Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Response to Alan Jacobs on the Benedict Option

Matthew Loftus writes a good article, mostly stuff we've already said here. Excerpts:

[T]he potential for good-hearted Christians to go to war with one another about anything seems to be elided in most BenOp discussions. Every Christian community I have ever participated in has seen heated debates about theological or practical issues drive friendships apart; the more intense communities seemed to be the ones with the greatest potential for enmity. There is no amount of liturgy or localism that will address this fundamental defect in the human heart that is one of Satan’s greatest strategies against ministries all over the world. I cannot say for certain that it is any worse in modernity, but the discipline of Christian love for one another deserves more serious consideration as we talk about how to form more intense Christian communities. How would parachurch organizations, nonprofits, and churches work together in a BenOp vision, and how would the BenOp schema alter the tendency towards petty infighting that often besets attempts at such cooperation?

That bit reminded me of this. Here's another:

After all, another theme that dominates Dreher’s writing is the cultural morass which various communities in the West seem to have found themselves; presumably many BenOp communities would find themselves in proximity to the people drowning in the waste products of promiscuity, drug abuse, and self-centeredness that cultural elites have flushed downstream. It seems obvious to me that for every BenOp community nestled into an isolated riverbend, there should be two in a trailer park or neglected inner-city neighborhood. Yet I still get the sense that the BenOp is trying to protect us from lost people as much as it is trying to be a light to them. The Bible clearly teaches both, but it always speaks as if the lost– powerful cultural elites and powerless victims of sins– are a present fixture in our lives to bring the Holy Spirit to bear upon. I suspect that the healthy fear that animates much of the BenO might lead us to hide our light under a bushel unless we clearly plan ahead to do otherwise.

Rod Dreher Orlando Confidential

Rod Dreher
What Rod Dreher thinks may have killed 49 in Orlando

Rod Dreher writes:

1. He was likely a closet case.

2. He was probably mentally ill. 

3. He was filled with rage at everybody. 

Before I go any further I need to stress for readers who may be confused that this is not a confession. Rod is not talking about himself, but rather about Omar Mateen, the self-professed ISIS martyr who killed 49 in an Orlando gay club and wounded at least as many more.

Rod takes pains to elaborate under 1.

What kind of devout Muslim goes drinking booze at a gay bar? You’re going to blame Islam for this guy? Really?

Um...well, yeah, Rod...really.

The guy whom the FBI investigated twice previously for Islamic terrorism. Yeah, really.

The guy who shouted "Allah hu Akbar" as he methodically shot gays - who are routinely murdered in Islamic nations when not formally sentenced to death by their various governments - yeah, really.

The guy who calmly pledged allegiance to ISIS on 911. Yeah, really.

Commenter Fran Macadam points out:

He’s not the first Islamist terrorist to enjoy a libertine Florida lifestyle; so did the 9/11 perpetrators.

Yeah, really, really, really.

But Rod has a big problem that desperately needs a solution. His blog boasts more than a few Muslim and gay readers, and so he needs a narrative solution to Orlando that won't dare alienate even one of them, because they might also purchase his upcoming Benedict Option book, if only out of fondness for his blog or curiosity.

So Rod needs an Orlando narrative that pops into our universe, does its dirty work, and then vanishes back into the mysterious alternate universe from whence it came - sort of like the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

What can pull off this neat trick of producing a mysterious one-off, other-dimensional, self-extinguishing injection of mass murder into our universe?

Why, a unique, mentally ill, self-loathing homosexual.

Rod's Muslim commenter Jones? Not implicated. Rod's mentally "healthy", butt-humping gay commentariat at large? Not implicated.

Just Sta-Pufty Omar Mateen, random, idiosyncratic, incomprehensible hate-bot.

"Dangerous faggot" Milo Yiannopoulos, an actual conservative not needing to desperately suck up to every possible Muslim, liberal, or even gay reader, sees things a bit differently
Milo will be expanding on this epiphany today at 6:00 PM EST at the University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Rod's newly discovered existential innocence obviously has implications for his Benedict Option - or does it?

Come to think of it, Rod's Benedict Option has always explicitly declared it was never about resistance to, well, anything other than those particular elements of contemporary culture each BOpper decides for themselves they find aesthetically unattractive.

Instead, it has always instead used the vague term "thickening", which cynical readers can't be blamed for believing probably refers to over-consuming the delicious goodies featured in Rod's regular food porn posts.

So...eat, drink, and thicken, pretending you're invisible to everyone else, and hope that Sta-Pufty doesn't suddenly burst into your universe inexplicably shouting "Allah hu Akbar" while pumping slugs into your little girls head.

UPDATE (as they say):  Beyond Rod's immediate publishing interests, what other factors might be contributing to the fantasy balloon commenter Fran Macadam so neatly popped?

