Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In pursuit of pyrrhic victory: Rod Dreher on Sam Rocha

Benedict Option
You tell him, Rod!

Let's begin by remembering that Rod Dreher, via his Benedict Option marketing gambit and the book that resulted from it, proposes to instruct the rest of the world how to be better Christians.

Sam Rocha's review of Rod's Book

Rod's review of Sam's review: Sam Rocha: The Critic as Failed Oyster

Useful associated links:

#BenedictOption = boot camp for the Church Militant

“Christian America” and the Benedict Option

Guilt by association...

My comment from the post below where I first posted these links: "Dreher's pyrrhic victory is so close - so close!"

UPDATE 1 - Poink!:

A Noise Annoys An Oyster: A Critical Review of Rod Dreher’s Review of Sam Rocha’s Review of The Benedict Option


  1. And just when you think Dreher couldn't get pettier, he directs fire at a couple of commenters who dare challenge him on the "oyster" piece:

    Jeff says:
    April 4, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I thought Sam Rocha made some good points in his review and I was eager to hear your response. I have been considering buying your new book but your response puts me off. To be frank, this is the pettiest response to a book review that I have ever read.

    [NFR: If I tell you that I like piña coladas, will you reconsider? — RD]


    Josh says:
    April 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    It seems my previous comment is still “awaiting moderation.” This shouldn’t be a surprise, as this article shows how mature Mr. Dreher is about criticism of his writing.

    [NFR: Actually, you silly person, I have been on a plane for the past two hours, and am only now in a position to approve comments, of which there have been many. But having seen this remark of yours, I will do you the favor of not approving your previous comment, just because I’m the Mean Mommy. — RD]


    But don't worry, the rest of the trained seals in the comment box got the message and chime in accordingly.

    1. Pik, what many people may be overlooking, fans and critics alike, is this:

      Neither Rod's Benedict Option marketing composition nor its book has to make Christian theological sense, or MacIntyrean sense, or world-practical sense.

      It only has to do two things:

      1. Not be a loss for its publisher and, whether or not it makes its author money, open commensurately profitable career doors for him, and;

      2. Provide a sufficient number of those exchanging their money for it that therapeutic sense of better-being and hopefulness that they were, at bottom, actually seeking.

      In other words, the BO book need only be that steamy good bowl of mac 'n cheese for its consumer's soul in his culturally troubling times.

      Everything else is just...technical and a fraud as cynical as Rod Dreher has known this from day one.

      That's why he's still just a "writer" instead of having bothered to acquire any greater intellectual capital or skills, because, in the end, his bank is on what and how he can make his reader feel, nothing more. That many of his readers may confuse their emotions for new intellectual content he has gifted them with is a feature, not a bug in their relationship.

    2. Neither Rod's Benedict Option marketing composition nor its book has to make Christian theological sense, or MacIntyrean sense, or world-practical sense.

      Which is why any review that takes the BO book to task as not making theological or philosophical sense is easily swatted away as "the petty griping of an academic who is aggrieved that I didn’t write the book he would have written, had anybody cared what he had to say. Look, as a non-academic, I did not write a scholarly book, and could not have done; I wrote a book meant to be accessible to the ordinary reader. This requires some simplification for the sake of storytelling..."

      Of course, the simplification in the case of the BO book is not simplification in the same sense as say, Mozart writing a piece that is genius in its simplicity.

      Rather, this simplification is due to the limitations of its author. That's all he's got -- if not, given the importance of the subject matter ("preserving Christian culture"), you'd think we'd get more than mere stories. Such as a sufficiently clear idea of the BO as to be articulated.

  2. The only question I have is if the review would have been identical if Sam had no linked him to his white power supporters. Or was that just a convenient excuse for Rod to go after Sam in such a petty way?

    1. I believe I linked both Rod's tweet and the Church Militant site piece. While not white power and while Rod demurred, "no, I only meant whatever Church Militant my buyers approve of, whichever Church Militants they are and whatever they believe", it does reveal that Dreher is quite conscious of ambivalently courting anyone who might cross his palm with moola.

