Monday, May 25, 2015

Rod Dreher's don't-be-Left Behind Benedict Option™ & church to go

Recently, Rod Dreher picked a fight with Pastor Dan Phillips of Copperfield Bible Church in Houston, then, because he is Rod Dreher, ran away and blocked him on Twitter:

Over the weekend, I got into a brief Twitter exchange with a pastor of a nondenominational “Bible church” (as if all churches aren’t Bible churches) in Texas who said that I am not a Christian, because Orthodox and Catholics are not Christian. I pointed out to him that Christianity did not begin with the Reformation, but then decided to block the guy on Twitter, because the last thing I wanted to do was get into an exchange with a guy like that.

The offense seems to have been the tweet I've highlighted among these remaining:

Jon Swerens says:
All of the tweets that I could find:

@DennyBurk @roddreher Don’t know Dreher besides that he’s a name. Christian, or Roman Catholic, or something else?

@BibChr @DennyBurk Christian “or” Roman Catholic? I used to be a Catholic, and was at that time also a Christian. Still am a Christian.

@roddreher @DennyBurk Yes, “or.” It is impossible to affirm what the Bible teaches and what Roman Catholicism officially teaches.

@BibChr @DennyBurk This doubtless comes as a shock to you, but Christianity didn’t start with the Reformation.

@roddreher @DennyBurk That’s interesting. I don’t know you, so I ask, rather than assume. You seem to know my level of education. How?

Yes, “doubtless,” for disagreement equals ignorance.

[NFR: I was being snarky. Dang literalists. Note the "Christian or Roman Catholic or something else" -- as if by "something else," I couldn't possibly be a Christian. -- RD]

[NFR.2: Anyway, thank you for digging up the tweet thread. I couldn't find it, but I'm very bad at Twitter. -- RD]

After congratulating himself for his beliefs of the moment after Methodism, agnosticism, and Catholicism

 An hour later, I was standing in our Orthodox vespers service, thinking about that guy and smiling. There we were, praying in a church that can trace itself in an unbroken line back to the apostles

and following a critique of Phillips dimensionally beyond anything contained in Phillips' actual tweet above, the theological disagreement between Phillips and Dreher sets Dreher up to raise this ominous a priori eschatological question:

Well, anyway, I have no interest in engaging in theological disputation here, and won’t. What prompts this post is my curiosity about this question: Does laying hold to a position so extreme and so ungrounded in history leave people like Mr. Bible Church vulnerable in other ways to the forces of modernity, which deny the authority of the past? That is, does the nature of their conservatism leave Christian fundamentalists particularly vulnerable to the cultural forces that are tearing Christianity apart in the West

But it seems that it's not just fundies like Phillips who are vulnerable to the "cultural forces that are tearing Christianity apart" foreseen by Prophet Dreher. Just about everyone else is, too: conservatives, Protestants, even Catholics:

This reminds me of firebrand political conservatives who seem to think conservatism began with Ronald Reagan, and that before his appearance among us, there was a vast void between the age of the Founding Fathers, and Reagan’s coming. Their historical ignorance denies them deeper philosophical resources that they could rightly draw on to defend their position against contemporary challenges. All true conservatives — as opposed to ideologues — lay hold to continuity with the past, and the democracy of the dead.

Christians who refuse, even denigrate, the Church’s deep theological roots in history, strike me as holding a conservatism that is a hard outer shell. What happens when the experience of living in modernity, with its valorization of radical autonomy, erodes or pierces the armor? With their creedless, non-denominational, make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach to Christianity, they are sitting ducks. They deny themselves the wisdom and profundity of tradition, which would give them deep roots. Ironically, their approach to ecclesiology is itself part of modernity, the very thing they oppose so fiercely. Christian fundamentalism, especially in its nondenominational variety, is parasitic on older, more ancient forms of Christianity, in ways that its adherents don’t appreciate.

It’s like political conservatives who don’t grasp that conservatism is a far broader and deeper thing than Reaganism and post-Reaganism. Given Reagan’s celebration of the free market, they don’t know what to say when questions are raised about the market’s role in undermining traditions that conservatism has historically stood for upholding. So they double down on dogmatism and ideology, which, as time goes on, persuades or attracts fewer and fewer people.

This is going to happen to fundamentalist Christianity, I think. It is an unstable thing, and far more vulnerable to the vicissitudes of time than its believers think. We can all look at liberal Protestantism and liberal Catholicism, and see how they are withering. Fundamentalism looks strong by contrast. I think this is deceptive.

And yet, it must be conceded that all that tradition, and all that doctrinal depth and comprehensiveness, is not producing Catholics who believe in what their own church teaches,

When all these other institutions and structures ultimately crumble and fall, as Prophet Dreher has foreseen they must, this tacitly leaves one Last Church Standing with roots deep enough and a - what? appropriately not-hard outer shell - to ultimately withstand and weather  the "cultural forces that are tearing Christianity apart in the West". Which church could that be?