Hmmm...what does Wick Allison, the guy who ultimately pays for Rod's health care and other family benefits think about this?

Well, he thinks, through his FrontBurner blog puppets, this:

Dan Patrick Biblical Tweet, conceivably but not at all necessarily pointing to Orlando - bad.

Lovely gay marriage celebration as Dan Patrick-cleansing mouthwash - good.

So good, in fact, that new D Magazine Executive Editor Kathy Wise comments

 Beautiful. Thanks Peter! Reminds me of my wife's wedding proposal. Minus the blindfold. And the dancers. And the ribbon wavers. And the choir robes. #loveisloveisloveisloveislove

So, if Rod wants to keep his kids in braces, he'd better understand how the cow eats the cabbage: the people who buy the fabulous, high end stuff Wick Allison depends on to keep his magazine afloat have the tastes and disposable income concentrated in gay communities, so Orlando must implicitly become an act of "homophobic terrorism", not something divisive and distracting like Islamic terrorism.

And besides, Sta-Pufty can't be killed by a Sig Sauer MCX, not even by "a Glock with a lot of clips in it".

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Alan Jacobs explains why the Benedict Option is authoritarian

Benedict Option

There's only so much room on the Benedict Option Ark. Know nothings, ye of bad faith, and unscrupulous vendors of content-free grumbles need not apply for safe passage through the unsavory waters of our disgusting common humanity (and - shhh!!! - it probably helps if you're white.)

In his most recent post, Benedict Option apologist Alan Jacobs explains how dissent from and disagreement with Rod Dreher's Benedict Option - though fully embraced as a response by the white suprememacist Alt-Right - will be tolerated: why, not at all.

Mr. Jacobs hurls questions at potential dissenters, but lacks the courage to entertain answers. His blog doesn't accept comments, not even the finely sifted residue of sycophantic assent Rod Dreher himself publishes. His questions, then, not intended to be answered, become purely rhetorical.

Alan, if you want people to believe you still identify with the genitals you were born with, don't pick fights with people by hiding in your house and taunting them through the mail slot like a little bitch. (Or - could I have missed something this sublime? - the Benedict Option as demonstrated by Jacobs is simply this: hiding alone, muttering to oneself.)

But what if someone does attempt to answer in another forum, as Greg Forster, target of Jacob's irritation did here?

As with Rod Dreher's characterization of dissenter Shaun Kenney as a "know nothing", Jacobs in turn tags Forster as a "Humpty Dumpty", finding reflexive comfort in dismissing his response as a "content-free grumble".

In psychology, this is recognized as a "double-bind", made famous in Joseph Heller's Catch-22.

First, it's very difficult to respond to the Benedict Option directly. Rod Dreher scrupulously prunes his own comment section of any but the most fawning agreement or softball criticism and, as noted, Jacobs flees from responses entirely.

 If one does answer affirmatively, whatever one says, even the Alt-Right, supports the Benedict Option, because there's nothing that the Benedict Option's is not; the Benedict Option's only content is the Benedict Option affirming the Benedict Option, whatever the Benedict Option happens to be at any given random moment. There's no way to actually do the Benedict Option wrongly, but if one should ever happen to disagree or dissent, one becomes, by definition, a "know nothing" offering "content-free grumbles" in "bad faith".

So why not agree and assent? If you agree and assent, you'll always be right, no matter what you do; if you disagree and dissent, you'll always be a "know nothing" offering "content-free grumbles" in "bad faith".

In this way Rod Dreher's Benedict Option becomes self-evidently revealed truth, needing no conceptual underpinnings, arguments, or architecture. One either "gets" the Benedict Option osmotically, or one is self-evidently a "know nothing" offering "content-free grumbles" in "bad faith".

What could be more tautologically pure, its own tail-in-mouth Alpha and Omega?

The newest front by apostles of the Benedict Option traffics in amazement at the "hostility" to the Benedict Option. This sort of passive-aggressive victimology script - "If you don't agree with me, you hate me, you HATE me!" - is straight out of the contemporary disagreement-as-mental-illness political correctness playbook: if you disagree with President Obama, you are, ipso facto, a racist. The BenOp Way above doesn't point left by accident.

Jacobs' and Dreher's Benedict Option in three words: Christian political correctness.

So this is what we can expect Benedict Option Communities to be:

- monasteries,  like the one in Nursia, Italy. Well, actually, no; that predated the Benedict Option. Rod Dreher just superimposed his brand on it

- monastery-centered communities like that around Clear Creek Abbey in northeastern Oklahoma. Well, actually, no, again. Like the monks in Nursia, that also predated the Benedict Option and will no doubt persist even after Rod's book is mothballed in the remaindering house. Besides, as Rod has said, Alasdair MacIntyre was just a springboard for Dreher's own unique, proprietary formulations, monastic or not monastic, white supremacist or not white supremacist, .38, .39, whatever it takes.

