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Neither Benedict, Nor Bonhoeffer … But Who?

Not even a month into the new administration, and already its National Security Adviser has resigned [1] after admitting lying to the Vice President and other White House officials about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador. Just another day in the hot mess that is the Trump administration. David Brooks today writes about how to best resist the calamity.  [2]

If the main threat from Trump is that he will impose autocracy, then the model of resistance is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writes Brooks, and that means mass protests and “aggressive nonviolent action.” But what if the main threat is that national politics turns into a sinkhole of wrathfulness, backbiting, and corruption? Brooks:

If that’s the threat, St. Benedict is the model for resistance. Benedict was a young Umbrian man who was sent to study in Rome after the fall of the empire. Disgusted by the corruption all around, he fled to the wilderness and founded monastic communities across Europe. If Rome was going to sink into barbarism, then Benedictines could lead healthy lives and construct new forms of community far from the decaying center.

If we are in a Benedict moment, the smart thing to do is to ignore the degradation in Washington and make your contribution at the state and local levels.

Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute notices that some of the interns in her think tank are thinking along Benedictine lines. In years past they were angling for career tracks that would land them in Washington, but now they are angling to go back to the places they came from.

That’s interesting. Last week, I spoke with someone well-connected in Washington, who said that there are a lot of Christian Millennials in DC who are considering quitting their jobs and moving back home out of disgust, and because they believe that they can do more meaningful work elsewhere.

Read the entire Brooks column. [2] He explains why he thinks we’re neither at a Bonhoeffer nor a Benedict moment, but rather at a Gerald Ford moment, awaiting a figure who can restore confidence and effective government to a system shaken to the core by crisis.

But first, the crisis. After these first three weeks, that crisis is not going to be long in coming.

UPDATE: By the way, The Benedict Option [3]contains an entire chapter prescribing “antipolitical politics”.

UPDATE.2: I’m curious to know if any of this blog’s readers who work in or around Washington in a political capacity (including being part of the federal bureaucracy, working in a think tank, for a lobbying group, etc.) have been considering leaving for more settled pastures. If so, why?

119 Comments (Open | Close)

119 Comments To "Neither Benedict, Nor Bonhoeffer … But Who?"

#1 Comment By lily On February 15, 2017 @ 9:51 am

“I never wanted to make people angry: I wanted to convince people I was right and have them agree with me.”

That would make me very angry, especially from a SJW.

The left has great faith in their own beliefs, a religious-style belief, and do not respect other’s different views. They will not allow differences in views and values. THey want us to look different, but all think the same.

#2 Comment By Anonne On February 15, 2017 @ 10:51 am

When you point a finger, Lily, you have three pointing right back at you.

#3 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On February 15, 2017 @ 11:03 am

VikingLS said:

You all need to chill out. We have these things called elections.

I agree, Trump should serve out his term unless he violates the law.

I dislikes him, and think the electoral college is a horrifically broken idea. But undoing the results of an election would provoke a crisis of legitimacy and do lasting damage.

#4 Comment By JonPatrick On February 15, 2017 @ 12:07 pm

The “crisis” here is that a movement has come along to shake up the stranglehold that the progressive globalist elite has on our institutions of government. They are fighting tooth and nail to bring down the elected government by any means possible e.g. making public classified information to bring down the national security adviser. If they win then the concept of representative government at least at the national level is doomed. Not sure what the analogy would be here but it is not Bonhoeffer /Hitler nor Nixon/Ford.

#5 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 15, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

The left has great faith in their own beliefs, a religious-style belief, and do not respect other’s different views.

Oh, please Lily, that applies to you as much as anyone. “Be reasonable, see it my way.”

You all need to chill out. We have these things called elections.

Yup. Its going to be a rough ride, but the light at the end of the tunnel is built in. Now if someone competent, humane, with some degree of humility, and a bit of class politics (working class, not dominant class) would just step forward. Bernie was a bit milquetoast.

I prefer Trump to Pence, Ryan, or Hatch. At least he’s chaotic enough the next three won’t get everything they want.

#6 Comment By Lily On February 15, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

When you point a finger, Lily, you have three pointing right back at you.

Golly – that’s super cute! /sarc

You don’t know me. I’m quite willing to live side by side with people who live differently and have different values. I don’t require them to change to satisfy me.

But they shouldn’t expect or require me to support or agree with their choices and views (or pay for their choices either!) just as I don’t require to agree with me. And they should also refrain from working within the school systems to ‘educate’ my kids to their way of thinking.

Live and let live.

#7 Comment By Viking LS On February 15, 2017 @ 3:29 pm

“Its going to be a rough ride, but the light at the end of the tunnel is built in. Now if someone competent, humane, with some degree of humility, and a bit of class politics (working class, not dominant class) would just step forward. Bernie was a bit milquetoast.”

