Friday, August 17, 2007

Cheap Grace Indeed

Commenter M_David has this to say in response to Rod's best wishes to Andrew Sullivan on the occasion of his wedding:

I must agree with Pauli here; not about Maria, but the whole concept of how we can never reduce people to their opinions on moral issues. This is true, but in this case selectively done.

Let's see a blog post on, "Oh, the humanity of all those racists and neo-Nazis! Not to mention those gentle souls who support the rights [to] man-boy love! And those poor misunderstood Catholic bishops! We can disagree, but let's get a group hug."

Oh, wait. I'm in the wrong decade. I really meant we shouldn't reduce abortionists, their supporters, and the like to their political opinions. Heck, it's only 40 million, let's all get along. Besides, it's so hard to keep up with what sins are "in" these days.

Summary: let's talk about loving those people who are not held in such high esteem by the culture at large (HINT: this does not include homosexuals), and then I'll buy the farm. Until then, it sounds like cheap grace.

Posted by: M_David | August 17, 2007 5:10 PM

It is funny that regular Joe-conservative is often accused of pulling out the "9/11 card" to justify the war in Iraq, the horrible Patriot Act and other supposed American atrocities. But in Rod's aforementioned post we learn that it can be used to justify, at least provisionally, those "alternative lifestyles":

The humanity that unites us is more important, in the end, than what divides us. The gay writer Dan Savage and I used to go at each other hammer and tongs, but on September 12, 2001, I showed up at my desk in Manhattan and found I'd received a message from him, asking if I was OK, saying he hoped I was OK, and that I was in his thoughts. That made a big impression on me, and I was deeply grateful for it. I remember being so incandescently angry at Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in the 9/11 aftermath, when they blamed gays and lesbians in part for 9/11, because it was such an inhuman thing to have said. I was spending those days on the streets, and on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, with gay people and everybody else in NYC, lighting candles, crying and mourning. In that most dramatic moment in our individual and collective lives, all of us seemed to understand and grasp our essential unity in our shared humanity.

Way to slam "arch-Christianists", Falwell and Robertson! Good grief, let it go, Rod! A "wise man" once said that to me about "living to be offended".

I'll let you all take the discussion from here.


  1. I'm sure Jesus said to the Sanhedrin "You guys live to be offended" when he was being questioned on good friday. probably they just forgot to include it in the gospels.

  2. I guess all it takes for Rod to chuck a deeply-held position is a nice phone call.

    Remember when he started pulling for Jim Webb to win his Senate seat last year? Maybe this is what happened:

    "Mr. Dreher? Call for you from a Mr. Webb. Just checking to see whether you're OK."

  3. If a Catholic blogger had ever expressed similar sentiments about a gay priest....


    I also can't help but note that Dreher rightfully attacked the hissy fit folks were having over Brownback's Mother Teresa anecdote, but failed to note it was Sullivan who was the main person having a hissy fit.

    They're two sides of the same coin. Fun to read when you agree with them, but perhaps poisonously so.

  4. John, I'm not sure I haven't pointed this out before, but it's also funny that Rod's been criticizing the "liberal myth of the dread Christianist" when it's Sullivan who's been trying to popularize the phrase to mean precisely those (many, many) Christians who stand to the theological or political right of Saint Andy. Maybe Rod's deliberately limiting himself to alluding to Sullivan's criticisms without mentioning Sullivan himself.

    Either way, it often seems to me that Dreher and Sullivan both frequently act like emoting divas, lashing out at conservatism and Catholicism in support of their own pet causes.

    Personally, I'm not sure Rod's changed his opposition to redefining marriage, but it's often difficult to sift through the inconsistencies to know for sure.

    James Kabala comments that he wonders if Rod "isn't going too far by wishing him an enjoyable reception." Rod dismisses it quite rudely, but it's actually a very good question. Rod concludes his blog entry this way:

    "Anyway, mazel tov, Andrew, and I hope your reception is at least as rockin' as Jenna Bush's will be. That, and that you will pray for my salvation, as I pray for yours."

