With the publicastion of a new book, THE BENEDICT OPTION, the Christian world in the West is beginning a discussion about how to handle a post-Christian culture that is posing an existential threat to Christian faith and culture within the West. The barbarians are not at the gates, they are WITHN THE GATES, they essentially rule us. Those whose values and traditions look to the Bible have almost no power or influence in most of the Western world. They are shunned, shamed, and sidelined, even within political movements they inhabit, such as the conservative movement on the right or the social justice movement on the left.
In the year 500 A.D. St. Benedict fled Rome. The city had become a cesspool or spiritual and moral ruin, and, indeed, most of the once "Christian" world was overrun by pagan barbarians. For the next 500 years, Christianity was on its back foot. By 1000 A.D., for instance, we see pagan armies closing in from the east, Vikings debauching upon the west from the North, and Muslims from the south. And during this entire season, both the spread and preservation of Christian faith and culture can only be credited to the proliferation of monastic communities. And no man is more responsible for the proliferation of these communities than St. Benedict.
Here is what is written about St. Benedict in Wikipedia:
Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Lazio, Italy (about 40 miles (64 km) to the east of Rome), before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The Order of Saint Benedict is of later origin and, moreover, not an "order" as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.
Benedict's main achievement is his "Rule of Saint Benedict", containing precepts for his monks. It is heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, and shows strong affinity with the Rule of the Master. But it also has a unique spirit of balance, moderation and reasonableness (ἐπιείκεια, epieikeia), and this persuaded most religious communities founded throughout the Middle Ages to adopt it. As a result, his Rule became one of the most influential religious rules in Western Christendom. For this reason, Benedict is often called the founder of western monasticism.
It would be wrong, dead wrong, to say that these communities walled themselves off from the world in isolation. While the monks themselves stayed in these communities, missionaries traveled throughout the West, often supported by these communities, and the populace around them flocked to them, often forming villages and towns with the monastery at its center. People flocked to these communities because there was food, resources, and stability. They came seeking material aid, which was always provided, and they discovered a spiritual liberation through faith in Christ.
What St. Benedict discovered, and provided for, was that during a flood of paganism and utter moral and spiritual corruption it was necessary to build arks of safety which could preserve a Christian witness in a dark world. It was a time of the end of the classical world, and thanks to communities inspired by St. Benedict a new civilization, the one whose end we contemplate some 1500 years on, was born.
One man has written a book which is now gaining traction in some Christian circles. That man is Rod Dreher, whose book THE BENEDICT OPTION is basically saying we modern Christians should take inspiration from what St. Benedict knew and did in 500 A,D, because we are entering into such times as those. But his picture, his path forward, offers mere generalities. UInlike St. Benedict, who established his 12 communities and issued his standards and principles as a blueprint for others to follow, Dreher stays within the confines of a thesis that we are entering a time of darkness and must consider something more akin to what St. Benedict did. Indeed, Dreher pointedly refuses to offer a program, but a program is what is needed, an actual blueprint.
What Dreher has done is to open people's minds, and eyes, to the fact that Christian culture and tradition faces an existential threat in which the only response is to develop arks of safety which will, like the monasteries, not only preserve the culture and faith but actually reach and convert the non-believers until, eventually, a new Christian civilization emerges. But, aside from starting a dialogue, and perhaps a controversy, he is but announcing something to come, but which he cannot describe.
I would boldly say that his work is but a prophetic insight into what I am proposing through Updaria: a blueprint for Christian communities united within a larger and global nationhood that is distinctly Christian in every way, that provides refuge to Christians while liberating them from godless control and influences, and that empowers them to go out and be effective witnesses to the world around them. If Dreher sees the need for a new Benedict, and a new blueprint, I would assert that in Upadaria you can find exactly that.
Whoever approaches Upadaria, this vision for a new Christian "nation of people", will find a blueprint for action. Yes, there is a theological and ideational framework which undergirds the whole proposed structure, but, for the most part, there is a blueprint: I propose the creation of free will covenant associations of Christians who take and abide by a pledge based on shared convictions, not just the theology and morality of Christian universals, but everyday standards of action and interaction. I propose the building of communities of people (I am speaking relationally) which have the same convictions, standards, structures, and nomenclature so that, wherever you interact with a Upadarian community, you know what you can expect.
These communities, formed on the basis of marriage and multiple-family household groups called Micorshires and Shireholds, will act as arks of safety, but not in a manner that is isolated from the world: they will not be isolated, they will be in this world and not of this world. They will be culturally distinct and materially unencumbered from external coercion or influences. They will preserve our Christian culture and way of life, our tradition, and values, and they will carry people through this age to the other shore, which, should the Lord tarry, will see the emergence of a new Christian civilization.
Dreher is a voice crying in the wilderness of a coming future, which you find described in this web space, a vision for a new form of Christian community and a vision for not simply fleeing into isolated safe-havens, but creating arks of safety from which we can, again, reach the world and convert the lost to Christ.
If you are looking for general thoery and concept to adapt to your own approach, you will certainly find inspiration and substance here. But if you desire an actual blueprint you can pick up and use right away, and then modify as you need to, then that is also offered here.
Upadaria is not the only possible path to follow the Benedict Option or something like it. That is not the claim I am making, But Upadaria is, like what st. Benedict offered, more than just a general theory, it is a concrete and actionable blueprint. You can use this information to go out and form your own Upadarian community, it provides the structure, standards, and nomenclature with which we can not only establish small, local, communities, but with which we can connect globally to other similar communities. You can also take these ideas and concepts as general theories and principles, which you might adapt to your own efforts, to your own community of fellow Christians.
I do not stand here telling you to "take it or leave it", to simply follow my proposed bleuprint or walk away empty-handed. But I do propose that, if you are ready to start now and have no other options, and no desire or call to explore totally new approaches, that perhaps this blueprint will be useful and actionable to you right now. The Benedict Option is indeed a great concept, founded as it is on what we see in both the 1st and 6th centuries of the rise and spread of Christianity. I propose that Upadaria is a blueprint for activating this option in your life.