Friday, December 26, 2014

Religion as the opiate lithium of the Working Boy

On the eve of the birthday of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior it probably really is fitting if still ironic that our Working Boy in this almost perfect post to that end uses his unique gift for words to explain over and over again the absolutely wrong way to relate to Christianity and to God: as a mental patient undergoing psychological therapy.

The evidence for Dreher's fundamental misunderstanding here isn't to be had legalistically in any particular lines or paragraphs this time, which is why I'm not excerpting any and why in this case, seriously, you really do need to read the whole thing.

Instead, this time the evidence is to be found in the whole, what the Germans refer to as gestalt. As exquisitely laid out throughout the entire post, Dreher simply reveals no grasp at all that religion in general and Christianity in particular has any role other than setting the disordered psyche right again.

There isn't any "spiritual sickness" at play here, at least none distinguishable from psychological woes, no independently spiritual crises of faith itself, certainly no objective demonic possession. For Dreher, then, God and Christianity, particularly through the sled work prescribed by his Orthodoxy therapist, thus becomes the apotheotic nostrum - the ultimate cure for what ails ya, a way to generate a virtual private psychological Innernet network wormhole through the ordinary psychological storms of everyday life in the world outside, the sort others routinely master but which will always threaten to consume him.

(There is, of course, a Hail Mary insanity plea to be raised: that Dreher has deliberately sculpted this heartfelt post in the way he has solely to promote sales of his forthcoming God-through-Dante-as-salving-self-help-book. Not really sure how that helps.)

In Dreher's particular case his psychological disorder begins and, frankly, will probably never end with his fraught relationship with his family and the community of his birth. As he makes abundantly and tragically clear in every line in this Christmas post, though, he seeks relief from his torment in religious process as psychological therapy with exactly the same immature confusion in which an adolescent pursues love through sex.

Maybe there's a moment somewhere over the years where Dreher has sought to serve God rather than vice versa, endlessly pursuing Him as prescription or therapist in one utilitarian form or another. Show me.

Unlike Ambien, God, even through Orthodoxy, isn't supposed to be the cure for what ails ya, Rod. And while both religion and sex can be mistakenly utilized as therapy, it's ultimately an immature perversion of both to do so. And, finally, no, Dante's Commedia is not the ultimate self-help book, a High (Falutin') Medieval Italian Brodo di Pollo per L'anima.

Or at least until now it was never, ever supposed to be.


  1. DreRod is so self absorbed that he cannot realize that Faith is actually about serving others and helping others...Those pesky verses in Matthew 25...Everything is about him and how he feels...the world is supposed to help him feel good not him helping make the world a better place...

    1. When Dante tears the veil from your formerly depressed eyes, this is the truth he reveals to you

      Christmas Comes Late to Underboobed Texan

      "Boob" being, of course, a long-standing traditional conservative religious term known to draw the flock in for collective scrutiny of sin, our Erin Manning being first in line on this one. All the best religious conservatives know these potential bomblets of sin, like clusters of grapes on the vine, just cannot be over-scrutinized.

      What can I say? Cult formation entrepreneurship is a perennial sanctuary for the mentally needy, an alternate path to achievement through constructing a mini-society amenable to them and their idiosyncratic personalities that doesn't require the alternative impossibility, that of maturing one's own personality to fit functionally within society at large. And there will always be feedstocks of less entrepreneurially needy potential followers overdue for recognition - as Crunchy Cons (he gets me!); as the Dante-saved (he gets me, too!) - and as the next whatever the eff cool-thing-validating-niche just around the corner. Balinese pickles, maybe.

      The modus operandi here is as old as "The Emperor's New Clothes": do something shameless or iconoclastic enough with a straight face and a statistical percentage of the appropriately needy or intimidated will queue up to give you money. Dante as the ultimate self-help book. Botticelli's Venus as collective highbrow pinup gal (and tacit object of unmentioned group onanism. Just start referring to it obliquely as "the perfect circle"). You literally can just make this stuff up, and people will pay you to do it. You can't have too many protective talismans against those underboobed Texans you know, and, just to be sure, better take another peek.

    2. Well, it would seem that DreRod has finished with that "last minute edit" of his manuscript and has moved on to the heftier topics of the day. I suppose we will next be feted with a review of what the host feels to be the most important moments of the past year.

    3. BTW, the competitive clucking going on in the combox of the underboobed Texan post is just so so precious. Erin Manning threw down the challenge and the rest of the trained seals try to outdo her, or give up and award her victory of the thread. Sheesh.

  2. Keith, I've been meaning to comment on your fine piece about Dreher's "hard healing" Orthodoxy, but for me there is just too much crammed into Dreher's piece to sort out. I get both the emotion of being glad for him that it worked out (such as it has), while noticing that there is so much that is very very wrong. Your take is certainly spot-on.

    I found a couple of dissonances to note, tho. One was his fist-pounding statement that Moral Therapeutic Deism is "quack religion" in the same piece in which touts the therapeutic benefit of Orthodoxy as tho therapy is the only reason for faith. I guess he means MTD is "quack" only because it doesn't work.