Why, Rod Dreher's own personal current church of choice, Eastern Orthodoxy, of course.

As one of his commenters explains and which Dreher, who constantly adds NFRs to comments he disagrees with, makes no effort to deny or repudiate,

There is no such thing as “small-o Orthodoxy.” None whatsoever. There is the Church, and then there is everything outside it. This does not mean that there are no God-fearing people outside the Church. Far from it! I think of God-fearing people, outside the Church, as contemporary versions of Cornelius the Centurion in the Gospels, whose hearts are in the right place, but who simply haven’t received the whole truth yet.

However, what this does mean, is that a Christian life is not possible outside the Church. Only within the Church is a fully Christian life possible...The New Martyr, Metropolitan Hilarion Troitsky, explains this further in his sermon “Christianity or the Church?”

So, if you're going to take Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ in order to strategically withdraw (as Dreher did from his Twitter fight with Phillips) from the world and cultivate your Christian values offline rather than fighting for them openly in the public square, there's really only one political and religious option within which Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ can be warranted safe and effective for you and your family if taken as directed: Rod Dreher's personal church of choice.

You want to be Saved from the "cultural forces tearing Christianity apart", don't you, particularly your own fragile, shallow-rooted, inferior Christianity or, worse, God-less social conservatism. Don't you?

Then don't risk being Left Behind in the apocalyptic cultural wasteland Prophet Dreher foresees for you.

Run, don't walk, and convert to the one true church guaranteed by Prophet Dreher to deliver a satisfactory Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ today. Operators are standing by.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Permanent Thangs

No to be confused with The Permanent Things. Whatever they are.

Long after our current President is known as "that dark-complected guy who talked too much" I hope people remember the blond, white chick with the smart-girl glasses who epitomize his presidency. One of the thangs to remember her by is this hashtag.

She is truly unbelievable. We are truly dumbfounded to find anyone this dumb.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Kid's Imagination

Or maybe a dad's imagining of a kid's imagination. 

Not everyone may understand this . . . only the "classically trained".  

Those, like me, who raised classically trained children will get it too.


What we're up against

As promised here, it's time for an installment of my take of By the People by Charles Murray, which I am in the process of reading.  The first portion of the book summarizes his take on how we got to where we are today, under the boot heel of a lawless regulatory state.  The book will later get to his prescription for how we can deal with that, which I will get to in later posts.

But for our purposes here in analyzing the so-called and undefinable Benedict Option and perhaps other options to that Option, the first part of the book usefully illustrates just what we, as nominally free people, are up against.  Pace Barack Obama, we should identify the actual enemy in order to develop our strategy. Mr. Murray summarizes that quite well, I think:

To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong, unifying leader.  The were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective.  

And quoting Woodrow Wilson:

...government is not a machine, but a living thing.  It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life.  It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. ... All that progressives ask or desire is permission -- in an era when "development," "evolution," is the scientific word -- to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle.

Brought to you by the progressive movement

By the People sets out how the progressives put these ideas into practice via the judiciary:  elimination of constitutional limitations on the federal government, enabling use of civil litigation as a tool of wealth transfer for the "collective good", and unleashing the lawless regulatory state.  Mr Murray also sets out why we can't undo those actions directly.

My take from this is that we are up against a progressive movement that believes that the experts and elites ("disinterested", of course) can and ought to use the power of the State to change social institutions for the collective good as they see it.  Worse yet, the progressive movement seems to believe that human nature has evolved -- in the Darwinian sense -- such that the constraints presented by pre-modern documents such as the Constitution, as written and adopted, must also evolve.

And this is why, IMO, the so-called Benedict Option (as best one can understand it) would be useless.  Our progressive regulatory oppressors, or at least the true believers among them, will not accept limits on their ability to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective, even to the extent of leaving small insignificant groups alone.  And arguing merely from "tradition" (as in the weak tea of Dreher's SSM opposition) will be considered irrelevant by the progressives; after all, human nature has evolved, and constitutional liberties are to be interpreted according to the Darwinian principle as a result.

To the extent argument can still be used (which Murray seems to believe will be eventually fruitless -- but I'll see how the rest of the book turns out on that point), it will be essential to apply reason, backed by the knowledge that acting in accordance with reason is consistent with revealed truth and God's nature.

And in a more practical sense, we must say "no".  This will be the topic of the second part of By the People, and I will keep y'all updated as I work through it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rod Dreher's to-be-fabricated Benedict Option™

Here is the latest on the Obamacare Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ front, about which you will be able to find out what's in it once you pass it take it:

Above, a photo I just took of the books from my library that I have set aside for reading to inform me in the book I plan to write about the Benedict Option. I don’t believe this is an exhaustive list — I need to read Morris Berman, for example — but it is where I stand right now.

