Rod Dreher and The Christian Resistance Part 1.
Rod Dreher came to my home in Normandy this summer in part to talk about the writing of his coming book. We talked intensely long into the morning. My own awakening to the dangers of the coming ‘Woke’ took place in about 2005. I was working at one of our more radical red brick universities and I got glimpse of the forces that were evolving in opposition totraditional orthodox Christianity, free speech and free thought.
University culture was about 5-10 years ahead of life outside the academy. I had adopted the reasonably cool, inclusive and then slightly chic, liberal pro-LGBT social agenda. I thought this new approach was justified as a way of building a drawbridge across the moat of Christian history. A history which had, on one reading, disadvantaged the sexually heterodox; a moat that would allow for a radically new approach to a new sexualised anthropology that my colleagues and students had not only adopted but made a primary virtue. A bridge across a moat that I mistakenly thought might help them become Christian. I had forgotten that it is a mistake to meet the devil half way. But then I didn’t know what I was dealing with at the time.
However, this liberal approach depended on two things in particular; firstly that understanding ourselves as primarily defined by our sexual and romantic longings was reasonable and could have good outcomes; and the Christian tradition had been mistaken in its apprehensiveness towards sex and the body.
Finding the corner of the carpet on the reality of living out the pro-LGBT culture lifted from time to time, I began to becomedisillusioned, and then grew to be alarmed. “Why doesn’t the press write about ‘these realities’ ” I asked one of my best lesbian academic friends as I asked her about the veracity of Scandinavian research detailing the dramatic levels of violence between lesbian couples? “It’s in nobody’s interest to tell the graphic truth” she replied.
The ‘good outcomes’ were turning out to be quite the opposite (apart from the interests of the fiercely effective LGBT propaganda movement).
And then there was the issue of whether the Church has been mistaken. Far from being mistaken, I began to think that the Church’s reservations about the power and consequences of the sexual appetite were entirely appropriate.
Rod Dreher’s response to the ubiquity of porn on the internet and the totalitarian and aggressive ambitions of the LGBT+ movement led him to write his book ‘The Benedict Option.’
Too many critics who had not read his careful argument, leapt to conclusions that Rod had slipped into defeatist and escapistapocalypticism.
But others had argued the same, including the powerful and incisive Alasdair McIntyre. In his book ‘After Virtue’ he had argued that
“continued full participation in mainstream society [is] not possible for those who [want] to live a life of traditional virtue.”
Rod Dreher’s analysis was that although we have grown so accustomed to the idea that our political and cultural milieu will accommodate us and even succumb to us if we can find the courage and the energy to make our cogent arguments in the public space, it will not.
The moment is already gone. We are passed the point of no return. The political, philosophical and perhaps most importantly, spiritual energies that are set against us and have long set out to encompass the downfall of what remains of Christendom, have triumphed. However we try to describe the particularities and practicalities of the malignant alchemy that has overcome us, it’s a done deal.
This is undoubtedly linked to Benedict the 16th’ s perception as Cardinal Ratzinger, made presciently during the 1970’s, that the Church was going to suffer a catastrophic diminution on terms of its numbers, size and influence, and become both diminished, shriven and purified.
In the Benedict Option, Dreher suggests that our response to this catastrophic reversal of cultural and political power should result in our no longer wasting our energies seeking power to reclaim, but instead re-channel them to achieve a degree of Christian integrity in our own communities; enclaves of orthodox Christianity.
That in itself suggested to his critics a degree of escapism. But even since they made this misjudgement the speed of cultural and political change has escalated further.
In his second book, ‘Live not by Lies’, he responds directly to the perception of those who fled Communism, 1.0 behind the Iron Curtain, to their horror in discovering that what they had fled from had infiltrated the West. Whether you describe it as a political movement, a Geist, a malignant anti-Christian spirit (it always attacks the Church first), a utopian mal-formed idealism, it has not so much marched as cantered or galloped it way through institutions and is barring them to those who will not make the requisite supine act of ideological submission. The levers of power completely within its censoring grasp.
“A progressive—and profoundly anti-Christian militancy—is steadily overtaking society; one described by Pope Benedict XVI as a “worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanistic ideologies” that pushes dissenters to the margins. Benedict called this a manifestation of “the spiritual power of the Antichrist.” This spiritual power takes material form in government and private institutions, in corporations, in academia and media, and in the changing practices of everyday.. life. It is empowered by unprecedented technological capabilities to surveil private life. There is virtually nowhere to hide.”
It is a soft totalitarianism we face rather than the hard version of the Soviet Union, but that is what makes it more difficult torespond to.
If Christians are to be excluded from a society built on Marxism 2.0 (cultural) as they were under 1.0 (economic), what is left to us as a response?
Informed by our Christian integrity Dreher’s answer is to turn to Solzhenitsyn who wrote a seminal paper on a form of civil disobedience summed up as “Live not by Lies”
It is worth reading some of Solzhenitsyn’s own words as he set out to constitute a resistance to the crushing power of the state:
“And from that day onward he:
will not sign, write or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth;
will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation nor in public, neither on his own behalf nor at the prompting of someone else, neither in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, nor as an actor;
will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea in which he can see
a distortion of the truth, whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science or music;
will not cite out of context, either orally or in writing, asingle quotation to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does notcompletely share the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter a tissue;
will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations and meetings if they are contrary to hisdesire;
will immediately walk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda
will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.”
Is it enough to pursue this resistance of non-compliance? Much will depend on the diagnosis of what underlies the situation we are in. And it is this that Rod Dreher is writing about in his coming book, and I will offer some thoughts to in a following article.