do it for you. The first step in regaining cognitive control is creating a space of silence in which you can think. LOCATION: 3362



    • Take Smartphones Away from Kids

    • Keep Social Media Out of Worship

    • Do Things with Your Hands LOCATION: 3430

    • Question Progress

    • In these pages, I have attempted to sound the alarm for conservative Christians in the West, warning them that the greatest danger we face today does not come from aggressive left-wing politics or radical Islam, as many seem to think. Those are dangers that our Christian brothers and sisters in China, Nigeria, and the Middle East face. For us, the greatest danger comes from the liberal secular order itself. And our failure to understand this reinforces our cultural captivity and the seemingly unstoppable assimilation of the next generations. LOCATION: 3487

3/16/17 - Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture by Anthony Esolen

  • Introduction

    • “We are incompetent in the ordinary things of life.” (10)



      • *This really is the biggest take-away for me from this book. I want to strive for excellence in the ordinary things of fatherhood, work, relationships, faith, citizenship.



    • “Every single pagan philosopher of the ancient world said that if you wanted to be free, you had to learn the hard ways of virtue and that the worst form of slavery was slavery to your own appetites.” (10)

  • Truth

    • Clear your mind of smalltalk about big words (diversity, inclusivity, etc) and actually talk about your life:



      • “Here is a quick and generally reliable rule to follow. If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always basis it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.” (22)


      • …”For truly tolerant people are hard to offend.” (23)



    • Immerse yourself in nature



      • On the role of nature in seeking truth: “the truth we are seeking must not be merely abstract…Therefore we have to immerse ourselves in things: trees, stars, mud grouse…” (24)



    • Learn to speak and read



      • “If our language is inane and empty, our thoughts will be inane and empty too” (27)


      • Learn our language in all its riches by reading old books (28)


      • “Poetry is the noblest of human arts”: Psalms, Job, Isaiah, Paradise Lost … “let the poets teach us how to read and speak and think” (30)



  • Beauty

    • “If you went to Chartres, you would not need to suppose, you would simply and readily receive that the most important thing was to sing with the Psalmist, ‘I rejoiced when I heard them say, Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’” (35)

    • Paroissien romain (French Canadian book specifying the chants for every feast in the Church year, from Out of the Ashes 45)

  • School

    • lots of talk about one room schoolhouses

    • “All human sciences are grammatical in structure” (61)

    • the reversal of power in the parent-teacher relationship: the parent “ought to be considered the teacher’s employer, or the one who delegates his authority to the teacher under certain conditions that he and his fellow parents stipulate” (63)

    • “Politics can come later. Aristotle said that young men-much older than our children in school-were not yet ready to study politics, because they had not yet amassed any great experience of human nature. That is what literature is for, and history also; a story of stories.” (67)

    • “There is little left in English literature if the religious is barred at the door…The great questions of human existence are and always will be religious…We may say also that in the whole history of man there is no education of a human soul unless the divine animates it” (70)

  • College

    • a list of strong liberal arts Catholic colleges bottom of 80-81

  • Manhood

    • “The seminal error of feminism…is the assumption that you cannot actually seek the good of woman without taking account of the good of man, as if the sexes were independent of one another, or forever antagonistic. Man and woman are for one another.” (93)

    • “The ways of men and women take different forms in different places and at different times, but they are always and immediately recognizable as the ways of men and the ways of women” (94-95)

    • Liberty can be judged by (104-105):



      • how far from your house you are comfortable letting your children play alone


      • the range of things you don’t vote on because people take care of them for themselves



  • Womanhood

    • Abortion is a dagger twisted into the heart of a woman” (122)

    • home economics and money at the service of the family, lengthy discussion (125)

    • one of his favorite paintings, The Holy Family with a Bird, 1645-1650, Madrid, Prado Museum by Bartolome Esteban Murillo: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/Bartolom%C3%A9EstebanPerezMurillo008.jpg (Sacred Art)

  • Work

    • discussion against rent-seekers

  • Play

    • how healthy exercise has been turned into “working out”, removing the play and making it a chore (158)

    • our children need some ordered competition, but also freedom and unstructured time to make up their own things

  • Politics

    • political life: “a life involved in local affairs that bear upon the common good” (169) rather than focused on ourselves exclusively

    • voting is not enough in politics: we must work for the common good (170)

    • subsidiarity: “a neighborhood is best organized by neighbors” (173)

    • longer discussion of subsidiarity 174+

    • his discussion of parades and block parties make me particularly grateful for both Paso and Arlington as wonderful communities

    • “Paradise Lost is the greatest poem ever written in the English language” (179)

  • Home

    • we must remember that we are pilgrims returning home

    • “Take away the devotion and you take away the soul” (190)

    • again, we end with doing the ordinary well (192-193)