Rod Dreher

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Trump-Clinton Neck-and-Neck

Can't get no respect (Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com)
Can't get no respect (Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com)

Well, well, well:

Hillary Clinton holds just a 3-point lead over Republican front-runner Donald Trump in a national head to head matchup, according to a George Washington University Battleground Poll.

Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has 46 percent compared to Trump’s 43 percent, a more narrow margin than other polls have found.

In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Clinton has a larger 8-point lead over Trump, 48.8 to 40.8 percent. Fellow Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has a 15.3-point lead over the Republican front-runner, 53.3 to 38 percent.

A poll this far out from November doesn’t tell us much, but if Trump is the GOP nominee, I think the vote will probably be closer than most people think. A lot of people really cannot stand Hillary Clinton. I talked to a man the other day who voted twice for Obama, but says he will not vote for Hillary under any circumstances. “She’s a crook,” he said. Doesn’t mean he’ll vote Republican, but I was struck by the strength of his anti-Hillary conviction.

Michael Brendan Dougherty reminds us that Trump is a lousy candidate who probably can’t win in November. I think that’s the safer bet, but then again, pundits have been consistently wrong about Trump. Remember how Ted Cruz was going to steal this thing away from Trump after Wisconsin?

My Twitter feed is as jammed as a salmon stream at spawning time with Republican types reminding each other with #NeverTrump tweets that the Donald is a monster. And yet, look at the polls: Trump is way ahead in Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and California. Unless Kasich drops out, which he’s not going to do, Trump might  run the table. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and three other states in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region — all Trump-friendly — vote tomorrow. Indiana’s the week after that. California’s not till the very end (June 7), but it’s got 172 delegates. (The remainder of the GOP primary schedule is here.) The NYT explains how Trump could win the GOP nomination outright.

If I were laying money on the November winner today, I would put it on Hillary, simply because Trump is so volatile. But that is far from a sure bet.

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What Is Human?

Googling around a bit more on political scientist Dale Kuehne, I came across this reaction of his to the Obergefell ruling last year. I think this is really important to understand. Excerpts:

By the time last Friday came, the same-sex marriage debate was no longer about sex and had very little to do with marriage. Rather it was anchored in a redefinition of human identity itself. In the new world order, it is the individual, not biology or God, who determines identity. We are now “selves” of an increasing number of varieties and we are decreasingly male or female in a biologically meaningful sense. One day soon people will cease to use “same-sex” as adjectives for marriage. Every marriage will be the same: Selves who take vows. Two selves. Perhaps even three selves or more.

Moreover, “selves” won’t be limited to human relationships. Professor Sherry Turkle from MIT has written of the question of marriage to a robot. Marriage with animals is tomorrow as well, because it is already today in some places.

Accordingly, tomorrow’s political headlines will be of two variants. One variant are headlines that announce the expansion of the rights of transgender people as well as those whose identity goes beyond gender. Transgender is the next civil rights movement. The second set of headlines will concern the issue of religious freedom for churches and religious institutions whose views on traditionally-accepted morality are deemed discriminatory to “selves.”

“Transgender is the next civil rights movement.” He wrote that about 10 months ago. He was right. More:

Yesterday’s discussions were about sexual morality and marriage. Tomorrow’s discussions are about human identity and purpose. If anyone wishes to revisit yesterday’s discussions, the road goes through tomorrow’s discussions on identity.

So let’s begin. I believe the prevailing cultural notion of identity, as something each of us can only discover by looking within ourselves is logically flawed. I do not believe it is possible for any of us to understand who we are merely by looking within because none of us can know who we are without a reference point outside of ourselves. The question we face concerns not whether we require reference points outside of ourselves, but which ones. Teaching needs to include the examination of external reference points to help people avoid getting lost in the abyss of the self.

If I am right, then our regime is wrong. If the regime is wrong then the consequences for ourselves, our children and coming generations is enormous. If the regime is wrong then we are embarking on a course that is destined to fail by teaching something about identity we know not to be true: that the only way we can figure out who we are is to look exclusively within.

Read the whole thing. Again, this is not simply about who gets to use which bathroom. This is about something as fundamental as human identity. You may choose to ignore or to dismiss this. But it’s not going to ignore or dismiss you. As Kuehne put it last year, this is where the debate actually is. It is now down to the fundamentals of human identity.

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America Unbound

America, flying blind into the Middle East (Jules2000/Shutterstock)
America, flying blind into the Middle East (Jules2000/Shutterstock)

Last night I listened to this hourlong talk, with Q&A, by Andrew Bacevich, about his new book America’s War For The Greater Middle East: A Military History. It’s worth your time. Here, in a Politico essay from earlier this month, Bacevich lays out his thesis. Excerpt:

To understand the persistence of such illusions requires appreciating several assumptions that promote in Washington a deeply pernicious collective naiveté. Seldom explicitly articulated, these assumptions pervade the U.S. national security establishment.
The first assumption is that those responsible for formulating U.S. policy in the Greater Middle East—not only elected and appointed officials but also the military officers assigned to senior posts—are able to discern the historical forces at work in the region. But they can’t. The worldview to which individuals rotating through the upper reaches of the national security apparatus subscribe derives from a shared historical narrative, recounting the story of the 20th century as Americans have chosen to remember it. It centers on an epic competition between rival versions of modernity—liberalism vs. fascism vs. communism—and ends in vindication for “our” side. Ultimately, the right side of history prevailed. Presidents and Cabinet secretaries, generals and admirals see no reason why that narrative should not apply to a different locale and extend into the distant future.

In other words, they are blind to the possibility that in the Greater Middle East substantially different historical forces just might be at work.

A second assumption takes it for granted 9780553393934that as the sole global superpower the United States possesses not only the wisdom but also the wherewithal to control or direct such forces. In the 20th century, “our” side won because American industry and ingenuity produced not only superior military might but also a superior way of life based on consumption and choice—so at least Americans have been thoroughly conditioned to believe. A third assumption asserts that U.S. military power offers the most expeditious means of ensuring that universal freedom prevails—that the armed might of the United States, made manifest in the presence of airplanes, warships and fighting troops, serves as an irreplaceable facilitator or catalyst in moving history toward its foreordained destination.
That the commitment of American armed might could actually backfire and make matters worse is a proposition that few authorities in Washington are willing to entertain.

A final assumption counts on the inevitability of America’s purposes ultimately winning acceptance, even in the Islamic world. The subjects of U.S. benefactions will then obligingly submit to Washington’s requirements and warmly embrace American norms. If not today, then surely tomorrow, the United States will receive the plaudits and be granted the honors that liberators rightly deserve. Near-term disappointments can be discounted given the certainty that better outcomes lie just ahead.

