A Review of Andrew Isker’s The Boniface Option
My commute to work is approximately 40 miles. Every weekday morning, I pass a billboard that reads “See The Good” in big white letters. Before reading The Boniface Option this billboard would elicit a flicker of romanticism. Though soon after passing the billboard that flicker of romanticism becomes superseded by a reactionary wrench from my insides, “Hell—What ‘good’ is there to see? Educational predators are likely foaming at the mouth for the soul of my coming daughter, our dollar has quickly been leached, and The Lord knows that Whitehouse bureaucrats will continue to punch down at my kind any chance they get. What will come for us in the next 10 years? What a joke.” The sign doesn’t exactly improve my drive.
These thoughts and others like it eliminate any possibility that the sign brightens my morning more than the millisecond of gnostic romanticism. I think my reaction to the billboard is par for the course of any politically conscious evangelical. But now, after reading The Boniface Option, I do not fall prey to the brief romanticism and let down the billboard imposes on me during my morning commute. I now immediately view it with disgust. I now burn at it through the windshield, and I see the billboard is an analgesic aphorism that encourages turning a blind eye to a reality that is turned upside down and hung up gutted. It is a literary opiate that dampens the urge we should all have, and that which The Boniface Option recovers: a hatred for evil.
Removing The Shades
Andrew Isker opens Part 1 of his book by telling the story of the book’s namesake, Saint Boniface’s God-aided takedown of Donar’s Oak. I am sure American Reformer readers and adjacents are familiar with the story. Thus, I won’t retell it here. Moreover, a retelling would rob future readers of Isker’s inspiring rendition of Saint Boniface. Isker also lays the foundation of his argument as to why a retreatist Benedict Option is no longer feasible. Perhaps Rod Dreher’s thesis could have worked in The Neutral World. But by Isker’s lights, “Trashworld” will not allow for such an option. It’s a category error. Trashworld (Isker’s categorization of our current society) is not like the European Dark Ages that gave birth to Benedict’s monastic isolation.
Isker calls the reader to reality:
“Ours is a society that went from a space-faring people two generations ago to one that cannot even keep air-craft carriers from destroying themselves while at the port. … and we have to go out of our way to pass laws to keep teachers from grooming our children into having their genitalia removed. … rather than being sacked by Goths, we have been consumed internally by an insane and suicidal death cult.”
Those who have identified Isker as an extremist a priori, will charge that he employs emotional rhetoric to convince his readers, without substantiating the claims he makes. But is this actually the case? Consider that the shrine of Moloch has never been supplied with its preferred kindling before like it has now in recent history. And, if you dare to utter that child sacrifice is murder, losing your job is in the cards. Those working in pregnancy crisis centers also need to be aware they may receive a Molotov cocktail on a whim, too. Christian parents should probably look into the sitting superintendent of their school district as well. In August, a Virginia superintendent released a statement in response to recent anti-grooming policies, in which she said: “I want to be clear that FCPS remains committed to an inclusive and affirming learning environment for each and every student and staff member including those who are transgender or gender expansive.” Indeed, Isker is not being flamboyant. The man is only telling the truth, and writing to remove the shades over the reader’s eyes that have more than likely been placed there by complacency and desensitization, or worse, intentionally by invisible actors.
The rest of Part 1 presents various sprouts of Donar’s Oak. Isker proceeds to dismember them in a mead-fueled frenzy armed with nothing less than a 60” diesel Husqvarna chainsaw. The Trashworld social ordering, transgenderism, feminism, and the pseudo-human bugmen way of “life” all suffer a charge that is easy to resonate with: they are fake. By fake, Isker means they distort the created order in which God has fashioned nature. Such is undeniably true on empirical and theological grounds. Isolation is undeniably anti-human; look at how the COVID lockdowns waged psychological damage on thousands of Americans. Men are not women. Look at the injustice being done to schoolgirls. Feminism is poison. Feminism is a causal factor in birthing the monstrosity which is OnlyFans. And the bugmen way of living is meant for hive-minded arthropods. We must learn to hate these sprouts of Donar’s Oak if we love anything at all that is true, good, and beautiful. Big Eva and Thirdwayist types will object to Isker’s use—integration!—of the hateful emotion. Though Isker orients this hate towards righteous ends: “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).
