The next chapter of The Benedict Option is entitled “Preparing for Hard Labor.” It is an informative chapter, and quite solid in diagnosing what we are currently up against. In this chapter, Dreher describes the stranglehold that advocates of the new order have managed to get on the old economy.
He begins by noting that hard work is a creational blessing. “Work is a good thing, even a holy thing, but it must not be allowed to dominate one’s life” (Loc. 2641). The implication of this praise of hard work is that believers need to get used to working hard with their hands because the white collar world has been captured by the bad guys. “In its 2016 report, over half of the top twenty U.S. companies have a perfect score. To fail to score high is considered a serious problem within leading corporations” (Loc. 2664). The perfect score, in case you were wondering, is one awarded by an LGBT persecution guide.
“We may not (yet) be at the point where Christians are forbidden to buy and sell in general without state approval” (Loc. 2655).
Of course this is not exactly a new technique.
“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13:16–17).
And the clerk at Safeway cheerfully asked, “Do you have your Rainbow Rewards card yet?”
“Naturally if one doesn’t wear the badge” (Loc. 2672), one is readily identified an enemy of all mankind, not to mention OOC (Orgasms of Choice, a new national youth organization).
But believers don’t want to sign on to anything their conscience forbids. Right? “To sign the oath, they believe, would be the modern equivalent of burning a pinch of incense before a statue of Caesar” (Loc. 2674).
We may not be there yet, but as this chapter does demonstrate, we can see it from here. And this brings up the crucial thing that is missing from Dreher’s calculations. What Dreher addresses here is informative and helpful, but when we ask the actual question that the current climate poses—which is “how can we get away from this?—the only possible answer is “outside the legal economy.”
There are places in this chapter where Dreher recognizes that the oppression is going to be across the board, but there are other places where he seems to think that faithful Christians could somehow retreat into the trades.
He urges us, for example, “back to the trades” (Loc. 2841). “Better to be a plumber with a clean conscience than a corporate lawyer with a compromised one” (Loc. 2844). But the secularists will not have forgotten the plumbers. They will not be leaving the plumbers alone.
“An aspiring Christian academic might have to be happy with the smaller salary and lower prestige of teaching at a classical Christian high school” (Loc. 2856).
But they will not be leaving the small classical Christian high schools alone either. They have to make payroll. Will the school be withholding taxes from the paychecks? Will any conditions be placed on those who make payroll? Well, I wouldn’t call them conditions, would you? Not unless you are against equality for all, friend . . .
Here Dreher is, at his grim best. The “only thing standing between an employer or employee and a court action is the imagination of LGBT plaintiffs and their lawyers” (Loc. 2685). You may not be interested, but “the issue will come and find you.” (Loc. 2691). Yes, and amen.
But then he appears to think that there is an escape into the trades, or into small retail. “The goal is to create business and career opportunities” (Loc. 2765). Maybe you could start your own business that becomes “a niche powerhouse” (Loc. 2778). We need hard-working Christians who are “independent-minded” (Loc. 2783). “The key to work life under the Benedict Option is no different than today” (Loc. 2767).
But the reason the new order is going to be quite different from our parents’ generation is that the price of admission, to any portion of the legal economy, will be compliance with, and applause for, the entire range of gender options for getting it on. “My gender is Vietnam-era vet, subscriber to Field & Stream, lifetime member of the Kiwanis, and married to my high school sweetheart Millie. We in the VEVFSKHSSM community stand in solidarity with those who married girls named something else.”
So if you find a conscientious Christian tradesman, with a view to you “then patronizing them (Loc. 2792),” you will have to patronize them after hours, and you will have to tell them that Louie sent you. The question is this. Where can Christians flee to be free of these intolerable restraints? There will be two places—Heaven after you die, and illegal transactions off back porches.
They “will have to choose between their Christianity and their careers” (Loc. 2714). Yes, but that will not be the only choice. “In the end, it comes down to what believers are willing to suffer for the faith” (Loc. 2846). Yes, but we also have to decide what we will be willing to do outside the law. That is the most pressing practical question.
Here are a few conversation starters. As Dreher shows in this chapter, these are sorts of conversations we need to have now.
Why is it an offense before God for a believer to take a bribe, but not an offense to give one?
The answer is that a believer holding office ought to do his duty before God without needing additional inducements. People who take bribes pervert justice (1 Sam. 8:3). But in an unjust order, bribes can be offered in order that an official might be induced to do justice. After all, this is what the Bible teaches:
“A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath” (Prov. 21:14, ESV).
How committed to the authority of Scripture are we?
Here’s another one. Why does faithfulness to Christ require participation in the black market under certain circumstances? Discuss among yourselves.