Thursday, April 13, 2017

If and when the Benedict Option is ever understood...

Benedict Option

...what then?

The inchoate and incoherent marketing phrase "Benedict Option", test-marketed at the end of Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons, was just that: a phrase, nothing more.

Years of blogging since based on that marketing phrase are just that: years of blogging based on that marketing phrase, nothing more.

A book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase is just that: a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase, nothing more.

Examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally post hoc are just that: examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally, nothing more.

Spirited current talk provoked by examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally post hoc is just that: spirited current talk provoked by examples of various, wildly disparate Christian endeavors predating a book titled The Benedict Option based on those years of blogging based on that marketing phrase and collected anecdotally, nothing more.

What, if anything, does any of this derivative, discretely and completely independent, free-floating cloud of abstract talkety-talk reality have to do with actual Christianity as practiced for the last 2,000 years? Need it? No, not at all, really, no more than the loquacious quadriplegic football fan need suit up and actually hit the field. All such abstracted fans, ordained and not, can remain blissfully happy their entire lives, perpetually circulating in their respectively flavored cloud realities.

Why has the derivative, Benedict Option cloud reality never before been proposed until Rod Dreher arrived to propose it to us? Is Rod Dreher the singularly visionary Christian prophet of our time?

Or is the problem ultimately simply the perennial one of trying to live as an actual earthly Christian, in the actual human world in which we find ourselves, in the actual historical years into which we have been born - rather than in an abstract cloud map?

Will the new, improved, aftermarket Christian additive - the abstract, derivative talkety-talk cloud reality of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option, hovering like a disembodied spirit over the human corpus Christi - really make Christianity and us as Christians perform better than the original?

How could it?

None of this of course means that Rod Dreher's Benedict Option phrase and its book may not sell some copies on Amazon, make Rod the talk of Christian blogging for a time, get him invited onto some high visibility  TV shows, or anything else coveted by the professional writer.

It simply means that, at the end of the day, even the most celebrated abstract aftermarket map remains just that, nothing more.

The territory - and Christianity's role within it - remains the same problematic, grubby, gritty human reality it has always been since that day on Calvary, the wonderful modern development of the Internet combox salon/book marketing portal notwithstanding.

TL;DR version: the "Benedict Option" is a faith unto itself.


  1. The funniest development of Rob's obsessive reviewing of reviews and his calling out those who have severely misunderstood or who have not read his book closely enough is that this is precisely McIntyre's complaint regarding Rob's misreading of McIntyre. One big exception: Rob makes money off of his misreading/misuse of McIntyre.

  2. Been lurking for years, checking in every so often hoping but never expecting that Our Working Boy will every show signs of becoming a man.

    (Hey, y'all! Hey, Pikku, Diane, Pauli. Hope everyone's doing well.)

    It's a very good thing I wasn't holding my breath. Nothing has fundamentally changed from one book to the next, from one blog to the next, and from one town to the next.

    Rod Dreher clearly craves the respect -- and, just as clearly, he runs from the responsibility -- that comes with being a good writer AND a good person.

    My grandfather had a good line about people like him: I'd like to buy him at what he's worth and sell him at what he thinks he's worth.


    Any merely competent writer can explain and argue his points so that they're actually understood, and a decent person would actually attempt to do so. I give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his ability to communicate, so I can only conclude that Dreher simply doesn't want to stake any particular claim that might actually be subject to close scrutiny.

    He's deliberately obfuscating, misusing the gift of language that was given to us in order to enlighten one another, and doing so to keep people deliberately in the dark about what exactly he's selling. Along the way, he's treating his readers as any con man or grifter treats their marks, as objects to be manipulated rather than as subjects to be persuaded.

    (The Benedict Option is vaporware. It may be a rude way to put it, but I think it's apt to ask, what else would we expect from an asshole except noxious gas?)

    A good man wouldn't intend to write as Dreher does, and he certainly wouldn't make excuses for his shoddy work while attacking anyone who points out that even a popularizing work of journalistic non-fiction should aim at and preferably attain some basic standards of clarity and correctness.

    And while nothing he writes or could write would amaze me, save perhaps a sincere (and implemented) farewell to online exhibitionism or a genuine display of humility about himself or charity to others, his recent stuff has been contemptible even for him.

    Dreher's response to to Sam Rocha was simply despicable.

    (I'm surprised this line didn't get more attention: "The book is addressed to all orthodox Christians of good will. In that sense, maybe Rocha hated it because it’s not written for or about him.")

    So long as Rod Dreher pretends to be more than he is or even attempts to be, this flippant and petulant tantrum should be hung around his neck like a millstone.


    As I see it, the dynamic is very simple.

    - Rod Dreher's critics tend to take things seriously, including the subjects he presumes to cover, the assertions he tries to put forth, and the virtues he claims to support.

    - Dreher doesn't take these things seriously, he only pretends to.

    - So, we don't take him seriously.

    - And Dreher hates us for it.

    I don't see that changing any time soon: he's not one to humbly submit even to the most gentle correction. That's not his role in the intentional community, you see.

    But I still see value in pointing out his fraud, not for his sake but for the sake of his would-be targets.

    No matter how robust or endangered they are, neither Western civilization nor Christian orthodoxy is served by allowing their defense to be coopted by a charlatan.


