Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Terrifying World

Jack Handey characterized the frankness of children thusly: "The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face." But frankness in childhood expression doesn't stop with speech.

The thing I enjoy most about finding uncommissioned artwork my children have created is how surprising it can be. Unlike the feeble gimmicks commonly called shock art, these pieces shock and arouse adults with an honest portrayal of reality from a child's perspective, even when the subject matter is derivative and the talent undeveloped.

The world contains terror alongside beauty and innocence, and Charles Schulz would agree. His comics are full of the fantastic such as Charlie Brown's clothes being removed by a line drive or Snoopy flying atop his doghouse. Being somewhat familiar with these famous images, I was nevertheless unnerved by my 11-year-old son's interpretation of a rather helpless Charlie Brown being terrorized by a Lucy who is twice his size and relentlessly pummeling him with a sound-cloud of insults.

"Stupid, dope, wishy-washy, lame, weak, dumb, lousy, wimp, idiot!" I asked my son about the picture; I said "Wow, this looks more like child abuse than a Peanuts comic. I've never felt so bad for Charlie Brown. Is she actually picking him up?" He just sort of smiled and calmly explained that Lucy is indeed picking Charlie Brown up, shaking him up and down, and yelling those names at him.

Lucy isn't just a mean, bossy girl here. She's an evil thug with ugliness to match. Charlie Brown isn't just the neighborhood loser. He's a victim of violence....

His sketch probably suffers a bit from insecurity and girl-fear in his 11-year-old mind, but probably not an abnormal amount. He recently played Charlie Brown in his school's production of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and perhaps his artwork was his way of helping himself relate to the character. I hope I'm worrying too much about his state-of-mind, fear of bossy girls, etc. and I'm fairly sure I am. My world is full of surprises, and I'm much more hopeful for my 11-year-old son than I am for Charlie Brown.

Here's to good surprises in the New Year.

End of year guilty pleasure is...

Squirrel Bait with Kick the Cat!


It's a harsh toke buddy but you're messing with your life when the sun's shining hot the devil's beating your wife you can take to the window to see where she's at you can do all this and kick the cat I was feeling too good it wasn't right at all and it smelled like gasoline and it smelled like exhaust I need to get my head on straight so I can screw it up all the better next time the heap the home the bed whatever you'd say it's been it hold the smell and you won't soon slide back in you can take to the roof to see where she's at you can do all this and kick the cat.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


A lot of people in the world of iTunes have (re-)discovered the Beatles since their music, originally recorded in a studio named Apple Records, is now finally available on Apple's music service.

Now their is a bombardment of playlists of the Beatles Most Psychedelic Songs, The Beatles Evolution, The Best Beatles Songs to Cook By, Beatles Songs for your next Garden Party, Beatles Songs to Make Baby Smart, etc. Neat.

Now I love the Beatles as much as a rock-fan needs to, but I'm having my post-Christmas Day grouchies and so I'm working on a playlist called Worst Beatles Songs and Covers, Volume 1. I will post a link to it when I'm done. In the meantime please relate any submissions in the combox. Don't bother with Wild Honey Pie, You Know My Name or the monstrous Revolution 9. They're on the list already. Revolution 9 will be at the end—the grand finale. (A friend of mine used to refer to the White Album as "the height of the Beatles' drug abuse.")

The thing is that if you are wildly successful you can produce some pretty awful stuff, and it gets released because, well, after all you're the Beatles or "Paul and the boys were having a laugh" or "John was high" or "Wow, they're pushing the boundaries!", etc. Yes, but it's still awful.

I will also include little known Beatles covers by people who obviously thought if they performed a popular song by a popular band it would be GREAT. I remember how difficult it was to maintain my poker face back in my band days when someone spoke in awe of a local band who could "cover the Beatles AND Pink Floyd". OK, sure, man.... The fact is these guys wrote songs, and good musicians can play them and they will sound good if they are good songs. (For instance...) In other words, if they are not the songs on my list. Again—the claim that "awe, you can tell he/she/they was/were joking" will be summarily dismissed.

Love that analog delay and reverb, man.

Maybe I will do a Worst of Pink Floyd playlist sometime. But I don't know if there's a time limit on playlists. I might have to get out the editing software and do one called First 45 seconds of the Worst Pink Floyd Songs.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas Everybody

Dominus dixit ad me, filius meus es tu; ego hodie genui te.

The LORD said to Me
Thou art my Son;
Today I have begotten Thee.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Benedict Option: Rod Dreher, Christianity's own Trump Drumpkin

Rod Dreher - Drumpkin
The beatific purity of the Drumpkin

If, as Bret Stephens caustically suggests, retreating into a nirvana that rejects all but the purest of purities is the most direct route for Republicans to achieve their true, subliminal goal - electing Hillary - then I would submit that the parallel most direct route for Christians to achieve a similar goal - a Dark Age wasteland populated overwhelmingly by hedonistic seculars and homicidal Muslims - is to endorse and pursue our own trumpiest of trumpitudes, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option.

Indeed, the cynical demagogy driving Dreher's Drumpkin enterprise is nothing less than a schadenfreude I'll call the Great Omission (for obvious reasons) which requires that any opposition to the particular history he desires perish in internecine conflict or otherwise self-destruct without burdening him with external effort.

In a recent post following one revealing, among other things, a potential publisher's skepticism regarding his book scam, he ends with this priceless paragraph:

Me, I don’t trust the GOP, but I am resisting being pissed off, because anger is only going to blind us to what needs to be done, and may cause us to commit to futile causes. Trump is not my guy, and Trumpism not a credible answer. This is why I’m working on developing the Benedict Option idea as a creative, realistic way forward for small-o orthodox Christians. The GOP is going to do what it’s going to do, but it’s almost certainly not going to be doing much that defends my interests as an orthodox Christian — not only because its donor class and elites dislike bitter clingers like me, but also because the country is moving away from the things we believe in.

You can't rely on external politics to solve your external political problems, folks, and you sure can't rely on that false prophet Trump preying on your fears about America declining into a Dark Age while offering you hope about making America great again.

Instead, you should work with the true prophet Drumpkin - your idea cost, his publishing profit - to solve those external political problems involving others that nothing else can, endure the Dark Age and make Christianity great again. Face it, any alternative only spells your doom.

On the eve of our Savior's birth those of us still subscribing to the Great Commission rather than the Great Omission - the Rod Dreher's Benedict Option - and thinking Christianity's great enough just as it is, well maybe we're just losers.

I keep hearing this Great Omission Benedict Option thing is going to be yuge. We'll see. Maybe it'll depend on whether that publisher decides we're in a Dark Age or not.

Until then, Merry Christmas

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mother Teresa to be Canonized

I guess the Nobel Prize was just a warm-up act.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last Minute Christmas Present Ideas

Here are some last-minute Christmas gift ideas. But please don't mistake these for good ideas, OK? Except maybe the second one, and you can get me two of them if you must. His and hers, you know.

First up is Ye Olde Plastic Potato Pellet Gun. It's my son's birthday today, and I got him one of these suckers. They really work, and the pellets don't hurt too bad. Just don't shoot you eye out, OK?

Also here's an idea if you want to buy me something. The 2016 Nissan Maxima has a sport setting to aid me in my midlife crisis. In case I have one.

Last but not least, here's something you can get from Five Below for that special someone who wants to appear smarter than they are. Or for nerd costumes.

