Thursday, March 26, 2015

Who will be buying Rod Dreher's Dante book?

To get people in the proper frame of mind to purchase a book about how a book saved one's life and could very possibly save theirs, too, and starting next month, to boot, one subtle and extremely shrewd move is to casually pose the question, was there ever a book that saved your life?

So, question to you: was there ever a single book, other than the Bible, the Koran, or a holy book, that saved your life, in the sense that it brought you back to reality, or kept you from making a serious mistake? If so, what was the book, and how did it work for you?

The sort who probably will be buying Dreher's Dante book:

Blog commenter Mark Hamann says:
March 26, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Yes. The Ink Dark Moon, a book of Heian period tanka written by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu. Once in the early 90's I was suicidal over the lack of traction in my love life, and that book made me realize that I’m supposed to suffer over that. And write tanka to express my suffering which I did on index cards which I still have.

Blog commenter McKay says:
March 26, 2015 at 2:50 pm

If you haven’t read David James Duncan’s The Brothers K, you are living an incomplete life. I read it in the midst of my PhD program, while I was reading all this counter-Enlightenment philosophy stuff and critiques of modernity (MacIntyre, the Southern Agrarians, Camus, et al.), and I really was growing profoundly depressed about the state of the world. The entire structure of secular modernity, and thus the structure of daily life, was starting to seem like some cruel techno-managerial artifice designed to force us into solipsism, atomism, and self-absorption...

The sort who probably will not:

Sherelle Taylor* says
March 26, 2015 at 3:09 am

Yeah, well you know Shirley got beat up real bad, yo, that man never did treat her right but they're gonna let me take her shift too since it starts right when mine ends, mmh hmmh, but I'm young and in pretty good health so God willing I can pull it for at least a month if I need to while she gets better which means I can get Jayden that bike he's been wanting for his birthday instead of putting my Mama's ring in the pawn shop again which is pretty sweet if you ask me though I really feel bad for Shirley she deserves better God knows she does.

* Cashier, 10:00 pm - 6:00 am shift, Big Bargain World. Not suicidal over the lack of traction in her love life, just has her hands full at the moment. But ask her nicely anyway.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rod Dreher's View From Your Death

Rod Dreher turns a family tragedy into a freak show for his personal gain, then blames the rubes he just roped into the tent for criticizing him for putting it on:

I certainly understand people not agreeing, but I have been shocked by some of the vitriol this simple photograph has drawn forth from some commenters. I am going to close comments, because life is hard enough for the Tippetts family now without having to read such harsh judgment visited on them for smiling through the pain.

Rod, why not just get out of the cozy corner bunker from time to time and ask normal people, those different from you, how these things are generally regarded in their lives? Think of it even as a possible icebreaker with your estranged family.What could it hurt to begin to consider treating people as human beings with legitimate feelings and sensibilities of their own rather than only as sensational blog product to make a buck from?

And so, with his anticipated expansion into visually arousing death porn having proved problematic, Rod quickly returns to his old standby, visually arousing food porn. His quick, palate-cleansing follow up to the the visually arousing image of an unusually grieving family? A visually arousing picture of some dead pig:

Yes, that is exactly what you think it is. My neighbor loves him some pig.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Phlogistetheron Option

When your J-school degree turns out to be worth about as much as the 8-track player your daddy still keeps in the garage for sentimental reasons, you boldly turn to new reasons to live, namely, to become famous for nothing more than making up word couplings and then trying to get paid for writing as many more words about them as possible.

This, in a nutshell, is Rod Dreher's Benedict Option (™), or, as I like to think of it, the Phlogistetheron Option, a mystical, ever-evolving something-experience that will ignite the ether of our imaginations the more it is referred to and discussed by thoughtfully serious consumers of ignited ether.

Today, we learn a new, never before revealed aspect of Phlogistetheron:

The Benedict Option will be in part about fighting for reality against the Matrix.

Really? That should keep us busy for awhile, yes indeedy. Except, um, what can that possibly even mean? Everything. Nothing. Whatever Neo Dreher wants it to mean as he bends the bullets of examination and criticism around him and his Phlogistetheron cloud in slo-mo.