None of these assumptions has any empirical basis. Each drips with hubris. Taken together, they sustain the absence of self-awareness that has become an American signature. Worse, they constitute a nearly insurmountable barrier to serious critical analysis. Yet the prevalence of these assumptions goes far toward explaining this key failing in the U.S. military effort: the absence of a consistent understanding of what the United States is fighting for and whom it is fighting against.

Read the whole thing.

Not coincidentally, a Pakistani tribal elder talks about the effect that US drone attacks has on his community:

“Children stopped going to school, the women have become mental health patients, in my own house my four children, my daughter has mental problems, because of drones,” he said.

And the strikes are not fulfilling their aim, he argued.

“These drone attacks do not finish terrorists. When in one house two or three children and their mother or father are targeted by drone attacks, the whole household become terrorists against America,” he argued.

Ah yes, winning hearts and minds.

In listening to the Bacevich speech, and the follow-up Q&A, last night, something he said struck me with particular force. He said that American policy towards the Middle East is emblematic of a nation that does not believe it has limits.

In this view, America keeps making these catastrophic mistakes because we believe that wanting a certain outcome is enough to make it happen. We are rich enough, powerful enough, and, in our own minds, righteous enough that it should happen. It’s interesting to contemplate how this hubris plays out on the foreign policy and military fronts, while we also observe the same dynamic expressing itself socially and culturally.

For example, most of us, it appears, have come to the conclusion that biology does not matter, that it is nothing more than a conceptual barrier that prevents us from exercising our will, and can therefore be destroyed. Because freedom. We have come to believe that there are no moral strictures or structures (like, say, the natural family) that ought to bind us and guide our conduct.

 

In his recorded talk, Bacevich talks about the campus at Boston University, where he taught until his recent retirement, and how well Arab Muslim students from the Middle East did there. He said that we ought to have more of them here so that they can learn that “we are not their enemy.” I’m skeptical of that — not of having them here, but of them learning that we are not their enemy.

Aren’t we? On a cultural level, I mean. Certainly I would not defend Arab Islamic culture without reservation; for example, the way they treat women, in general. But come on, can we really say with a straight face that the hedonistic culture of the post-Christian West is no threat to their way of life? That they have nothing to fear from us, other than our drones and bombs?

We still think that the whole world should want to be just like us, and are mystified when others think we are degenerates. It’s all of a piece, this hubris.

UPDATE: A reader sends in this 2004 essay by a couple of Australian Evangelicals, commenting on the moral blindness of the United States, including her Christians, post-Abu Ghraib. The authors quoted President Bush and others saying that the horror of torture and human degradation that Americans foisted on those prisoners couldn’t be true, because Americans Aren’t That Kind Of People. Excerpt:

But the initial theological mistake, where America cannot really do wrong, makes them greatly to be feared. They will be unable to hold their fearsome armoury in check, and will fail to restore people they have broken, because like sinners everywhere they will not notice their past and future wickedness. Somewhere in here is the ‘arrogance’ and ‘folly’ that Jesus also said comes from the heart.

 

 

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Goodbye, Public Schools?

I was around town this weekend, and ran into a guy I know. I asked him how his family was (his kids are all preschool age). He mentioned at one point that “public school is not an option” for them. That surprised me. He went to public school, and has always been a supporter of public education. What changed?

Turns out the latest round of transgender stuff was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I told him that it would be a while before that stuff got to our local public school. Yes, he agreed, but it’s coming — and in his view, there is not much chance that local administrators and teachers could stop it if they wanted to, not if it’s a federal mandate.

What could I say? I think he’s right about that. But I thought about it all weekend. Here’s a young guy who works, and his wife works. Ordinary, salt-of-the-earth people. Goes to church, but not a holier-than-thou type, not by a country mile. And he has lost faith in public education — not because of the quality of teaching or the character of the teachers, but because he has come to believe that the federal government will roll over community standards when it comes to mainstreaming sexual, um, diversity.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all it will take is one lawsuit, or threat of a lawsuit, and gender-specific locker rooms and bathrooms will end. Local people — assuming they will oppose it, which is no sure thing — will be helpless to do a thing about it.

The problem is that in a place like where I live, private school is not much of an option, though homeschooling, as we do, is. But my friend and his wife both work, and both need to work, so it’s not an option for them. What do they do? I guess ride it out and hope for the best here, all the while hoping too for a reasonable alternative by the time the cultural revolution is imposed on our public school.
Louisiana will be one of the last places this happens, but by the end of President Hillary’s term(s) in office, it will either have happened, or we will be much, much closer to it.

Again, because we homeschool, this concern hasn’t really been on my radar. I did blog about it last year, but it hasn’t been at the front of my mind, until the guy in town said what he did. I would like to hear from conservative Christian, Muslim, and other socially conservative readers who have kids in public school, or will have them there. What will you do? Or, if you live in a state or a school district that has already gone over (e.g., this San Francisco elementary school, which has gender-neutral bathrooms), what are you doing?

I’d like to point to a 2007 piece that Sally Thomas wrote for First Things, challenging the idea that Christians have a moral duty to keep their kids in public schools where the culture is hostile to them. She writes:

The idea of sending a child daily into a hostile environment—if not actively hostile, as in bullying, then certainly philosophically hostile—expecting him not only to withstand assaults on everything his parents have told him is true but also to transform the entire system by his presence, seems sadly misguided to me. There may be many valid arguments for sending a child to school, but that one doesn’t wash.

In the Sermon on the Mount, in addition to the salt-and-light business, Jesus also tells the multitude, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” A child’s greatest treasure, to my mind, is his childhood itself. He has only one, and it’s over quickly enough. If we as parents invest that treasure in sex education that makes us cringe, history we know to be a lie, and busy work we recognize as meaningless, we should perhaps not be too surprised if at the end of the day these things, and not the things which are above, have claimed our children’s hearts.

If this sounds hyperbolic, consider the responses of students in an evangelical college here, in a class taught by one of my husband’s friends, who decided to poll the students on their views of Christian sexual morality. He was taken aback, to put it mildly, to discover that the sole moral conviction held by an overwhelming majority was that it was wrong for Christians to judge other people’s behaviors. “Sex is just a bodily function anyway,” one student said. Bear in mind that these students were self-described Christians, from Christian homes, who had chosen their college for its Christian environment. Somehow, in all their years of formation, they seemed to have missed the fairly crucial lesson that Christianity establishes clear guidelines regarding sex. That Christians should regard those guidelines as neither repressive nor even negotiable was right off the radar.