I mean, $2 to look like the smartest guy you know? Can't beat that.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Presidential politics in post-Rod Dreher America

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house
Every zephyr was stirring, more than one could espouse...

So of course I was going to use my definitive Dreher illustration:

Rod Dreher
Rod Dreher creating a synergistic blog post

I've been waiting for something to stimulate a focused and chewy analysis of our favorite foil, but, face it, as the tags (the inspiration for my little rhyme) to this post reveal, he's basically been reduced to juggling found objects on the street corner, hoping something will draw someone's attention:

Posted in Christianity, Dante, Politics, Presidential politics, Religion, Republicans. Tagged art, church, Commedia, Dante, Eugene Vodolazkin, Gregory Wolfe, Image Journal, Laurus, mystery, Orthodoxy, politics, religion, Republican, The Operation of Grace, Walker Percy.

True, both the Benedict Option and the kitchen sink are missing, but you get the point of Our Working Boy's lunge at synergy just another dog's breakfast freezing there on the sidewalk.

So let's talk politics instead.

First axiom: neither Republicans nor Democrats elect the President. The President is elected by the unaffiliated marginal votes in the middle which flip one way or another at the last minute.

And right now, things are scarier than you might think.

Both the Democrats' debate strategy and the recent DNC data gotcha hit on Bernie Sanders point convincingly to the DNC being all in the tank for Hillary Clinton, preventing even the slightest attack points from Democrat opponents from escaping into the wild. Her Benghazi and email lies have melted away into obscurity for all but Republicans, which, remembering our first axiom, is not enough.

This cycle, the deciding votes in the middle will decide on the basis of which candidate which they despise least makes them feel most secure domestically and internationally.

Right now, love him or hate him, on the Republicans' side, at least according to Republicans polled Donald Trump is exciting twice as many ostensible Republican voters as his nearest rivals; it would be foolish to assume that at least a proportional number of those in the marginal middle don't feel similarly.

Whether polls can translate into caucus and then later actual voters remains to be seen, but it is the inspiration gap itself that is disturbing: while the Democrats' nominee is being served to them like a rubber chicken at a bad luncheon, currently the most measurably inspiring, frontrunning Republican is essentially an alien from another planet.

Behind Trump, all the way around on the other side of the track, Cruz and Rubio are whacking at each other with their batons for second place. At the moment, I tend to view them as two halves of a separated brain, one (Cruz) stronger on immigration - meaning national integrity and national sovereignty itself - the other (Rubio) stronger on international national defense. And even Cruz's immigration stance seems to carry some unsightly weasel hair and dander.

To my mind, and simply dismissing Trump for the moment - which simply cannot be done any longer in real life - neither Rubio nor Cruz can run as the other's Vice President: to land those crucial independents and sufficiently Hillary-disgusted Democrats in the deciding middle, the Republicans have to put a woman on the ticket - Carly Fiorina.

So, to sum up my thoughts and let the rest of you throw your thoughts into the pot:

If your choice gets Hillary elected, your choice is moot.

Rubio, to my mind, is most electable by the largest spectrum of voters not voting for Hillary, but he will essentially be Paul Ryan running for President: you can expect sellout compromises of the sort Ryan just delivered in the recent Omnibus bill.

Cruz is the most fiery conservative and, next to Trump (as presently polled), will most galvanize the Trumpists and the base, but, by that same token, is less likely to land those in the marginal middle.

My bottom line: Rubio + Fiorina still make the best and broadest anti-Hillary package, but Rubio will need a strong, non-Ryan Republican Congress to take back their rightful, constitutionally separate power and force him to execute their will, not, like Obama, legislate from the White House.

And you noticed: I just blew off the Trump problem. Still unsolved.

Monday, December 7, 2015

"They'll know we are Christians by our love ...."

Our deacon's homily this past weekend included his observation that the Christmas manger scene is an inclusive image, in that God became man not only for the believers, but for all humanity. No one is excluded from the gift of the Incarnation of Christ.

As reflected by the old campfire song, we Christians are similarly called by our faith to show love to all humanity, not only to other Christians. For Catholics, we serve others "not because they're Catholic, but because we're Catholic".  This is reflected by countless Catholic and other Christian ministries such as AIDS care and prevention efforts in Africa, Catholic schools and hospitals around the world, the ministry of The Little Sisters of the Poor, the example of St. Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and indeed the work of Catholic Charities for Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

This call to charity for "the other" has historically been reflected in American culture at large, so much so that the USA is often called the most generous nation on Earth.

Yesterday, I heard a radio report regarding Syed Farook, one of the infamous San Bernardino terrorists.  In that report, an imam at Farook's mosque told how Farook had been a good person to him, helping the imam with his car.

A nice story, but a question came to mind: are Muslims called to serve non-Muslims? Does Islam instruct the believer to charity for non-believers as we Christians are?  I honestly don't know the answer, but a quick few seconds on Google left me with the impression that they are not. It doesn't appear to be sinful to give charity to non-believers, but there does not appear to be a call to do so. Statements I found include:

Muslims should seek first and foremost to give their charity to Muslim brothers who are in need, and there are plenty of them.

Giving charity to poor Muslims is preferable and more befitting, because spending on them helps them to obey Allaah, and it helps them in both their worldly and spiritual affairs.

and, pertinent to the events of San Bernadino:

If the party or gathering is connected to some religious event of the non-Muslims, such as Christmas parties, then also it will be impermissible for one to participate. The reason behind this is that, by taking part in their religious functions and gatherings, one will be indirectly approving of their disbelief (kufr) and their religion... 

I hope that this is inaccurate, and that indeed Islam calls its adherents to charity for all. But I am ignorant in this regard, and perhaps someone can correct my impression. And I do not mean for this to be a "we're better than them" piece; that's not the intent.

If this is an accurate sense, however, I fear that the best we can hope for from faithful Muslims in our communities is grudging acceptance of the fact of our existence. Tolerance of our beliefs, much less of a right to exercise our beliefs, almost sounds like a stretch.  And this means that assimilation of more Muslims from other countries into our culture will not happen -- rather, we and our culture will have to change.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Freedom's Safest Place

A safer world means a place where the bad guys are scared and the good guys aren't. Unfortunately, liberals in government do the opposite, enacting policies which empower the "demons" and making the good folks second guess themselves. They limit the freedom of the good guys in ways the bad guys don't care about.

On talk radio the other day, I heard a woman wisely recommend an alternative to the ridiculous "Gun Free Zone" signs you see in commercial buildings. Did she suggest that a sign be posted that reads "A lot of us carry guns here, so watch out?" No, she said the signs should read "This building is under surveillance." A good person doesn't care about surveillance because they are in the building to obtain products or services, to make a deposit, to do their job, etc. But a bad person fears getting caught for what they are about to do.

If I owned commercial property there is only one way I'd post those no guns allowed signs. That's if I had a full walk-through metal detector to go along with them. The idea that these signs are any kind of deterrent is a very dangerous one.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The science of the Benedict Option

Rod Dreher
Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled need to publish.

Scientists find a link between low intelligence and acceptance of 'pseudo-profound bulls***'

Defining bulls*** is a tricky task, but Pennycook and his team tried their best in the paper.

As an example, they gave the following 'pseudo-profound' statement: "Hidden meaning transforms unparalleled abstract beauty."

The paper says: "Although this statement may seem to convey some sort of potentially profound meaning, it is merely a collection of buzzwords put together randomly in a sentence that retains syntactic structure."