The Matrix was at best a bad Wachowski Brothers-waddling into mystical secular eschatology that only got worse with each reload. Is this how we are to approach living Christian lives? Through the eyes of insecure adolescents yearning for mystical super powers to use against an over-weening adult establishment?

This Phlogistetheron Option does remind me of a different movie, though, John Carpenter's The Thing: a shape-shifting mutant that, as soon as you think you grasp what it is, melts and flows and mutates into something entirely new and unrecognizable.

There, on that plate there. Is that really a ham sandwich? Or could it be Rod Dreher's Benedict Option (™), in a new disguise, preparing to spring and ignite the very ether of our imaginations?

Monday, March 23, 2015

From the safety of his bunker, Rod Dreher mocks "safe spaces"

Not that the phenomenon doesn't richly deserve mocking. I've glanced at and excerpted this so that, mercifully, you will be spared reading the whole thing:

So when she heard last fall that a student group had organized a debate about campus sexual assault between Jessica Valenti, the founder of, and Wendy McElroy, a libertarian, and that Ms. McElroy was likely to criticize the term “rape culture,” Ms. Byron was alarmed. “Bringing in a speaker like that could serve to invalidate people’s experiences,” she told me. It could be “damaging.”

Ms. Byron and some fellow task force members secured a meeting with administrators. Not long after, Brown’s president, Christina H. Paxson, announced that the university would hold a simultaneous, competing talk to provide “research and facts” about “the role of culture in sexual assault.” Meanwhile, student volunteers put up posters advertising that a “safe space” would be available for anyone who found the debate too upsetting.

However, what deserves mocking even more, if that's possible, is Brave Sir Roddy standing tall on the ramparts over it

Why America Rod Dreher Deserves What It He Gets

Let's remember that, for decades now, any comment seriously critical of anything Dreher says has had less chance of getting approved by his personal self-validating "curating" process than a poisoned quail would have had making it through the gauntlet of Louis XIV's food tasters.

But Rod has not only been obsessed with making his own space safe for his "experiences" to remain "validated" beyond contest, he's felt it necessary to reach out into other peoples spaces, for example, his local Topix forum, and have content he feels threatens to validate his experiences removed.

Finally, can we recall the very reason itself for Rod's upcoming book on how Dante saved his life? That's right, because out in that horribly unsafe space I casually refer to as "the world" Rod's family remained stubborn beyond his curating, and even dared to invalidate his experiences, throwing him hopelessly into a "dark wood".

So when people think I'm being too hard on Rod Dreher, I beg to differ. I'm only helping him to overcome the terrible crippling condition of being a "special snowflake" he's cultivated in and for himself, year in and year out, now heading into middle age, as a deformed human being, a hypocritical, pathological bully, forever punching down on those weaker than himself while squealing about his suffering and begging for pity, someone manifestly without the courage to recognize what everyone else has long ago, that the qualities and behavioral urges he constantly condemns in others are those he most intimately recognizes and most fiercely loathes in himself - but will forever be too cowardly to address where they really lurk, in that cozy Benedictine Option corner deep inside himself.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Oh, I understand now: Rod Dreher is just like Kara Tippetts

I had begun to wonder about Rod Dreher's morbid, "death porn" fascination with the terminally ill and dying in the wake of his sister Ruthie's death several years ago, particularly his giving such events unseemly rock star status on his blog, but now the reason for this long setup becomes clearer: Dreher wants to claim the same object-of-pity, martyr-to-illness status of terminal cancer patient Kara Tippetts for his own superficial depressive grumpies, grumpies acquired only because his family sees him for the shallow, manipulative asshole he is and doesn't like what they see.

Because, like the little engine that could, he, too, writes while sick:

(Picture caption: Behold, a writer ["Just like meee!!!"])

I have mentioned in the past that my chronic mononucleosis went into remission for a year after reading Dante and experiencing a spiritual and physical healing, but that — irony of ironies! — the intense stress of having to write the book late last fall and winter under a radically truncated schedule (from zero to complete in three months, which is all but unheard of) triggered a relapse. I’ve still not been able to get on top of that. It feels like my immune system’s wheels are spinning on ice, and can’t get traction. And I’m not sure why. The certain thing is that I experienced real healing, but I tried to do too much intense writing — I have never before written under that kind of deadline — before my immune system was strong enough. It was like trying to run a marathon on legs that had only recently healed from being broken. No wonder I fell...