You see, when writer Damon Linker sweeps his arm and declares "the religious right is considering an all-out withdrawal from politics" and writer Rod Dreher embraces Linker's sweeping declaration about "our little project", both are lying to the public in the service of artificially fabricating and pushing demand for a strictly commercial writing opportunity they hope will pay ongoing benefits to each of them for years to come.

The very obvious reason why no "religious right", individually, much less as a sweeping whole, can possibly be considering a Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is that this little chimera, these dashing but invisible imperial pantaloons have yet to even be fabricated - as Rod Dreher explicitly tells you himself, above.

Rod Dreher's own mind is not yet even "informed" about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ which apparently you should be, and, according to Damon Linker, the entire religious right is already, considering taking.

Plainly speaking, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is, at best, only in wistful conceptual product development. Because Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ does not yet exist, entrepreneurial vendor-tailors of invisible, non-existent Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ Emperor's new clothing are irrefutably committing intellectual fraud.

More plainly and simply, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is an intellectual scam, specifically an intellectual pigeon drop in which you, the gullible mark, are asked to withdraw and part with your curiosity, your mouse clicks, your eyeballs on adjacent online advertising, and, ideally, the cost of Rod Dreher's book about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ which he will immediately deliver to you as a greater reward in exchange - just as soon as he reads his book list above, informs his mind, decides what combination of ingredients will sell best to you, the slack-jawed mark, and actually gets around to compiling and writing the thing.

Until that joyous and distant day, however, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ will only be about you reading about Rod Dreher and Damon Linker and others talking about Rod Dreher continuing to talk about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™, solely for the sake of someday selling you an opportunistic, pseudo-intellectual consumer product artificially shaped and fabricated by the focus group this sentence just described.

The bottom line is that Rod Dreher is demonstrably, by his own words and actions, a pseudo-intellectual con artist, an eager and unapologetic scammer of the psychologically and spiritually needy and helpless, and Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is just the latest in his long line of pseudo-intellectual scams dating back to Crunchy Cons.

If, for whatever reason, you simply cannot live without what Rod Dreher would dearly love to sell you, God bless you and the best of luck to you, but on no uncertain terms understand this:

  • No wholesale "religious right" is either preceding you, joining you, or even contemplating doing so, because
    • What Rod Dreher is trying to sell you and what you may be so cheerfully eager to buy not only does not yet exist, it is not even yet fully formed in Rod Dreher's own mind.
    Now run along and have fun. If you place your spiritual faith in Rod Dreher long enough and have the courage to dig deep enough, there's got to be a pony for you underneath there somewhere. Honest.

    Tom on the Benedict Option

    Over at Disputations, Tom's not in the mood to waste words on the Benedict Option.

    If you ever come across the term "the Benedict Option," there's really only one thing you need to know about: It's nonsense.

    More precisely, it's a meaningless term, a cypher. The thing it refers to is a non-thing. As such, it can mean anything. And a term that can mean anything isn't worth talking about.

    I agree with this assessment entirely. And yet the correction of errors often requires the dealing with non-things patiently and tirelessly. For example, the monster under the bed is a non-thing, but some people require night after night of sleeping in their parents' bed because they are obsessed with that non-thing, until finally they figure out it doesn't exist. Also some people don't want to go to the basement without at least their big brother because there's something scary down there if you happen to be alone.

    Those are two examples that come to mind immediately, and it hasn't escaped my notice that they pertain to very immature minds. This is probably accordant with the whole point; Tom goes on:

    "The Benedict Option" was a cypher when Rod Dreher coined the term nine or ten years ago, a contentless label generated as a placeholder for the idea he hoped would follow from his feelings on reading the last paragraph of Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue.

    Waiting, waiting, waiting for an "idea he hoped would follow from his feelings". Waiting not for Godot, not for Benedict.... merely waiting for an idea that never took any discernible shape....

    Since then, Rod has written a lot about "the Benedict Option" without managing to define it in a way anyone who doesn't find what he writes convincing can comprehend. These days, although he still can't say what it is, he does insist it's hugely important to every Christian in America:

    Again and again: these are not normal times. We can’t be about business as usual. The future of Christianity in America will be Benedictine — as in Benedict Option — or it won’t be at all.

    That might give one pause.

    The Pause it gives me is akin to the town council's pause after Corky St. Clair announces his dollar figure in Waiting for Guffman.