- African-American...um...hard to imagine 21st Century African-Americans voluntarily yoking themselves anew to the new sort of Caucasian-led authoritarianism Jacobs and Dreher tacitly espouse. Besides, many of them have to work for a living.

- Latinos. Much like African-Americans, one might imagine. Streaming north from the southern continent in search of opportunity, a better life - all in order to finally be told by gabachos named Dreher and Jacobs to reject the poisonous culture they crossed the Rio Grande and the Sonoran desert to find a place within. Not quite feeling that one.

So who's left?

Maybe a few white boys like this guy

Benedict Option
A true believing BOpper

establishing their own special Greg Marmalard-brand Christianity table in the cafeteria, where they can put ordinary Christians and anyone else they decide to look down upon on double secret Benedict Option probation.

How is all this silliness really likely to end? Yep:

Benedict Option
Alas, an ordinary Christian

'Cept the Alt-Right BenOppers will probably bring guns.

Friday, June 3, 2016

"ISIS is Islamic." Not bigoted, just honest.

I received a birthday present today from Aaqil Ahmed, the head of the BBC’s religious programming via the Catholic League. Here it is in its entirety:

Bill Donohue comments on remarks made this week by Aaqil Ahmed, the head of the BBC’s religious programming:

In 2009, when Aaqil Ahmed was appointed the first Muslim to direct religious programming at the BBC, he was looked upon with some suspicion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, wasn’t happy that the “Christian voice is being sidelined.” Now others are looking askance at Ahmed; his remarks made this week at a London gathering of journalists are raising some eyebrows.

Ahmed, who is a professor at Middlesex University, was asked about the phrase “so-called Islamic State.” His answer was enlightening: “I hear so many people say ISIS has nothing to do with Islam—of course it has.

They are not preaching Judaism. It might be wrong but what they are saying is an ideology based on some form of Islamic doctrine.” He added that the Islamic nature of ISIS is “a fact and we have to get our head around some very uncomfortable things.”

Those who work at the State Department have an ethical responsibility to discuss Ahmed’s position. The same is true for those who teach multiculturalism on American college campuses.

Clear-minded persons know that ISIS is rooted in an interpretation of Islam that is widely shared in Muslim communities, even if it is not embraced by most Muslims. This isn’t being bigoted—it’s being honest.

President Obama bears much of the blame for closing down an honest discussion on the religious roots of ISIS; his constant denial of any relationship between the teachings of Muhammad and terrorist acts conducted in his name is absurd. We can’t make progress in any area without robust freedom of speech, untainted by political considerations.

Professor Ahmed has done us a service. It is up to others to grab this opportunity.

And grab it we will. With both hands. "Of course ISIS has something to do with Islam." Just like the Orangemen have something to do with Protestant Christianity, although most Protestants aren't Orangemen, nor do they condone their actions.

Clarity is so refreshing, and this has to be listened to because this man is both trusted on the subject matter and a public figure. And now he has proven himself to be a courageous one.

If anyone needs more proof that Islam is a violent religion, here you go.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Trying to make sense of the Benedict Option

Benedict Option
Seeking the Benedict Option

While no one will really know the dimensions, forms, content, limits, or anything else about the Benedict Option until Rod Dreher publishes his book detailing such defining aspects of his invention in the spring of 2017, dedicated fans of his personality and prose nonetheless gather even now in pursuit of their salvation in his words.

UPDATE (as they say): A close friend and very highly placed bishop in one of the world's major orthodox religions who wishes to remain anonymous just emailed me to point out that the image above is not in fact one of devotees of the Benedict Option congregating a year in advance of finding out what it actually is in hopes of snaring a deep spiritual discount prior to its hard launch, but rather a flock of Welsh sheep who had gotten into a patch of cannabis. My apologies for the mistake. Further updates on both groups as they become available.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What could possibly explain Alasdair MacIntyre's regret?

One of our faithful Anonymous commenters deserves recognition (although he/she obviously doesn't want any) for linking to an interview between a liberal protestant theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, and someone from Bruderhof a quasi-commune of sorts. My main interest is the exchange right at the beginning:

Peter Mommsen: You’ve written extensively about how the church should respond to the “end of Christendom” – the fact that we no longer live in a culture whose ground rules stem from Christianity. What about the “Benedict Option” proposed by the writer Rod Dreher? He argues that Christians should respond to secularization by following the example of the early monastics, withdrawing from a heathen civilization to build alternative communities where Christian virtues can be nourished and passed on. Is he right?

Standley Hauerwas: This Benedict Option idea comes from the last line of Alasdair MacIntyre’s book After Virtue, in which he observes that the barbarians have been ruling us for some time and that our future is “no doubt to have a Benedict, no doubt a very different Benedict.” Here’s the problem: Alasdair once told me that this is the line he most regrets ever having written! He wasn’t advocating some kind of withdrawal strategy – he was only pointing out that we can’t be compromised by the world in which we find ourselves. I don’t think your community, the Bruderhof, takes a withdrawal strategy, for instance.

