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Paris Ben Op Diary.4

Busy, busy day yesterday. I had lunch with a reporter from Le Monde, took the metro down south of the city to do a web TV interview, grabbed a cab back to the heart of the city to be interviewed by a reporter from Le Figaro, then hobbled — my blistered feet, you wouldn’t believe — over to a nearby Orthodox church for a presentation of Le pari bénédictin  [1] (click that link for a list of the rest of my public appearances this week). Finally, at 11pm, I sank my knife into the first food I’d had since lunch: the croque madame you see above.

Yesterday was a reminder that this is a working trip, not a vacation. It’s easy to forget the difference, in part because hey, it’s Paris, but also because I’m having way too much fun meeting French Christians and hearing about their lives. I have a theory, based on only five days of observation, so take it for what it’s worth: French Christian Millennials are so much more confident about their faith, without seeming naive, because they live in a society in which sentimental, half-measured Christianity, has long since faded. In other words, they do not have much of a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism problem, at least not that I can tell, because the MTD Christians in this country have already gone where they are bound to go in our country: into unbelief. If you are a young Catholic in this country, chances are you are some sort of conservative on matters of religion.

What’s left are young adult Catholics (I have not yet met any Protestants) who know very well what they believe, and why. It is a powerfully encouraging thing to see. I’ve been hanging out with the Catholic “creative minority” in this city, and it gives me hope.

I am a lot more careful, by the way, about comparing the situation for Catholics and other Christians in France, and in the US. The question of universalism is so powerful here, perhaps a legacy of the revolution. “Community” is a dirty word for many people. This makes it hard to present the Benedict Option. People hear it, and think I’m proposing going full Amish. I asked one of the journalists who interviewed me how I could get across my meaning properly to French audiences. He said, “You can’t. The best thing for you to do is just to say it plainly.”


OK, I’ll try.

No more to report right now. Another busy day ahead. Oh, I found out yesterday that the book is getting a rave review in the Catholic magazine La Nef [2].

21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "Paris Ben Op Diary.4"

#1 Comment By Madeline J On October 3, 2017 @ 6:22 am

Would *love* to be put in touch with the “Catholic ‘creative minority’ in” Paris… Where do they hang out?

-a lonely new expat

[NFR: I’m just now able to get online after four or five days (I’m writing from a transatlantic flight — I didn’t know wifi was available). Are you the Madeline that came to the talk last night, and went out to dinner with us? — RD]

#2 Comment By evw On October 3, 2017 @ 7:49 am

Re. Millenial French Christians, I think you’re exactly right. And I think it explains why you’ve gotten such disparate responses in the states. Those who don’t find your book all that controversial, have, like the French Christians, long ago given up MTD and can see the trajectory of the states. The others are still caught up in the Hope and Change rhetoric of our culture.

It may explain why I, a Third Culture Kid, who has always felt that I’m at odds with the American culture, didn’t find your book controversial either, but rather a refreshing voice of truth.

[NFR: I’m only just now reading this, four days after you posted it, and I can say that everything I experienced the rest of the week completely validates your comment. More on it soon. — RD]

#3 Comment By Lllurker On October 3, 2017 @ 8:03 am

“It is a powerfully encouraging thing to see. I’ve been hanging out with the Catholic “creative minority” in this city, and it gives me hope.”

Wow, a little sunshine from Rod Dreher! Who saw that coming?

“The question of universalism is so powerful here, perhaps a legacy of the revolution. “Community” is a dirty word for many people.”

I could use a little help understanding this, I don’t quite get it.

#4 Comment By caleb bernacchio On October 3, 2017 @ 9:27 am

It looks like things are really looking up in Paris. Even the Louvre has taken a stand against libertinism. lol


#5 Comment By Frances On October 3, 2017 @ 9:28 am


Maybe by repeatedly stressing the living examples of Benedict Option such as the one at St. Jerome in Maryland, the agrarian one in Oklahoma and the one in Italy which also have the benefit of showing the varied approaches to living out the Benedict Option. I know they are in your book, but maybe more stories of individuals would clarify your intent.

#6 Comment By Hal On October 3, 2017 @ 10:13 am

Well, you’re not likely to meet any Protestants in France; self-identified Protestants make up ~2% of the population, compared to 80% Catholic.

For whatever any of that’s worth; I don’t think France has avoided that MTD problem just yet. Pew asked self-identifying Catholics (a number that has plummeted in recent decades) in France about their religious observance: Only 13% attend church weekly, and only 11% say religion is “very important” to them.


#7 Comment By DGJ On October 3, 2017 @ 11:37 am

I’m not an evangelical anymore, but I have to believe the tradition that raised me can change.


#8 Comment By Ray On October 3, 2017 @ 11:48 am

I’ve got an idea why you haven’t met any protestants ….

#9 Comment By Poop the Potato On October 3, 2017 @ 1:35 pm

> In other words, they do not have much of a Moralistic Therapeutic Deism problem, at least not that I can tell, because the MTD Christians in this country have already gone where they are bound to go in our country: into unbelief.