    Now, if Rod does think that Andrew is embracing sin, aren't his prayers for Andrew's salvation from sin diminished by his wishing that the public celebration of that sin goes splendidly? How can a person hope that his adulterous friend realizes his sin and repents, all the while wishing that he has a good time in the interim?

    (And, I like Lopez as the apparent "den mother" of NRO, but I do wish she wouldn't write what she clearly doesn't mean. Sullivan would be very happy to see everyone to his write labeled with the "Christianist" smear, so I wish she wouldn't wish him "every" happiness. Maybe she and Rod were indulging platitudes to try to earn his favor or appear to be hip despite their faith.)

    It's not the only inconsistency one finds here. Rod talks about how 9/11 highlighted "our essential unity in our shared humanity," but he seems to exclude from that unity Falwell and Robertson for their "inhuman" comments. Amazingly, he does all this even though he recently referenced his own writing about why we were attacked: Western modernity. Rod wrote that Sayyid Qutb saw modernity causing the Western world to be morally debauched, and he doesn't actually get around to rejecting this premise.

    "We Americans have a bad habit of assuming that there's nothing to radical Islam but fury, grievance and bloodlust. We think of jihadist leaders as wild-eyed mullahs far removed from our experience. It's a fatal form of condescension. Qutb may have been a madman by our lights, but he was no fool – and, in important ways, he had our number."

    "While Qutb's prescriptions are quite mad, his diagnosis of the Western spiritual and psychological condition was serious, and it requires a serious response. If we Westerners cannot look at the world we've created for ourselves and understand that Sayyid Qutb was not all wrong, we will never figure out how to convince the Islamic masses he lived and died for that their holy martyr was a false prophet."

    All this is fine, but Falwell's comments weren't. It's apparently okay to nod along with Qutb that modernity has made us debauched, but not to agree with Falwell that that debauchery includes the normalization of one of the very practices that radical Islam forbids.

    But, the most striking inconsistency in this post and comment thread is Rod's humility in admitting the struggle to love others and his inability to own up to specific failures in that struggle.

    Go back to a thread earlier this week: Rod got a very rude email from a woman named Maria Harrington, and he jeers at her and implies she's a nut. In the comment thread he dismisses criticism of his mockery and his behavior in general, never once acknowledging that maybe the critics have a point or should at least be taken seriously.

    But yesterday he writes about the struggle to remember "that we're God's beloved creatures, and as such, each other's brothers and sisters."

    It was pointed out that he didn't seem to apply this truth to Maria. Rod's response? "I swear, you people live to be offended."

    And THEN Rod goes right back to the piety in the very next comment.

    "Somebody on this blog posted a quote not long ago from C.S. Lewis, explaining what it meant to 'love thy neighbor.' If memory serves, Lewis said that loving your neighbor doesn't mean approving of what he does, or believes in. It means, in part, understanding oneself: that if you think about it, you can be a pretty nasty piece of work yourself, but you would like to be treated with love by those around you. If you're honest, you don't refrain from judging yourself and your own actions, nor should you refuse to pass judgment on the rightness or wrongness of your neighbor's beliefs and actions. But in the end, you've got to remember that your neighbor is a human being.

    "This is hard. But this is necessary."

    He admits in very general terms that each of us "can be a pretty nasty piece of work," but he apparently cannot tolerate being told that an individual comment crossed the line.

    Anyone who's read my very earliest criticisms of crunchy conservatism might remember that one complaint is that it doesn't offer the alternative to materialism that it claims to. My views on what constitutes an authentic alternative to what the Bible calls "the world" has been immeasurably influenced by John Stott's commentary on Christ's greatest public sermon: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: Christian Counter-Culture.

    It is ironic then that Stott wrote something addressing this very behavior, in his comments on Matthew 5:5, the Beatitude that the meek shall inherit the earth.