      With that in mind, short of black megachurches in big cities, it's reasonable to assume that the black church at large doesn't have the cash to fund 25+ unit book club purchases. So Rod isn't a racist, simply a practical pecuniarist who understands his black church brethren are gonna have to find their own ways through the cultural maze.

  3. I have never seen the Rod man so infuriated, nor his fan club form a front line so quickly.

    Go Sam.
    from, Sec Dem

    1. It's called butthurt, and it happens when someone rips you a new one.

  4. The quality doesn't matter, only the quantity does.

    That Dreher's book is flummery doesn't matter. What only matters is the amount of PR and buzz and commentary that it churns up.

    1. Flummery is such a wonderful word. Are you a fan of Nero Wolfe, perhaps?

  5. Did you read the review of Rod's book from Americans United for Separation? http://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/it-s-time-for-the-religious-right-to-embrace-the-mind-your-own-business

  6. Flummery is good but a more precise term of art for Dreher's book is bullshit.

  7. Jonathan, contrary to the leftist commenter at AU, there seems to be precious little of either the religious right or left per se attached to those devoted to Rod and his book.

    Rather, it's precisely that singular devotion to the man and his particular writing itself that unites his fans and distinguishes them from the broad spectrum of his critics, never more on display than in the comments to Rod's review of Sam Rocha's review: suddenly, they are all anti the "picayune" in history, theology, etc. How dare anyone hold their small-s savior from existential cultural dyspepsia to such cruel standards!

    Rod himself does the classic Animal House "Deltas on Trial" flounce ("Well! You can do what you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you bad-mouth the United States of America!") in his NFR to commenter Traveler:

    [NFR: I seriously was going to renege on my public promise to respond to his review, but when I saw that he slimily called my book white supremacist, I let fly. I’m not interested in his Woke Christian shtick, so I won’t be responding further. — RD]

    neatly saving him from getting bogged down in any intellectual Vietnam.

    Of course, as I have already pointed out with his "Church Militant" tweet and as commenter Daniel Silver also points out:

    “[NFR: Who are these people? I can point out two commenters who might vaguely — very, very vaguely — fit your description, though I wouldn’t say that about them (and I openly criticize their views). Bet you can’t point to more. — RD]”

    Would those two commenters be the ones you gave a platform to by posting block quotes of them in your article “Creating The White Tribe”? That article sent a clear message of support to white supremacist and said that your blog is one where their ideas are welcome. It’s why the #BenedictOption on Twitter has been taken over by white supremacist.

    Dreher has already coyly invited ever possible creature of any bent God has ever created or may ever create into his book-consuming bed, so the proper designation for this enterprise can never be Church Militant or Woke Liberal Protestant or Ancient Orthodox or Siberian Vegetarian or anything at all other than the Rod-centric Word Of Rod.

    Much as the leftists may want to smear the BO as a creation of the Religious Right and the Alt-Rightists dismiss it as so much cuckery, this BO project will forever remain a unique and idiosyncratic discharge from Our Working Boy's valve.

    Sam Rocha is supposed to respond to Rod's review of Sam's review today, so for all outside the Circle of Rod that should prove interesting.

    1. Rather, it's precisely that singular devotion to the man and his particular writing itself that unites his fans and distinguishes them from the broad spectrum of his critics, never more on display than in the comments to Rod's review of Sam Rocha's review: suddenly, they are all anti the "picayune" in history, theology, etc. How dare anyone hold their small-s savior from existential cultural dyspepsia to such cruel standards!

      Well they take their cue fro their leader.

      Rod is all "look the the fancy intellectual books I read, pay attention to your MacIntyre, can't go a week without quoting Philip Rieff or Charles Taylor as an argument from authority" until an academic criticizes him. Then it's just the "aw shucks I'm just a good ol' boy journalist a-writing for the common man being picked on by some egghead" shtick.

      OF course this discussion is over for Rod, it's back to trolling the interwebs for "cultural collapse outrage porn" today; post a link, make a few snarky pop culture comments to show he's still hip and collect that paycheck that allows him to sip Cru Burgundy whilst railing against consumerism.