"Bulls***, in contrast to mere nonsense, is something that implies but does not contain adequate meaning or truth."

If someone can find an example of a typical Rod Dreher idea salad post about his Benedict Option that deviates from the description given in this article, by all means give us a link.

As for the individuals browsing and consuming Dreher's Benedict Option salad bar themselves, given the findings of the article that is just one more reason we give thanks for a merciful God.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The premise of the Benedict Option

Today Dreher asks (via an alleged Muslim commenter):

... when you ask Muslim immigrants to integrate, what do you mean? Integrate into what?

Dreher has no answer -- other than this:

... I'm not sure how I would answer it. I've never thought about it before, and am embarrassed to realize that. 

... I think when Europe asks them to integrate, it's asking them pretty much to quit being Muslim. When America does, I think it's more or less asking them, "Will you please not act in ways that make us feel afraid?"

I guess the only way one can think like this is because one thinks like this:

.... Post-Obergefell, to what extent should Christians remain engaged with and willing to defined the America we have? .... 

.... I no longer hold the view that America is a nearly unambiguous force for good in the world. In fact, I think American culture is in many ways poisonous, and a force for evil....

.... I believe that there is a meaningful difference between being a good Christian and a good American ....
This is the premise of the Benedict Option. When one believes that the "Enlightenment project" has failed, then one cannot answer that simple question of "what does it mean to integrate" with the obvious answer that "to integrate" means to accept the founding ideas of the Nation:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....

Despotism awaits those who follow the path of the Benedict Option.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Benedict Option: a problem understanding monasticism

Benedict Option
Wrong monk
In A Critical Look at the Benedict Option, Greek Orthodox Boston College senior staff member Gjergji Evangjeli writes:

What has come to be known as the Benedict option seeks to answer this question. According to this theory, Christians should retreat from the culture at large, form their own communities where “neo-monasticism” is practiced, which seems to be a selective retreat from the world, where those participating are laymen and laywomen in every respect except that they remain uninvolved in the culture, one could even use the term quasi-monks. A good example of what these communities would look like would be the Hasidic Jewish communities that exist throughout the U.S.
As I, in my own life and discernment process, consider the monastic life, I must say that this is a misrepresentation of what it means to be a monk. A monk does not seek to retreat from the world because he has some sort of ideological or practical disagreement with it; he does so because he comes to the realization that everything that is in and of the world is to him an impediment to the radical union with God which he seeks. Thus, he gives up everything, including the opportunity go hold a job and have a family and children of his own, to own a home, to network with others, to be able to make meaningful change in society, for the purpose of pursuing only one thing, complete dedication to God. Yet, the monk—though he retreats from the world—does not abandon the world, because his great love, Christ, did not abandon the world. Rather, having retreated from it, he prays for the salvation of the world. Thus, he does not seek to forget the world, but to serve it in a different manner.

before concluding

In regards of the Benedict option, imagine the disaster that would have happened had the early Christians chosen it. After all, if Western culture has in some important regards moved away from Christianity, how much farther from Christ was it during the first three centuries of Christian existence? Of course, the early Christians did not choose the Benedict option. They did not choose the Benedict option because they understood that they had a duty to God and a duty to their neighbor to spread the good news that Christ is Lord, that He came back from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion, and that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. And so do we. The correct Christian response to the current culture is not to retreat from it, it is to work zealously to convert it and bring it to the truth and love of Christ. If the Benedict option instructs us to act differently, its validity is questionable.

Of course, it's very possible that Evangjeli gets the Benedict Option completely wrong, from two important standpoints.

First, the Benedict Option is an animagus in the process of being continually redefined by Rod Dreher even as I write this, so, like any week's upcoming Saturday Night Live production, the Benedict Option is in no way bound to be tomorrow what it was yesterday or today.

This is the Easter egg irony at its heart: what Rod Dreher's Benedict Option is is optional.

Second, though and most importantly, as close followers of Rod Dreher and his Benedict Option have verified on numerous occasions, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option possesses a genetically programmed autonomic self defense* within the aforementioned Easter egg which prevents it from ever materializing as anything identical to an object of criticism.

So, sorry, Gjergji Evangjeli. By your very act of criticizing the Benedict Option you have almost certainly guaranteed that it will never admit to being what you understand it to be.

*In addition to these autonomic defenses preventing Rod Dreher's Benedict Option from ever materializing within a locus of criticism, the Benedict Option Easter egg (BOEE) also contains within itself a process analogous to the enzyme reverse transcriptase which can be injected into any host it might encounter in passing.

Thus, if anything you're doing sounds decent, I must say, Rod Dreher's Benedict Option immediately transcribes itself within that activity, and that activity in turn immediately becomes an example of the Benedict Option.

Unless someone happens to criticize what you're doing; then: buh-bye!

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I believe it is accurate to state that the so-called Benedict Option as promoted by Rod Dreher had its genesis from about the time of the Brendan Eich brouhaha -- at which time Dreher concluded that the culture was lost and it was time to carry out a "strategic withdrawal" from the culture at large.  Keith summarized Dreher's moral cowardice here on EQE at the time, pointing out that even Dreher's good buddy Andrew Sullivan called Dreher a coward: 

And the only way to distinguish yourself from these hateful factions [those who persecute gays] is to make a positive case for your position.  That's always possible. From the very beginnings of our faith, Christians have made such a positive case, even as they were being thrown to the lions.  And Rod won't do it because someone might say something mean at the office! 

Sarah Palin agreed with Andrew Sullivan. In response to which Dreher doubled down, making an argument from anecdote by referring to religious conservatives in academia being afraid to disclose their own beliefs about same sex marriage without risking their career.

Hence the Benedict Option, because there just isn't room for Christian conservatives in the larger culture.

Fast forward to last week, specifically the inmates taking control of the asylums of the U of Missouri, Yale, Claremont McKenna, et al., following which Dreher exhorts academic authorities to show some backbone:

Why are you people so afraid?  I don't understand.


Strike back, empire. and strike hard.

That's Our Hero:  asking others to do something that he wouldn't dream of doing.  Picking fights for others, just like good ol' Wimpy:

And fair warning to those about to embark on the Benedict Option -- you'll be on your own, as far as its creator is concerned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Aux Benedict Option Barricades!

Benedict Option
Put down the beer, Bo, there's barricades to be a-stormin'!
Sigh. Another day, another iteration of the ever-mutating chimera that is Rod Dreher's Benedict Option.

Forget exile.

Forget the stillborn The Benedict Post.

Born from the tumescence of recent Mizzou outrage, this one is straight outa Compton Les Misérables:

We can lament the auto-destruction of the church and the academy, or we can do something about it. We can prepare for the disintegration, and form communities of people who do love the faith, and who do love the Great Tradition, and who have ceased to trust institutions and elites within them to transmit that love to the young. We must strengthen those that stand, and start new institutions where there are no others.

I believe it. It’s time to quit thinking about these things, folks, and to start doing something about them. Organize! Don’t wait to be saved! The displeasure of a football team just took down the president and chancellor of a major state university. And whining students who just wanted to talk about their pain compelled a distinguished scholar to apologize and beg forgiveness for defending free speech and open inquiry. If those aren’t signs of the times, what is?

Put down the beer, Bo, there's barricades to be a-stormin'.

It's not entirely clear to me how much of the doing Rod will be doing himself that Wick Allison is not already paying him to do, but then we live now in the days of leading from behind, right? If not in fact leading while remaining comfortably seated on our behinds. Otherwise, injury might ensue.