And yet, she writes. That is what writers ["Just like meee!!!"] do.

And, just like Johnny Carson's Ed McMahon or Jimmy Kimmel's Guillermo Rodriguez, Dreher blog sidekick and audience warm-up Charles "Uncle Chuckie" Cosimano sees his opening to cue the pre-scripted audience response:

Rod, don’t beat up on yourself. The only yardstick you need to measure your own work by is you. This condition will not last forever and after it great writing may come. In fact I am willing to bet that it will come.

Take care of your health. You’re doing fine. And when you feel down, think of all your friends here, daily remembering you in their thoughts, prayers and electropsychotronic healing machines that are never mentioned because they are bad for the public image.

That's right, Rod. We understand. We understand the "dark wood" of unhappiness that your family and local townspeople put you in for not buying into your bullshit is just like Kara Tippetts' terminal cancer, which is why it is so important for us to hear everything about her, and, after she's gone, about the next one just like her, because only by understanding their stories can we truly understand the gauntlet of pain and suffering you are to this day still bravely soldiering through.

And yet, amazingly, you still write. Because that is what writers do.

UPDATE (as they say): Kara Tippetts died later today. So did everyone else who will show up tomorrow in your local obituary page, the stupid teenager who took that curve too fast, the little girl screaming in terror, suffocated as she was being raped, that funny homeless guy under the Interstate, the cousin of the person who works two cubicles down; they never did find out what was wrong with him. That is what we humans do - die - even the ones who don't prove useful for blog posts valorizing Rod Dreher as a suffering writer. Let us pray for all of them, indiscriminately.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Oh, dear, what is the Benedict Option?

Let's face it, being a fraudulent hustler of religious culture like Rod Dreher is hard work. It's not easy selling people cutting edge hydrogen oxide when they are accustomed to drinking water. But if you're Rod Dreher you persevere in your emperorography, and then one day

Boom, there it is: the strategy for the Benedict Option. Christians have to play the long game, as our ancestors in the faith did. This is what I mean by the Benedict Option: to figure out how to live, and build the structures of community that make it possible to live, so that we raise generations of Christian families. Historical circumstances have trimmed back the previous growths of the faith down to the roots. Our job is to patiently tend the roots, and nurture them for the day when the long winter darkness ends.

Boom! At least someone else is finally providing Rod with something with which to substantiate the completely cool and at the same time utterly hollow Madison Avenue brand name "Benedict Option" he has been trying to market for the last several years now.

Those who have followed this ad campaign from the beginning know quite well that it started out as a flight-from-corrupt-society religious mutation of his original Crunchy Cons mish-mash, except that no one wanted to buy that product and, as a result, Dreher was forced to wander in the wilderness pretending he knew quite well what he was talking about without, however, ever quite being able to clearly state what he knew.

In philosophical terms, the Benedict Option trade name was forced for a time to revert from actuality back into the less stressful quantum state of pure potentiality while it awaited a new product host and a new consumer base for that new product. Now, though, it seems old, unimproved Tide Benedict Option has actually been officially banned for all consumers:

UPDATE.2: And the next person who repeats the much-denied claim that the Benedict Option is about running off to the hills and building a compound to keep out all the impure people is going to get punched. Seriously, though, I am so tired of repeatedly denying this that I’m simply not going to publish any comments stating this untruth.

Given our working prophet's burgeoning Russophilia, the delicious Sovietness of this edict should not be surprising, but it does raise some ancillary and as yet unanswerable questions. What happens if I do decide to run off to the hills and build a compound to keep out all the impure people while patiently tending the roots, nurturing them for the day when the long winter darkness ends? Am I still licensed by Dreher, Inc. to use the term "Benedict Option"? For that matter, how will any individual or group know for sure whether

  • they are practicing the genuine Benedict Option;
  • got saddled with an old, out of date and previously recalled Benedict Option;
  • are erroneously practicing a faux-Benedict Option (never buy one from the trunk of someone's car);
  • or simply happen to be a sluggard who isn't trying hard enough and is only effectuating some inferior pre- or sub-Benedict Option?

In other words, where can one find the official catechism of the official Benedict Option to ensure one is getting it right?

I’m preparing to undertake a book about the Benedict Option

Ah, perfect. So one will be available for sale.