      I finally figured our working boy out: shallow Christianity plus cultural chicken little-ism; if you crossed Rick Warren with James Howard Kunstler....

      -Anonymous Maximus

    2. I love how historical accuracy is suddenly "picayune."

      I guess "NON-picayune" means getting your facts reasonably right and then building your argument atop the stable foundation of those reasonably correct facts. But what fun would that be?

      Was it Sam Rocha who noted that Rod makes Will Durant look like a master of scholarly depth, breadth, and nuance? Something like that?

    3. No reason why it can't be both "a creation of the Religious Right" and simple, self promotional grifting. The two are not exactly mutually exclusive. And the cult of the personal, great leader is surely something that exists on the Right at least as much as on the left. Rod is a con man working the Right (religious and otherwise, including the Alt right, only some of whom see him as a "cuck") side of the street.

      I do totally agree that Rod likes to have it both ways, when it comes to his (lack of) intellectual chops. He is on the one hand A Very Serious Man, who writes books that are allegedly presenting ways to save the country (Crunchy Cons), to save your life (Little Way, Dante) and now to save Christianity. Big, important books, with monasteries on the cover and everything. But is really, really unfair, so unfair as to warrant a nice long, ad hominem diatribe against you, to complain that he doesn't really know Alasdair MacIntyre from Alistair Cooke, or either one of them from Cookie Monster, when you get right down to it.

      Rod also uses, ad nausium, the "defense" of "well, you wish I had written the book you want rather than the book I wrote," when all the reviewer is saying is that he wished Rod had written a coherent, intelligent book, rather than a piece of garbage. "What, I can't write a piece of garbage if I want to!"

    4. or either one of them from Cookie Monster

      That's Gourmet Cookie Monster to you, bud.

  8. That paragon of Catholic virtue, Erin Manning, offers the following in defense of her girlcrush:

    "I don’t know much about Sam Rocha, but I have heard (through the Catholic blogosphere) that he leans politically liberal. I have no idea if this is true, but if it is, it would explain the rather nitpicky quality to the review."

    So, she doesn't know much about him, but proceeds to construct a straw man based on rumors heard elsewhere, and then begins attacking that. Not what I would expect from the foremost judge of all things Catholic on the blogosphere.

    Meanwhile, Sam Rocha has a defense of Rod against such attacks this morning:


    Rocha also apparently cut off comments on his original review because of the tone of comments from both sides. This seems to have disappointed some of Rod's sycophants.

    1. Oh gosh, what an inane response. How Sam "leans" politically is irrelevant. Does his liberalism so deeply inform his scholarship that it compromises it? For any scholar worth his salt, the answer should be "No."

      Anyway, Erin's response is the Genetic Fallacy on steroids. And what's wrong with picking nits if there are lots of nits to pick? Shouldn't any careful critic pick nits?

    2. Given that she admits she has no idea other than unverified rumors as to how Rocha's politics lean, I think her argument is about as coherent and sensible as an octopus with a harmonica. To call it the genetic fallacy on steroids is generous to her argument and insulting to legitimate genetic fallacies.

  9. Was anyone else struck by the fact that Rod went out of his way to describe Rocha as "photogenic"? Huh?

    1. One thing it shows is that Dreher's gone Full Trump: Rocha attacked Dreher's work substantively, and in return he got personal attacks, attacks on his professional stature("never heard of [him]", and a Trumpian "failed" in the title), and even comments on his looks ala Heidi Cruz.

    2. Perhaps some same sex attraction on the part of Drerod is manifesting itself :)

    3. From a certain point of view, Drehod's whole career is nothing more than a big, fat, throbbing manifestation of same sex attraction. Absolutely nobody is more interested in men who have sex with men than Rod Dreher.

    4. I am waiting for the Grinder profile to be unearthed or one of the rent boys of New Orleans to spill the beans. His obsession with homosexuality is so telling.

    5. Gay people do have a certain allure for him..He follows Met Jonah down the pink rabbit hole.

  10. Oh my gosh. I'm not familiar with Mary Pizzulo, but she's goooooood. And she writes a hell of a lot better than Dreher, too.