But wait!

What's this?

Our chimera has just sprouted a new and very different...turducken...let's call it, for want of a better immediate name:

Merci! Your comment about the Benedict Option reminds me that all people of good faith who are devoted to the Western tradition — Christians, certainly, but also Jewish, Muslim (I’m thinking about our frequent commenter here “Jones,” a believing Muslim, but also someone I count as an ally), and non-believers in the Allan Bloom mold — need to organize, and when possible or desirable, form institutions.

Well, that's certainly diverse, is it not? Rod Dreher's Benedict Option will now include in its communion Christians, Jews, Muslims and "non-believers in the Allan Bloom mold" but, presumably, not non-believers not in the Allan Bloom mold, unless, well, they're people of good faith.

It sounds all quite academic, or at least primarily pitched now to academicians and their academic camp followers like Rod.

The good news is, there won't be any hard thinking involved like actual philosophers and stuff (Have you ever tried to read a real philosopher? C'mon...what a tedious time suck.), just whoever's currently popular in sociology, like Jonathan Haidt. Sociology's best for this sort of thing anyway, because you don't have to prove anything, just quote it.

But what about blue collar folks? Unfortunately, at least according to the caption here, they're going to drink themselves to death in twenty years anyway. Poor choices in wine, no doubt, but really, what is one supposed to do?

That unpleasantness aside, though, (they probably wouldn't like Rieff or Haidt anyway), isn't this newly proclaimed inclusiveness wonderful? Almost like this:

And if you tell your potential publisher your target audience has now been enlarged to include "living literate human beings (of good faith)", surely it can only help.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What is the Benedict Option like?

Contrary to many accounts, it appears to be indistinguishable from a frenetic yappy dog with a spark plug wired into its butt.

Rod Dreher
The Benedict Option contemplates a strategic withdrawal from the external culture.




For those canines on the marches whose hydrocodone prescription has run dry, it's like the Reign of Terror, without the reign and without the terror.

I don't think Jesus done it this way.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Like a Lannister, Ross Douthat always pays his debts

As a non-Catholic, I can't say whether the liberal New York Times' young 30-something Catholic house conservative Ross Douthat was in the right or wrong in taking on the Papacy, its Synod, and all else contained in l'affaire "Douthat Letter" from Villanova girl theologian Katie Grimes and her evil cohorts Boris, Natasha, Moose, Squirrel and whoever else they were.

Ross Douthat Rod Dreher
Scratch Ross Douthat's mane and he'll tickle your tummy

But I was pleased to see that, after the exquisite tongue bath Catholic rejectnik Rod Dreher gave him here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here - oooh, so many different places! - as the night follows the day the following week Ross dutifully tossed his cabana boy a shiny new quarter, even if it did ultimately turn out to be a rather superficial and perfunctory mention in passing:

But in an era of stagnating wages, family breakdown, and social dislocation, this logic no longer seems to make as much sense. The result is a mounting feeling of what the American Conservative’s Rod Dreher calls white “dispossession” — a sense of promises broken, a feeling that what you were supposed to have has been denied to you. (The Donald Trump phenomenon, Dreher notes, feeds off precisely this anxiety.

When it comes to the food chain of the online punditocracy, no doubt one takes the alms thrown to one by a Lannister gratefully, regardless.

Readers of a recent post of mine will find the Dreher post Douthat (understandably, for those familiar with Douthat's own often incomprehensible constructions) cites as the one my colleague Pikkumatti and I were also just discussing as an example of non-sequitur Scrabble Thinking, or perhaps Lego Thinking: stuff is pasted or snapped together to other stuff that may have only the most tenuous connection with the previous stuff but who cares and may also have other stuff embedded in it to form longer and longer molecular chains of stuff and, before you know it - Voila! - one now has a handsomely larger wad of stuff to fill a weekly contractual online stuff-filling obligation.

Certainly not the predictably big league click bait of implicitly roaring at Pope Francis himself, "Own your heresy!", but, still, for its intended purposes, it'll do, pig, it'll do.

As we all know, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for Rod Dreher to get a Benedict Option book deal without the essential aid of some solid upstream New York Times "authority linking" of the sort he previously got from David Brooks for his Ruthie Leming deal (now, from $1.98, new).

Hopefully, Ross may get around to even mentioning the BO by name any day now.

After all, in an age where Christianity desperately needs a thickening more than at any other time in its 2,000 year history, online Christian blogrolling and authority juice link building are really more crucial than ever before, aren't they.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Orthodox Rod Dreher on Catholic vs. Catholic civil war: "Bring it"

You Want Civil War? Bring It

The first rule of Fight Club: don't crow about Fight Club
Bored, effete modern epicurean Rod Dreher is probably really dismayed he missed the big one in 1618.

Still, Dreher's blatant and grotesque vicarious lust to see other faiths clash while his own religious ox remains coyly ungored may have something to do with why Catholics remain stubbornly unmoved to join his Benedict Option cult and as a consequence his fake Catholic newsletter The Benedict Post died a quick death on the vine.

Unfortunately for Dreher, who would have Catholics at each others' throats as a means of driving them into his "Ben Op" lotus land, Catholics already have in their Church all Dreher claims is missing from their lives and which, he implies, he above all others has the wisdom to supply through his thoroughly modern "Benedict Option".

And so they understandably see little need to join a weird, middle-aged hipster's personal movement designed solely to restore meaning and a little "let's you and him fight" vicarious fisticuffs excitement into his tergiversant indoor kitty life.

The first rule of Fight Club, numbskull? Don't babble and crow about Fight Club, particularly if you're not even in the fight.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rubio + Fiorina for the win against the Liars' Club

Trump almost certainly doesn't have a genuine voter base, and, I'm sorry, Ben Carson is a nice social conservative doctor, but he isn't presidential material; he's dyed in the wool physician material and always will be. In a general election debate, Hillary Clinton will leave him looking like a student kept after class.

Not only are Rubio and Fiorina between them packing four sets of brass knuckles with Hillary's name on them, they've both got instant command of every issue that matters, particularly in foreign policy in what will very much be a foreign policy election. There are simply too many foreign pieces already in motion on the board for it not to be.

Plus, Rubio + Fiorina will force fence-sitting independents - the ones who actually decide presidential elections - to decide between two women and two Hispanics (Julian Castro), with the opportunity to pick an Hispanic President lying on the Republican side of the ticket.

Time to consolidate forces.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Is your faith Benedict Option compliant?

Not all are, you know.

Many people while believing they are faithful Christians may actually be infested by a dreaded wasting heresy, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, a pestilence far less objectively real than termites but far more damaging to one's soul.

Fortunately, there's a remedy for that: Rod Dreher's Benedict Option™.

Benedict Option compliant
The cure for what ails ya

If you're Russian Orthodox like Rod, you're almost certain to be Benedict Option compliant automatically, but, if not, why take chances?

Schedule a 12-point Benedict Option audit today for your church, faith, meeting group, Sunday School class, or just yourself personally by emailing God's Own self-appointed Vicar of Benedict Option Compliance today at

and be sure your subject line reads simply

Benedict Option

That's all there is to it!

When your email is received, Benedict Option founder and spokesman Rod Dreher will immediately schedule your Benedict Option audit, meet with you personally to review both your personal errors and sins as well as those of your entire faith, and prescribe a course of action to get you back on the approved Benedict Option path in no time at all.