If, as a correspondent of mine has suggested, Christians are impotent in engaging with secular culture, perhaps the problem is not that too many of us have withdrawn from it but that too many have surrendered our cultural distinctiveness. If we urge our children to integrate into the secular mainstream, and it turns out instead that the secular mainstream is integrated into them, then what we end up with is, well, what we largely have: a generation that believes that Christianity is only about not being judgmental.

Note well that she wrote this almost a decade ago, before the state became so interested in mainstreaming sexual diversity through educational policy. Even if we didn’t have the state and progressive-minded schools and school boards pushing the GLSEN agenda, we would still be in a mess. I suppose today I’m wondering: what is your tipping point, as a parent? How much are you willing to tolerate of the ethos at your kid’s school before you say, Enough?

And note well x 2, it is not enough to put them in a Christian school and assume that you’ve solved that problem. The Christian school might be pathetic at teaching and inculcating actual Christian virtues in their students. If parents aren’t consciously part of the countercultural educational mission, the culture will form the kids, not the church.

UPDATE: I found this comment from reader Chris Rawlings especially worthwhile:

Let me offer the perspective of a husband of a public school teacher and a father of a toddler whose academic future we are still considering.

My wife, a second-grade teacher in a poor, urban school in a bluish-purple state has yet to face a forced intrusion of transgenderism or homosexualism into the curriculum—thankfully, and boy are we thankful. But I hasten to add that it sits as a perpetual sword of damacles over her head. She is a very, very good teacher and the students she has taught over the years have developed strong relationships with her that continue today. It’s a good thing that she is in their lives. But a state civil rights court here has already ruled that a school must allow a transgender (six year old!) student the right to use the bathroom of the sex by which they identify. Particularly among the poorer urban population my wife serves, in which moral neuralgia seems to stick like an industrial-strength bottle of glue, you get the sense that it’s only a matter of time before she faces a similar situation.

She has had, in four years of teaching, one or two students whose parents are a gay couple. Far more common are mothers with a rotating series of cohabitating boyfriends. The children of gay parents would mention with frightening nonchalance their “moms” or the “other moms,” and my wife would try to quickly and politely change the topic to the schoolwork at hand. What else, after all, can you do? This is utterly normalized in the lives of so many kids today, and it is quickly normalizing in the broader culture, too.

I’ll also add that we are planning to move to Israel in about a month. My wife will be directing a Catholic preschool filled with refugee babies from places like India and Eritrea. It is unlikely that she’ll face the same challenges with transgenderism and homosexuality there. However, we have a two year-old who, in Israel, will be beginning preschool at three years-old. There are cheap Catholic schools, but they are mostly Arabic-speaking (and we, alas, are not). Which leaves either prohibitively expensive private English-speaking options or traditional Israeli public schooling (in Hebrew, which we do speak). One major suburban city in the country has already decided that every municipal preschool must be outfitted with various kids’ books that explicitly support gender ideology. Preschools. Isn’t that amazing? Really, it’s shameless. In any case, while we won’t be living in that particular city, it may not be long before the same thing happens in our city. Because we are Catholics, religious Jewish schooling is an obvious non-option. Ultimately, I think, we’ll be immersing our daughter in Arabic, if only in that way can a non-subversive education be assured.

All of that is to say that if properly safeguarding your child’s education requires homeschooling, moving districts, or maybe learning Arabic, then I suppose that is exactly what you do. And for my wife, in the future it is likely that she’ll be taking a dramatic pay cut to teach as a Catholic school rather than returning to a public school. Perhaps there will be a rare handful of states to resist it all with courage and determination and in that case we would strongly consider relocating there.

The real losers in all of that, though, are the students who not only spend time on mind-blowingly stupid niche cultural items like gay coupling and confused six year-olds (instead of edifying things that sustain minds and civilizations), but who also lose a caring, quality teacher, too. The world is going mad.

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Eurocrats Crushed In Austrian Election

Man, nobody saw this coming (he said, with heavy sarcasm):

The far-Right appeared close to seizing the Austrian presidency on Sunday night, in an election result that will send shockwaves through Europe.

Norbert Hofer, the gun-toting candidate of the Freedom Party (FPÖ), won almost twice as many votes as his nearest rival, according to exit polls.

With just over half the votes counted, Mr Hofer was far out in front with 35 per cent.

The result could spell the end of the two-party system that has dominated Austria since the Second World War, with their candidates beaten into fourth and fifth place.

More:

Mr Hofer carried a Glock pistol on the campaign trail with him, and told reporters a rise in Austrian gun ownership was a natural reaction to the migrant crisis.

“In uncertain times, people try to protect themselves,” he said.

The established parties appear to have paid the price for their muddled response to the crisis.

Read the whole thing.

It’s not a done deal yet. There’s a second round of voting, and if most voters coalesce around the Freedom Party’s opponent, they will keep Hofer from the presidency. Besides, the Austrian presidency is largely a ceremonial position. But symbolically, this is massive. And the European establishment politicians only have themselves to blame.

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Avett Bros. Miss Prince

(Via Facebook)
(Via Facebook)

A reader made my morning by sending me a story with that above clip embedded within.

Seth Avett, Scott Avett and Bob Crawford had completed the early classic “Pretty Girl From Annapolis,” when Seth leaned into the mic to belt out some of the lyrics to Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” He was accompanied by his brother during the brief but gorgeous interlude. Seth looked skyward after he was done and all three musicians as well as the audience came together to clap and show appreciation for The Purple One.

Watch the clip. It’s heartfelt and beautiful. The Prince part begins near the four-minute mark of the nearly six-minute clip, but if you don’t know the Avett Brothers’ music, I hope you’ll watch the whole thing. They are one of my family’s favorites, and I thank the reader profusely for thinking of us.

Another reader, in a comment, linked to this NPR commentary about Prince’s death, by a Millennial who was raised by religiously conservative parents who forbade her to listen to rock. Therefore, she missed out on Prince’s music. Excerpts:

After a decade-plus of adult life on my own, I’ve learned to blend in, to laugh off the references I don’t get, to shake off the embarrassment about not really knowing much about evolution or falling silent when friends swap prom stories (no dancing at my high school). But this week brought back some of the old feelings of isolation that I first felt in the workplace and around peers from outside my evangelical cocoon — a sense of being out of place and maybe not quite right.