    A review of a review indeed. Who else does this kind of thing? Well, maybe Dryden and Pope, but they were good at it. And smart enough not to make it petty and personal.

  11. I thought Rod Dreher’s response to Sam Rocha was very sad insofar as it reveals the true ‘averageness’, aka mediocrity, behind his successful-to-date drive to see himself, and be seen by others as a figure of historic proportions.

    While I may find Dreher’s response sad, I find the unified front of his readers disgusting. It is always the people around any public figure that makes their negative contributions possible. This is not true of people of positive regard, work and vision. Such a person stands on their own, independently of the reactions of others.

    I recognized Rocha’s review as above my pay grade. Any religion, of real contribution, has a long history of scholarship. Some people are versed in that scholarship and are not religious, some people are religious and are not versed in scholarship, some people are both. I am neither. But I recognize quality when I see it. Rocha’s grounding in Church history does not make his review “true”. It means that it can really only be addressed or discussed by someone with the vocabulary.

    Dreher speaks contemptuously of that strain of liberalism he calls “Moral Therapeutic Deist”. He then, without bothering to learn Italian, wrote a book that might as well have been called “Dante, the Moral Therapeutic Deist Edition”.

    He describes liberals as being condescending to the “average Joe”. (The opposite of his other generic for liberals, the “elites”. ) I do know some liberals who are, and some who are not. But Rod’s response to any erudite criticism of his Dumbed Down Dante Diatribe, and his recent “Look at Me, I’m a Prophet” treatise, is the following; “well I wrote this for the average reader”. That perspective, is disguised condescension to same “average Joeness” demographic. It is not the words themselves which constitute condescension, because those could be expressed with a shoulder shrug, it is the defensive, enraged belittling language he uses, and the totally unnecessary length in his obsessive responses. His inability to accept someone else’s ideas with simple admiration and awe, demonstrates the Totalitarian nature of small religious enclosed communities, which he denies the BenOp would be.

    All of the mildly challenging readers disappeared after his recent attack on Rocha. Of note was the boorish response of Siarlys Jenkins, the pen name of a long time reader who gets most of his otherwise long responses out of Lexus Nexus, and Charles Cosimano, a Troll who has been deified by Rod Dreher, and other than seeking to normalize BDSM by constantly bragging about his role play in dungeons will likely leave no mark on the world.

    I have a news flash for you Rod. You are not a Police Captain pleading with the Mayor about the impact of loss of funding on supplies, staff and equipment. You are a person who makes your living off of tabloid stories, with a very developed imagination, and are enthused or angry because others do or do not understand your ideas to your satisfaction.

    I think you should have called your book “I Didn’t join the Bruderhof Because Somebody Else Would be In Charge and It Wouldn’t be Fun.”

    Sec Dem

    1. Oh bravo!!! So many incisive points. So many nuggets of wisdom. Not to mention the clever chuckles. Hope you stick around, Sec Dem.

    2. Yes, thanks, SecDem.

      You wrote:

      This is not true of people of positive regard, work and vision. Such a person stands on their own, independently of the reactions of others.

      I recognized Rocha’s review as above my pay grade.... Rocha’s grounding in Church history does not make his review “true”. It means that it can really only be addressed or discussed by someone with the vocabulary.

      Great point. When I read that, it occurred to me that Dreher's response to Rocha is a "tell" that the BO is not a serious effort toward addressing our sick culture -- else its proponent would use criticism of the book as a starting point for dialogue (e.g., "What am I missing?", "How can I say it better?", "Consider ____, does that address your concern?", etc. All directed to improving the effectiveness of the idea.

      Nope. Figuratively speaking, Dreher would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven, so criticism gets the "That's not what it means!" treatment (at best) or the Rocha treatment (at worst). Which makes obvious that the BO is all about Dreher -- the book has to be the definitive statement, no matter what.

