Rowan Williams at The New Statesman:
This is the backdrop against which Rod Dreher’s already much-discussed book appears (the New York Times columnist David Brooks has called it “the most important religious book of the decade”). Its argument is simple. For conservative religious believers, the battle on the political field has largely been lost; there is no point in wasting energy on forming coalitions to challenge or change legislation. What is needed, instead, is to develop a more densely textured religious life, in which regular patterns of communal prayer and intellectual and spiritual development will keep alive the possibility of inhabiting a nourishing, morally rich tradition. Christians ought to be more like Orthodox Jews or conscientious Muslims: living visibly at an angle to the practices of contemporary society.
This will demand a distancing from the assumptions of capitalism and the all-powerful market, and it will indeed entail the risk that Christians will find themselves de facto excluded from some professions. Dreher – an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a prominent conservative blogger in the United States – is sharply critical of a Christian rhetoric that ignores the evils of public acquisitiveness and selfishness while castigating personal delinquencies. He points to the tradition of monasticism as a model for developing alternative community patterns – hence the reference to Benedict – and invites a close reading of the saint’s precepts for monks as a guide to the practical challenges of living in close quarters with others. What lies in the more distant social or political future is not for us to see; but for now, what we need is a community life that seeks to live and worship with integrity and hopes to attract and persuade by the quality of its mutual care and the fulfilment of its members.