  3. Confession: I am the "Crunchy Mike" whose story Rod included in "Crunchy Cons." I did not then nor do I now consider myself a "crunchy con," but instead a political conservative and conservative Catholic whose wife makes homemade granola and we below to an egg co-op, etc. And we have known Rod for years, so I let him tell my little tale about a dustup we had in Baton Rouge over a particularly poorly planned big box store placed right near our neighborhood.

    Even back then I would tell Rod that I thought one of the (many) fundamental flaws (or contradictions) in his thinking is that he lacks a true understanding of what the word "community" really means. That misunderstanding, it seems to me, has only increased through his various writing projects and earthly meanderings. In "Crunchy Cons," he kept claiming he was establishing a community of like-minded people. In fact, he was creating a chatroom. Instead I encouraged him to get out there in his REAL community -- volunteer at church, join a service organization (we have many here in Baton Rouge), socialize with and lend a helping hand when needed to your actual, physical neighbors. I even encouraged him to look at the Elder Zosima in Brothers Karamazov, who upbraids the "woman of little faith" who loves mankind in the abstract but hates her actual neighbor. (Years later, Rod had the audacity to totally misread Zosima -- the man who actually sent Alyosha AWAY from the monestary -- to claim that the "Zosima Option is the Benedict Option." Which is laughably false, but I doubt Rod actually read the book).

    Anyway, I think it's possible to view all of Rod's books through this prism. He's constantly questing to build a community -- only he has no clue what community means and, like the woman of little faith, detests engaging in the actual real life community in which he lives. Which typically leads to marching off to someplace else and establishing a new flavor of chatroom.

    I sometimes pray for him.

    -- Crunchy Mike

  4. Also, I'm sad to say that the contradictions inherent in "The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming" were so forceful that I came away terribly disgusted by the book. Far from praising the deceased, he more typically defamed her. While supposedly extolling the "little way" of living, he himself instead makes his first act after returning to his home town the writing of a BIG book, in which he also treats his neighbors like show pieces in a NY Post expose'. His next effort at living the "little way" was to impose a big festival on the small town to honor Walker Percy, whose connection to said small town is ephemeral at best ("The Thanatos Syndrome" is set in a fictional version of St. Francisville). Meanwhile, as he espouses small town life, he also continuously seems to live more on the Internet than in real life, where he encounters all the outrage porn he likes to dwell in, rather than discovering the real goodness that exists in many institutions and relationships in the community that surrounds him, nor participating in it.

    Extremely frustrating. Borderline infuriating.

    -- Crunchy Mike

    1. Crunchy Mike, your comments are not only extremely valuable testimony in their own right, they also provide the foil against which to ask the question: WTF are all these Rod-slurping pundits and religious leaders really up to?

      Are they simply blind to the transparent fraud people never before known to one another like you and I see identically at point after point after point in Rod's canon of behavior? If so, why are they, and what does that tell us about their inherent value as leaders in their various roles?

      Does, could Rod Dreher have something damaging on each of them, even if nothing more than a viperous tongue he has no compunction about unleashing, such that they feel it necessary to tread with utmost care, no matter the collateral damage they might allow to fall upon innocents by their self-preserving ommissions?

      Or, to indulge my own inherent cynicism, do they all simply see a handy opportunity to hitch their own brands to an ephemerally blazing star, principles be damned?

    2. (1) Yeah, some of them want to make a pitch for their own brand of "Option."
      (2) Some of them do indeed fear a tongue lashing from Rod.
      (3) They are conservative Christians, like Rod is supposed to be, and, perhaps some of them agree with Rod's diagnosis, if not his prognosis. In any case, they don't want to be in the position of saying "My fellow conservative Christian Rod Dreher has written a new book, superficially, at least, about a very important topic, addressing a crises, even, and that book is being talked about and reviewed everywhere in the world of Christian conservative punditry and blogistan, and so on, but, guess what: Rod's book is totally stupid!" Not very nice. Nor very collegeial. And not very charitable either. Some of these folks really do care about stuff like that. They are good faith, non grifter, Christian intellectuals, and don't want to scoff, in general, at anyone, and certainly not at one of their own.
      (4) As you mention in the OP, Rod has appropriated a lot of Christian endeavors for his own purposes. St Benedict's work. MacIntyre's scholarship. Pope Benedict's writings. And the lived examples of the Norcia monks and the other pre BO, already existing, intentional Christian communities and other activities that he shamelessly enlists in his pet, for-profit project. Well, the reviewers, again, who are mostly conservative Christians themselves, don't want to be seen as against any of those endeavors and activities.

      All in all, I think that it is just much easier to say something like "Rod has made some good points, but here are the hundred and seven areas of disagreement I have with them."

      Historians of all stripes, in reviewing the work of one of their colleagues, will often, no matter how scathing their overall appraisal, throw in something along the lines of the work being, despite all of its flaws, "a valuable contribution to our understanding of blah, blah, blah..." Same deal here?

    3. These are some of the best comments I've ever read on this blog. Thanks for contributing, Bubba, Crunchy Mike, and Anon(s).

    4. Oh, not to leave you out, Keith! I guess I was thinking of comments by guests, not hosts. Thanks for the OP and providing the forum.


    The whole BO is superfluous, an exercise in mere "re branding," according to the author, and yet he can't bring himself to condemn it!