    "It seems important to note that in the beatitudes 'the meek' come between those who mourn over sin and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. The particular form of meekness which Christ requires in his disciples will surely have something to do with this sequence. I believe Dr [D. Martin] Lloyd-Jones is right to emphasize that this meekness denotes a humble and gentle attitude to others which is determined by a true estimate of ourselves. He points out that it is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in his sight. He goes on: 'But how much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me! I instinctively resent it. We all of us prefer to condemn ourselves than to allow somebody to else to condemn us.'

    "For example, if I may apply this principle to everyday ecclesiastical practice: I myself am quite happy to recite the General Confession in church and call myself a 'miserable sinner.' It causes me no great problem. I can take it in stride. But let somebody else come up to me after church and call me a miserable sinner, and I want to punch him on the nose! In other words, I am not prepared to allow other people to think or speak of me what I have just acknowledged before God that I am. There is a basic hypocrisy here; there always is when meekness is absent."

  5. JohnMcG observes: "I also can't help but note that Dreher rightfully attacked the hissy fit folks were having over Brownback's Mother Teresa anecdote, but failed to note it was Sullivan who was the main person having a hissy fit."

    Sullivan is going to come out on top in this game, pun intended. Rod will treat him to the mildest criticism when he disagrees and the wildest enthuiasm when he agrees.

  6. I thought it was ironic that K Lo was wishing Sullivan "every happiness" in his homosexual union. EVERY happiness -- like conceiving and raising a child? or is that not to be considered a happiness? Indeed, the only meaningful objection to homosexual marriage is that by definition it does not permit "every happiness".

  7. OK, that (the Rod Dreher excerpt) has simply got to be the
    most maudlin thing I have read in my entire life.

    And I say that as someone who has read a lot of
    Dickens. :p

    Of course one can put up with Dickens' maudlin-ness
    because, well, he was a genius. He had a whole lot going for him besides the sentimentality. Dreher

    (Pauli, thanks for re-enabling anonymous comments. Your e-mail was a total hoot, BTW.)

    Diane (who has recently been publicly characterized as "troubled" and "eccentric" by Rod Dreher, one of the certifiably weirdest guys in cyberspace

  8. Pikkumatti, John, Bubba, Kathleen, et al.:

    Re Rod Dreher's flip-flops:

    Rod Dreher is an idiot.

    Rod Dreher is hypocrite.

    Rod Dreher has the integrity of an Enron executive.

    Rod Dreher is a snotty little squirt with serious issues.

    OK, all of the above was just for SEO, but it also happens to be true. LOL!


  9. maudlin is a good word diane. my objection to this particular dreher entry actually has nothing to do with homosexual marriage per se, it's just a perfect example of dreher's main objective being the solicitation of hosannas for his supposed wisdom and insight. there's something positively cringemaking about watching a grown man put himself through those contortions just for a dose of internet praise from strangers. all 12 of them, at that.

  10. it's just a perfect example of dreher's main objective being the solicitation of hosannas for his supposed wisdom and insight. there's something positively cringemaking about watching a grown man put himself through those contortions just for a dose of internet praise from strangers. all 12 of them, at that.

    That is so true, so spot-on, and so astute.



  11. The discussion of whether to attend or celebrate a gay "wedding" continues at the Crunch blog.

    Rod writes, "My general attitude toward life follows the trajectory staked out by Mike Huckabee: 'I'm conservative, but I'm not mad about it.'"

    I can think of a few exceptions to that general attitude. His genial attitude to Andrew Sullivan hardly makes up for the anger he has for Bush, particularly concerning Iraq and the US Attorney psuedo-scandal. And I would argue that his book is not only contrary to this attitude in the way he eviscerates mainstream conservatives, he had no choice but to be that vicious to justify this call for a Benedictine retreat from Western civilization.

    But I digress. In looking at how the question is being answered, I don't see a justification for embracing Andrew Sullivan's big day that is consistent with Christianity.

    Sigaliris' comment is rooted in an essentially un-Christian worldview and Rod apparently doesn't notice.

    "That's the bottom line for me in terms of evil--it must do severe damage to living beings, particularly humans. If it is merely an offense against church discipline, or a transgression against a theological assertion, then it may be a mistake or bad idea, but it isn't evil."