    3. Excellent, SecDem and pik.

      Another "tell" is what I may have found the most cringe-inducing section in all of Rod's rant against Sam (though it's hard to pick just one "winning" cringe-inducer from that steaming pile). That is Rod's childish "nyah-nyah" accusing Sam of being envious of Rod's book sales. As the kids say, I just can't even. So, Rod's deluded enough to think a scholar like Sam would want those kind of sales at the cost of all his scholarly integrity; and he reveals that book sales and commercial success for himself are what's at the center of his project. Even if the money isn't the most important thing for Rod, the caustic pride and contempt he shows are fantastically damaging and more than enough to warn the thoughtful reader away.

      As you and others have said, Rod's contempt for critics pointing out serious flaws in the book's coherence and logic, absence of evidence for mere assertions, and just flaming ludicrous ignorance of history pertinent to its claims, is beyond sad. It's insulting, really, to the "regular folks" Rod claims to be writing for. It contributes to all kinds of trouble and confusion for these very readers. But it makes Rod money, so that's that.

      - Another Anon

    4. I've been thinking along the same lines. If this is so important, Rod would write another book, with the words "Benedict Option" only appearing in the first sentence of the introduction. No Macintyre, no monasteries, no potted histories, no hysteria. Just... well, whatever is actually left.

  12. The issues identified by Professor Rocha really derive from the fact that Rod is a journalist. He wrote a journalistic book replete with anecdotes but light on substance. As a social scientist myself I have to say that Rod is clearly NOT a sociologist, psychologist, or anthropologist. In his writing he makes a plethora of fundamental errors in fact and logic that no serious scholar would make. This is a function of his limited education and his profession. Journalistic writing and academic writing are entirely different things. But if the BO is as important as Dreher says it is then it deserved more careful attention to the basics of presenting a logical argument. The problem with Drehrod is that his biases always creep into his writing and he lacks the self reflection and critical thinking skills to understand the limitations of what he is trying to accomplish. For Drehrod the apocalypse is always nigh. Consequently he projects his biases back into history and makes fundamental errors. For example, Ostrogothic Italy actually was enjoying an Indcian Summer of peace and prosperity after the Empire ended in the West. The full infrastructure of Roman civilization was fully preserved. The roads bridges and aqueducts functioned, trade increased and the people of Italy enjoyed safety and security. The OStrogoths provided Italy with far better government than the late Empire. Rod's misinterpretation of these historical facts is the result of either shoddy scholarship or bias ... or both. His tendency tgo engage in errors of logic only compounds his errors in facts. The result is slipshod writing that almost appears to be deceptive... like the work of a con man

    1. So well said. Rod's sloppy methods are an insult to the popular audience for whom he claims to write.

      Another Anon

    2. The historical inaccuracy is infuriating. Literally NO contemporary historians buy into a "Dark Ages" narrative. The stress now, as mentioned above, is on the continuity of Roman law, institutions, society and infrastructure throughout the former Western Empire. The so called "barbarians" had in fact been in contact with the Roman world for centuries, and in their successor kingdoms they actually changed very little, other than setting up separate courts.
      Rod, on the other hand, is so far out of it as to claim that when the Western Empire fell, people "forgot how to farm!"

      And, of course, Christianity had been the official religion of the empire for quite a long time before Benedict's time. So Rod's little tale of sexually libertine, "pagan" Rome is off by centuries. (And, as an aside, one might wonder if such tales re Tiberius, Caligula, Nero and so on were not blown out of proportion by writers with axes to grind against the Imperial family. Moreover, no real historian would think that these excesses EVER represented standard practice in Roman society outside of Imperial and perhaps some aristocratic circles.) Add to that the fact that Christianity was a burgeoning, expanding, thriving religion during Benedict's time. Far from being retreats (even of a tactical nature), monasteries were training grounds for missionaries. Christianity was not only the official religion of all the former Roman lands, but it was spreading out in literally every direction. And, of course, the so called "barbarians" were themselves already mostly Christian.

      There is simply no correspondence, whatsoever, between Benedict and Rod, Benedict's time and our own, and the order that Benedict founded and whatever a BenOp community might be, or the Church in Benedict's time and that in our own time.