  6. Keith, thanks for the comment. I can't really speak to what pundits and religious leaders are saying about the BO. For myself, I have followed this blog for a long time because I think there are lots of insightful critiques of Rod's writing and activity. I also once posted here before, quoting A Confederacy of Dunces, the scene in which Ignatius Reilly goes to the movie theater to scoff at the degeneracy on the screen. And he returns again and again. The lack of irony in which Rod refers to himself as Your Working Boy (the same phrase Ignatius refers to himself in his journal) is breathtaking. Ignatius Reilly is not a Romantic hero; he's a farcical, deeply tragi-comic bundle of inconsistencies. And, alas, Rod is very much like him. Where Rod gloms onto Benedict, Ignatius has the Medieval philosopher Boethius as his model. Ignatius as well sees civilization having gone to hell in a handbasket since the Middle Ages, but he finds almost joy in the "perversions" of the modern world. And in the final scene of that book, Ignatius needs to run away from New Orleans, because he has reeked havoc on his real-world neighborhood. Sad.

    I have also followed Rod's blog, mainly to check in on an old friend, only to find myself troubled. I once posted on his blog with the handle "Crunchy Mike" (so he would know it's me) telling him to turn off the Internet, that the only access I get to Caitlyn Jenner and the rest of the rot out there is, counter-intuitively, through his writing that is supposedly guiding folks to live a purer life. Ridiculous.

    But I finally decided to post here in earnest because I felt some need to chime in. I appreciate the great analysis here, and if I continue posting I will be as critical of Rod as the next person. But I ask you all to remember that he is a person too. I think he's misguided, yes, but I also think that he is blind to his own internal inconsistencies. I think he wants to be a good man, but doesn't know how. It makes me as sad as it does angry.

    I have dined with Rod. You might be surprised to learn that he can be quite charming. And also so narcissistic you want to pull your hair out. But I also feel a little guilt, because were he ever to visit this blog and read my comments, he would know it's me, and he would feel it as a betrayal.

    As I said earlier, I think it boils down to his not really wanting to participate in his actual community. How can he when he lives as a presence on the Internet? My wife and I aren't perfect. But we have served on the boards of various do-gooder organizations. We volunteer on committees at church. It's a local Catholic parish, fairly wealthy, not very deep, but not a therapeutic whatever-you-call-it church either. But if you spend time with the fellow parishioners, you learn just how good they are. When the flood hit Baton Rouge last year, 100 folks descended on the five houses in our neighborhood that flooded and spent days just moving stuff out and helping gut the homes. One neighbor left early to make a big pot of jambalaya for all the volunteers, and we all sat in the flood-wrecked street, exhausted, and ate and drank beer. I actually thought of Rod at that moment: first, that this was truly an example of the little way he craves; and second, that he would not have helped us with the heavy lifting, because he would have been blogging about the flood instead.

    -- Crunchy Mike

    1. But I ask you all to remember that he is a person too. I think he's misguided, yes, but I also think that he is blind to his own internal inconsistencies. I think he wants to be a good man, but doesn't know how. It makes me as sad as it does angry.

      Crunchy Mike, the pivotal thing which leads me to uncharitably dismiss Rod as a person with unbridled contempt is that I firmly believe he chooses his selectively controllable Internet personhood and life over any alternative community of persons with eyes wide open because, as a passive-aggressive, down-punching coward, he prefers it that way for the cocooning, self-reinforcing advantages it provides over the hazards of being vulnerable to the interactive judgments of other people face to face day in and day out.

      He's like Chauncey Gardiner in Being There, except that when Rod clicks his remote the channel actually changes and the disturbing or offending person disappears and an adoring fan takes his place.

      In my own ugly, cynical way I think it's this slavish, defining trait - passive-aggressive, down-punching coward - more than any genuine religiosity which led him to systematically migrate out of political and other blogging into Christian blogging, because it is Christian blogging, it seems, which is the most vulnerable to Dreher's signature passive-aggressive style of attack and self-defense: he has no compunction about uncharitably attacking others, even his own dead sister in that thinly veiled revenge book, while dependably counting on their own fears of appearing uncharitable to pull any counter-punches his targets might be provoked to throw; and if they dare do, he then throws himself on the ground and exposes his belly like a puppy, the victim of their "uncharitable" cruelty.

      Only in Christian blogging could he get away with that practice for so long and rise so high based upon it. In any other venue, and most particularly in a community of real persons, he would have been cut down to size years ago, as he was in short order when he returned to his home town of St. Francisville.

      This is what I mean when I say that it is Rod Dreher and his Benedict Option that exposes the vulnerabilities in Christianity today, but not in the way that Rod suggests, just the opposite - in demonstrating the Dreher-like parasites Christianity, at least in its Internet discourse, has become vulnerable to. Turning the other cheek does not require being silent in the face of passive-aggressive thuggishness, nor backing down from unwavering response to it.

      Well, I didn't really mean to turn my response to that particular portion of your comment into a soapbox; sorry.

      And I should point out to whichever anon who thanked me as a host for providing this forum that I'm not, not hardly.

      I'm just a monkey who blogs here, who tries to serve up your daily serving of pathology with a bit of a laugh. Pauli is your host, and he's the one who founded and has sustained this blog for over a decade. Thank him, by name.

    2. OK, Keith, thanks for the correction. I was under the impression that you, Pauli, and Pik were co-hosts of the blog. Thank you, Pauli, for providing this forum and for your writings here. Thanks Keith and Pik for your frequent and enlightening contributions.