    Nowhere here is the idea that there are sins -- genuinely evil acts -- that are offenses against God even if no individual human is victimized. Sig even implies a belief God isn't a living being and perhaps even that God doesn't exist: there are crimes against individual humans, and there are mere offenses against church discipline or theological principles, but nothing else.

    Rod replies, not by offering a genuine Christian correction, but by calling these guidelines "interesting," and his own thoughts are hardly more moral. The comparison between a gay man's funeral and his "wedding" falls apart, simply because you can mourn a gay man's death without condoning his behavior: attending his "wedding" is an implicit endorsement of what Christianity clearly defines as sin.

    "If I went to a gay wedding, the only anxiety I would have would come in wondering what kind of wine was to be served at the reception. [Uh, what? -- B] And yet, I do not believe in gay marriage, and would not see the ceremony taking place as anything but a pantomime of a marriage, a position that would certainly offend the couple. And yet x 2, any ill will toward the couple on my part would be totally manufactured and artificial, because chances are if I had been invited to the wedding, it would be because they were my friends and we liked each other very much."

    So he would give the appearance of condoning the gay couple's behavior by attending, but he would still hold the ceremony to be fundamentally fraudulent. He admits this approach "lacks logical clarity and emotional satisfaction," but he still calls it humane.

    I don't see how it's humane to lie to pretty much everyone: he'll say he honestly believes the church's teachings on sexuality but he won't risk embarrassment to stand behind those teachings, and he'll attend the ceremony while holding in his mind the belief that it's all a fraud.

    I'm not sure Kathleen is right why he's doing this, but it certainly fits what's being written.

  12. Goodness. Bubba, those excerpts are simply astounding.

    So, Rod Dreher has absolutely no moral compass anymore. I guess it's convenient that he has chucked the Magisterium. And apparently Scripture doesn't much enter into the equation, either. So, who or what is guiding Rod's conscience these days? Jiminy Cricket?

    But surely attending gay weddings--or even condoning gay weddings--is frowned upon in Eastern Orthodoxy? Surely Vladyka Gandalf would not approve of Rod Dreher's newly "enlightened" attitude?

    Very strange. IIRC, Catholicism does have guidelines for attending weddings. (And I confess that I have violated them: I have attended close relatives' weddings that were almost certainly not sacramentally valid marriages.) But let's face it, the rules make sense: When you attend a wedding, you're a witness to it. Which means you approve of it. ('Member: "Speak now or forever hold your peace.") So, if you attend a wedding between two men, you are witnessing and approving it. I am sure the Catholic Church forbids such a "witness." And I would be surprised if Orthodoxy didn't, also.

    And so it begins: the first public signs of Rod Dreher's gradual eventual conversion to his true religion: Rod Dreherism.

    Well, actually, those signs started appearing a while ago...didn't they?


  13. he'll say he honestly believes the church's teachings on sexuality but he won't risk embarrassment to stand behind those teachings



  14. Fortunately i've never had to confront the issue, but if a close gay friend were getting married, i confess i might very well go. what i definitely WOULDN'T do is brag about the fact that i'd gone, while simultaneously identifying myself as any kind of orthodox believer.

  15. I wouldn't go to a same-sex "wedding" so-called, but like Kathleen I'm not insterested in that aspect of this post. The word that comes to my mind for Rod's whole sorry piece is bathos. It's a mawkish attempt to find something lovely within something that you can tell he doesn't really believe has any loveliness. The "God's beloved creatures (TM)" stamp on the thing is the crypto-liberal cherry on top ot the whole shit sundae.

    Excuse the French.

    Personally I think it's dangerous to associate with someone like Sullivan -- who is very crafty -- and let yourself become sucked in by his wordsmithly charms. Does his venom toward conservatives and Christians have any redeeming qualities? Sullivan loves fawning, craven followers and, hey, if the Birkenstock fits....

  16. "It's a mawkish attempt to find something lovely within something that you can tell he doesn't really believe has any loveliness."