Still, I remain confused. Some posts back I laid out my thinking as to why everything Dreher must deal with in under-girding his tantalizing trade name "Benedict Option" with actual practicable substance leads with inexorable logic to a terminal secular millenarianism, and, again, if anyone can show me how it escapes this logic trap, by all means do so.

But the "Boom" paragraph with which I led off this whole post suggests something new, something different, something exciting

This is what I mean by the Benedict Option: to figure out how to live, and build the structures of community that make it possible to live, so that we raise generations of Christian families.

To figure out how to live, to build the structures of community that make it possible to live so that we raise generations of Christian families. be Christian. That's the Benedict Option. To be Christian.

But still, to figure out how to live as a Christian, to build the structures of community that make it possible to live as a Christian so that we raise generations of Christian families - with a way cooler new appellation, The Benedict Option.

Not that dull old traditional Zud figuring-out-how-to-live-as-a-Christian option, building the structures of community that make it possible to live as a Christian so that we raise generations of Christian families. No, new, improved Benedict Option figuring-out-how-to-live-as-a-Christian option, building the structures of community that make it possible to live as a Christian so that we raise generations of Christian families.

Now, of course, the whole enterprise will feel more or less new, improved Benedict Optiony as opposed to old, unimproved Zuddite or any other traditional Christianity optiony depending on one's relative hysteria about the putative Dark Ages one is living in compared to other periods in history with other anti-Christian hazards. Wolves. Meanies. People that when you tell them you're a Christian go "Nie!". Disco. Vikings.

Where does this now leave me? Adrift between apocalyptic, dark-agey secular millenarianism and this new gospel of a fascinating new hydrogen oxide, with its own exegetical catechism to be offered for sale some time after the book about how Dante can save my life will finally be offered for sale.

Thanks, I'll just have water. No, really, I'm good, just ordinary, 2,000-year-old water. If it was good enough for Jesus and those who followed Him, it's good enough for me. But, still - way cool brand name, dude.

UPDATE (as they say): Commenter Mike W at the Dreher post linked has questions similar to mine:

Mike W says:
March 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm

A few questions. As a practical matter, how would the Benedict option look? What would be the general attributes of someone (or a community) following the Benedict option? How would you know if you were actually doing it properly? How do you “modernize” the approach to deal with 21st century pressures such as 24/7 media, etc. Who’s doing it now? How successful are they (and how do they define success)?

[NFR: All great questions ... but ones I am not prepared to answer. All of them I have to explore while working on the book. -- RD]

All great questions indeed, and in most cases the sorts of things one would want to have thought about and have answered before embarking on a great commission to recruit others to completely recreate their lives to suit one's vision.

But, just as with the case of Obamacare, the Benedict Option is nothing more than a political marketing chimera designed only to enhance the reputation of its proponent while dumping the unknown burdens of implementing it - including even the most fundamental question: what is it? - onto the paying marks in the cheap seats.

Here's the litmus test that Rod Dreher's Benedict Option (TM) is nothing more than fraudulent vaporware. If it were a real thing he really believed in for himself, Dreher would have already stated in clear and practical terms,

"Here is what I am doing myself and for my family in pursuit of the Benedict Option as I envision it.

Here is what I am doing:




and here is what I am not doing:




That is the Benedict Option in practice for my family, the Drehers."

But having taken the orders and the down payments, alas, there is no product in the warehouse for delivery.

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Sad Little Bunch"

Recently the term Sad Little Bunch was thrown at us — well, at people who fit the description "Dreher anti-fans who seethe at everything he writes" — so I guess that's how some people would characterize some of us.

Someone else brought up this bit on Saturday and I remember thinking "Yeah — another Sad Little Bunch!" It's funny; check it out:

Resumes of Apostles

To: Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafter’s Carpenter Shop
Nazareth 25922

From: Jordan Management Consultants

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully.

As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation, and comes without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew had been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Jordan Management Consultants


Monday, March 9, 2015

We Want It All.

[The following apologia/meditation comes from our friend, Diane, and could have the title Why I am not leaving the Catholic Church. It echoes my mind precisely and I couldn't have put it better myself. Thanks, Diane.]