      The line was a throw-away one in McIntyre. A piffle. And Rod has clung to it like a dog to a bone. Because without it, without McIntyre and Benedict, what does he have? A half-baked "Dreher Option." The patina of historicity and philosophy and institution building that Mac and Ben give Rod are totally false, and his invocation of them false and opportunistic.

    3. So well said, Anonymous. And yes, that Dark Ages stuff should have been the instant tip-off that Dreher had not made the slightest attempt to consult serious contemporary historical scholarship. Thank you.

  13. There's also the utter HUBRIS of thinking you can master all of Western history by reading a couple of books or articles or Wikipedia entries or whatever...and then proceeding to present this incredibly simplistic (not to mention wildly inaccurate) schematic to 'Splain It All.

    It took my husband seven years to complete his doctorate in history, and at the end of those seven years he never would have presumed to claim that he had it all figured out OR that he could provide a schematic overview showing Exactly Where It All Went Wrong.

    History is huge, complicated, and messy. At the same time, the historian's craft is actually quite modest and limited. Real historians know their limitations. Dreher does not know his. He NEVER should have tried to make his case by presenting a Grand Historical Overview. Not without at least consulting some actual, bona fide historians. Even then, he should have trodden very lightly. If you are going to base your claims on the historical record -- or use that record to buttress your grandiose claims -- at least have some remote idea what you're talking about.

    1. Keith, I read the article...thank you! I'm not sure I'd characterize Rod as "low ability," though. I think he's an intelligent guy. If he really devoted himself to studying history (or Dante or whatever), then presumably he would have a more nuanced, informed view of those subjects. I think he's just too lazy, sloppy, and hubristic to bother. Cheap, facile over-generalizing is so much easier. And more rhetorically effective. Especially when his audience is just as ignorant as he is.

      Stupidity may not be curable, but ignorance definitely is. However, you have to actually want to be cured.

    2. Sounds like Dreher's history work is the social science equivalent of what we in engineering school called "dry lab" (or what today is "climate science"): you start with the conclusion you want to prove, and then work backward to gather the data to support it.

    3. f anyone has ever rad Dreher's essay on the history of christian marriage you will see the pattern quite clearly. Rod took post Trent catholic theology regarding marriage and wrote about it as if the Church always and everywhere held to that theology. The result is a theological treatise posing as history. Realy shoddy work and very deceptive.

    4. And nothing says HUBRIS quite as much as opening up a vanity Greek Orthodox "mission" in the heart of rural Louisiana! In probably the most "churched" place in America, where people think nothing of asking strangers where they go to worship on Sundays, because almost everybody does, Rod, in his wisdom, acted as if his Wendell Barry "place" du jour was overrun with "heathens." If folks in LA wanted a liturgical church, they had only to go to the local RC parish, of which there is no shortage. But, no, they were going to flock to Rod's boutique variety of Greek Orthodoxy, even though they aren't Greek, and even though they are either already Catholic (and hence liturgical) or define themselves in opposition to that kind of worship (ie Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, etc).

    5. Sorry, Anon at 8:56, but Rod goes to an OCA Church. But this too is telling. Why go to a non-ethnic mission church when a greek one is right there? BenOP, baby. He doesn't think the Greeks can do it, His heart was overjoyed when he got to join a ROCOR parish because in American Orthodoxy they are seen as the most serious/traditional. What's seen as the least serious? You guessed it: the Greeks. Which is why he does not go to their parish. This is the very definition of boutique religion. Two Orthodox Churches in Baton Rouge, both of which are under-attended. Sad. But since the BenOp is a consciously constructed community, well, the Greeks just aren't following the blueprint. HIs joining mission churches really ought to be a pathological tell. I have to imagine he wants to be able to shape them in his BenOp image (please note that his Baptismal name is Benedict--the new Benedict we've been waiting for?).

    6. I thought Rod's St Francisville mission was ROCOR?? I thought he left the OCA after the whole Muzhik dust-up? Is he back with the OCA? I thought he'd burned too many bridges with them?