    Pauli, um, i disagree -- from all appearances, dreher thinks sullivan's homo marriage is perfectly lovely indeed (though not so lovely as the spectacle of dreher himself singlehandedly undoing the metaphysical gulf between orthodoxy and peace/love/understanding in an ever-so-special, entertaining and wittily bloghorrific way ) it's *orthodoxy* dreher believes is unlovely, which is why endless professions of it are very maudlin indeed.

  17. PS: speaking of unlovely, grown men shouldn't say, or type, "whee!". ever.

  18. Heh! Sullivan's not the only one who loves fawning followers. :) The RodMan allows comments from no one but.

    Paul, "bathos" and "mawkish" are spot-on.

    I told DH tonight about Rod's piece, and he said, "Just ignore the guy. Consign him to the oblivion he so obviously dreads."

    DH had never heard of Sullivan, wouldn't know Rod Dreher from a hole in the wall, and therefore puts them both into proper perspective. I guess that, by tussling with Rod at his blog, I'm giving him too much credit. I think DH is right. Rod Dreher is penny ante. Why even waste our time on him? Especially seeing as he is rapidly turning into just another boring shill for the Left.


  19. LOL, Kathleen, I tend to agree. I do think Rod thinks same-sex marriage is lovely. More and more, I think, he has set himself on a collision course with orthodoxy--both small-o and big-O. Someday, perhaps, his contempt for Catholic bishops and fundy preachers like Falwell will become a more generalized contempt for "Christianists." After all, contempt is pretty much Rod's middle name. Contempt for the "mainstream"--that's part of what led him to embrace a small, somewhat esoteric Orthodox jurisdiction. But how long will it be before all of orthodox Christianity--including the OCA--begins to pall? When will his contempt overflow until it encompasses all "Christianists," including Vladyka Gandalf? I'm betting it won't be too long now.

    OK, this is why I'm not sure I want to follow DH's advice to totally ignore Dreher. I will certainly cease fighting with him at his blog--that's just plain masochistic. But here, among friends, that's another story. For one thing, dissecting pompous-ass nuttiness is just too darned much fun. And for another thing, well, even if DH is right that Dreher's influence is far more limited than we imagine, it's still important, I think, to set the record straight about him somewhere on the Internet. The guy's views are poison; it's good to provide an antidote.

    (That's how I justify this to myself, anyway. LOL!)


  20. Snippets from a Dreher post, circa August 2009:

    When Andrew and I have clashed, it's almost always been over the issue of homosexuality and religion, not to mention homosexuality and politics. We just don't agree on that. But I admire him and his writing, and the humanity that unites us is more important, in the end, than what divides us. Thus while as a rule I do not approve, I find I must still wish him and Aaron well as they embark upon parenthood, having announced their adoption of a young Guatemalan boy. Again, I really don't approve, mind you, but part of me understands why they decided against bringing home an infant, but instead must have had had no choice but to select a lad just shy of pubescence. I weep for his having to miss the joys of changing diapers of sending him off to school for the first time, but I find his explanation that the laws the Christianists have passed regarding foreign adoption and the pressure of the Latin American Catholic bishops forces them to choose 14-year-old Diego quite compelling, and dovetailing exactly with my newfound convictions. I admit to be puzzled by their online 'baby registry' and its numerous requests for tank-top t-shirts, but...

    -The Man From K Street

  21. But Man from K Street, why should we not wish Diego an adoption as rockin' as ... Jenna Bush's wedding? does it make me a better Christian if Diego remains HOMELESS? or has to wear Dockers instead of hot tank tops? i think not!


  22. Hey Man from K, we're very happy to have you here, btw

    i worked at 13th and K back in the day

  23. btw, it's worth noting that dreher's *very next* blog post (after the Ode To Sullivan) is the following

    "Ever heard of Neuhaus's Law? It's Father Richard John Neuhaus's observation that 'Wherever orthodoxy is optional, it sooner or later will be proscribed.' "

    You mean like in your little head, rod?

    laughably, the title of the post is "Neuhaus' Law in Action". even a stopped clock. ...

    double whee!