In Part 1, the third chapter of The Boniface Option is my favorite, “Atomized Man.” I grew up a military brat. I never really associated with a geographic region by necessity. It was difficult to answer the natural question, “Where are you from?” I didn’t even know what the question was asking, much less how to answer it. Most military kids answer this question with the last duty station they were sent off to. I was a nomad in my boyhood. My father—an extremely successful colonel—has now retired in Russellville, TN after serving over 35 years. He owns 82 acres in the foothills of the Smokys. Now when I answer this question, I say I’m from Russellville, because this is where my family is and our land is. I yearn to make it back up to those green hills and forests after completion of my PhD. I no longer fear the question like I did when I was a boy. I love answering it.
The inclination to be among your people and identify with a geographic region is embedded in man’s nature. Home is made up of your people, your land, and your experience. When you are stripped of these elements you walk around with a hole in your chest. Isker rightly appeals to this inclination in this chapter. While many men today still live in their geohistorical regions, and even likely around their kin, Trashworld has atomized people intersubjectively. Every facet of the Trashworld experience is individualistic yet ironically globalistic: You should love your tribe just like your non-tribe. Leave your home at 18 and travel to become “cultured,” don’t mind that your relatives need help. Don’t have friends? That’s okay. Trashworld MDs will supply you with SSRIs or you can flee to pornography if you need a dopamine hit. And don’t even think about having pride in that you come from a specific people. That’s called doing a racism.
Such are the shades of Donar’s Oak that blind eyes. It’s for this very reason firearms will not save anyone when the time comes, Isker notes. No one will grab them from the racks to use them for one another. It’s a sobering chapter, one that speaks to a dire need to recover love for our people, and resist the Trashworld lies of globo-individualism.
Part 1 closes by unleashing a firehose of RAID on the cocoonized academic establishment. Indeed, the standards of the American academy are at rock bottom. Isker provides various examples of just how far we’ve come—dissertations on gendered biases and Antarctic excursions as well as verifiably incorrect research findings. I’d like to make additions. Isker is justified in his hatred and critics of academia-at-large. Just last year, evidence that supported the reigning theory for the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease came into question. Image evidence of certain proteins, beta-amyloid plaques, were literally photoshopped to support the hypothesis that these proteins cause the condition. Mind you the federal budget to research Alzheimer’s disease is over 3.7 billion USD. A good swath of that funding goes to research on beta-amyloid plaques. The standards of scientific inquiry and intellectualism have been reduced to pity in Trashworld, and worse, it isn’t obvious Ivory Tower occupants investigate the natural world free of bias as they so claim to do. Bias-free empiricism died long ago.
Man’s Nature, Fuel for the Fire
A theme that underpins Isker’s thrust is the integration of man’s nature to conquer, have an effect on the world, and win. Without burying the reader with academic jargon and tomes of footnotes, Isker unashamedly presents this theme in Chapter 10: “Made of War: Rekindling Masculine Vitality” wherein the pastor opens with:
“As we have repeatedly seen above, Trashworld is designed to invert the created order. God created men to be strong and able to exert force (emphasis added). God created men for war. Trashworld has actively made men weak, fat, and impotent. … God created you to have the body, mind, and spirit of a warrior.”
I suspect Third Way critics will come out of the woodwork and claim that Isker is not being Christ-like, or at least launch something to this effect. Little do such critics know that Isker is not pulling this line of thinking from a vacuum, and it is not novel.
The Southern Presbyterian minister and professor Robert Lewis Dabney notes in his The Practical Philosophy:
“But to exterminate the elemental love of power wholly, if it were possible, would be to sink the soul into ignoble sloth and indolence. The only virtuous course that remains to us, then, is to watch ourselves, to chastise quickly ever wrong impulse which seeks to mingle with our aspiration, and to have ‘all the ends we aim at our country’s, our God’s, and truth’s”
Elsewhere Dabney uses the word “impotency” after claims that the urge to wield power is observable in all men: “The same native appetency is found in the man. To exert power, to be efficient, is pleasing: impotency is a pain.”