I can’t see that happening. I think they’re going to go two more rounds of being the party where identity is more important than class before they finally figure out that that’s a losing formula.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 15, 2017 @ 6:17 pm

Viking may well be right. I hope not. The Dems don’t seem anxious to BRING BACK voters who took a chance on Trump … they just want to berate them for how stupid they were. This is not a tried and true recipe for increasing your vote count next time around. So far, third party offerings are also uninspiring: Gary Johnson offered the worst of both major candidates, the Constitution Party has a name that appeals to me but a program that has nothing to do with the Constitution, Solidarity is not really a labor party at all, the Greens wouldn’t know how to run a medium sized grocery store…

How about me, VikingLS, Hector, Fran Macadam, and Franklin Evans draft a platform, then offer it for candidates running on any party line to make use of? We can call it the St. Francisville Manifesto.

The “crisis” here is that a movement has come along to shake up the stranglehold that the progressive globalist elite has on our institutions of government.

That’s really not such a bad idea.

#9 Comment By VikingLS On February 15, 2017 @ 10:50 pm

@Siarlys

I’m down with that. 🙂

#10 Comment By stephen cooper On February 15, 2017 @ 11:48 pm

Proust wrote, correctly, about people who become bona fide good and compassionate people only in their 50s or 60s, after they have seen through many illusions and outlived their youthful health and prosperity. Auberon Waugh, who, like Proust, was crabby and unloveable in real life yet had many devoted friends, thought all politicians – not some, but all – are mentally ill. I like Donald Trump. Whatever he was back in the day, he is a kind person now. Trump – like another senior citizen who has too much responsibility because nobody younger successfully stepped up, that is, poor Pope Francis – has too much responsibility and not enough training. Proust was right, Waugh was wrong. Rod, keep sticking up for your friends. For weird geographical reasons (I have friends with connections in both Queens and Hawaii), I know people who knew Obama and who knew about Trump from long before they were famous. They were both just regular people, no different than the kids of most people who post here. I think Obama needs our prayers more – that partial birth abortion thing creeps me out – but the responsibility that Trump has is perhaps bigger than any single American has had since the early days of WWII. Argue about him all you want but pray that he be guided by the Lord, for the good of our children (I personally don’t need Trump to do well to prosper in this world…for what its worth…but pray for me anyway – or if you don’t want to pray for someone who thinks Trump is a a decent guy, pray to God to make my guardian angel’s life easer…) Thanks!

#11 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 16, 2017 @ 10:43 am

Siarlys,

Anything the five of us you name can agree to would be something I’d be committed to promoting fully.

#12 Comment By JonF On February 16, 2017 @ 4:17 pm

Re: They are fighting tooth and nail to bring down the elected government by any means possible

Relax. If Trump’s misdeeds rise to an impeachable level, and there’s sufficient public outcry so that Congress gets off its lazy duff and does something to the effect, then he will be replaced by Mike Pence whom the voters also elected fully cognizant of the fact that he might well be called on to fill that role.

#13 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 16, 2017 @ 4:46 pm

The Dems don’t seem anxious to BRING BACK voters who took a chance on Trump … they just want to berate them for how stupid they were. This is not a tried and true recipe for increasing your vote count next time around.

According to whom? I’ve seen lots of public activism by the left here in Portlandia, and almost none of it consists of “you stupid deplorables, we told you so”, or anything similar. (I occasionally see such things on social media; but coming from private citizens and not party organs–and certainly no worse or more offensive than the barrage of “you lost, libtards” and such I also see on social media and on this very combox, coming from triumphant Trumpites).

The media is always happy to amplify any perceived slight or impolitic statement, and make it seem as though Democrats Hate Middle America (and this blog is often a willing participant in such).

That said–what policy moves do you think would attract Rust Belt swing voters? In the past, as I’ve pointed out, such voters have often rejected leftish economic proposals–back in the 80s, they all had good jobs, and took a dim view of the social safety net (which they thought increased their taxes, and they were too saintly to ever need). Then and now, such voters are anxious about visible African-American political activism, even if they are a long ways off from Archie Bunker views on race relations. Bill Clinton managed to win election by both a) adapting neoliberal economics, b) co-opting GOP “tough-on-crime” rhetoric, and c) publicly rebuking a rap star for rhetoric which offended white America.

(Obama won election by succeeding W; I’m not sure he would have won in 2008 had the economy not melted down).

Do you think that a simple refocusing on economics would suffice? Or does winning the white working class demographic (or enough to swing Ohio and its neighbors) require abandoning or rebuking minority constituencies? Or rebuking feminists and the LGBT community? Or will 2020 be 2008 again?

