Rod Dreher

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Hating Little England

Alresford, Hampshire, England: Whyman's Inferno (Peter Sterling / Shutterstock.com)
Alresford, Hampshire, England: Whyman's Inferno (Peter Sterling / Shutterstock.com)

Tim Whyman is a piece of work. Behold, the rage of a 27-year-old who hates the little people of his hometown, especially because they voted to leave the EU. Excerpts:

We are not used to thinking that a place like this — a pleasant town with a pretty center — might actually be hell. There is almost no poverty and only the occasional act of violence. There are good schools, a range of shops, a heritage railway. In fact, it’s somewhere that a lot of people, apparently, actively want to live: Houses in the center easily sell for upward of a million pounds. (What they will cost once the vote to leave the European Union makes the economy crater remains to be seen.)

But dig below the surface, and you will find the demons crawling. You can see them in the looks that residents give you when they pass; sneering snobs glaring down their noses with entitlement; small-minded townies, bullying you with eyes that you recognize from the primary school lunchroom; the old people, 80 and above, wearing blank stares. You can hear it in their bothered tutting at the bus stop (especially if they ever hear a visitor mispronouncing the name of the town), the shots that constantly ring out from across the countryside as they set about murdering as many of the local pheasants as they can.

Hell, I tell you! An air-conditioned nightmare! More:

And it is impossible to leave Alresford, because Alresford is not just a place: It is an ideology that infects your very soul. Let’s call it “Alresfordism.” It is an ideology of smallness, of contraction, of wanting to curl up in our own personal, financially secure hole and will everything amusing or interesting or exciting in the world away.

Since my late teens, every effort I have ever exerted has been with the intention of escaping Alresford. And yet, I am an early-career academic and so I am forced to move back, every summer, to live with my parents because I cannot afford to pay rent elsewhere after my temporary teaching contract ends. Then, sometimes, I think: What if I’m actually secretly comfortable here? What if I have chosen the security of death in Alresford over the risks of life elsewhere? What if I am in fact fully in the clutches of Alresfordism?

Oh, the humanity. I think we can all agree that Alresford doesn’t deserve the provincially cosmopolitan young Tim Whyman.

Read the whole thing.  Marvel at the snobbery, the spite, the total lack of self-awareness of this guy.

 

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Brexit Derangement Syndrome

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Some of the losers in this week’s Brexit vote are fighting the power from their artisanal mudpits at the Glastonbury Festival. A British reader sends this photo taken on premises, and adds:

The rage, angst, and gnashing of teeth over here is quite extraordinary. The attacks on white working class people and the elderly by self-described progressive revolutionaries for not listening to multinational neoliberal bureaucracies and corporations is particularly interesting.

Brexit Derangement Syndrome.

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View From Your Table

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

The book is review copy of The Attention Merchants, a terrific history of advertising, and how it divides and conquers our attention. Author is Tim Wu. Out in October — pre-order it here.

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Maui Said Hey

Photo by Rod Dreher

Photo by Rod Dreher

It was a good week, but now it’s homeward bound. Will tell you all about it on Monday. I could not figure out how to get the insides of this thing into a blender with rum and ice. Since my undergraduate days, I have lost my grip.

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Mecca & Geneva

This is not tragedy, it’s farce:

“Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad,” and so went the prayer offered up by Wajidi Said, from the Portland Muslim Community, as part of the “first order of business” during the opening plenary session of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Don’t believe it? Here’s the video from the PCUSA. The Islamic prayer begins at 14:04.

It’s a beautiful prayer, but it denies the divinity of Jesus, calling him a “prophet.” This is orthodox Muslim teaching, and quite right for a Muslim to profess in public. But why are Christians, in an explicitly Christian assembly, allowing this?

Well, this is the same church body that embraced same-sex marriage a couple of years ago. This has done nothing to arrest the PCUSA’s collapse. The denomination’s own figures project a loss of 400,000 more members by 2020. If this bears out, the PCUSA will have gone from 2.5 million members to 1.2 million in just 20 years. That’s over half their people! And it will have gone from 4.3 million in 1965 (it’s high point) to 1.2 million in half a century — a loss of nearly 75 percent of its membership in less than a single lifetime. (See here for figures.)