  7. Oh, and I also visit this blog because I think y'all are hilarious. So thanks for that.

    -- Crunchy Mike

  8. Another way of stating it less long-winded than I did above: there's the old cliche that says Think globally, act locally. Maybe there's some wisdom to that. Rod, instead, (barely) thinks locally, acts (or consumes himself pretending to act) globally. Not an effectively model for living.

    -- Crunchy Mike

  9. *effective

    -- Crunchy Mike

  10. I agree with Anon 8:56 -- excellent comments all. Hey, Bubba, thanks for dropping a note -- hope all's good with you! And welcome to Crunchy Mike -- thanks for your insight.

    I have a little different take on whether Dreher is intentionally obfuscating or intentionally bottling snake oil. I've long said around these parts that Dreher conflates matters of taste with matters of truth. His past fixation with Babette's Feast is a window into that thinking: great food, and for that matter great art, can be considered sacramental. While there is truth in Beauty being a reflection of objective good, IMO Dreher has run amok with that to the point that he elevates things he likes to objective Truth. Conversely, things he doesn't like (ugly churches, icky church music) forces him to change his church, for example.

    Certainly that is what Crunchy Cons turned into. And I think it affects the BO to a large degree. According to the BO, it's all about the manner in which one lives their faith, rather than the substance of that faith. See the 8 principles of the BO (manual labor!) to see what I mean. After all, there are evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, and Baptist chapters of the BO, as well as Jewish and Muslim auxiliaries. No doubt Dreher's pagan buddy Franklin Evans is welcome under the BO tent, so long as he sufficiently adheres to the Principles (Manifesto?).

    So to the extent that there is obfuscation in the BO, a good chunk of that is because the idea itself is a muddle, and depends on the subjective whims of one Rod Dreher. And to the extent that the BO seems personal, self-indulgent, and petit-bourgeois*, a good chunk of that is because it depends on his peculiar likes and dislikes. Crunchy Mike's comment that Rod Dreher the person can be quite narcissistic seems to fit.

    Stir an over-written style, a thin skin, and the need to peddle the wares into that soup, and you get the BO book and blog that we see.

    1. *Dr. Zhivago reference. But in this case, it fits.

    2. Pik, I agree that Dreher's solipsistic conflation of his personal taste with truth defines his approach to everything, and you probably have not gotten enough credit for isolating that prime concept.

      Remember, Dreher didn't become Catholic because he initially though Catholicism was true, he explored whether Catholicism was true and adopted it temporarily because Chartres so fulfilled his personal taste in beauty at the time. But when the Scandal hit (or, if you ask me, Mrs. Dreher explain to him that three kids was the limit; make it work), that truth could be jetisoned.

      Now there's a new tasty-truth, the ritual behavior which is even more pronounced in Orthodoxy than in Catholicism (Is the two-dimensional art of Orthodox iconography more beautiful than the art within the Vatican? It probably depands upon one's faith at the time, doesn't it.) A guy I ran across this morning actually makes your case quite strongly, Pik, although superficially he may appear not to, and of course his reference to "papists" is universally offensive, although he may actually intend it tongue-in-cheek:

      At no point in The Benedict Option does Dreher give any hints that he actually understands the saving power of the gospel. In his view it seems that salvation comes through sacraments and our effort. Holy living includes “obedience, stability, and conversion of life, which means dedicating oneself to the lifelong work of deepening repentance” (50-51). Dreher says that “right belief is essential, but holding the correct doctrines in your mind does you little good if your heart—the seat of the will—remains unconverted” (52). That sounds ok, until you see what he means by conversion: “That requires putting those right beliefs into action through right practice, which over time achieves the goal Paul set for Timothy when he commanded him to ‘discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness’ [1 Tim 4:7]” (52-53). Yea gads.

      In other words, the tasty truth now is not the beauty of Chartres but rather the rituals of Orthodoxy, elaborate fasting and feasting calendars, services standing up, etc., etc. - the only thing, in fact, which may actually define the abstract collective term "orthodox Christian".

      But Johnson goes on to draw out the real world, Mad Max Thunderdome tribalistic horrors lurking imminently behind those "8 Principles" for glibly "Ben-Op" intentional communities:

      But Moore to the point, in a Benedict community made up of “Catholics, Orthodox, and Evangelicals” who all believe in the same cultural norms, what happens when the Evangelical starts to witness to the Catholic? What if the Catholic gets saved? Does he get baptized? Does anyone actually think this kind of community will last through the first deacon meeting?

      If it did last, it would do so like Geneva or Zurich—in other words, Baptists need not apply. Now I’m sure that Dreher realizes this. He has to, right? But he doesn’t acknowledge it. At no point does he wink and say, “but honestly, this really wouldn’t work in an ecumenical sense at all.” I’m not saying that the Benedictine monks would have drowned any Anabaptists that snuck in, but they definitely wouldn’t have let them preach.

      So, as I mentioned before, ultimately the BO is a pop-trendy, un-thought-through faith unto itself, and its godhead is really whatever tasty-truth glows within Dreher's noggin at any given time.

      His rapt lay followers I can excuse: a glib writer can easily direct someone's emotions, particularly someone seeking direction or easy answers to a perennially problematic world. Professional pundits and professional religious leaders, OTOH, really should know better. And have a little more pride.