At any rate, I suppose it’s nice to be a swing voter, and able to command such fealty and respect, whereas it appears other demographics can be (and often are) insulted with impunity by the political classes. OTOH, if few ten thousand votes went the other direction, we might be talking about how the Republican Party dare not offend Mexicans ever again…

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 16, 2017 @ 9:49 pm

Well Scotty, you live in the deep blue end of a deep blue state… I bet a lot of Portland’s blue collar workers voted for Hillary, although there is a thin scattering of Trump voters on the western and southern edges of the state. I’ve occasionally visited Portland, some decades ago, but I really know the Rogue Valley a little better, again, some decades ago now. I live in a state where a few tens of thousands of voters who, based on county by county statistics and in depth local daily news interviews after the election, voted twice for Obama, and once for Sanders, before choosing Trump over Hillary. And while I hear some soul searching a mile wide and an inch deep from the Democratic leadership, I don’t hear much about seriously overhauling what they have on offer.

It didn’t start this year. Scott Walker won the recall election courtesy of the Democratic Party. The recall was initiated outside party circles, and went downhill once the Dems took charge of the final campaign.

You’re right about the media, who alternate a liberal bias with a masochistic tendency to amplify the message that liberals are terribly unpopular — with friends like that, who needs enemies?

Rust belt working class voters are not really hostile to African Americans. Thanks to developments over the past several decades, they rub elbows with African Americans at work, see the industrious, church-going, well-dressed on the street and in the stores and restaurants all the time, albeit everyone sees the thugs too. They are offended by the yelping of professional poverty pimps who look for reasons to moan about “whitey” just to keep their platforms alive.

I think a focus on economics would help a lot. I personally favor dumping the LGBTQWERTY program, with an explicit commitment to nondiscrimination, together with an explicit affirmation that what the tiny number of people actually concerned have a right to is to be left alone in privacy, not to display and flaunt their dubious habits in public. Its not that gay sex is any more lewd that heterosexual sex, its just that if your “identity” is built around your sexual proclivities, you have nothing to offer but lewdness.

I grew up, and in my high school years acquired an interest in socialism, in a small city with a substantial conservative blue collar population. I learned young to study how and why they were conservative, what mattered to them. I saw first hand how several wards full of mill workers could support George McGovern over Hubert Humphrey or Ed Muskie or Scoop Jackson. I learned how that same constituency could feel betrayed, not by the candidate’s radicalism, but by the fact that he turned out to be another politician like all the rest.

One thing that can be said about Trump: He will not turn out to be just another politician like all the rest. He may be worse, but he will not be just like.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 16, 2017 @ 10:58 pm

VikingLS, Hector, Fran Macadam, and Franklin Evans, and hopefully others as time goes by…

I have made a small and so far primitive beginning by opening up a WordPress site called outoftheswampblog. I haven’t opened up comments yet. I’ve only rough drafted a couple of pieces. I don’t understand half the available tools and controls. But I hope to start adding a few more contributors, and after we have something worthy of comment, perhaps opening up comments as well.

Your assistance is welcome. Franklin at least can reach me directly. Rod is welcome to give any of these five my email address. The “About” page no doubt could be improved. Let me know.

#16 Comment By JonF On February 17, 2017 @ 5:03 pm

Re: I’m not sure he would have won in 2008 had the economy not melted down

Obama was leading McCain (except briefly during McCain’s convention bounce when he pulled even) well before the Lehman collapse. You’re right that Obama was greatly helped by Bush’s incompetence– but the events of September 2008 were the frosting on the cake– there was a lot more than just that giving Obama his tailwind.

#17 Comment By Thrice A Viking On February 19, 2017 @ 6:27 am

Siarlys, your list seems a bit restrictive. How about Jon F, or Erin Manning, or Engineer Scotty? Or Rod himself, for that matter? BTW, you yourself are one of the five, so Rod can only give four other people your addy.

#18 Comment By Franklin Evans On February 19, 2017 @ 1:26 pm

Thrice, Siarlys has mentioned “…and hopefully others as time goes by…”

Those you name — and I’d include you without hesitation — would be very welcome. Much depends on the individual’s ability to commit the time it may require.

#19 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On February 19, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

All of Thrice a Viking’s nominees would be welcome. And I have had some direct communication with Erin. Its hard to say if Engineer Scotty would be able to tolerate the compromises necessary for such a diverse group to work together, but no harm in trying. I won’t push to overturn Obergefell, but I won’t tolerate Washington state’s prosecution of Baronelle Stutzman. Oh, that reminds me, John (no last name used here) and I seem to agree on the necessary give and take on that area, so although I’ve crossed swords with him, he might be a welcome contributor too. And Mrs. Cracker…