By the way, Pew reckons that there are two to three times more Muslims in the US than members of the PC(USA). So maybe having an imam come pray to Allah at their annual powwow is the liberal Presbyterians’ way of betting on the future.

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The World To Come

Two items that have flopped over my transom in the past day.

1. I heard from someone who works in the public school system in a major American city. She says that in the past five years, she has noticed an incredible change coming over the high schoolers. “I have watched genders flow into each other,” she says.

She talked about one teenage girl in particular who approached her and asked, “Remember me?” She did not. It turns out the girl was in fact a boy. She asked him to tell her his story. It started with the fact that his father never understood him, and proceeded from there.

The woman says that this kind of thing was all but invisible five years ago, but is now much more common. “The school counselors are pushing it,” she said. “It’s unbelievable, and I don’t know where it ends.”

2. Another reader, N., an older Millennial, e-mails to talk about a disturbing trend among N.’s urban elite friends. N. sent me text from one of them, someone nationally known, with no small amount of influence. N. has known him for a long time. He had put this out on Facebook among his wide circle of friends, but the reader asked me not to quote from it. N. is not sure how public he intended it to be, and just wanted me to see the kind of thinking that is becoming common in N.’s circles (thinking that N. rejects). N. gave me permission to summarize it. I will call its author X. I’ve slightly edited what’s below to protect privacy.

X’s post laments Brexit, pointing in particular to the fact that the young overwhelmingly voted to Remain, and the old voted overwhelmingly to leave. X. said this shows that democracy does not work well when old people have to vote. The old have been on the wrong side of every civil rights issue, and we should start considering taking away their vote after a certain age. There is in the post a barely-concealed sense that after a certain age, life is not worth living, and should not be tolerated by the young.

Says the reader who sent this to me:

Seeing the shocking number of people who liked this, the people who shared this, I know this is going to spread. And it worries me. Euthanasia, trans-everything: the internet takes radical ideas and mainstreams the unthinkable.

Again, I know the identity of X. He is very far from a nobody on the Internet. N. says that over the years, N. has come to rely on X as a bellwether for social trends. Says N., “When I start seeing a theme in his writing, I know within months I’ll start seeing it pop up everywhere.”

N. goes on:

[X.] has the ear of writers, tv show creators, government employees, journalists, and other creatives. There is a distinct group for whom his word is gospel. His ideas catch and spread, and it terrifies me. It’s SJW McCarthyism with the technocratic veneer of respectability.

On the other hand, earlier today, I heard a terrific speech by Russell Moore, given to a large Christian group at a private gathering. He talked about the radical importance of immersing ourselves in Scripture and discipleship, to prepare for the world we are living in and the world to come. He talked about how faithful orthodox Christians must prepare ourselves to suffer, and to suffer joyfully. It was a sobering, prophetic address, and incredibly inspiring in both its hopefulness and its realism (as opposed to false optimism). I will try to find him and ask him if I can quote it in this space.

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Britain, The Most Important Immigrant

Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, likely the next British PM (Stuart Boulton / Shutterstock.com)
Leave campaigner Boris Johnson, likely the next British PM (Stuart Boulton / Shutterstock.com)

David Frum says the UK voted to exit the European Union over mass immigration, making itself the world’s most consequential immigrant. Excerpt:

If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany—and then all Europe—to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come. Merkel’s catastrophically negative example is one that perhaps should be avoided by U.S. politicians who seek to avert Trump-style populism in the United States. Instead, the politician who most directly opposes Donald Trump—presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—is doubling down on Merkelism.

