I will not have a lot to say about this next chapter of The Benedict Option, the chapter on “Eros and the New Christian Counterculture.” I do have some cavils here and there about how much monastics have to teach us about human sexuality, but in the main this is a really solid chapter. Dreher does a very good job describing the threat we face, and he does not fudge around the edges. “There is no core teaching of the Christian faith that is less popular today, and perhaps none more important to obey” (Loc. 2888).
“There is no other area in which orthodox Christians will have to be as countercultural as in our sexual lives, and we are going to have to support each other in our unpopular stances” (Loc. 2901).
Yes, and amen.
Dreher is right that Christians who go wobbly on human sexuality are poised to take a header into other forms of heresy—“they often cease to be meaningfully Christian” (Loc. 2905). “There can be no peace between Christianity and the Sexual Revolution, because they are radically opposed” (Loc. 2982). To “lose the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter is to risk losing the fundamental integrity of the faith” (Loc. 3012). Dreher is right to ask whether sex is “the linchpin of Christian cultural order” (Loc. 2921), and he answers that question rightly.
He also does well to ground his objections in the nature of the natural world. This topic is “limited by the givenness of nature” (Loc. 2967). “Is the natural world and its limits a given, or are we free to do with it whatever we desire?” (Loc. 2972). “It is now considered bigoted to say that the natural family is superior to any other arrangement” (Loc. 3116).
Those who are in revolt against the sexual order authoritatively set down for us in Scripture have had to do far more than set aside God’s revelation to us. They have also had to reimagine the world, and the actual world is proving recalcitrant. They “have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it” (Loc. 2998). And because it is an invented cosmology that runs contrary to the way that God actually made the world, it has no more authority than the sexual daydreams of a greedy junior high boy. It turns out that there is no such thing as a Paradise Planet somewhere, populated by hot, eager, and sexy librarians. “Oh, look! Junior High Boy has landed!”
There is one thing about the chapter where I would register some qualms. This is the repeated use of observations from Wendell Berry, the Dalai Lama of Kentucky (Loc. 2916; 3203; 3205; 3208). I could handle this, and would have said nothing about it if the topic had been the importance of killing your own chickens. But the topic is human sexuality, and Berry has been lauded by the cool kids far too long not to have completely flopped on the very subject of Dreher’s chapter. It is incongruous, I will admit, to have the apostle of all things natural applauding unnatural acts, and so it is quite possible that Dreher didn’t know that Wendell Berry had done so. But he has, and in a way that shows he has not known what he was talking about all along.
Since the Berry quotes don’t add all that much, and because his presence in the chapter is incongruous, I would recommend dropping him from the second edition. Or better yet, keep him in, but as a poster child for the kind of thing we must not be doing.