    Another dissonant note is this: " sainted sister had privately raised her children to dislike and distrust me..." -- calling her a saint in the same sentence as accusing her of doing something wicked. One more skilled than I might question the extent of the psychological healing that's taken place ...

    Someday, I wish he'd just write about the many blessings he's gained from his Orthodoxy, and then stop -- leaving out the disparagement of Catholicism. And while he's at it, write something nice about his dear sister without bringing up how evil she was. But I guess it'll take the hard healing of more intense "inner spiritual work" first.

    1. Erin is not known for taking risks in defense of her principles, so what better deep bunker to wage war on breastaurants than in the loving, award-bestowing, slactivist embrace of Rodland? Taking a campaign to breastaurant corporate itself? She might get cooties.

      Despite being stuck to his damaged and tormenting psyche as to a tarbaby, Rod Dreher is not a stupid man. I'm being to see his never-ending wailing about MTD as much as an external projection onto others of his self-loathing over only consuming the Divine as a therapeutic Dyquil as it is obviously a way to bray about how much holier he is, too, than you, uh-huh.

    2. BTW, I'm sure I come across as uncharitable towards Dreher, probably because I am, but in the time I've read him he's always preyed on those even more psychologically needy than he is (for example, Erin Manning, who was groomed from timid, tentative proto-blogger to Dreher blog mascot whose own books he still won't give the time of day) while fiercely guarding himself from the slightest criticism from others. I'll just leave it to God, who doesn't need any help from me, to cut him any slack he might have coming.

    3. I dedicated an entire paragraph to the "evil saint" thing in my review of TLWoRL.

      Something struck me at that point. The author asserts that his sister is a saint time and again, but it is highly possible that he is primarily trying to convince his readers--and perhaps himself--that he believes this. She was a good teacher who was loved by students, and a good wife and mother. But she was also mean and vindictive to her brother her entire life, never forgave him for slights, and was generally bigoted about anyone who was wealthy or lived in "the big city". She hardly struggled against any of these tendencies, and she spent most of her illness in denial and fear. The last words she uttered were "I'm scared!" right before she died. Her religious practice was mostly ephemeral and therapeutic, and she openly mocked her brother for having a deeper faith and devotion to God. Surely the author's own definition of "saint" can scarcely be applied to her.

      I know he has read my review of his book. I just know it.

    4. Pauli, just in case you're not being tongue in cheek or ironic, what are your sources for Ruthie Leming's character and behavior as described in your review?

    5. Indeed, Keith. It could be that Ruthie just didn't like the bouillabaisse. No larger meaning.

    6. Being that it is a book review, the book itself is the source. The book claims to be about Ruthie's "good life", and most of the reviewers take this at face value without questioning. My objections in the review don't have anything to do with how I feel about Dreher, but are meant to point out the internal inconsistencies.

    7. Sorry if I sounded like I was painting you as credulous, Pauli; that wasn't my intention.

      What your interview language highlighted for me this time around, though, maybe more so than before, is that Dreher remains the only source of Ruthie being either "saintly" or "evil".

      But of course, why, not having known her ourselves, must we buy into her being either one? Just because her brother found himself in a fevered love/hate posture with respect to her? All the more reason for us to take neither side: maybe she was nothing of either sort at all, just a nice country girl people liked for who she was. That was really my point.

    8. No worries; I knew what you were doing.

      It is completely obvious when one reads the book with the properly critical eye that Ruthie was a good woman, a nice lady, she believed in God and tried to live a good life, and that she was neither evil nor a saint nor really all that complicated.

      But the way Dreher decided to sell the book was to make her a "saint" who nonetheless treated him viciously. To him that makes her -- for some reason -- interesting and worth writing a book about.

      EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it! Saintly woman treats brother like crap! EXTRA! Get it for your book club NOW!

    9. Well, we do have what the people of St. Francisville/WF said about her at the time of her death.

      Of interest is that many of those notes specifically mention things she did when alive that had a positive impact. Vindictive grudge-carrying seems very much out of character for someone like that.

    10. Keith, Erin Manning has no principles. Erin Manning is nothing but a Catholic robot...same as Mark Shea and the other frauds in the Apologetics-Industrial Complex.

    11. Joseph, I'm afraid what you're claiming is just stratospherically above my pay grade as a non-Catholic.

      I was struck by skimming through the recent comments though just how many wannabes, followers, would-be-BFFs, and just plain shepherd-seekers manage to queue up there.

      One guy, Hector, wants to go to Russia with him a la Casella. Then there's the faithless gay guy getting the prayer rope. Another guy on that same thread claims to have just switched from being an agnostic to RICA, but mostly sounds like he's only there trying to make some online friends. And then of course Erin, always grateful for whatever crumbs of attention Brother Rod the Shapeshifter throws her way.

      My advice to all of them: skip the middleman! Buy wholesale, directly from Rome or wherever your Truth is warehoused for distribution. Quit being a frigging pathetic chump and mark for a sleazy, hustling parasite like Dreher.