I think it is appropriate to underscore MacIntyre's entire disapproval of the Benedict Option as well as his recognition for what it is, in the words of his theologian friend Stanley Hauerwas, "some kind of withdrawal strategy." Everybody using common English parlance recognizes two things: one, the intention of Alasdair MacIntyre's quip in After Virtue was not a fugit mundi and two, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option—if it is anything more than hashtag Christianity or fodder for a grad school mint julep fueled bull session—is most definitely a flight from the world, albeit with a few oddments crammed into one's pockets. Examples of the oddments would seem to include Diamond Dogs by David Bowie, Bitch by the Rolling Stones, a bottle of trendy French wine and a cell-phone photo of a one-legged stripper. Among other things.

Somewhere on the internets there is an article by a Benedict Option devotee wondering in print if MacIntyre was ever going to "break his silence" on the whole Benedict Option concept. I think the silence spoke loudly enough that, in the words of T. S. Eliot, it had the equivalence to a "That is not what I meant at all; that is not it, at all", and the development of the quasi-monastic lifestyle choice called the Benedict Option was based on a misperception of his original words. To put it mildly.

....What they set themselves to achieve instead—often not recognising fully what they were doing—was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct [one characterized by moral incoherence and unsettlable moral disputes in the modern world], we ought to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict. (Source.)

Each Christian man or woman of good will must ultimately judge whether this paragraph has anything to do with the upcoming book about craft beer, communes, trips to Italy, photos of restaurant tables and thick glasses lying on stacks of books, etc. Personally I think MacIntyre would join the chorus of other thinkers we've noted—Bruce Frohnen, Joseph Shaw, John Zmirak (several times actually), Brendan Eich, Austin Ruse, William Briggs and Father Richard Heilman—and shout in unison: "BATS AREN'T BUGS!"

Well, if he were a shouting type of guy. By the way, yYou can add my voice to the mix as well if you'd like. That's my original thought on why we don't need the Benedict Option, or already have it and just don't use it enough.

It is worthy to note that the Bruderhof community is exactly the kind of group that cracks me up as much as Rod Dreher's silliness does. At one and the same time, they publish left-wing condemnations of private property as evil in and of itself and boast of the prime real-estate they own on their web-site. It's a cushy life-style; it reminds me one of my favorite scenes ever.

"You don't care about money because you have it."

I agree with the man: it should be about ideas

I advise everyone to sign up for Speaker Paul Ryan's updates. He is one of the most sensible people in the top levels of government in our country right now. It is very refreshing to read the things he communicates each day.

Reminds me of a quote: "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." True. Often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, this proverb is probably much older.

Monday, May 23, 2016

O Muse! O Seuss!

It's possible that no one on the GOP side of the political divide will ever receive a phone call asking for financial support ever again, now that a gracious billionaire like Trump is running things. But just in case we do get a fund-raising call, we now have the words to give to the script-reader in this brand new political world:

I filed my papers about a week ago. Everybody is amazed at the numbers. I'm very liquid. To finance a billion dollars I would have to sell a building, have to do something like that. Will I do that? I could. I have the option of doing it. I have a lot of cash and cash flow. Would I do that? I don't know. I have the option of doing it.

Will I do that? I could. I have the option of doing it. This is AWESOME. It is just what we'd been looking for. We finally have the words to use. It's entirely open-ended — it has the sound of a yuuuge promise to those praising the new emperor's wardrobe, but it's really just a tiny little shoulder shrug to the real people who actually have to hand cash money to other real people to buy groceries, light bulbs, etc. Plus it has that great Dr. Seuss ring to it:

Will I do that?
I could!
Would I do that?
I don't know.

The Cat in the Hat couldn't have phrased it any more poetically. Or convincingly.

So the tele-fund-raisers will start off their scripts by asking for $200.00 and I'll say "Will I give you $200.00? I don't know. I could. I have the option of doing that." And I'll wait t see if they offer me anything. This is all about the art of the deal. I've been giving too much away, you see, for signed photos of Bush and Romney. Now I want something real, something great.

So they'll ask if I can give the "minimum" of $45.00 and I'll say, "Would I do that? I don't know. I'm very liquid. I have the option of doing that. Who knows," and other short sentences, again waiting to see if the person can actually close the deal. I'm thinking that instead of a signed photo maybe they could get me a signed contract with my business and I'll make it $122.50.*

I'm hopeful that Mr. Trump has figured out how to Make Fund-raising Scripts Great Again since he has no doubt gotten his share of them in his lifetime from people making more that $11.00/hour. We'll have to wait and see.

* - Yes, I know that sounds like quid pro quo, but this is a brand new political era. Get with it, people.