No matter what your failings, Catholic, Episcopalian or just someone who prays sitting down, Rod is there for you to help you get back on track - today.

Don't wait a moment longer - email Rod today!

Monday, October 19, 2015

A possible explanation for the Benedict Option

"Can you see that I am serious?"

There's your answer, Fishbulb."

The Benedict Option: update on Benny

The Benedict Post: still dead as a doornail, two full months now to the day.

Like General Francisco Franco, Benny is still dead (mostly)
Let's review.

At the peak of Rod Dreher's initial Benedict Option mania this past summer, Benny (a Lenny for Benedict Option-susceptible Catholics) launched as a fully-fledged anonymously published newsletter, supposedly to serve the Catholic community online, but curiously containing within each weekly edition a promotion for Dreher's Benedict Option as a solution for dissatisfied traditional Catholics, written in Dreher's same chatty New York Post-imprinted style in his signature real-payload-within-a-deceptively palatable-outer-wrapper technique of presentation.

Despite its anonymity - abnormally odd, to me at least, for an ostensibly devoutly believing Catholic promoting his singularly beloved religion - and creation out of nowhere and nothing, Benny was immediately picked up and celebrated by Rod Dreher's friends at The Federalist including Ben Domenech among others.

But maybe Ben just normally features whatever anonymously published newsletters happen to splash into the Web and Twittersphere on any given day.

After only a few issues, Benny decided he was working too hard and took a full week's "vacation", just after Rod himself went on vacation. When Rod Dreher's father went into terminal decline and died, requiring his undivided attention, Benny immediately ceased publication and died as well (so far).

I am of the opinion that my calling The Benedict Post out as a sock puppet effort designed and written by Rod Dreher himself to push his Benedict Option among dissatisfied traditional Catholics looking for an escape also contributed to Benny's sudden silence. Readers familiar with the short life of Dreher's Bonnie Blue Review blog launched when he first moved back to St. Francisville will recall a similarly ambitious, similarly styled attempt which Dreher was also quick to pull the plug on when criticized about it.

I will be more than happy to update this reporting as soon as the still anonymous celebrator of his Catholicism decides to breach his shame at being known for this work and attach his name to his efforts.

Meanwhile, on a far, far easier row to hoe with a hectic Benedict Option tour still ongoing, Benny's Twitter feed is active once again - if Tweeting can even be counted as activity - eerily paralleling Dreher's current posting on the Synod and echoing his same sentiments from his TAC blog, while throwing a dependable big wet kiss to frequently-Dreher-quoted Ross Douthat of the New York Times, who surely, someday, will return the favor by recommending Dreher for a column there.

While viewing this feed, Twitter recommends I might also like some related feeds from - who would have guessed? - @BenedictOption, @PatrickDeneen, and other @s orbiting tightly within Dreher's regular commentary.

What a remarkable coincidence.

Again, as I mentioned above, in the same manner established as fully legitimate by Rod Dreher himself, I will be more than happy to update my reporting on the anonymous manipulator of the Catholic blogosphere, Benny, the moment they decide to attach their name to their peculiar efforts.

I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Everything is now The Benedict Option

Finding that not having bothered to think very much about what, if any, substantial meaning underpins his widely-marketed catch phrase "The Benedict Option" has left him a bit short of change at the Q & A counter, Rod Dreher has now turned his attention to filling that bottomless moat he's managed to dig around his castle with whatever immediately comes to hand, particularly through crowdsourcing on his blog.

We can help!

Previously pressed by one of his young devotees, Leah Libresco, to name practical examples of how a Christian might engage and exercise his Benedict Option, Leah tells us "between the two of them, they came up with:"

1) invite a group to dinner;
2) memorize a poem;
3) adopt a prayer rule.

The other brain referred to in this two-brainer Leah credits above was Ken Myers.

Clearly anyone can see all of these are powerful activities, unique to this most unique of concepts, one itself uniquely critical for surviving these most difficult of dark times now and ahead, particularly if one is utterly clueless about the existing Christian resources abounding in the most Christian nation in the world.

With these three above as our guide, I believe we can all now contribute to fleshing out Rod's full Benedict Option program in its entirety. I'll begin.

 4) Stand tall against the encroaching barbarism: capitalize your sentences.
 5) Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
 6) Sing a song.
 7) Give thy thoughts no tongue, nor any unproportioned thought his act.
 8) Don't swear in church.
 9) Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
10) Take a kid fishing.
11) As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
12) Look both ways before crossing the street.
13) Those friends thou hast, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.
14) Stop! Don't touch. Run away. Tell a grown-up.
15) Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
16) If you borrow your neighbor's weed wacker, return it, with a thank you.
17) Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.
18) Dress warmly in cool weather and coolly in warm.
19) Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
20) Go fly a kite.
21) Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
22) Paint the house, and do it right this time.
23) Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
24) Bake a pie.
25) Keep interested in your own career, however humble.
26) Help a little old lady across the street.
27) Remember, you are a caring nurturer, so nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
28) Build a better mousetrap.
29) Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.
30) Start a Pilates group.
31) Do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.
32) Drop that unneeded comprehensive coverage and save fifteen per cent.
33) Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars.
34) Lean forward.
35) Always remember, you're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggonit, people like you.
36) Take a bite out of crime.
37) Explore a new hobby. The world will always need another flugelhorn player.
38) Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
39) Lift with the legs, never with the back.
40) Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
41) Master the game of bridge.
42) Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
43) Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
44) Meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.
45) Measure twice, cut once.
46) Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
47) Launch a book club. You know whose books to buy.
48) Trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting, too.
49) Keep both feet planted firmly on the ground.
50) Tell your children you love them.

Whew! And that's only the start of inventorying the entire universe of human experience and practice for systematic inclusion as examples of the Benedict Option, particularly without the help of those handy label guns that stick those tiny little number code labels on the bell peppers which you can never get off because - Duh! - they use a hydrocarbon-soluble glue, not a water-based glue, and who in their right mind cleans their bell peppers in gasoline?

So, please, help. Give generously to make this the best and most complete Benedict Option list ever.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Benedict Option Marketing Problems

Let's get a few things out of the way at the outset. Despite Rod Dreher's wish to evoke and insinuate any or all of these, his so-called Benedict Option was never practiced by Benedict of Nursia, nor did Alasdair MacIntyre ever recommend a "Benedict Option" in After Virtue. As Pauli has already said most succinctly of Dreher's calculatingly manufactured phrase, "It's not Benedictine and it's not an option."

What is it I'm addressing here, then?

Although Rod wants to draw on several threads in Christian tradition in compounding a marketing brand about which to then write and sell a book, resonant as Benedict of Nursia, Pope Emeritus Benedict, or MacIntyre's invocation of the name Benedict might be within those traditional Christian circles searching for a silver bullet to save themselves from what troubles them about the age we live in, outside such limited circles the phrase "The Benedict Option" itself immediately becomes as intuitively opaque a name for a brand as Snapple. Unless you already know what it refers to, you haven't a clue what it refers to.

Let's not forget, as its creator himself has explained on more than one occasion "The Benedict Option" is not a collection of examples Dreher is struggling to give a name to but just the opposite, a phrase he continues to struggle to explain and provide uniquely meaningful representative examples of.

