Saturday, August 3, 2013


A reader sent me this comment on Rod Dreher's post Everything as Miserabilism. The reader had attempted to post it in the combox over there, but it was not approved. That's OK; we'll just read it and discuss it here. If the reader wants to claim the comment, the reader might do so in the combox; I'm posting this with permission. I really don't think Dreher reads this blog, at least not very much.

RD: Everything As Miserabilism

Certainly somewhere, somehow, in all of this there has got to be a tie-in to The Little Way of Ruthie Leming.

Maybe Ruthie was a kind of anti-miserabilist.

RD: At the end of my years as a Catholic, I had allowed anger over the abuse scandal to become almost the only way I could relate to the Catholic Church.

This is about the 10th thousand time you have reminded everybody about this. We are getting weary and miserable hearing about it, yet one more time. I suspect you might be having a bout of miserabilism here because miserabilists love to remind everybody not only about all their present miseries but all their past ones as well.

Perhaps, anti-miserabilists make miserabilists especially miserable in that the miserabilists obsess about what it is about those anti-miserabilists that makes them so dang un-miserable. I imagine that some miserabilists, being so obsessed with this perplexing issue, can concoct some very elaborate and far-reaching theories regarding the nature of Anti-Miserabilism.

Miserabilists might say to themselves something like this: “Why are all these dang anti-miserabilists not properly miserable like us? It just cannot be right. Don’t they know what’s going on in the world? Don’t they know that there’s something wrong with Kansas? There has got to be some kind of connection to anthropology or philosophy here! Maybe there’s this cultural predisposition among some backwards people that causes them to be anti-miserable when they should be cultivating all the proper feelings of misery that advanced people like ourselves have? After all, to be miserable is to be enlightened and refined and educated. Or maybe it is the food the anti-miserabilists eat? They are not getting the necessary nutrients and gastronomic experiences needed to render them properly miserable like us. Or maybe they listen to too much Fox News or Rush Limbaugh and they just don’t read enough profound and intellectual books like we do? They just need to study more Ludwig Wittgenstein or Søren Kierkegaard or Arthur Schopenhauer! Or Friedrich Nietzsche! Ah, we know! There has got to be a Unified Field Theory of Miserabilism. That explains it. It must be like matter and anti-matter meeting each other, except that instead of everything disappearing in a flash of gamma rays, their Anti-Misery Field causes our Misery Field to become even more amplified, thus making us even more miserable.”

Now here are my comments. Let's start off with some self-plagiarizing from two years ago. I made this in response to the anonymous Orthodox commenter; I provide his/her comment in italics:

There is no reason ever to convert to the Orthodox Christian faith unless one genuinely believes that it is the true faith. From the beginning, the signals from Mr. Dreher were that he did not convert to Orthodoxy because he believed it was the truth, but only because it was not the Catholic religion. It was sad to witness.

Thanks for this, Reader, you speak wisdom. We can't know for sure what is going on in someone's mind, but the evidence supports your balanced analysis.

If there is one thing I am trying to bring to light in my posts about Rod Dreher it is that he is haunted by the Catholic Church day and night. He can't stop writing about his Catholic experiences even when he tries to write about something else. He can't stop criticizing the Catholic church even when he is in the midst of criticizing a different church. He has become the professional ex-Catholic which he claimed to loathe. I see only one happy ending for Rod and that's to come back to the Catholic church quietly and take a seven year hiatus from writing about religion. If he can't bring himself to do the first, the least he could do would be to try the second.

I still stand by these words, and I'm still trying to hope that he does come back. People who consider themselves friends with Rod who are Catholic are certainly hoping that he returns. And they know that he knows that they want him to return to the church.

Here are my last thoughts about the matter. On the day I converted to the Catholic faith as an adult, a priest gave a group of us a talk basically stating that what we were about to do was one of the most serious and consequential things anyone could do. Based on that he said “No one will think or feel any less of you if you get up and leave and decide you don’t want to go through with it.” Something like that. I don’t know if Rod heard the same thing, but it really doesn’t matter—as a potential convert embracing the faith you know it already. I lost a lot of friends by converting, and my family was more religious than Rod’s so there were harder feelings there. Joining the Catholic church isn’t something you do on a whim. However it seems to me that Rod may have left on a whim. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man has tremendous guilt feelings about leaving the Church, and he is constantly “kicking against the goads” so to speak, and blogging endlessly about his departure is his continuing attempt at catharsis.