      Well, whether he's OCA or ROCOR, Anon's point is still well taken. He's living in one of the most religious places in America, yet he thinks he has the key to "thickened" Christianity because, of course, all his Christian neighbors are pew-warmers

    7. ...and benighted heathens compared with the spiritually enlightened Staretz Rod-Muzhik. :)

      (Pressed "publish" too soon, lol.)

    8. DreRod founded a ROCOR parish in St Francisville which folded much to his surprise because nobody joined. The poor priest who was snookered has moved to Washington state. Drerod is not welcomed in the OCA.

  14. More historical criticism

    Back when I began to understand that Rod Dreher and Vox Day were basically the identical, fraudulent demagogic type, merely pushing different "product" as it were, I mockingly referred offhandedly to Dreher's BO as "Alt-Christianity".

    But essentially, regardless of what Dreher's rapt consumers think they're buy, that seems to be more and more what he's selling, an alt-historical, alt-theological, alt-sociological, alt-political, alt-possible Alt-Christianity.

    1. I've wondered since I first heard that Rod was going to Norcia: Why is Rod going to Norcia? Because

      a) that's where St. Benedict was *from*, which is to say Norcia is what he *withdrew from* in order to do his thing at Monte Cassino;

      b) the current monastery at Norcia was founded in 1998 -- and now I learn it was founded by Americans -- which means my suburban DC parish has a Christian community tradition that is three times older;

      c) Rod's whole claim to intellectualism rests on the Macintyre quotation, which PREDICTS A VERY DIFFERENT SAINT BENEDICT, and I assumed for years that Rod understood what "different" means.

      Just now, though, I went to the monastery website, and read this, about the years after 1810, when the previous monastery in the town was closed:

      "Since the loss of the monks, the town of Norcia grew less in fame for their saints and more for their culinary delights -- truffles, wild boar, and pecorino cheese."


    2. "An Evening with Rod Dreher" (promoting his Benedict Option) - and beer!

      "Copies of The Benedict Option will be available for purchase at the event."

      A very different Benedict, indeed.

    3. That's quite the event that Dreher is headlining. $250/plate, $10k/table. Seriously, God bless the Monks of Norcia, and all hopes for successful fund-raising on their part.

      But for Dreher to be peddling his "strategic withdrawal" jive at one of the fines and most expensive restaurants in Dallas is a big disconnect, if the BO is to be taken seriously, that is. If strategic withdrawal from the culture means dropping into the Mansion once in awhile, then sign me up.

      OTOH, maybe this kind of strategic withdrawal is more similar to the communes in the '70s where the rich college kids "dropped out" so they could "share the land" -- until the novelty wore off, of course, and they could return back to the good, well-funded life. (Ask the kids at the time who grew up on a farm about the glamour of living off the land...) If this is the case, then the BO might just be a prime option for a trendy sabbatical option by the already successful -- "drop out" for a year while still eating fine food and enjoying quality drink, and then feel good about yourself for "preserving Christian culture" in the meanwhile.

      Whatever moves the Ovaltine, I guess.

    4. One of the critical reviews of Rod's current book linked to an article that pointed out that the whole back-to-the-land movement has always been a rich, or at least middle class, white guy's game. Even Thoreau, when he was finished at Walden Pond, moved right back into Emerson's house, and soon after into a lovely colonial on Main Street.

    5. Thoreau's mom made him dinner and did his laundry for him while he lived at the pond!

      Similarly, I see Rod jet setting to Paris and Norcia, wining and beering and dining in style, while all the while preaching the importance of folks staying at home in some
      "thick," dreary, dreadful, narrow minded, close minded, claustrophobic little BenOp "community." BenOp craphole for thee, the world is my oyster for me.

  15. A question, though: Do you all think that Rod is conscious of the incoherence of his strategy for Christians in a post-Christian nation, of the shallowness and shoddiness of the research he presents, and of the contradictions between what he advises and how he lives?

    My guess is, more than not, no. He reasons with his amygdala. What makes him feel good *is* good, what makes him feel bad *is* bad.

    1. I used to think he got high on his own supply. But now I think he knows he's a grifter.

  16. Sam Rocha's latest response to Rod is up.

    "By Their Fruits: A Reply to Rod Dreher"


    In which Sam gets serious and holds Rod to account.