It is refreshing that Isker does not flesh out a dissertation quality argument to make his points. Nor does he need to. For years men have been subject to invisible IV-drips of winsomeness, Thirdwayism, and worst of all: calls to deny their natural urges and affections all the while their children’s minds are enslaved and bodies butchered. Isker ignites the coals of passion that lay dormant, yet indeed producing heat, in the bosom of these men. He does so by affirming their natural urges and lays out a way to integrate them.
Isker does not need academic argumentation because all sensible Christian men know what he is writing is true. The elites are pushing us down. Big Eva hates our masculinity. The system is rigged. We got screwed. And it’s not by accident. We all know it and hate the fakeness of Trashworld, even if the whole of society tells us we’re wrong. Hence, once The Boniface Option gets into the hands of the right men, it’ll be like throwing a lit Zippo into a silo of gasoline that’s been filling for years.
The reader is likely fuming with rage after finishing Part 1. In Part II, Isker unrolls how aspiring Boniface’s are to begin breaking in their newly found woodchipper. The now fiery reader may be taken back that Isker employs forgiveness for the generations that came before: “To begin with, in your own life, you have a family. You have people you are related to. … Your duty is to love your family. To repair relationships that have been undone by sin and bitterness and envy and betrayal, sometimes for decades. You must forgive your father for his failures and his foibles and his sins against you.” Isker even calls for the reader to repent of their own sins and that such is sacrifice.
I am sure critics will fail to mention this groundwork Isker calls for to act out The Boniface Option. It makes too much sense. For this option to work, Christians must repair and forgive their relationships with their people. Such is necessary to form a polis of people that are willing to die for eachother. This is how we deatomize. If we want our children to “be born into strong extended families, to know and love and be loved by their great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a legion of cousins,” as Isker says, our axe at the foot of Donar’s Oak will first need to be sharpened with the impenetrable steel of Christian love for our families. This love, once acted out, will then disperse into our communities like dropping a rock in a pond. With this love and by God’s grace, the roots of Trashworld weeds will be engulfed by unquenchable fire. But it will be love that sparks the flame.
Paideia or Perish
Building the New Christendom will take work, however. Building and laboring will require educated men. Thus, in the ending chapter of Part II Isker exhorts the reader to literally “do the reading.” While Trashworld has severed us from the literary traditions of the West those halls of works still exist, and we have access to them if we only decide to remove the scales of Trashworld from our eyes. So, an injustice has been done to our generation but we have reasons for optimism. Thanks to technology and internet access to the public domain we can read thousands upon thousands of literary works from the Western tradition.
Isker is sure to highlight that doing the reading will require effort:
“You will have to go out of your way to do this. … Yes, it should have simply been given to you, but you will have to fight for it instead.” but that plowing in this regard will yield a great harvest, “Even if you do this poorly (by the standards of what an educated man was prior to the mid-twentieth century) you and your children will be vastly better educated than nearly everyone alive, including (and especially) our truly unimpressive intellectual elite.”
54% of Americans have a literacy rate below the sixth grade. Over 1 in 5 are illiterate. Math performance is in the sewer. The hive-builders of Trashworld have created this intellectual epidemic. The odds are on our side to forge warriors, kingdom builders, and Christian nobles. There is no reason to black-pill. With God’s blessing, we can remove ourselves from the paideia—instruction—of Trashworld and replace it with a robust, full-orbed, and intellectualized Christianity. This will require groups of people to form Christian schools and fathers to block out time to read and write. But if Isker is correct that The Benedict Option is unavailable to us in the Negative World, it’s Christian paideia or perish. Trashworld bugmen will continue to have their way.
My morning commute is ironically more enjoyable after reading The Boniface Option. I still hate the sign. I still hate the flimsy slogan that serves as nothing more than a rhetorical band-aid to cover the wounds of an inverted world. But I enjoy the ride because I know, one day, my kids will not have to “See The Good.” I will labor hand-over-fist, and prayerfully work. The true, good, and beautiful will not have to be searched for in my home. We will be kingdom builders. And we will build our house with the timber of Donar’s Oak. And we are going to make it.
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