Instead of David Bowie and Prince, I grew up on contemporary Christian artists like Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant — and some others you’ve probably never heard of. Even those artists who occasionally scored crossover hits that made it to the pop charts were viewed by some in my parents’ circles as too “worldly” because their lyrics didn’t always mention Jesus. There were also concerns about Grant’s choice of red leather pants when she performed on stage.

As a result, I missed many of the cultural icons of those decades. Being a rule-follower, unlike some of my evangelical friends, I mostly toed the line and avoided forbidden “secular music.” That’s until I realized that being the only kid in junior high who doesn’t know about the Casey’s Top 40 hit list from last Sunday night makes you an even odder duck than you already are at 13 with braces and bad skin.

She concludes:

After Prince’s death, and Bowie’s a few months ago, and Michael Jackson’s several years back, I recognized, cognitively, their importance. I felt sympathy for my friends who felt their loss. But mostly, I’ve felt isolated from all of you who share these ties, and regret for what I missed. These cultural figures don’t just speak to us as individuals; they join us together as a community. They create touchstones — without which, it’s easy to feel like an outsider.

The reader who posted that link asks if this is what the Benedict Option is all about. That’s not a bad question, but it’s one that makes me smile. Last night, my 16-year-old son deejayed the neighborhood crawfish boil. He played Prince, he played Elvis Costello, he played Marty Robbins. Matt has the most eclectic musical tastes of anybody I know, and that’s saying something. And he has good taste, too. It’s mostly self-selected. If he started listening to music that his mother and I thought was morally harmful to him for whatever reason, we would put our foot down. But he hasn’t.

We raise our other two with the same strictures. When David Bowie died, our 12-year-old, who had taught himself “Diamond Dogs” on the guitar, went into serious mourning. Does he know anything about Bowie’s gender-bending, his drug use, and all that? No, not yet. He will. For now, he enjoys the music.

Here’s the thing, though: I bet not a single 11-year-old within a 100-mile radius felt Bowie’s death as intensely as my son Lucas did. Lucas’s brother got him into Bowie, and because he (Lucas) is a musician, he started listening to a lot of Bowie so he could play it on his guitar (we gave him his 12th birthday present, a Stratocaster, a week early, on the day Bowie died, because he was so broken up about it, and needed a lift). Bowie’s heyday predates Lucas’s father by a few years; the singer’s death didn’t get to me emotionally like it did to my sons.

Here’s a link to the current Billboard singles chart. In our house, we know who Adele is, and who Justin Bieber is, but we don’t listen to them (except sometimes Adele), not out of religious conviction, but rather because we like other music. I’m sure there are artists on that chart whose music my wife and I would object to for our children for moral reasons, but I don’t know for sure. The point is, when any of these artists die, my children will be on the outside of the crowd mourning them. Is that such a bad thing?

When Merle Haggard died, I said a prayer for his soul, but I didn’t mourn him, because his music was simply not a big part of my life. I remember when the NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt died in 2001, I thought, “Who?” Turns out he was a MASSIVELY POPULAR athlete — but just not within my circles. So I missed out on that collective mourning.

But look, why is this such a big deal? Whether or not that author’s parents did the right thing by denying her access to rock and roll is one question. The deeper question is, why is it so bad to be denied a collective experience? Jews and Muslims miss out on Christmas, which is surely a sacrifice for many, but their faith and culture expect that of them. It can be a character-building experience to be willing to forego good things for the sake of higher values.

Aside from that, with popular culture so fragmented, it’s not realistic to expect all of us to share the same experiences. When I was a kid growing up in the Seventies, we had three TV networks. All of us kids would talk the next day at school about what had happened the night before on “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Welcome Back, Kotter,” and so forth. Nowadays, is it even possible for kids to have that kind of experience, even if it were desirable? I marvel at the broad spectrum of music my kids have to choose from. When I was their age, we had whatever was on commercial radio. You had to really work hard to get beyond that.

Last week in Baton Rouge, a man who had been the Walter Cronkite of local news for most of my childhood died. It made me think about how central the experience of watching local TV news was to our childhood. It wasn’t so much that we kids watched it (though we did, often) as it was that the 6pm and 10pm news were signals to us that the evening had started, and then that the evening had ended, and it was time for bed. It was almost liturgical. We don’t have that anymore. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but it’s a thing.

Point is, this is how we live today, all of us. I am a lot more permissive regarding rock music than that essayist’s father was, but my kids are still not sharing cultural touchstones with most of their generation, simply because they like different music than most their age. I love when their musical taste intersects with mine (e.g., Talking Heads, the Clash, Elvis Costello), but often it doesn’t. My own musical taste began to diverge from the mainstream when I went to boarding school in 1983, at the age of 16, and was immediately exposed to music I’d never heard before (e.g., Talking Heads, the Clash, Elvis Costello) — and loved. Music in this new school was a lot more tribal than anything I had seen before.

Still, Prince was a common touchstone for nearly all of us, which is why my Facebook feed lit up with remembrances from my high school classmates when Prince died.

I wonder if it’s possible for young people today to relate to a musical performer in the same way — I mean, across such a broad spectrum of tastes.

Anyway, to get back to the reader’s question about the Benedict Option. I’ll take a risk here and say that the answer is both yes and no. No, in that not everybody has to shun the same things to be kosher under the Ben Op. It’s best to leave that to families and communities to decide. And, yes in the sense that some hard lines will inevitably have to be drawn, lines that prevent one’s children from sharing certain experiences with the masses. One has to be smart about it, and discerning, but sometimes, one will simply have to make that hard choice.

Religious Jews living in Christian and secular societies have been doing this since forever. This is one more reason why I’m going to have a chapter in my Benedict Option book that focuses on what small-o orthodox Christians can learn from Jews about being outsiders.

In the meantime, please enjoy that Avett Brothers performance, which is sweet and beautiful.

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Gods And Monsters

'Ye shall be as gods' (Alex James Bramwell/Shutterstock)
'Ye shall be as gods' (Alex James Bramwell/Shutterstock)

Reader Siluan, in the following comment on the “Metaphysics of the Men’s Room” thread, explains succinctly why yes, transgenderism actually is a much bigger deal than accommodating a very small number of individuals who believe they were born in the wrong bodies:

What must be remembered in all of this is that the leftward impulse in human politics (the propelling force behind Progressivism) has always been the impulse towards transcendence. That impulse is of course not a bad thing – indeed it is a necessary check and balance on the rightward impulse – but in Progressivism it is allowed to become the only impulse, unchecked by anything at all.