    -Another Anon

    1. Through the iris at a thousand yards:

      "Here is an insecure man selling his internal condition wholesale to other insecure Christians."

      In the end, though, the demagogue is only as strong as his mob. The fault with the BO isn't Dreher's alone by a long shot but rather overwhelmingly that of the Dreherians who support it and, far worst, those who only pretend to cynically for their own transient personal gain.

  17. There is a funny story making the rounds about Drerod when he belonged to St Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. The Cathedral is in the middle of Highland Park which is the "gay" neighborhood and the Cathedral has a large gay membership with gay clergy as well with a " Don't ask Don't tell " truce which seems to work for everyone there. Drerod shows up and starts bitching as we know he does so well and a BaBa { grandmother type} takes him aside and tells him to shut the f--k up. " They were here long before you and will be here long after you are gone". Drerod cannot stomach ambiguity and there is the crux of his meanness and cruelty.

    1. Yikes. And this is the same DreRod who went on and on about the Catholic "Lavender Mafia," which was supposedly such a scary threat to his kids??

      What a difference a beard makes. And no, I'm not referring to Mrs Dreher.

    2. Ba-dump-bump!

  18. Ok, can someone post something? The silence is driving me nuts, lol! Let's get back up to another 98 comments! ;)

  19. Rebecca Bratten Weiss (linked to by Rocha):

    "And there are other problems: when you try to come Out (or In?), whatever you feared in the World comes in with you, into your microcosm. It’s ironic that my father’s first community was called “New Eden.” Into every Eden, a serpent will come. We tend to bring it in with us. Want to escape from overweening tyrannical power? Too bad, you probably brought it with you, and you will find the community dominated by whichever leader (usually male) has the loudest voice and the least empathy. Want to escape from sexual perversion? Ha. Have I got some stories! It’s amazing just how perverse people can be, on the land, when no one is looking. Want to escape from a welfare system in which those who don’t work won’t eat? I can assure you, you will be shelling beans or building a cabin while nearby some hanger-on rambles on forever about how misunderstood he is. Tired of nitpicking bureaucracy? Your community will be filled with nitpickers, happy to call you out if your daughters’ skirts are too short, or if your sons have been listening to evil music like (gasp) Simon and Garfunkel.

    "Communities like this tend to attract those who are unable to get along in the ordinary world, and whatever it was that made them unable to get along, they will bring in with them."

    The last point seems to be the most salient re Rod and his BO. Rod can never fit in, and can never follow the rules. He would bring that with him into any intentional community. He basically had to found his own church, because no existing one is good enough for him! He doesn't fit in in East Podunk, or the big city, or his own family. He would bring that same problem with him. As would the other Optionists. They are, like Rod, all would-be chiefs, and no Indians.

    More from Weiss:

    "But the main thing I want to touch on, here, is why the idea of radical separation into intentional community is delusional from the start. And that has to do with money.
    Money creates systemic dependence. That’s why agrarianism is a needed component in any marginally successful effort..."

    Of course. Without a material basis, the whole thing is play acting. You can't work for Dow Chemical all day, and then pretend you are a monk or a Pilgrim at night. Or, rather, you can, but it is stupid.

    As for the agrarianism, good luck with that! Being a subsistence farmer is a lousy lot in life. Real subsistence farmers dump that lifestyle as soon as they are able. Being cold, hungry and sick, and not having access to warmth, food and medical care is not a good thing. And nobody in their right mind wants it. But those conditions, and worse, are very real possibilities for truly agrarian intentional communities.

    Otherwise, again, it is playacting. Thoreau at Walden going in to Concord to have dinner at his Mom's or over at Ralph Waldo's when he got tired of his beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner diet!

    1. Thomas Merton once wrote that anyone running off to the desert who isn't called there by God will find himself alone, with his demons. Even the ones who were called by God had demons enough.

      But I don't think we need to worry about how Rod would fare in an isolated, intentional community. He'll no more join one than follow his own advice to homeschool his own kids. He can't quite untangle emotional security and eternal salvation, but he's not stupid.