  24. Double whee, indeed!

    Man from K Street, welcome!! I have admired you from afar for some time now. Your posts are always deliciously clever, bittingly funny, and written so gosh-darn well....

    In fact, your observations are so astute and so well expressed, I'm amazed Rod Dreher hasn't banned you yet. LOL!

    Well, I haven't been back to the Dreherrea Blog, but my kids tell me that Rod has referred to me there as the Evil One. LOL--does that mean I touched a nerve, or does it merely mean Rod has gone completely off the deep end? Chivalrous little squirts that they are, my kids wanted to retaliate by vandalizing Rod's Wikipedia entry. LOL! But I forebade ir. "Why sink to his level?" I told them. Am I noble, or what? Hey, everyone--I'm bathetically seeking y'all's approval. Applaud, o Amem Chorus, applaud! Wheeeeee!


    Diane the Evil One

  25. I guess Rod can put up with Andrew Sullivan's Church bashing - two peas in a pod and all that - but I'm a little surprised at K-Lo. While it's certainly true that we shouldn't regard our fellow human beings merely through political prisms, but at what point does the vitriol that Sullivan spews on a regular basis get him barred from polite society? The man is at this point an anti-Catholic bigot who bases all his writings on his emotion and testes. In fact, K-Lo's comment was a response to J-Pod response to Sully's comparison of Americans to German citizens during the Nazi era. And we have to treat this guy with respect?

    What's more, why does everyone continue to call this guy talented? He's not a particularly insightful individual, and he's no more interesting than anyone who even posts on this blog.

  26. if you're referring to me calling dreher's blog "entertaining" and "bloghorrific" i was being highly sarcastic.

    rod gets in a cute turn of phrase now and again, so he's more talented than your average schmoe, but not necessarily more talented than other bloggers (except of the "i luv makeup" variety). oh, and he's more talented than larison, stegall, and co, in that he can write a comprehensible sentence.

  27. Kathleen-

    I was referring to Sully, not Dreher. Rod actually can be good on occasion. It's Sully who's the vastly overrated writer.

  28. Rod actually can be good on occasion.

    I agree with Kathleen tht Rod gets in an occasional cute turn of phrase. But there's more than that to good journalistic writing, esp. WRT "opinion journalism." It also helps to be an insightful thinker. IMHO, Rod doesn't qualify. His insights (such as they are) are shallow, banal, and unoriginal. (E.g.: His "Are We Rome?" piece. Like that question has never occurred to anyone else, ever? Good grief, it's the sort of thing that routinely occurs to college students over a few beers on a Saturday night....)

  29. Gosh, Pauli!!! I can post as myself from work! It's just at home that it doesn't work. Go figure! :)

  30. sullivan is not a good writer content-wise and stylistically. let's face it, taking that many meds has untold side effects. he must have been pretty good at some point -- they made him editor of the New Republic when he was young and cuter! which is weird to think about.

  31. PZ: "anti-Catholic bigot who bases all his writings on his emotion and testes"

    Paul Z, LOL, did you mean to write "emotion and tastes" in you characterization of Sullivan?


    Spirit of Dr. Freud, I command thee to COME OUT of Mr. Zummo's keyboard!!!

  32. Ha, that was most definitely my intention to write that word. Let's face it, we all know the real location of Sullivan's brain.

  33. Sorry, to clarify: yeah, I did mean to write testes, not tastes.

  34. If any Catholic bishop walked within a mile of a same sex wedding without condemning it, Mr. Dreher would have blasted it as one more example of the moral bankruptctcy from the hapless bench of bishops.

    In fact, he probably would have used it to hint that the bishop was gay himself.

    But now... accept an invitation to a same sex wedding? Why not?


    Now, I know there are different standards for a bishop than there are for laypeople, and that the bishops act would be giving scandal in a way a lay person's would not, but yeah...

  35. John McG: Bingo.

    Hey, Rod. Listen up:

    "It's the double standard, stupid."

  36. Hey, y'all--where is everyone? Letas get some action here. I need by contrapauli fix! :)