This is precisely why the transgender movement is taking off so unbelievably. The left has won its other objectives. The idea that two men can marry and live as a couple has transcended – if not demolished – thousands of years of human culture, tradition and morality. It has all been smashed. The defenses of the family and the church are breached, and the remaining offensive against them is now only a mop-up operation.

Transgenderism, however, is a whole new offensive. This movement is an attack on reality itself; an attempt to transcend not just human constructs like culture and tradition, but to transcend the very “givenness” of human reality itself. If you remember your De Beauvoir you will surely remember her observation that human freedom is always finite due to this very “givenness” of the world. Man is “cast” into the world, without his consent, and as such can never be truly free. Gender is, of course, one of the primary “givens” of human existence. We are born either one thing or the other, and until recently, there was little we could do about it. No choice – no freedom. You are what you are.

The transgender revolution attacks this very thing. It promises that we can transcend one of primary givens of our existence. As such, it becomes an immensely powerful condensed symbol for the future course of the entire Progressive, leftward movement.

An immensely powerful condensed symbol for the future course of the entire, Progressive, leftward movement. We need to understand this truth, and its implications for the future. I refer you again to this paragraph in a 1993 essay in The Nation, at the dawn of the second, post-Stonewall wave of gay activism that began with the massive march on Washington that year. The original piece is not available online; I quoted it in my “Sex After Christianity” essay a couple of years ago:

All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people—at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis—have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.

I don’t know who the author was, but he or she was a prophet. The struggle for gay rights was, as the author notes, the consummation of all contemporary “liberation” struggles. It was the “immensely powerful condensed symbol” of its day, and the movement achieved nearly all its goals. It has not yet converted all the holdouts, or achieved total legislative success, but the latter goal will be realized within the next decade or two, and the holdouts will be made pariahs.

But progressivism is never satisfied. There is always some new fence to tear down to build utopia. Siluan’s observation brought to mind something I heard an academic researcher on human sexuality and society say once, before it could have gotten him blacklisted: that transgenderism is a threat to social stability on far more serious level than homosexuality. When he was asked to explain that, he said more or less what Siluan does above: that homosexuality mostly works within received gender paradigms, however subversive it may be to longstanding customs and religious teachings. Transgenderism, though, denies the meaning of gender and givenness, and that there is any such reality to our bodies that is not self-chosen.

This is going to be the common view soon enough. From a story two days ago about a new Reuters/Ipsos poll:

Support for transgender rights on the bathroom issues was strongest among those aged 18 to 29, who supported gender identity over birth certificate gender by 62 percent to 29 percent.

The poll was on bathroom issues, but I think it’s safe to say that one’s opinion on the bathroom corresponds closely to one’s opinion on transgenderism in general. So this is the future for us, most likely. True, nothing is fated, but ask yourself: what force is likely to stop it?

Here is where the lazy metaphysics of consumer-capitalist America is taking us, beyond transgender: to transhumanism. According to one of transhumanism’s proponents:

Humans are handicapped by our biology. We operate tens of thousands of years behind evolution with our inherited instincts, which means our behavior is not suited towards its current environment. Futurists like to say evolution is always late to the dinner party. We have instincts that apply to our biology in a world that existed ages ago; not a world of skyscrapers, cell phones, jet air travel, the Internet, and CRISPR gene editing technology. We must catch up to ourselves. We must evolve our thinking to adapt to where we are in the evolutionary ascent. We must force our evolution in the present day via our reasoning, inventiveness, and especially our scientific technology. In short, we must embrace transhumanism—the radical field of science that aims to turn humans into, for lack of a better word, gods.

Transhumanists believe we must stand guard against our natural genes, less they chain us to remaining as animals forever. We believe our outdated instincts can easily trick us from knowing right from wrong, practical from impractical. If one looks closely, the human body and its biology constantly highlight our many imperfections.

I think I have an idea of what it must have felt like to be a spectator in the first decades of the 20th century, watching the eugenics movement start. The best, most progressive and scientific minds of the day supported it. Lest you think that what happens on elite campuses stays there, here’s a bit from a recent article in Harvard Magazine about the role of the university in founding and promoting the movement:

None of these actions created problems for [university president emeritus and eugenics advocate Charles William] Eliot at Harvard, for a simple reason: they were well within the intellectual mainstream at the University. Harvard administrators, faculty members, and alumni were at the forefront of American eugenics—founding eugenics organizations, writing academic and popular eugenics articles, and lobbying government to enact eugenics laws. And for many years, scarcely any significant Harvard voices, if any at all, were raised against it.

Harvard’s role in the movement was in many ways not surprising. Eugenics attracted considerable support from progressives, reformers, and educated elites as a way of using science to make a better world. Harvard was hardly the only university that was home to prominent eugenicists. Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan, and Yale’s most acclaimed economist, Irving Fisher, were leaders in the movement. The University of Virginia was a center of scientific racism, with professors like Robert Bennett Bean, author of such works of pseudo-science as the 1906 American Journal of Anatomy article, “Some Racial Peculiarities of the Negro Brain.”

But in part because of its overall prominence and influence on society, and in part because of its sheer enthusiasm, Harvard was more central to American eugenics than any other university. Harvard has, with some justification, been called the “brain trust” of twentieth-century eugenics, but the role it played is little remembered or remarked upon today.

We know how that all turned out. What is past is prologue. The philosophical and cultural foundations are being laid right now. Watch.

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SJW Art Commissars

A reader sent in this depressing account of an art squabble on the campus of one of California’s prestigious Claremont colleges. Seems that Selena Spier, an undergraduate, painted on a dorm wall a mural of a handgun with flowers coming out of the barrel. Her project had been approved by appropriate campus authorities. But student Gregory Ochiagha was made to feel unsafe by the image of a handgun that fires … roses:

“It’s truly in bad taste to have a large depiction of a gun in a dorm space—especially when students of color also reside there,” states Ochiagha. “Now let’s imagine there were countless videos of white teenagers, white teenagers that look like you, or your brother or your sister, get shot to death by police officers. Imagine scrolling down Facebook everyday and seeing a new video of the same thing, over and over again. Really put yourself in that headspace. Then ask yourself whether it’s the brightest idea to have white teenagers, who have a very real fear of getting shot, see a large gun every time they want to get food from the dinning [sic] hall.”