Hillary Clinton’s first reaction to the Supreme Court decision on executive amnesty looks at the issue exclusively and entirely from the point of view of the migrants themselves: “Today’s heartbreaking #SCOTUS immigration ruling could tear apart 5 million families facing deportation. We must do better.” That U.S. citizens might have different interests—and that it is the interests of citizens that deserve the highest attention of officials elected by those citizens—went unsaid and apparently unconsidered. But somebody is considering it. And those somebodies, in their many millions, are being heard from this year: loud, clear, and angry.

That’s interesting, and makes me fantasize about taking a Brexit in my own country. More and more it feels like the people running the US — not just the politicians, but the corporate, media, and academic elites too — promote alien values, in the name of Progress — and are determined to impose them on everyone, no matter what the cost. And they’re ruining the country.

There can be no political and economic Brexiting of America, but to Brexit in one’s heart is not nothing.

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Britain Brexits. Good

Nigel Farage: 'HA ha!' (Twocoms / Shutterstock.com)
Nigel Farage: 'HA ha!' (Twocoms / Shutterstock.com)

The Leave campaign has won. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. Good.

To be honest, I have not had a strong feeling about Brexit, though I had generally hoped that the Leave side would win. This, simply because a Leave victory would be a strong repudiation of the elites, and in particular the unaccountable internationalists in Brussels. As I type this, I’m watching a British political analyst on CNN describe this as a stunning discrediting of the experts, all of whom thought Remain would win. Christiane Amanpour has been kind of losing it. I love this tweet:

This is a staggering judgment on the arrogance of the international political, economic, and media elites in general, and of the Eurocrats in Brussels in particular. Here’s Tim Stanley, writing in the Telegraph:

It’s impossible to overstate how remarkable this victory is. Twenty years ago, Euroscepticism was a backbench Tory rebellion and a political cult. It was a dispute located firmly on the Right with little appeal to Labour voters. It took Ukip to drag it into the centre of political life – given momentum by the issue of immigration – and slowly it has emerged as a lightning rod for anti-establishment activism.

Stanley points out that in 1975, the Brits voted to stay in the Common Market. More:

But this time the establishment consensus coincided with a historic loss of faith in the experts. These were the people who failed to predict the Credit Crunch, who missed the greatest economic disaster to hit us since the Great Depression. And we were supposed to believe them? Slowly the consensus came to resemble not just a conspiracy but, worse, a confederacy of dunces.

Ignatius Reilly wins! And look:

Dutch anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders called for a referendum on the Netherlands’ membership in the EU following the British result.

“We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy,” he said in a statement.

Well, why not?

I’ve just watched Christiane Amanpour very nearly spontaneously combust, going into a gran mal Anderson Cooper rage while interviewing UKIP politician Ray Finch. Finch kept his cool. Had he been on for a minute more, she would have blamed Orlando on Nigel Farage.

O Fortuna, truly you have spun the wheel justly this time…

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Tradition, Technology, Modernity

From an interview in Spiked Online with the prominent French philosopher of religion Rémi Brague:

review: Given your emphasis on the creative role of tradition, on a perpetual return to and re-interpretation of prior sources, in the development of Europe, has the advent of modernity, with its emphasis on freeing man of his dependence on tradition, on external sources of authority, affected the development of Europe?

Brague: My hunch is that it has. But let me first distinguish between modernity, or modern times, and what I call the ‘modern project’. Firstly, modern times represent a period in history carved by historians out of the continuous flow of events. But, even as such, there is more to it: ‘Modern’ no longer means what happens to have taken place nearer to the present time. Our own use of the word suggests that what is new is worth more than what came before. Claiming to be ‘modern’ means: we live in a better time than the benighted Middle Ages. As a historical period, modernity has brought about the better and the worse, in all realms. This is a feature that it shares with each and every period of history that we know of.

Freeing oneself is a difficult but noble task. But it is strange that tradition should be perceived as weighing on us like a burden that we should cast off and, in the first place, as something external to us. Tradition is what gives us to ourselves. The very vehicle of thought and freedom, language, is handed over to us by tradition.

This is an important point with regard to the way the technological mindset that forms people raised in our culture. We have this assumption we make without being aware of it that things keep improving, that progress is in the nature of things. We think constantly of how technology improves our lives — because very often it does! — but we almost never think of what particular technological developments take away from us.