    3. Pik, I agree that's a great insight. Very similar to Jonah Goldberg's critique of Crunchy Cons at the time (I don't know how to imbed links here), but mainly I recall him saying that Rod's identification of other conservatives with eclectic tastes does not a movement make. It's why, even though I appeared in the book, I never considered myself a "crunchy con." I'm a political conservative. Stop. I'm an observant Catholic. Stop. I limited mine and my kids' access to corrosive aspects of pop culture (two out of three are now adults, but I still warn them against the intake of too much "crap"). Stop. But yes, I also prefer fresh eggs and produce to store bought. I have an herb garden, eschew fast food, etc. But so what? All of these are simply the accumulation of my beliefs and tastes. That there are other conservatives out there that share similar eclectic or high-culture tastes shouldn't be a surprise, unless you buy into a stereotype that all conservatives are shallow, mass-quantities consuming capitalists. Just because you happen to have a blog with which you can reach out and discover some of these eclectic conservatives does not mean you have "tapped into something big and new." And you certainly haven't formed a community.

      But maybe both of these ideas coincide. Perhaps Rod can't engage in the actual real-world community that surrounds him, because he simply can't stand their shallow, low tastes and their menial thoughts and pursuits. Which means he must then search for his "community" of like-minded eclectics -- whether they be crunchy or religious. But because he probably realizes that these groups can't feasibly function as a real community, he elevates them into something like a movement, which of course they also are not.

      -- Crunchy Mike

    4. A missing piece of Keith's professional pundits puzzle may be the sheer appetite for words that a regularly updated website has.

      Writing a thousand words a day is the easy part. Figuring out what to write those thousand words about is the hard part. That's why so much of what professional pundits write about is what other professional pundits write about. Bob can always write about whatever Alice wrote about yesterday. The fact that he does doesn't in itself mean he thinks what she wrote, or what he wrote for that matter, is all that important.

    5. So to the extent that there is obfuscation in the BO, a good chunk of that is because the idea itself is a muddle, and depends on the subjective whims of one Rod Dreher.

      This observation harkens back to Rod's blogging on the Rolling Stone/UVA rape article. While he got a lot of traction on the bad journalism/SJW/Culture of Victim-hood angle, it's important to remember that in his first post he bought the story hook line and sinker.

      Why? Because since middle school the popular, athletic, entitled (at least in his mind) frat boy type has been him nemesis. It's the reason it was obvious he'd never "stick" in St. Francisville; the same guys who though he was insufferable as an adolescent now are the bank president, the local lawyers, run the Chamber of Commerce, etc.. They probably still think he's insufferable and he probably still thinks he's their better because he listened to The Talk Heads when they were listening Hank Williams Jr..

      The irony being they they are the kind of people who actually build and contribute to a community. The kind of people who take Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" and Marcus Aurelius's admonishment to “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one” seriously.

      -Anonymous Maximus

  11. I'm curious what Crunchy Mike thinks about Dreher's obsession with homosexuality. Is Dreher just a frustrated closet case or what?

  12. I don't believe so. And based on his blog, I don't see him obsessing any more over homosexuality than he does about any other component of the culture that he thinks is a threat to traditional Christianity. And as a conservative Catholic who also believes in the sanctity of traditional marriage, I too get concerned at news of people losing their job because they disagree with same-sex marriage. But as the condescending saying goes, some of my best friends are gay. We just agree to disagree on the subject, thereby remaining friends. I'm sure there are people out there who wouldn't tolerate my views at all, and while that's troubling, I don't obsess over the threat, because I'm not constantly searching the web to find examples of it.

    -- Crunchy Mike

  13. That's just it. Besides Dreher, how many other supposedly straight men - conservative Christian or otherwise - spend half their time talking about and/or to gay men on the internet? There's a reason it seems a little fishy to lots of folks, and that's because it is.

  14. This to the question from Anonymous at 6:52 PM today, though it was not addressed to me.

    I have been reading Rod's blog since he last lived in Dallas, and no, I have not formed that impression.

    I do feel however that while Rod condemns life's seamy underbelly, it is about all he writes about, when not promoting the BenOp idea, which I view as largely compensatory.

    I should correct, he does talk about many international political situations, and reveals an embarrassing lack of knowledge.

    Rod Dreher is a product of the internet. Period.
    Sec Dem

  15. I suppose it's possible that Dreher's not actually gay but just fixated on sex in general and threatened by homosexuals and anyone else who doesn't adhere to the moralistic therapeutic legalism that seems to be a disproportionate part of his own very idiosyncratic Christianity. Maybe Dreher's just a "deviated prevert" who needs religious strictures to keep him from indulging his attraction to the seamy, sexual underbelly of things even more than he already does. Perhaps what brings Dreher down won't be someone finding his Grindr account but someone finding his plain-old, boring (heterosexual) porn stash.

    1. I think Rod has made it clear that he was first attracted to Catholicism because, to put it bluntly, he was a horny young man who needed to be kept in line. He had sex. His girlfriend "almost" got pregnant. Etc. And, Rod says, he did not find much in his native Methodism to keep him on the straight and narrow, whereas Pope John Paul II was very good in this regard.

      Rod is also all about Mick and Keef, and their expression of male heterosexuality, and he loved that song "I Want Your Sex," and he goes on and on about Miley Cyrus.

      I think he's hetero. For what it is worth.

      He's definitely obsessed with sex, and sexual issues, especially homosexuality and transexuality. But it is too easy and pat to say that makes him a "closet case" or whatever.

    2. Based on his writings, I think that Dreher likes many ancillary cultural things that the modern left and the gay crowd tend to also like, such as hip music, gourmet food, trendy restaurants, etc. But the religious intolerance and the sexual deviancy of the left/gay agenda keep him from fully joining that group. That's maddening to him, so he tends to strike out against those issues more than others.