    12. And then of course Erin, always grateful for whatever crumbs of attention Brother Rod the Shapeshifter throws her way.

      My advice to all of them: skip the middleman! Buy wholesale, directly from Rome or wherever your Truth is warehoused for distribution. Quit being a frigging pathetic chump and mark for a sleazy, hustling parasite like Dreher.

      Bravo, Keith! Bravissimo!! Well and eloquently said.

      My statement about Erin Manning comes from my online experience with her. She cannot think for herself. That's not a Catholic problem, per se; people who identify themselves primarily and fundamentally by their ideological (liberal, conservative or otherwise) or theological affiliations (Catholic or otherwise) tend to sound like cult members.

    13. I was struck by skimming through the recent comments though just how many wannabes, followers, would-be-BFFs, and just plain shepherd-seekers manage to queue up there.

      That's who is left after the rest of us were banned.

  3. Pauli: "I dedicated an entire paragraph to the "evil saint" thing"

    The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to disbelieve much of what was in TLWORL. Besides the "bouillabaisse incident", there is something really fishy about the whole "dinner with the niece in France" incident.

    1. Much of the material has "grown" in his retelling it to the reader, I think.

      Whereas I expect the Divine Comedy to "shrink" in his relating it to the reader.

    2. I'm just throwing this in here mostly so as not to soil an otherwise perfectly good brand new post and, well, just because:

      From Crunchy Con to Religious Con

      If you will send me your mailing address, I will send you a prayer rope. You might find that the experience of saying the Jesus Prayer in the Orthodox manner will center you, clear your mind, and open up your heart. As you know, I’m at rod (at) amconmag (dot) com. Also, why not take the time in the next few days to watch the Terrence Malick film To The Wonder?

      I would like to hear from readers who were once where Geoff is. How did you find your way to faith from that place? Of if you didn’t, why didn’t you? If you once believed, but deconverted, how did that happen? Let’s keep this from being a contentious thread. I’m not going to post comments that disparage others.

      And, neighbor, if you're not quite ready for your Rod-sent prayer rope conversion kit featuring Terrence Malick, we still have an inspirational post playing on our underboobed Texan channel to get you in that Orthodox-convertin' mood.


      Just so you know where my mind's at right now, I'm completely captivated wondering what can possibly lie on the other side of this - what else can you call it? - worm hole after the final embers from the Dante book grow cold.

      The kale has been crunchified and dismissed. Rod has been saved from the dark wood of personal Armageddon by the Catholic poet Dante, who somehow still managed a wrong turn and invested him fully in Orthodoxy instead. There's now a standing open order for (20? 50? 100? 1000?) Orthodox prayer ropes to be personally shipped, for free, by Rod, as if he were hawking prayer cloths on evangelical TV from upstart Starhill Ministries.

      I've got a $20 on Ming the Merciless showing up out of nowhere and taking things to a whole new level in the new year, but I'm open to other wagering possibilities.

    3. This sentence in Dreher's post jumped out at me (emphasis added):

      The greatest barriers to communication and reconciliation with some members of my family is their inability to recognize things that are true because these things violate what they consider to be the right order of reality.

      Such as the truth of bringing the fish and broth to the table separately, I guess:

      What makes a bouillabaisse different from other fish soups is the selection of Proven├žal herbs and spices in the broth; the use of bony local Mediterranean fish; the way the fish are added one at a time, and brought to a boil; and the method of serving. In Marseille, the broth is served first in a soup plate with slices of bread and rouille, then the fish is served separately on a large platter (see image at right); or, more simply, as Julia Child suggests, the fish and broth are brought to the table separately and served together in large soup plates.

    4. Verily I say unto you, Pik, Dreher lives out his life for the rest of us like a film loop at a nature center or roadside attraction where one can bring one's wife and children and point and say, "See, Marge? See Lisa? This is pathology...p-a-t-h-o-l-o-g-y. Oh, look! It just ran and hid behind that log over there! No, don't feed it, Bart."

    5. Ooh my aching head. Yes, EXACTLY that line about Rod's family members, yet again, being at fault. Told to us, AGAIN, in the context of a post in which he's prattling on about how dang spiritual he is, how deep his insight now that he's been through the so-very-much-more-rigorous than yours prayer rule, and the wisdom of his Fr. Matthew, who FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, doesn't seem to do something as ordinary as instruct his parishioner not to talk in public about his prayer life so much! Or else maybe Fr. Matthew has tried to get Rod to STFU and cannot make him do it, which is entirely possible.

    6. If he had just wanted to send Geoff a prayer rope for Geoff's benefit, he would have communicated with him off line. But no, he had to be seen as offering Geoff (and everyone else) a prayer rope. So long as it didn't cost too much, that is . . .

      As usual, it matters not to him whether what he says is true, it only matters that he said it.

  4. Keith: "This is pathology...p-a-t-h-o-l-o-g-y."

    Yes, TLWORL was a pathological book written by a possibly pathological author. As to what his exact pathology might be, I can only leave that to the psychiatric professionals to figure out. But I definitely will not recommend the book to anyone.