The late Neil Postman wrote about this in his 1993 book Technopoly. His book is definitely not anti-technology, but insists that we should be critical of technology, in the sense that we should not accept it unthinkingly. Technology rarely gives without taking something away. The same is true of modernity.

Read the whole interview with Brague. He speaks of how contemporary, post-Christian Europe is parasitical on Europe’s Christian past, and refuses to acknowledge it. It’s increasingly true of America too. This will have very serious consequences for future generations.

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Cultural Engagement & The Benedict Option

I’ve had a few e-mails and exchanges in the last day that I want to address.

An Evangelical I was talking to this morning said that one of the Christians he follows on Twitter criticized the Benedict Option for not being “culturally engaged.” My interlocutor said he didn’t think that was the case, but wanted my opinion.

Of course it’s not the case, I said. (And this will be very clear when my book comes out in February.) The point is that in this new and rapidly changing social environment, if Christians expect to engage the culture effectively, we will have to withdraw into the depths of our traditions, and embrace new (or rather, very old) practices to strengthen our discipleship.

“If you were a Marine fighting a war, would you think it would be sufficient to go into battle without having had any training or discipline, relying only on your patriotism?” I said. “You’d get slaughtered, and the cause would suffer. It’s like that with the Benedict Option. We Christians can’t engage the culture if we don’t have much to engage them with.”

I might be wrong, but I sometimes think that Christians believe they are “engaging the culture” when they show off their tattoo at the coffee shop, and practice random acts of winsomeness.

In this same conversation, my new Evangelical friend and I got to talking about youth ministry. He told me that his sister is in college at a pretty conservative university, and is involved in Christian circles there. She reports that many of her Christian friends supports same-sex marriage (she does not), and doesn’t understand why Christians wouldn’t.

We talked briefly about how the Sexual Revolution has colonized the American Christian imagination, and how so many older Christian conservatives have no real idea the extent to which this is true. We agreed that the church has been catastrophically bad at forming younger generations in this way. I wish I had remembered to tell this man what a professor friend at a major Evangelical university told me recently: that one of the larger Christian student groups on campus jokes around about how most of its members are sleeping with each other, claiming that their love for Jesus covers all, and disdaining legalism. Their sneering slogan? “Rules are for the righteous.”

Over the course of my lifetime, I have no doubt that most Christian colleges and institutions will fully embrace the LGBT agenda. I was shocked last year to visit Notre Dame and see the rainbow flag flying in the student union. I expect this to be widespread in Christian colleges 20 years from now. The next battle is going to be the extent to which Christian colleges mandate celebrating LGBT.

In that regard, a reader whose Christian husband works for a major American corporation. She reports that he has always loved his job, but is glad that retirement is upon him, because the company has gotten very aggressive about promoting the LGBT agenda within. It is fast moving beyond tolerance and respect, and approaching the point where you must openly affirm your support for it, or risk losing your job.

The reader forwarded me company documents demonstrating this, on condition that I not identify the company. I don’t want to risk posting excerpts from these documents on this blog, because it wouldn’t be hard for employees of the company to figure out its identity, and for all I know, they would launch a witch hunt against people known to be Christian there. Trust me, though: what the reader says is correct. If I were a traditional Christian, Jew, or Muslim working there, I would head for the exits — if I didn’t have the stomach to make them fire me, thus making me un-hireable in the industry (because who wants to take a bigot onto their workforce, thus risking the creation of a Hostile Work Environment, which is legally actionable?).

This is one reason why we need the Benedict Option: to prepare Christians to be able to resign their jobs rather than burn that pinch of incense to Caesar, and to prepare the wider Christian community to support them — financially, spiritually, and morally — when they lose their livelihoods for the sake of bearing witness to God’s truth.

This too is cultural engagement — engagement with American culture as it is and as it is becoming in these darkening times. And listen to me, Christian: if you don’t think this could happen to you in your workplace, you are lying to yourself.

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