      So no, not gay, says this hetero guy who loves show tunes and opera.

  16. I still think DreRod looks and acts like a hairdresser in a small southern town

  17. Let's take stock.

    This far out from publication the people who do "get" the BO are rare enough to rate their very own Rod Dreher post. Keep in mind also that these people are professional understanderers.

    So...what does this project for us about the average reader, or the random small church book club "getting" the BO?

    Their chance of "getting" the BO: <50%.

    Their chance of "not getting" the BO: >50%.

    Question: in what epoch might Rod Dreher say, "Truly, thank you for buying my book and the kind words you and your entire group had to say about it, but in all honesty I have to tell you you misunderstood everything I was trying to say."

    Finally, because I cannot bear this burden alone, you must look look at this picture and suffer the existential torment it broadcasts along with me.

    1. And on that photo, this passage from Dreher's l-o-n-g post about the apparently l-o-n-g New Yorker article (referring to two books written by the author ostensibly about other things but primarily about himself):

      I illustrate this post with a screen grab from the website. I don’t think it’s quite kosher (and maybe not legal) to flat-out grab the photo, a portrait done in the Starhill Cemetery by the great Maude Schuyler Clay.... When I saw the one the magazine’s photo editor decided to use, my first thought was, “Oh, too bad!”, because I doubt it’s the most flattering of the bunch. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it’s exactly the right one. After staring at it a few seconds, I thought, “My God, it’s the face of my father.” I showed it to my wife and kids, and they agreed. We have all seen that look on Daddy’s face: the eyes looking suspiciously in the distance, the tension in his jaw, when confronted with things that vex him....

      Indeed. Who writes that about a photo of themselves?

  18. Author of that New Yorker profile of Rod says Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer" is set in West Feliciana. It's not. It's set in New Orleans. "The Thanatos Syndrome" is set in Feliciana. I wonder if he relied on Rod for that mistake? Anyway, isn't the New Yorker supposed to be famous for its rigorous fact-checking? LOL

    -- Crunchy Mike

    1. I think it's a safe bet that Rod has never read a work of fiction by Walker Percy or anyone else - including Dante - from cover to cover. He himself has admitted as much - also that he doesn't read the Bible. All of which is telling but entirely unsurprising.

  19. As the Colonel Blimp who has commented negatively on the Benedict Option, not the least of my reasons for doing so is a gut repulsion at Dreher's willingness to use his family as instruments in his own self-dramatisation. For example, the following from his blog today:

    "My father worried a great deal because the world surrounding him would not order itself, or be ordered, as he thought it should. This anxiety took a painful toll on me, because my own disorder (in his eyes) was a thorn in his flesh. It was by no means the only one, but given that I was his only son, and was named after him, it was his chief torment. At least until his daughter, the Golden Girl who never did anything wrong, died of cancer at age 42."

    Who does this? Who insists on washing his family's dirty linen before the eyes of the world? His father and sister have gone; even from a purely selfish point of view, what is the point of regurgitating the past for the benefit of strangers? I cannot get over the fact that, as someone on the far side of the Atlantic, I have been made fully familiar with the inner life of Rod's family. Strange that.

    1. Q: Who does this?

      A: The person who can write this without any sense of irony "I keep thinking that somehow, the dynamic tension between my father and my sister on one side, and me on the other, tells us something about our country in its present state."

      -Anonymous Maximus

    2. I'm beginning to get the sense that the briefer, unpublished version of Rod's 5,900-plus-word ode to himself

      Me: NYT best seller. New Yorker profile. My adoring pagan blog mascot Franklin Evans cooing, "You are my brother in all but blood, Rod. I love you."

      Ruthie & Paw: still dead.


      might have been, as they say, misread.

    3. Back in 2012, Rod wrote this blog entry:

      Rod takes a man to task for writing (on some sort of Souhtern gourmet website):

      "Prior to October 7, 2010, my mother and I were the best of friends. A consummate Southern lady, Judy Mims is a fantastic cook, gossiper, and mom — and in her relationship with me she had always drawn on all those talents. But on that October day, I flew from New York City to my childhood home in Kosciusko, Mississippi, to come out, at 25 years old, as a gay man to m parents. As anyone who grew up in the Bible Belt can imagine, the outcome was heartbreaking. My mother and I used to talk at least weekly; now months go by without a call. I miss her. And I can’t help feeling like I’ve lost touch with not only my mother, but also my lifeline to the world I grew up in. Thank goodness I still have the cakes."

      That's it. And yet Rod calls it "cruel" and "passive aggressive."

      Rod, the serial, chronic, airer of his family's dirty laundry, to the tune of a full length book and upteen thousand blog posts, even had the audacity to write the following:

      "Years ago, when I was around the same age as this author, I wrote a newspaper article focusing on my mother that inadvertently held her up to ridicule. I didn’t recognize what I was doing at the time, but in retrospect, there was a lot of passive-aggression in that piece. I bitterly regretted it, and asked her forgiveness once I was wise enough to see what I had done. Whatever my problems with my mom at the time, and however wrong I thought she was about things, she did not deserve that kind of treatment, not in public. Neither does Judy Mims, whatever her sins and failings.