I don't think it's working. He's been at this for years now. We notice that the man's miserabilism about Catholicism flares up whenever there is Catholic stuff in the news. Flannery O’Connor famously stated that she didn’t know if the American South was Christ-centered, but it definitely was “Christ-haunted”. And along those lines, I believe that this man is haunted by the Catholic Church.


  1. I'll add an excerpt from a comment I submitted to a Dreher blog post recently (and which, of course, was deemed not fit to print):

    A wise priest said, in his Easter Vigil homily welcoming new Catholics, that someone had asked him why someone would join the Roman Catholic Church considering that it has so many problems. And his reply was that indeed the Church has a lot of problems, 1.2 billion of them to be specific -- it has problems because it has people as its members. It is a hospital for sinners, rather than a museum for saints.

    So it is not all that difficult to find problems in the Church to crow about, as Dreher's post does. . . .

    But posts such as this are to be expected at this blog, sad to say. Find something negative or embarrassing about the Church, work in a couple of additional examples, and lay it out for the general audience to see and "talk amongst [them]selves". The atheists and fallen-away Catholics can have their fun in the comment boxes, while the defender or two who chime in end up looking bad in the process. And those who left the Church for another spiritual home get to feel better about themselves, which I guess was the purpose of the piece in the first place.

    Mission accomplished. Until next time.

    As I've written before, I truly wish that, if Dreher is going to write about religion, that he write about the many blessings that he's found in Orthodoxy, rather than getting his schadenfreude buzz by bashing the Church. But I guess one has to feed one's antimiserabilismmiserabilism.

  2. Rather than repeat what Pik said better using different words, let me offer a comment on how Dreher manipulates the right to comment to actually promote rather than restrict comments to his site.

    The main thing is, and this is part and parcel of his modus operandi overall as well, (like bashing the Catholic Church, for example), he doesn't just moderate comments, he regularly taunts his readers that he will not publish their comments.

    This seems counterintuitive, you might think, but think again, this is how it works given human nature.

    Virgin Reader is faced with...if he comments, will the Great Man approve his comment or not? Oh, the personal ego-status that hinges on that epochal event!

    So he submits a comment...and it's approved! And another...and it's approved! Now he's a Chosen One!

    So he begins to comment regularly, and begins to take positions on issues raised. But, darn, that Rod! With all his provoking he makes it hard for VR to be irenic. Still, VR feels passionately enough that he submits a comment that's...gasp, marginal...and it's rejected! Oh, Noes!

    Even worse, his nemesis, Promiscuous Castrato Reader, had his comment accepted. This inequity cannot stand! Not to be among the Chosen People? Life would no longer have meaning.

    So he tries again, this time more gently, approaching Rod slowly, lovingly, from underneath, the way Rod likes it, tempering his comment so as not to upset the Great Man. And his comment is accepted! Joy unbounded!

    Now VR has learned. The final step is to join the ranks of the Chosen for good. Grasping his scrotum in his left hand, a steak knife in his right, and...wisk!...the thing is done. He is now officially Rod-sanctioned PCR Number 635.

    And that is how Dreher ends up with Catholics bashing Catholics for him. He only need taunt them and others with non-inclusion, and a certain percentage will do whatever it takes not to be left out in the cold, marooned in the chilly shadow of non-approval, damned to remain unlit by the redeeming starshine of the Great Man.

    And that's how you manipulate a herd into making steers of themselves voluntarily, now ready to gallop off in whatever direction you want to send them.


    1. Brilliant analysis.

      No wonder Topix drives him nuts.

    2. The thing about Topix is that you not only have the ability to comment, but to actually start threads. It's a free-for-all.

      If you believe that only the "wise few" have a right to start a conversation, Topix is a major bête noire.

      The other thing about a well-developed forum like Topix is how many hits it gets and can generate. It has the power of Amconmag plus a little dinky blog like Bonnie Blue Review (or Est Quod Est for that matter) and then some. You would have to say something generally offensive to have a comment erased there, not just something offensive to one or two elitist gatekeepers.

    3. Makes me want to post critiques of Dreher's anti-Catholic obsesso-mania on that Topix St Francisville forum. Absolutely nothing Control Freak Dreher coukd do about it. Bwahahahaha!

      OTOH, life is too short, and I have better things to do.

  3. Funny stuff here. Countrylad writes: "Hey Pauli. Guess what? We get it. Do you come on here to express your opinion of Rod Dreher or to promote your own blog?"

    I respond. Then countrylad responds. Developing....

  4. The icons are definitely in your favor.