Ochiagha continues, “My Black Mental and Emotional Health Matters. I shouldn’t be reminded every time I leave my dorm room of how easy my life can be taken away, or how many Black lives have been taken away because of police brutality. This is emotionally triggering for very obvious reasons. And if you want to belittle or invalidate by [sic] black experience, I live in Atherton, come thru, let’s have that idiotic conversation.”

You’re thinking: please oh please, just this one time, somebody tell this nitwit Social Justice Warrior to get stuffed, that he cannot use his black privilege to tell other people what kind of art they can and cannot put on the wall.

But you know that’s not how it works. From the article:

Spier plans to modify her mural. “I spoke with Gregory earlier and we agreed on a modification that preserves the integrity of the original piece while avoiding any potentially triggering content—it’s a change I was absolutely happy to make in the interest of creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone in my community,” Spier told the Claremont Independent. “I have absolutely no right to decide whether or not my artwork is offensive to marginalized communities—nor does anyone else in a position of privilege, racial or otherwise.”

I don’t know whether to pity Spier or to be revolted by her supine eagerness to satisfy and completely unreasonable request made by someone, simply because of the color of the complainer’s skin. It’s one thing for a gutless campus administration to silence free speech and expression on campus, but when the speakers and artists can be talked into silencing themselves, you know things are pretty damn hopeless. Conformists to the marrow, the lot.

 

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Metaphysics Of The Men’s Room

Which gender? Which bathroom? Decisions, decisions... (Chris from Paris/Shutterstock)
Which gender? Which bathroom? Decisions, decisions... (Chris from Paris/Shutterstock)

Fox News pundit Charles Krauthammer really doesn’t get it:

Charles Krauthammer comments on Donald Trump’s apathy toward North Carolina’s new LGBT laws on transgender people using restrooms. Krauthammer is puzzled by the need for the law and asked, “do we really have an epidemic of transgenders being evil in bathrooms?”

Krauthammer said the law is a “solution in search of an issue” and said transgenders using public bathrooms has become a problem “precisely because Republicans in North Carolina decided it was a problem.”

“It is not a major national problem and it should have been left that way,” Krauthammer said.

I’m sure Krauthammer is being sincere, but I think he’s in way over his head here. In one sense, yes, transgender access to bathrooms is not a “major national problem” — but the activist left and their supporters in corporate America and the Democratic Party are turning it into one.

It was Obama’s Education Department that decided Title IX forces high schools to open up their locker rooms to transgenders, based on the transgender’s choice — and, note well, rejected compromises as a form of separate-but-equal. It’s major companies like Target taking initiatives to tear down the walls separating bathrooms:

In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

Hey, it’s a private company, it’s their right to run their bathrooms as they please. I don’t begrudge them that. But note that Target is trumpeting this to signal its own virtue, and calling it an example of “inclusivity” — which is to say, companies and stores that maintain male-female bathrooms are guilty of exclusivity. Monsterbigots, in other words. See how that works?

It’s kind of astonishing, actually, how quickly what was considered unspeakably radical the day before yesterday becomes normalized the next day, and today, any opposition to it is treated as if it could only come from irrational animus. The Law of Merited Impossibility is getting to be as uncontestable as Newton’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The LMI is defined thus:

The Law Of Merited Impossibility is an epistemological construct governing the paradoxical way overclass opinion makers frame the discourse about the clash between religious liberty and LGBT civil rights. It is best summed up by the phrase, “It’s a complete absurdity to believe that traditional Christians and other conservatives will suffer a single thing from the expansion of LGBT rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.”

Here’s a good example, from today’s headlines. If I told you as recently as a year or two ago that people were about to start gender transitions in kindergartners, and that any objection to this would be seen as cruel bigotry, you would have thought me an alarmist. Well, look at this piece from ThinkProgress, titled, “It Takes A Village To Bully A Transgender Kindergartner.” Excerpt:

When Dave and Hannah Edwards were lucky enough to win the lottery to enroll their child at Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, they were excited about the charter school’s small classrooms, the kind teacher they’d met, and the special attention their kid would receive. What they didn’t anticipate was an entire community rising up against their family as they became the latest victims of an anti-transgender backlash sweeping the country.

Over the course of the school year, the kindergartner would transition from a gender non-conforming boy to a transgender girl. At every step of the way, the Edwards sought accommodation from Nova to help protect her from bullying and make sure her classmates understood who she was, and at every step of the way, a growing force of anti-transgender parents shut them down, creating a public spectacle and only increasing the harassment their daughter experienced.

The Edwards have since pulled their daughter from the charter school and enrolled her in a different public school where she is a happy and healthy little girl. But they have also filed a complaint against Nova for the way she was treated in hopes of protecting other trans kids from enduring the same treatment. “Now that we’ve had to move and now that we’ve had this potential harm that’s been inflicted on our family,” Dave told ThinkProgress, “we’re invested in making sure this doesn’t happen to any kid again.”

Let me state up front that bullying is wrong and should not ever be acceptable, full stop. But read on, and see if this is merely a case of bullying — and see who was bullying whom. Halfway through kindergarten year, the Edwards child began to identify as female:

Classmates would make fun of her for her shoes, backpack, or other preferences that were more associated with girls than with boys. The Edwards, both teachers themselves, approached Nova to discuss ways to minimize that bullying. “We came from a place of both being educators and really believing in children having the educational tools and language to talk about things and how that might make a difference.” Hannah explained. “Kids, when they’re given the opportunity, can really learn and grow and they want to be good people.”

Their first impression was that the school was on the same page. In fact, administrators agreed to incorporate the book My Princess Boy into an anti-bullying lesson about gender diversity. But when they emailed the school community on October 14th to inform them of this lesson, the backlash began. “Once parents knew, things changed completely,” Dave said.

Behold, the voice of the savage mob:

Just because the student deserves to be safe and respected, wrote parent Vince West in October, “that does not mean, nor does the law imply, that we have to celebrate gender non-conformism (or any controversial moral difference) in school (or anywhere).”

“Given the current climate at Nova, we are opting our children out of any teaching that goes against the natural order of gender identity on the 16th and any other teaching on this topic on some future date,” wrote parent David Bursey. “We all have differences. We recognize them and respect them but we don’t need to call attention to them and celebrate them as a school.” In another email, he explicitly opposed allowing transgender students access to bathrooms and sports teams that match their gender, adding that he even thinks respecting their preferred names and pronouns “is treading on murky territory.”

The debate grew really heated, but the Edwardses could not discern between truly abusive, out-of-bounds commentary and simply objecting to what they want and believe:

Hannah’s sense was that the school was “trying to please this other side so they felt like they were heard, because they thought it was important to bring the community along with us by letting them speak their minds, but it just ended up being unsafe for my child because they were allowing this discriminatory discourse to happen.”