As a matter of fact, enter "Benedict" into Google, and the first thing that pops up is the face of this guy:

Wrong Benedict

Rod Dreher chose the phrase "The Benedict Option" for his book-to-be marketing project for several reasons, first, as mentioned, for the evocative value of "Benedict" among traditional Christians, his hoped for core readership. His now moribund sock puppet side project "The Benedict Post" pursued the same strategy.

Second, branding it as a capitalized "Option" gives it powerful dynamism, particularly with respect to any group currently feeling helpless. Benedict + Option, opaque as that compound still is, now becomes a murky clarion call to action, somewhere between a pre-planned "Take the children and go to your sister's!" and the hopelessly unpredictable results of firing off a six shooter in the night in the midst of a herd of cattle.

Hopefully, though, with this dynamic "Option" now an equal ingredient in the marketing phrase someone, somewhere will now want to do something Rod can write about.

But the problem of the opacity of the phrase stubbornly remains, dynamism or not. Here is "The Benedict Option", now placed within a field of phrases which similarly do not contain their meaning within themselves:

The Network Effect
The Benedict Option
The Spearmint Rhino
The China Syndrome
Heaven's Gate
The Holcroft Covenant
The Apocalypse Watch

I really have no doubt that Dreher chose "The Benedict Option" to evoke the same dynamic thrill intended to be invoked by this list. Perhaps he had visions of Shawnee Smith or someone else headlining a made-for-TV anti-cultural Christian thriller, but in his zeal to unilaterally attempt to generate publicity buzz for a not-yet-existent Christian movement in order to then someday write a book about it, he unfortunately managed to couple an intuitively opaque branding vehicle with a concept he could never hope to trademark or otherwise protect.

Why is this a problem? We'll see in further detail below.

First, Dreher could have formed an organization incorporating "The Benedict Option" as part of its legally protected identity and then pushed franchises. Unfortunately that option would be obviously even more self-serving than his current efforts and, needless to say, far harder to sell by appeals to "the disaster of the Enlightenment and modernity itself."

But even if he had given his inchoate phrase-concept such a definitive rooting, legally protected brands can still find themselves either unexpectedly on the wrong side of history like this once happy and promising product

"Why take diet pills when you can enjoy Ayds?"
or else somehow hopelessly ill-conceived from the start.

So. Even though Rod is burning his candle at both ends trying to recruit other Christians under an umbrella label they, but most often he and he alone, regardless of their interest or consent, refer to as "The Benedict Option", he can't legally protect his only-a-concept - now containing and implicating their lives as well - in any way whatsoever. Such as, for example, from ending up in the Urban Dictionary alongside "truffle butter" (not safe for decent people to look up; you have been warned). Just take my word for it, it's not a French delicacy.

Or from having someone else subsequently appropriate Dreher's coolly hip "Benedict Option" phrase for their own ends and actually trademark it as their exclusive legal property after the fact of his having unilaterally subsumed every other Christian he can manage to rub up against under it, like this hypothetical future entrepreneur of a chain of decidedly non-Benedictine establishments decided to do.

His focus at least seems to be heterosexual:

The next one's need not be.

Yes, there's Wikipedia disambiguation, but do you really want your non-immediate friends and relatives even wondering why on Earth you and your family are somehow mixed up with that chain of gay bathhouses you heard about on the news named "The Benedict Option"?

So let me summarize the problems surrounding Dreher's attempt to create a marketing brand called "The Benedict Option" in order that he can further his career as a writer by writing a book about it:

  • Outside of those already practicing what they need to be doing and who already know what the words refer to, "The Benedict Option" is an inscrutably opaque phrase, meaning nothing - or anything - to the broader population at large.
  • The only-a-concept "Benedict Option" and the phrase referring to it as Dreher wishes to employ it cannot be patented or trademarked or otherwise legally protected from any sort of abuse; but
  • Anyone else can, after Dreher has already published that your wife is a "Benedict Option Mama" and your kids are "Ben Op" kids, subsequently appropriate the phrases  "The Benedict Option" and "Ben Op" to his own, including conceivably quite nasty, ends while legally protecting his exclusive use of them - for example, suing you for illegaly using them - to whatever those ends happen to be.

Here's the bottom line as I see it. Do you feel a need to replenish, recharge, reassert your Christianity? If so, why would you want to consign yourself and your family to this sort of "Benedict Option" branding trap? What could you possibly hope to gain by assuming Dreher's manufactured mantle of faux-authenticity?

Instead, here are a number of already proven and well-established hallmarks under the aegis of which to assemble your efforts:

Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour
The Catholic Church
The Presbyterian Church
The Methodist Church
The Episcopal Church
The Baptist Church
The Orthodox Church

You get the idea. And there are many, many others, all intuitively transparent, completely unambiguous, and every one immune to reappropriation to commercial ends you may not have considered, the worst of which I have already effortlessly imagined for you above.

We are called to be salt and light to the world. One of the assumptions underpinning that divine commission is having a grasp above that of a six-year-old of how that doggone real world works in the age in which one is commissioned. I have serious doubts that Rod Dreher has a clue, but that at worst need only be a problem for him and his family, not you and yours.

Please, fellow Christians, just think before you allow someone else to label you and your family to suit his own commercial ends above all others. Your children may end up thanking you most of all.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Open Comment Thread (2015-10)

A little late on posting this. Have at it.

Wow, I said "have at it" last time. What an old, predictable coot I'm becoming.

("Becoming!?" said his kids....)

The Real Sexual Revolution

The real "sexual revolution" took place in the early Church, and the one people talk about in the sixties was just an attempt to undo it. Many people who have rediscovered the restoration of the beauty and integrity of the human person are converts to the Catholic Faith, and a number of them (130 to be precise) have delivered what I think is by far the most gracious, balanced and respectful letter voicing the concerns of the Catholic faithful with regard to the Synod on the Family. Excerpt:

With respect to the bewildering diversity of contemporary opinions about the human good, especially where questions about the human body are concerned, we understood that the radical nature of the Christian claim − that God, the Son, had taken up all flesh into Himself − was at stake. Christ “revealed man to himself” (Gaudium et Spes 22). He thereby “made clear” the meaning of our humanity – and with it the meaning of the body, of sexual difference, of sexuality, marriage and the family. He did this, for example, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce, and he turned them (and his own disciples) back to “the beginning,” to human nature as it was created. What is more, he brought something new to that same humanity, bestowing on it, mercifully, a share in His own fidelity to the Church. It was not by accident, then, that early Christians were drawn to the Church through the radiant humanity of His followers, manifest, for example, in their unique attitudes toward women, children, human sexuality, and marriage. And it was not by accident that, for the same reasons, we too were drawn to the Church many centuries later.

We are keenly aware of the difficult pastoral situations that you will be confronting at the Synod, especially those concerning divorced Catholics. We also share something of the burden you carry in confronting them. Some of us have experienced the pain of divorce in our own lives; and virtually all of us have friends or close relatives who have been so afflicted. We are therefore grateful that attention is being paid to a problem that causes such grievous harm to husbands and wives, their children, and indeed the culture at large.

We are writing you, however, because of our concerns about certain proposals to change the church’s discipline regarding communion for Catholics who are divorced and civilly re-married. We are frankly surprised by the opinion of some who are proposing a “way of penance” that would tolerate what the Church has never allowed. In our judgment such proposals fail to do justice to the irrevocability of the marriage bond, either by writing off the “first” marriage as if it were somehow “dead,” or, worse, by recognizing its continued existence but then doing violence to it. We do not see how these proposals can do anything other than contradict the Christian doctrine of marriage itself. But we also fail to see how such innovations can be, as they claim, either pastoral or merciful. However well meaning, pastoral responses that do not respect the truth of things can only aggravate the very suffering that they seek to alleviate. We cannot help but think of the abandoned spouses and their children. Thinking of the next generation, how can such changes possibly foster in young people an appreciation of the beauty of the insolubility of marriage?