Jesus, I Want It All!
by Diane

Years and years ago, I worked at an ad agency in downtown Winston-Salem. Every Advent, one of my colleagues there used to don a sparkly red graphic sweatshirt with the message: “Santa, I want it all!”

I hereby claim a variation on this message to sum up my allegiance to Catholic Church: “Jesus, I want it all!”

I want the fullness. Both-and, not either-or. Both East and West. Icons and statues. Iconostases and stained-glass windows. The Eastern Fathers and the Western ones, too. All the saints – every single one. Seraphim of Sarov and Francis of Assisi. Pre-Schism. Post-Schism. The whole enchilada. Byzantine chant and Gregorian chant. Russian choral music and Renaissance polyphony. And, yes, even the operatic Masses of Mozart, Verdi, Gounod, and Saint-SaĆ«ns. Not to mention the immortal Western religious art: the Annunciation frescoes of Fra Angelico, the bas reliefs of Andrea della Robbia, the Madonnas of Raphael. How impoverished life would be without them!

And there's the rub. That's why I could never, ever be Orthodox. Especially not Convertodox – a member of the vocal, polemical online convert community.

I cannot believe that Jesus was incarnate, crucified, and resurrected for a small part of the planet composed of Greece, Russia, and a few areas in the Middle East. I cannot believe that East Is Right and West Is Wrong. I cannot believe that the “phronema” is limited to one spirituality, one cultural expression or one theological perspective. Or even to just a few.

It has been said that the West can accommodate the East better than the East can accommodate the West. In my experience, this is abundantly true. Personally, I know no Catholic who doesn't love icons or who feels weirdly out of place during the sanctuary tour at the local Greek Festival. We are open to all that stuff, the icons and iconostases and Pantocrators, the Jesus Prayer, the mysticism. We love it all. We just don't happen to believe that it's all there is – or that everything else is wrong.

Moreover, we want the “everything else”. The rich diversity of Catholic spiritualities. The countless ways to pray, from Rosaries and Novenas to wordless contemplation to charismatic praise and worship. The endless variety of religious vocations – from the austere ascesis of the Carthusians to the baroque mysticism of the Carmelites to the charity-in-action of the Franciscans. Not to mention the varied charisms of the many Catholic women's groups, lay and religious.

Jesus, I want it all. I don't even want to exclude the best of Protestant culture and spirituality. I've lived here in the Bible Belt for 25 years, and I've come to appreciate the gifts our separated brethren possess, which we would do well to emulate: evangelical fervor, zeal for souls, ardent love of Jesus, intimate knowledge of Scripture, fearless willingness to preach Christ Crucified. I love much of Protestant hymnody, from the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal (still the gold standard in my opinion) to Southern Gospel (black and white) to the Sacred Harp “shape-note” tradition.

Moreover, as a Catholic, I am free to appreciate these authentically good elements of Protestantism. I don’t have to reject them all out of hand as hopelessly heterodox or as rife with “prelest”. As a Catholic, I believe that our separated brethren are incompletely—yet genuinely—joined with us Catholics, and that what is true and beautiful in their traditions is true and beautiful for us as well. This does not mean that I accept everything indiscriminately or that I blindly adhere to anything that contradicts Catholic Church Teaching. No way. But, as the Decree on Ecumenism states, many elements of Catholic grace and truth exist outside of the Catholic Church's visible bounds. I rejoice in this.

Jesus, I want it all. I reject what von Balthasar called the “anti mentality”: us against them; East versus West. The great sin of schism is the lack of fraternal charity, and the anti mentality epitomizes this. In my experience, the typical polemic employed by Online Convert Orthodox is indistinguishable from the old saw about olfactory fatigue. Thanks, but no thanks.

Jesus, I want it all. Sun-bleached Greek monasteries and French Gothic cathedrals. Ancient chants and baroque Masses and even shape-note fuguing hymns. I want everything that is true and good, everything that comes from You, in this whole big wide world (East and West) in which You were incarnate and for which You died.

Jesus, I want it all. I could never join a communion that would force me to reject my statues and Holy Cards and Rosaries and stained glass and Benediction hymns and Renaissance Madonnas. You would have to pry that Rosary out of my cold, dead hands. Or drag me away from that statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. In the immortal words of the old Gershwin song, “No, no, you can't take that away from me.”

Jesus, I want it all.

And that is why I am Catholic.