Got it? If you disagree with them, and speak your mind, then you are guilty of making a school unsafe for a child because of your “discriminatory discourse.” More:

After the Edwards’ daughter socially transitioned, they sought more education from the school so that students could better respect and appreciate her as their classmate. The complaint explains that these requests were summarily dismissed in a February 29th meeting:

We were told that the school was not willing to use effective materials like I Am Jazz; would not ever conduct gender education, whether proactive or corrective, without first introducing delay and inviting or encouraging families to “opt out”; and would not even — as a bare minimum — simply inform our child’s classmates of her preferred name and pronouns, without first delaying for days and inviting or encouraging families to “opt out” of this information.

And so, one set of parents of one confused child get to overrule the convictions and wishes of most other parents, and feel entitled to dictate the curriculum to other elementary school students. And if anybody resists, well, they’re haters and bullies.

Nova is a classical school, and one whose core principles include a “strong school-family partnership.” The Edwardses and their supporters frame this as the administration leaving decisions up to the mob, when in fact they are trying to honor their own principles. The Edwardses believe that they should dictate to the school and the school community how to think and how to run the charter school that they chose for their son/daughter. 

The bathroom wars are entirely connected to this greater debate. It’s not really about where people get to pee, but something far more fundamental — and it’s a wonder that it eludes someone as intelligent as Krauthammer. It’s about reality and identity. 

Dale Kuehne, who teaches politics at St. Anselm College and who studies and writes on issues of gender and sexuality, had this to say at a Q Ideas conference. Excerpts:

No wonder journalists are noticing that this is a significant time. But most are still missing what’s most important: while today’s conversations push the boundaries of how we understand gender, they don’t understand that this brave new world of identity is about more than gender.

The students with whom I associate—from middle school to college students—have understood for several years that we now reside in a world beyond gender. The youngest of them probably don’t realize that TIME’s article announced anything “new.”

For many of them, gender discussions, even of the transgender variation, are just so yesterday. When we talk about personal identity, we don’t include the mundane questions about being male and/or female. A person can certainly identify as male or female if they wish, but there is little expectation that one would do so.

After all, today Facebook gives us over 50 “gender” identities to choose from. (Conversations about this can involve questions about why there are so few options.) And rather than looking to gender or variations on a gender, more and more young people are seeking to discover their identity by widening the options to include “otherkins” (people who consider themselves to have a non-human identity, such as various animals, spirits, mediums, and so on).

Young people today are much less binary when it comes to understanding identity because “male” and “female” as categories don’t express a unique or comprehensive identity.

When I tell this to many adult audiences, they laugh, believing that young people will grow out of this “stage.” They’re surprised that I don’t share their sense of the immaturity of our youth.

That’s because the young people with whom I interact are extraordinarily perceptive, compared to adults. As one high school student recently asked me, “Why does our school demand that we figure out if we are male or female or some variation? How could we figure it out even if we cared about gender? Can you tell me what it feels like to be woman? Can you tell me what it feels like to be a man? Of course not. No one knows.”

Precisely.

More:

We don’t live at a tipping point; we already live beyond the tipping point. Whether adults realize it or not, the most important conversation today is not about gender, but about identity, as released from the confines of gender.

We have entered an era of liquid identity. One’s chosen title may express something, nothing, anything, or everything—but as a result, all these designations lose meaning, rather than gain it.

Again: this is about reality. Charles Krauthammer simply does not understand what is going on — and he’s not the only one. And even though Dr. Krauthammer and others think this is about nothing more than arguing how many transgenders can pee in the head, these ideas have consequences, these ideas have far-reaching ramifications. As I wrote earlier:

Kuehne, I should say, thinks this is a very bad thing, because it is part — indeed, perhaps the end point — of the total deconstruction of the relational bases of society and its refashioning to serve the needs of the sovereign Self. (His book about the Sexual Revolution and identity is here.)

… [This is] also a frontal challenge to the natural order, and beyond that, it’s a metaphysical challenge. Is reality nothing more than what we choose to call it? Does the Self have the power to re-order reality to suit its desires — and, in our deracinated culture, does it have the power to compel others to live by its illusions at the risk of being denounced as bigots, or even sued?

I notice this morning that TAC publishes a rave review of The Crisis of Modernity by the late Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce, translated by our own Carlo Lancellotti. In the book, Del Noce recognizes the Sexual Revolution as primarily a metaphysical one intended to destroy the basis for traditional morality. In an essay first published in 1970, Del Noce wrote:

Indeed, [Wilhelm] Reich’s thought is based on the premise, which of course is taken as unquestionably true without even a hint of a proof, that there is no order of ends, no meta-empirical authority of values. Any trace not just of Christianity but of “idealism” in the broadest sense, or of a foundation of values in some objective reality, like history according to Marx, is eliminated. What is man reduced to, then, if not to a bundle of physical needs? …

Having taken away every order of ends and eliminated every authority of values, all that is left is vital energy, which can be identified with sexuality, as was already claimed in ancient times and it actually difficult to refute. Hence, the core element of life will be sexual happiness. And since full sexual satisfaction is possible, happiness is within reach.

More Del Noce:

The idea of indissoluble monogamous marriage and other ideas related to it (modesty, purity, continence) are linked to the idea of tradition, which in turn presupposes (since tradere means to hand down) the idea of an objective order or unchangeable and permanent truths (the Platonic True in itself and Good in itself). On top of everything else, the affirmation of these themes is one of the glories of Italian thought, because what else is Dante’s Comedyif not the poem of order viewed as the immanent form of the universe? …

Interesting. In the Commedia, the Inferno is where individual souls are trapped for eternity, isolated from communion with each other, in worlds they fashioned for themselves, because they preferred their own “truth” to the objective truth of the divine order. Del Noce:

But if we separate the idea of tradition from that of an objective order, it must necessarily appear to be “the past,” what has been “surpassed,” “the dead trying to suffocate the living,” what must be negated in order to find psychological balance. The idea of indissoluble marriage must be replaced by that of free union, renewable of breakable at any time. It does not make sense to speak of sexual perversions; on the contrary, homosexual expressions, either masculine or feminine, should be regarded as the purest form of love. …

Sexual liberation, as Del Noce saw, is based on the denial of metaphysics — that is, the denial of the claim that there is an immanent order in the world. Del Noce said traditionalists can’t even have a dialogue with the sexual liberationists because they deny the very foundation of tradition: belief in an unseen order.