Our current Holy Father is quoted in the letter:

"Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion….They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever,’ because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the time; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love." - World Youth Day, 2013

Here's the concluding statement, but I hope everyone goes and reads the letter in its entirety: "It is our hope that our witness will strengthen yours so that the Church may continue to be the answer to what the human heart most deeply desires." That's why I became a Roman Catholic. I discovered that it is the only religion which answers the longings of the human heart.

To me, the details surrounding the process of annulment-granting is not really interesting at all. Loosening the requirements or tightening them are not even the point. I just feel a deep sadness thinking that people could go through so much pain and then realize that, if indeed their marriage was null, they didn't get one bit of grace from it. What a complete waste of their time and of themselves. Unless maybe they learned something from the experience and can actually make a sacramental marriage the second time around.

I heard a woman casually discussing her annulment with another woman in line for confession one time and I thought that it's no big wonder people think it's Catholic divorce. They treat annulments with more respect than their own marriage.

The list of people who signed the letter contains a great list people whom I deeply respect: J. Budziszewski, Jeff Cavins, David B. Currie, Dawn Eden Goldstein, Scott & Kimberly Hahn, Marcus Grodi, Austin Ruse, Tim Staples, etc. I'm humbled and happy to be a small follower in their larger footsteps.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

No, no, no, possibly and it's hard to say

I liked this article on the Synod on the Family from CNN. It's short and to the point. Here's a cliff notes summary:

1. Will the church change its position on same-sex marriage?


2. Will the church change its teaching on birth control or abortion?


3. What about euthanasia?


4. So will this meeting change anything at all?


5. If the synod does recommend any changes, when will they take effect?

It's hard to say.

Number four is the placeholder for the liberals hopey for changey. The strategy for "this meeting" is the same as always for liberals: to take some tossed-off lines from Pope Francis or from others that are written down into documents which can have interpretations read into them. Then they will base their actions on the agenda they inject. This is what they've done for years with Vatican II, so I highly doubt they will do anything different for this synod.

For example, notice this line: "Pope [Francis] has said the communion is 'medicine' and not a 'prize for the perfect.'" This is not a Pope Francis thing, this is basically the traditional Catholic response to the Jansenist heresy and there is nothing new or innovative about the statement at all. The priest who first gave me instruction went even further stating that "Holy Communion is medicine for your soul not a reward for being good". So forget perfect for a minute, you don't have to even be good to receive communion! All you need to be is in a state of grace and not in some persistent state of sin like being in an unlawful marriage.

Normal Catholics and people in general will note how much middle ground exists between perfection and a persistent state of sin. Most of my friends and acquaintances are somewhere in between. But liberals love to spend their time at the poles. So they will treat the whole thing like a binary either/or proposition. For example, many liberals give the impression that if you don't approve of and celebrate every immoral act of an active homosexual then you are no better than people who physically attack and kill homosexuals. And if you make distinctions — like the Church does — between valid and invalid marriages then you really don't think that those people in the latter love each other. Which of course has nothing to do with being either in a state of grace or a persistent state of sin.

I'm not worried that anything horrible is going to take place within the context of the synod. I do think that some people will take it as a green light to push a liberal agenda, and it is amusing to see them pretty much doing this already when this meeting is just getting underway. The worst I fear is that the Church might lose an opportunity to clarify its constant teaching in the interference of all the gay talk. But it wouldn't be the first of the last time that's happened. But I think that TFP and MBD are overly worried.

Is Disqus killing your Web conversations?

Hopefully Pauli will indulge me in this little exploration of one of the weirder things I've run across recently and not, believe it or not, said or instigated by Rod Dreher.

No, I'm talking about Disqus' increasingly dreaded Terminator "Detected As Spam" filter.

I actually tried Disqus myself some months ago before just throwing in the towel, thinking, well, maybe it's just my pugnacious writing style (I know, I'm probably being way too hard on myself). But when I started asking around, I was surprised to find, at least in my circle of friends and acquaintances, that I was in the majority, not the minority, including a few who ran their own Web sites and had previously tried to use Disqus as a comment manager.

The main thing that infuriated both ordinary commenters and Webmasters who utilized Disqus alike was its crazy positive feedback learning algorithm (don't ask me what that means). In other words, it uses its own automatically marking someone's comment as spam as a rule that reinforces its automatically marking someone's next comment as spam as a rule that reinforces its automatically marking someone's next comment as spam as a rule that reinforces... You get the idea. Those acquaintances who ran their own little sites finally had to kill the Disqus beast because it was costing them viewers irritated at their treatment, not to mention the time wasted digging into their logs to un-spam Disqus victims.

Disqus actually has a page where its victims can petition for relief, but, as one might expect, it reads like an early draft of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Joseph Heller's Catch-22, mainly because Disqus uses its filter on that page, too, which means, yes, you guessed it, penitents wishing to be absolved of their spamnation so as to avoid further spamnation only find their petitions marked as spam, thus - yes, furthering their spamnation.

Overall, this process is not unlike dealing with too large a population of medical patients by giving everyone something marginally lethal in order to reduce the problem to manageable proportions.

Am I just running with the wrong crowd? Or have you or your friends had a run-in with Disqus, too?

Thank God for Pauli using Google, who in its severest moments only asks if one is a robot.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Could Benedict Option communities be MORE susceptable to child sexual abuse?

An unfortunate "BenOp" community member?

The clickbait-inspired blog war instigated by Rod Dreher against an obscure Moscow, ID pastor named Doug Wilson - before, having ginned up the attention to himself he sought, Dreher subsequently demurred

I don’t want to get dragged into an extremely bitter fight that has way, way more layers than I am capable of understanding from this far away.

nevertheless leads one necessarily to think of the possibilities for child sexual abuse in small, semi- and self-isolated Christian communities "thickened" in their own particular ways according to the particular interests driving each one.

As more than one commenter on Rod's blog remarked, "good thing you didn't raise this as an example of the Benedict Option." Yes, good thing, but he really didn't need to, did he. The question of children vulnerable to abuse, sexual and otherwise, in Dreher's speculative communities was already implicit in Dreher's "BenOp" concept itself.

In other words, the conceptual architecture of Dreher's proposed Benedict Option itself raises the perfectly reasonable question of whether Benedict Option communities might naturally be more susceptible to child sexual abuse than their more traditional, mainstream, more fully culturally invested, more fully transparent to public scrutiny, normal Christian alternatives.

Take, for example, the world wide Catholic Church which Rod, who never met a sexual perversion that didn't interest him, gleefully made a name for himself writing about during the Scandal. The reason there was in fact a Scandal at all that someone with even Dreher's rudimentary journalistic skills could eventually stumble over was due overwhelmingly to the mainstream role the Church played and continues to play in modern culture and the public exposure that must inevitably accompany such a public cultural role.

Now take the similar scandals which have plagued Rod's own Orthodox Church, including those involving church officials he personally supported and lobbied for internally. One reason these haven't seen as much light of day, of course, is that Dreher has studiously avoided reporting on them.