      "I feel sorry for people who have writers in the family, and who have to suffer in public our kind working out our own issues involving them. I’m trying to be very, very careful in this respect as I write this book about my sister, our family, and this community. It’s hard, trying to be true to the facts, and to experience, but also respectful of people’s right to privacy."

      Rod stops stroking his chin for a moment, and, after taking the young whippersnapper to the woodshed for his failings, breaks his arm patting himself on the back, even though he not only admits that he did the same thing, way back when, but, to any honest, objective person, he has never stopped doing it!

      Worse yet, all the cake guy is saying is that he misses his Mom. Whereas Rod has raked his Dad and his Sister, both when living and dead, over the coals a hundred times over.

      Rod's hypocrisy, his lack of self awareness/sheer brazen shamelessness, is astounding. It is literally breathtaking!

    4. "Who does this?" Holden Caulfield does

      -- Crunchy Mike

  20. Memo to Rod: "Your Dad and your sister liked squirrel hunting. You like bouillabaisse and your Dad and sister didn't. They said to-may-to and you said to-mah-to. They're gone now. Let them rest in peace. Please call the whole thing off."

  21. "Who does that?" And who does this: obsessively recapping, reviewing, and block-quoting a profile published about himself? The self-involvement spirals in on itself and projects outward to the world with mind-boggling cyclical persistence. It may take an astrophysicist to explain it.

    And yeah, that photo. I feel your pain, Keith.

  22. "At least until his daughter, the Golden Girl who never did anything wrong, died of cancer at age 42."

    We can only hope that Rod's children grow up and demonstrate much more mercy and love towards him than he has demonstrated to his father and sister. Otherwise Rod can prepare for passages such as this:

    "I thank God daily for my mother and her sacrificial love for us. Goodness knows my father with this "writing" career saw us as little more than fodder for his blog or promotional fluff for his latest hardcover therapy session. When she finally left him after we all had moved out of the home there was a palpable change in her demeanor. Gone were the worry lines and constant depression of a mother trying to do the job of two parents. In her final years apart from Dad I could see her finally experiencing the joy of life, enjoying her grandchildren and truly living for the first time in my memory. I miss her terribly now that she is gone, but I am thankful God granted her a few years of joy and peace. She deserved that.

    Dad now lives alone, a bitter and angry man debilitated by both illness and regret, a curmudgeon who wishes he had kids to chase off his lawn. At one time I could muster sympathy for him. Now, while I still love him, I have trouble liking him at all. I am not sure anyone, save a saint, could. I hope I am able to reconcile with him before he passes, but it will not be through his "Little Way". It will be through God's way, and with His power."

  23. Someone who -- despite three churches, four books, many famous friends, and countless oysters -- still hasn't found what he's looking for. And, alas, doesn't seem to be any closer to finding it.

    I think what Rod needs is prayers and failure. A big enough failure to make it undeniable that more churches, books, friends, and oysters won't save him, and enough prayers that he doesn't deny it anyway.

  24. Has this piece by Brian Boyd been mentioned here yet?

    Alasdair MacIntyre weighs in on the BO. Go take a look.


    "Yet I say that MacIntyre is haunted by that sentence and the movement Dreher launched, not only because people skip his work and just read Dreher like Sparknotes to his work, but especially because in doing so, they fundamentally distort the point MacIntyre was making.

    MacIntyre heartily criticized this movement during the Q&A after his lecture on 'Common Goods, Frequent Evils' on March 27."

  25. Can I mention something?

    When there is one Anonymous, they're "Anonymous".

    When there are a dozen, the situation becomes ridiculously confusing.

    Picking a designation such as "Anonymous Maximus" (whom I call Anonymax anyway, because I'm lazy that way) or "Thunderbolt" or whatever consistent nick you wish to choose will not, I assure you, lead Interpol to your door and your untaxed hoard of morel mushrooms..

    But it will certainly help the rest of us keep the conversations straight, and, of course, help us to give credit where credit is due, for example, to Anonymous, who brilliantly pointed out...


  26. Completely off topic to this post of mine, but I thought I should say something about this, because it's important.

    Do you know what it is that makes America great?


    That's right, teamwork!

    For example, here, in the larger, more important Dreherverse of Wick the Allison (from whom all dependable financial Dreher blessings actually flow), we have ex- D Magazine Executive Editor Tim Rogers (right) dutifully flogging Dreher's New Yorker piece we've most recently been discussing.

    Why "ex" D Magazine Executive Editor? Because it seems that Tim has been replaced (or maybe just seconded) as D Magazine Executive Editor by one Kathy Wise, hypervocally "married" Lesbian and avid knitter.

    Teamwork! The conservative Christian prophet of our time and a married Lesbian knitter, pulling the Wick the Allison oars, shoulder to shoulder. Because what makes Dreher happy makes TAC happy makes Wick the Allison happy.

    It's like Fonzie & Mork, Steve Urkel on Full House, Kramer on Mad About You!

    Just waiting for Executive Editor Kathy Wise to invite Rod onto a FrontBurner post in turn to discuss marriage and knitting.


    And when setting up your own intentional BO community, be sure to get a liberal city magazine led by a married Lesbian to promote you, too.