The normalization of transgenderism requires the denial that gender and gender difference have essential meaning. It requires us to believe that truth is whatever the willing individual wishes it to be. And it greases the slippery slope to the loss of our very humanity. Ever heard of species dysphoria? You will.

It’s anarchy, and it can’t last. There will be an immense amount of destruction before this passes, and the natural order reasserts itself. Point is, the craziness in these two stories I posted at the top of this blog are hilarious, in a way, but deep down, not funny at all. The profound disorder within those people is, and is becoming, valorized by our culture, a political act that is undermining the basis of political and social life.

Do not let the Krauthammers dismiss your concerns, and don’t let the progressivist bullies make you think that you are insane or wicked for having them. There’s a very great deal at stake here. We are talking about the disintegration of the Western mind. Camille Paglia says, of today’s college students:

They have no sense of the great patterns of world history, the rise and fall of civilisations like Babylon and Rome that became very sexually tolerant, and then fell. If you’ve had no exposure to that, you can honestly believe that ‘There is progress all around us and we are moving to an ideal state of culture, where we all hold hands and everyone is accepted for what they are … and the environment will be pure…’ – a magical utopian view that we are marching to perfection. And the sign of this progress is toleration – of the educated class – for homosexuality, or for changing gender, or whatever.

To me it’s a sign of the opposite, it’s symptomatic of a civilisation just before it falls: ‘we’ are very tolerant, not passionate, but there are bands of vandals and destroyers circling around the edge of our civilisation who will bring it down.

Whole interview here:

UPDATE: Isidore the Farmer speaks truth:

One thing this is demonstrating is that the activism of the LGBT movement is about much more than what people do in the privacy of their homes.

An assurance given in recent years regarding gay marriage is that nothing being pursued actually impacts anyone else. Now, this was always a lie (whether they were also deceiving themselves I’m not sure – that may vary from activist to activist, citizen to citizen). And the Trans Offensive of 2015/2016 is demonstrating this perfectly, because it actually is having an impact on how people, in public settings: schools, locker rooms, restrooms. And, it is impacting children and adults alike.

While it is true that this is only a very small percentage of the population, it is increasingly obvious that this small percentage is seeking to impact the public interactions of all of society.

It never was about the privacy of one’s bedroom. It was always about coercing everyone to affirm their behavior, in public. However, the goal posts have now shifted enough that the LGBT activists and their supporters no longer really deny it, as even many commenters on this forum would have as recently as 18 months ago.

This. This is the key to understanding this entire thing. Whatever is demanded today will not be enough. There will always be more demanded, and the assurances that it will only go this far, no further, are worthless. Reason has nothing to do with this. It’s entirely about power. You will learn this now, or you will learn this later, but you will be made to learn it.

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The Ben Op Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton and Marco Sermarini (Photo/Rod Dreher)

Caleb Bernacchio sends this incredibly timely essay by G.K. Chesterton, first published in 1927, about the fact that we are now living in a new Dark Age — and what to do about it. Excerpts:

A much truer way of stating the parallel is this; that history is here repeating itself, for once in a way, in connection with a certain idea, which can best be described as the idea of Sanctuary. In the Dark Ages the arts and sciences went into sanctuary. This was true then in a special and technical sense; because they went into the monastery. Because we praise the only thing that saved anything from the wreck, we are actually accused of praising the wreck. We are charged with desiring the Dark Ages, because we praise the few scattered candles that were lit to dispel the darkness. We are charged with desiring the deluge, because we are grateful to the Ark. But the immediate question here is historical rather than religious; and it is a fact attested by all historians that what culture could be found in that barbarous transition was mostly to be found in the shelter of the monastic institutions. We may regret or admire the form which that culture took in that shelter; but nobody denies the storm from which it was sheltered.

More:

I believe we have reached the time when the family will be called upon to play the part once played by the Monastery. That is to say, there will retire into it not merely the peculiar virtues that are its own, but the crafts and creative habits which once belonged to all sorts of other people. In the old Dark Ages, it was impossible to persuade the feudal chiefs that it was more worth while to grow medicinal herbs in a small garden than to lay waste the province of an empire; that it was better to decorate the corner of a manuscript with gold-leaf than to heap up treasuries and wear crowns of gold. These men were men of action; they were hustlers; they were full of vim and pep and snap and zip. In other words, they were deaf and blind and partly mad, and rather like American millionaires. And because they were men of action, and men of the moment, all that they did has vanished from the earth like a vapour; and nothing remains out of all that period but the little pictures and the little gardens made by the pottering little monks. As nothing would convince one of the old barbarians that an herbal or a missal could be more important than a triumph and a train of slaves, so nothing could convince one of the new barbarians that a game of hide and seek can be more educative than a tennis tournament at Wimbledon, or a local tradition told by an old nurse more historic than an imperial speech at Wembley. The real national tone will have to remain for a time as a domestic tone. As religion once went into retreat, so patriotism must retire into private life. This does not mean that it will be less powerful; ultimately it may be more powerful, just as the monasteries became enormously powerful. But it is by retiring into these forts that we can outlast and wear down the invasion; it is by camping upon these islands that we can await the sinking of the flood. Just as in the Dark Ages, the world without was given up to the vainglory of mere rivalry and violence, so in this passing age the world will be given up to vulgarity and gregarious fashions and every sort of futility. It is very like the Flood; and not least in being unstable as water. Noah had a house boat which seems to have contained many other things besides the obvious household pets. And many wild birds of exotic plumage and many wild beasts of almost fabulous fantasy, many arts counted pagan and sciences counted rationalistic may come to roost or burrow in such stormy seasons in the shelter of the convent or the home.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, though heaven knows I’m trying. Read the whole thing.

There’s a reason why the absolute best Benedict Option kind of community I’ve yet seen is the Tipiloschi, Italian Catholics in the city of San Benedetto del Tronto. Their community school is the Scuola G.K. Chesterton. One of their leaders is lawyer Marco Sermarini (above), head of Italy’s G.K. Chesterton Society. None of this is a coincidence.

I’ve learned that more than one American reader of this blog is thinking of traveling to San Benedetto del Tronto to see how this community is accomplishing these great things. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to do this. It’s a revelation, and enormously encouraging.

Marco will be in the US from August 4-6, speaking at the American Chesterton Society’s annual conference, held this year at Slippery Rock State College in Slippery Rock, Pa. I strongly encourage you to go and meet him. It might change your life. I’m not kidding.

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