But the larger reason is that the churches themselves are far more peripheral to mainstream culture, tiny, on the fringes, virtually invisible and unknown to most people. Rod's own current backwoods ROCOR church was created out of nothing, virtually bought and paid for by Rod himself, its space leased from a long time Dreher family friend, Rod's wife installed as the Rodfather's consigliere power equal of the priest's wife, and, most recently, the priest himself personally beholden to Rod for the money that saved the life of his newest child.

So let's try to imagine how prone to either (A) discovery and relentless public journalistic exposure or (B) quiet, in-house application of X-number of really very stern prayer rules any child sexual abuse occurring in Rod's own particular back bayou church itself is likely to be. Yeah, I'm LMAO, too.

But even Rod's communion at least has a long-standing historical pedigree dating back to the Apostles themselves. While one cannot help but love any religious movement whose founder first looks to smartly fitting reference to it into 140 character-limited Twitter before even bothering to be able to tell you what it is, not necessarily so the impromptu Rod-coined "BenOp" communities their founder and ur-patriarch Rod Dreher is promoting.

Those Christian-flavored assemblies will, by Rod's account at least, "strategically withdraw" from the world while "thickening" themselves according their own interpretations of Scripture and its applications to those under their control.

Frankly, I'd be concerned for any children marooned in "strategically withdrawn" fringe communities where things might be unilaterally "thickening".

But, as much as Dreher bangs on whatever he can press into service as his gong o' the moment, it's never been "about the children" and most certainly never about any children who may find themselves unwillingly trapped in Moscow, ID or even potentially in his own "BenOp" compounds.

It's only and always and forever been about promoting Rod Dreher as the ultimate Kardashian of Christianity, today's and every day's click boy winner of the Internet. Any real children have only and always and forever been nothing more than a means to that end.

Maybe someone could somehow launch a GoFundMe account that could just buy out Dreher's whole "BenOp" book ambition contractually once and for all.

Just think of how many innocent children that effort might potentially save.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Benedict Option: "Here’s Why It Didn’t Work"

I report. You decide.

Libby Anne in her own words.

I will point out that, if people still aren't sure whether your name is "Rod" or "Rob", there may be a persistent leak in your message. First, be sure the basics are nailed down, then save Western Civilization.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hough rhymes with tough

And now they have bells at St. Agnes-Our Lady of Fatima parish in the Hough neighborhood. Good news for a place which has historically appreciated every bit of good news it can get.

The $2.5 million dollar construction project introduces a new church building to the redeveloping area.

The bells, like many of the items being used in the new construction, are re-purposed items from nearby churches which have closed. The bells had been in the tower at Holy Trinity-St. Edward parish on Woodland at east 72nd Street which closed in 2004.

SA-OLF-bell-work-DSC02313_500The new 350 seat sanctuary is scheduled for dedication on Wednesday, November 25th, the day before Thanksgiving. The worship space was much-needed as the parish has continued to grow in recent years as the neighborhood also has seen new life.

Mark Steyn: "If you say we're crazy and violent, we'll go nuts and kill you."

George W. Bush to Mark Steyn on Muslims' lack of proportion: "If it's not the Crusades, it's the cartoons."

Mark Steyn. An International Treasure.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pope Francis supports actual exercise of religious liberty

Pope Francis often has a roundabout, "chatty" way of expressing Universal Truth, but he was pretty direct about conscientious objectors like Kim Davis. Excerpt:

"I can't have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection,” Pope Francis told journalists on his flight, “but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right."

"And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector,” the Holy Father said, “he denies a right."

The pope also said conscientious objection must be respected in legal structures.

"Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying: 'This right has merit, this one does not,'" he stated.

The unambiguous comments from Pope Francis in support of religious freedom come after other comparable statements he made, spoken and symbolic, throughout his historic visit to the United States, making religious liberty a recurring theme for the trip.

It would seem like the Pope believes, as do all of us in the whole 1st Amendment crowd, that you actually have to exercise your religious freedoms the way you exercise your muscles to keep them from atrophying. And it would seem that conscientious objections to bad laws would strengthen the case for religious liberty, not weaken it. It's in line with the whole St. James "screw faith without works" thing.

UPDATE: When I posted this yesterday I was thinking about Dreher's contempt for Kim Davis. But I wasn't thinking about the Benedict Option. Silly me; I forget about the principle of material equivalence. Rod Dreher is the Benedict Option, or BenOp, or Benny, or Strategic Withdrawal, or "Pull and Pray"... at this point in his life at least. I was also thinking about Michael Medved who said a lot of similar things about Davis on his radio show. Medved has a masterful mind and I usually agree with him, but I was not swayed on this point. Maybe Kim Davis isn't the best spokesperson for religious liberty, but this is a time in history to take a stand poorly rather than withdrawing or doing nothing.

Keith's posted comment showing Dreher's use of the photoshopped face of Pope Francis incenses me. And so that is why I feel compelled to make this update. I have lost friends over my refusal to attack the Pope over his deficiencies, real or perceived. Rod Dreher is NOT A CATHOLIC ANYMORE and therefore feels like he has the freedom to say whatever he wants about the leader of another religion. Oh, yeah—if it happens to be the Roman Catholic religion. But my guess is that he has borrowed this image from others with an opposite opinion from his, i.e., people who think it is great that Pope Francis is more lax, less rigid than his predecessors and aligned with mercy rather than justice. At the same time these people tip their hand on what they really think about the Office of the Papacy, the Vicar of Christ, by painting his face like a clown to get their message across, and that is what Rod Dreher and those on the opposite side have in common: contempt for the Catholic Church and her mission in and to the world.

A lot of people do not realize that a week before Rod Dreher penned his famous 2013 Time article "I'm Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church" he wrote this article in the NY Times titled "The Pope Did More Damage Than He Realized". Taken together, these articles give the impression of a Goldilocks personality who doesn't even care for the baby bear's bed, chair or porridge. His position can be stated "I completely disagree with the Pope's position, he is damaging the church even worse than it was when I left it, he's proving my point about the general unseriousness of Catholics especially in America, he is empowering the dissidents, but I'm still not going back to the Catholic Church." Oh, well to be honest we sort of didn't think you would, Rod, after the article you wrote a week earlier.

So Rod Dreher is all for taking a stand... but not like Kim Davis, God forbid! He stands up and points a finger at her and cries "Who is she to judge!?" He is all for judging himself, and he damn sure wants a father figure who presages Almighty God at the final judgment. But everyone else can just shut the hell up.

If we are entirely confused at this point about how exactly Rod Dreher wants Christians to behave then it is Rod Dreher's fault. And this is nothing new. In his confusing world, we have seen over and over again conflicting images. We've seen a story where an Orthodox Priest reports jubilantly that Rod Dreher has left the Catholic Church and become Russian Orthodox, followed by an angry Rod Dreher lashing out at the messenger in the case, my friend J-Carp, a Citizen-Journalist, for revealing something he was supposedly proud of and yet hiding it under a bushel basket. We've seen him now constantly playing the part of a little, misunderstood Alfred Prufrock when people sensibly and persistently point out that the Benedict Option sounds an awful lot like the refusal to be "salt and light" in the world. And throughout all of this there runs a current of anti-Catholicism of Rod Dreher. The fact that his anti-Catholicism is more intellectual than that of Jack Chick makes it no less real. And no less disgusting.

And the fact that this update is long enough to be its own post... well, it probably means it will be its own post when I have a little more time.