    The Pause is more real than the non-thing that is the Benedict Option because it actually does something. It asks a single, one-word question:


    Read the whole thing over at Tom's. He really does have a great blog, and I don't check it out nearly enough. I'll just leave you with one more line of his which could serve as a conclusion to any and every post we do on the Benedict Option:

    My advice to anyone who might be interested in "new forms of community within which the moral life [can] be sustained" is to think about them without reference to Rod Dreher or "the Benedict Option."

    Hear, hear.

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    Benedict Option Endorsed by National Newspaper

    ...or, I don't know, is The Onion international? Either way, a wise Soup Ladeler interviewed by the premium press outlet had this to say about Christianity's future with young, cool people:

    “Yeah, but as soon as the church is obscure and hip again they’ll come rushing back.”

    Some people try to make Christianity more relevant by accepting various disordered yet fashionable lifestyles like homosexuality. Other people try to make it more relevant by withdrawing from society and into a to-be-defined type of bunker. One might be morally worse, but neither ends up working.

    Saturday, May 16, 2015

    Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™: the blue pill of world-aversion

    Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is your response to the challenges facing Christianity if you've become grumpy and world-averse, not because of  "Low T" (No, really, he tells you himself, and see the beard? He's a lumberjack), but because you share the traits and values of a latent autistic-spectrum middle-aged man:

    I told my wife the other day that as I’ve aged this last few years (I’m 48), I have seen latent autistic-spectrum tendencies within myself manifest more acutely. The other day I went into a restaurant in town to pick up some take-out food, and didn’t realize till I walked out how strangely I had behaved. I kept my eyes on my smartphone as I walked in, and barely looked up the whole time I sat at the counter and waited. I didn’t want to meet anybody’s gaze, because … why? Why was I so anxious?

    This is happening more and more. I used to be very social, but I find now that solitude is what I crave most of all. I don’t think I’m seeking solitude from a position of strength, but from a position of weakness. I find it increasingly exhausting to be out and about, and I’m not sure why. I know I fought depression a couple of years ago, but I don’t think that’s what this is. You know what I think it is? Living most of my life online.

    While we here at EQE may have been the first to point out that the ontology of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ perfectly mirrors and recapitulates his peculiar psychology - Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™ is nothing more or less than a visionary world 3D-printed from Rod Dreher's mind - we are hardly the only ones. Commenters on his own blog are saying the same thing to his face:

    But I have to ask this, perhaps as the devil’s advocate. Is it possible that this aspect of your inner life is also partially behind your advocacy of the Benedict Option? I personally have always been attracted to the notion of a life of study and contemplation with like-minded fellows, cut off from the larger outer world which is going to hell in a handbasket, much as I imagine the monasteries of Europe functioned as the Dark Ages came crashing down upon the carcass of the Roman Empire. As appealing as I find this—I would love to spend time boning up on Latin and Greek—I always run up against the wall of the Gospels. As far as I can tell, Jesus called upon his followers to go forth and engage with the world, not withdraw from it, even in times of persecution—turning the other cheek and all that. We are supposed to be busy loving our neighbors, who are essentially defined as those as far removed from us as possible in society. How does something so fundamental become reconciled with the Benedict Option? And perhaps your personal inclination to live “not in the real world”?

    However, if you're a woman in one of Rod's communes of petulant retreat, here's how you can probably expect to be treated if you don't tread the prescribed line:

    amanda says:
    May 15, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    “… but I honestly don’t know if it will come down to actual persecution,…”

    In Para 1 you are qualifying your persuecution …

    BUT …

    “Or, less kindly, it’s about telling the unwilling woman to lay back and enjoy it, because it’s really not so bad once you get used to it.”

    … Para 4, you are comparing your situation to being raped.

    Something very odd and insulting happened here.

    [nfr: my, what a delicate flower. If you read in the newspaper someone accusing big business of "raping the environment," do you fall to pieces? -- rd]

    The whole point of pursuing Christian religious liberty is to achieve Christian religious liberty, not to end up in a snark prison ruled by self-appointed cult patriarchs like Rod Dreher.

    If you no choice but to share the traits and values of a grumpy, petulant, misogynistic latent autistic-spectrum middle-aged man, God bless you and keep you, and best of luck following the leadership of someone who's latest book on Dante is about the dark wood of consequences he found himself in when he tried to retreat to his home town and conduct a trial run of his Benedict Option™ among his family and friends, the people closest to him and who know him best.

    However, if you don't share or can overcome those stunting traits which have led Rod Dreher on a spectacular career journey of bad reasoning and even worse choices, why not choose the Red Pill of reality instead?

    Instead of the Blue Pill of Rod Dreher's solipsistic, latent-autistic Benedict Option™, choose the Red Pill instead, the Murray Option.

    After all, our response to the challenges faced by Christians today should actually lead us to true religious liberty - and sooner, not later. It's not supposed to be just one more thing about the failing ways in which a Rod Dreher tries to apprehend the real world.