    1. I look forward to a Photoshop of the New Yorker photo showing Dreher wearing Ms. Wise's hat.

  27. And it turns out that McIntyre himself doesn't understand the BenOp. And it turns out, he too needs to read the book. And it turns out, per McIntyre's description of Benedict's original communities, neither did the saint understand the BenOp. Rob's pride really makes him look like an ass. If I were Rob, I would never, EVER, link to McIntyre's takedown of the BenOp. It was painful to listen to him recount Saint Benedict's original purpose and then to see how completely opposite Rob's vision is. Rob keeps accusing people of reading his BenOp through their own lenses and not on its own terms and yet seem completely blind to the fact that that's precisely what he does not only with McIntyre but with Saint Benedict himself. And yet the sycophants just pat him on the head and give him a bowl of cream to lap up for his troubles.

    Anonymous IV

    1. Of course McIntyre doesn't understand the BenOp. No one can.

      Dreher came out and said that the most important book on religion in the 21st century, the book that lays out the only viable path to save Christianity from the postmodern barbarian hordes (I visualize SNL's Mike Myer's Dieter, the host of Sprockets, with a battle axe) was subject to the editorial scalpel because his publisher believes that big books scare off potential purchasers.

      I can see the little gears turning in his head right now: "Hmmm. On the one hand this project is imperative to the survival of the church in the West so I have to be as clear and understandable as possible. On the other hand my editor says big books don't sell. Save the church or move a few thousand extra units? Let's trim this baby down a few hundred pages; these oysters and crab cakes aren't going to buy themselves."

      -Anonymous Maximus

  28. And is there a more damning description than this one from the New Yorker's profile: "Over dinner—Dreher, who was observing Lent, confined himself to oysters and crab cakes—I learned what happened when he moved back to St. Francisville."
    ***My God, that's just brutal. Does Rod not cringe and become red-faced when he sees that in print?

    Anonymous IV

  29. Rod Dreher: The Booger Flicked off Alasdair MacIntyre's Leg, Wendell Berry's Leg, Stanley Hauerwas's Leg, and James K. A. Smith's Leg. If Dante Alighieri were alive, he would be The Booger Flicked Off Dante Alighieri's Leg too.


  30. I just finished Archbishop Chaput's new book "Strangers in a Strange Land". I can't compare it to the Dreher book, since I will never purchase anything by him. The Archbishop's book is very well written and throughout it he emphasizes that we must engage society and be a leaven, no matter how hostile or anti-Christian it has become, not become insular and cut off from the world. The little I know about the Dreher book is that it espouses the opposite of what the Archbishop does. The irony is that there is a blurb on the back from Dreher endorsing the book.


  31. The Elder Zosima to Alyosha: “Off you go, dear fellow, off you go, Porfiry will suffice for me, and you ought to hurry…. You are needed more there. There there is discord. Go serve at table, and make yourself useful. If the devils rise up, recite a prayer. And bear in mind, dear offspring (the Elder liked to call him this), that henceforth you do not belong here. Remember that, young man. As soon as God sees fit to let me pass away, you must leave the monastery. You must go away entirely…. What is wrong? For the present you do not belong here. I give you my blessing for your great task of obedience in the world at large. You have much travelling yet to do…. You will have to endure everything before you return again. And there will be much work to do. But I have faith in you, and that is why I am sending you…. With you is Christ. Cherish him and he will cherish you. You will behold great woe and in that woe you will be happy. Here is my behest to you: in woe seek happiness. Work, work untiringly."

    -- Crunchy Mike

  32. A question that plunges into the heart of Rod Dreher's Benedict Option

    A Question for Rod Dreher: Am I a Christian?

    and comes out with a serving of rich, creamy tartare.

    For, no matter how passive-aggressively Dreher approaches the issue - and Dreher is almost never anything but passive-aggressive in his approaches to anything - at the end of the day his Benedict Option is about separating the wheat of Christianity - defined as the sort of Christian Rod Dreher is right now, never mind what he might have been before or might be tomorrow - from what he defines as the chaff of Christianity - "MTD" Christians, insufficiently other Christians - as well as the secular culture of Western political pluralism which enables all of them.

    Support for Dreher seems to come more from Catholics and Orthodox, not unreasonably, because, as a tranny-Christian (a Christian who identifies authoritatively as the sum of his denominational history, not just of his latest conversion), Dreher believes specific worship forms such as liturgy figure foundationally as the means of effecting the BO. Ain't got no liturgy or got one so piddly-poor you might as well not have one? Your BO is crippled from the get-go - and thus so (passive-aggressively) is your religion.

    Unless you're an evangelical like Jake Meador who talks the BO up ostentatiously

    For example, I expect that the definitive Evangelical book about the Ben Op will be the one that the great Jake Meador of the Mere Orthodoxy blog is working on now (and I know he will be shopping around a book proposal soon; I think it will be red-hot).

    and then, of course, your BO is sure to be as red-hot as your follow-the-leader book proposal.

    The Mormons? They aren't even Christians - are they? - not even "MTD" Christians, so how could anything they've accomplished really be BO? Unless: the more BO you are, the more Christian, and vice versa. Fr. Lucas senses a similar if not identical problem in Dreher's "summary of his life experience" and "in a sense, a reconciliation of Dreher’s past".

    So instead of hiding coyly within his self-constructed and self-regulated cocoon in hyper-techno-secular cyberspace, Dreher really should probably answer Seth Dunn: if Dunn's a Christian, tell him why. If not, Rod, please explain why you should partner with Dunn and those who believe like him for any Christian cause.

    If Dreher can't muster an honesty that simple, why should anyone believe anything more complex he wants us to?

    Disclaimer, for those who missed my intro way back when: I'm a cradle Methodist who doesn't know much about Methodism and who goes to church far less frequently than I should.