It seems to me that the French are better than Anglos at pursuing ideas to their full logical consequences. Only the French would actually set up a legit Cult of Reason. And French conservative writers like Chateaubriand and de Maistre made Edmund Burke seem like weak sauce. In this regard the Russians are more like the French than the English.

This is a very good thing, because the chief reason liberalism is so dangerous is that, unlike communism or fascism, it has the patience and restraint to cook the frog slowly. The French and the Russians can see where it all leads in a way that a moderation-minded Brit or American cannot.

#10 Comment By Mike On October 3, 2017 @ 5:42 pm

I am happy to see a man earning a decent living for him and his family, and doing work that he feels is meaningful and helping others. But I am really tired of hearing of the Ben Op this and the Ben Op that. I pop over to the American Conservative web site once in a while to see if the writers there might have a unique perspective on recent events. Sometimes I find something good. But I am tired of all things Ben Op.

[NFR: Oh, come off it. We have lots of writers and diverse content. I have been writing this past week exclusively about the Ben Op because I’m on a book tour. Nobody’s forcing you to read my stuff. There’s all kinds of good content on this site, away from this particular blog. In fact, none of the “Paris Diary” posts are on the TAC main page, so you had to go looking for this blog. — RD]

#11 Comment By Ogaitnas Anillab On October 3, 2017 @ 9:59 pm

La Nef’s review cites the following:
“Le pari bénédictin ne consiste pas à échapper au monde réel mais à regarder ce monde en vérité et y vivre. La spiritualité bénédictine nous apprend à accepter le monde avec amour; et à le transformer comme nous transforme le Saint-Esprit. Faire le pari bénédictin, c’est s’inspirer der vertus contenues dans la Règle et changer la façon qu’ont les chrétiens de voir la politique, l’Eglise, la famille, la communauté, l’éducation, le travail, la sexualité et la technologie.”
You got yourself a very talented translator, Mr. Dreher, I like it more than the original.

[NFR: Translation of this: “The Benedict Option does not consist in escaping from the real world but in looking at this world in truth and living there. Benedictine spirituality teaches us to accept the world with love; and to transform it as transforms us the Holy Spirit. To take the Benedict Option is to be inspired by the virtues contained in the Rule and to change the way Christians see politics, the Church, the family, the community, education, work, sexuality and technology.” — RD]

#12 Comment By Ma Vie En Rose On October 4, 2017 @ 6:49 am

Yesterday (Tuesday the 3rd), I spent my day off walking through the center of Paris, from my home in the 4th arrondissement near the Centre Pompidou, across the Seine at Pont Neuf, and over to the charming square at St. Sulpice, sitting in the warmth of the late afternoon sun on a beautiful October day.

I had been reading your blog devotedly for the better part of a three months now, having decided to be better informed about your thoughts and perspective as an apparent “Never Trumper” but also because of your intriguing thesis put forward in the Benedict Option. So it was with particular interest that I read about your present visit to my home of the past ten years, Paris.

I am an ex-pat living here, originally from the US, but decided after George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 that I had had enough of America, and American “conservativism”, and wanted to live somewhere saner, more civilized, and finally put my proverbial money where my mouth was and left the US. I have never regretted my decision, and each morning when I do my daily reading of the newspapers and opinions (your blog being one of them), I am comforted that I have made the right decision.

When I read your posts from Paris, I am struck by how Americans (you, of course, Mr. Dreher, but also most of us) fall in love with this city. From previous posts you’ve written while still in the US, you quote various French philosophers and intellectuals such as Houllebecq and Zemmour who bemoan a France that is already dead. And yet, here I see your photos, and read your posts, celebrating the rich cultural heritage of France, its cuisine, wine, vibrant intellectual life where traditional Catholics are engaged in the political life, and opinions are reported in the leading newspapers such as Le Monde and Le Figaro.

Walking through the streets of Paris yesterday I was invigorated, and still in love, with this city, and this country. It is anything but dead!

And then I read about the US, and life under Trump. His daily tweets, sociopathic narcissistic behavior, the complete and utter corruption of his administration and the vapid philosophical shell of the enabling Republican party are ever present and never ending. As bad as I thought W. was, Trump is of a scale and magnitude worse.

On top of this Trumpian circus, the whole edifice of contemporary America spins around, wobbling ever more with the calamities of mass shootings on a regular basis (but the inability of America to end it because of its worship of guns), the continuing destruction of small towns because of corporate rigging of the economy for their own shareholders to the detriment of workers and wages, the malignancy of greed and ignorance in the health “reform” debate surrounding “replace and repeal” of Obamacare.

Frankly, I see an America that is dead. Not France.

I look forward to your continuing observations and posts about your visit here in France. But as I read your blog, I can’t help but think that you and your family wouldn’t feel more at home here in Europe, in the foothills of the Italian Alps with your friends in the Catholic community, or even here in Paris, amongst the new generation of millenials trying to create a living embodiment of what they believe Christ taught.

#13 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On October 5, 2017 @ 8:56 pm


Hope you’re trip in France is going well. I obviously can’t see your face, but I can metaphorically ‘see’ how it lights up whenever you talk about visiting France. I’m so glad you’re getting the opportunity to visit one your favourite places again.

I’m actually traveling now as well, I’m in India at the moment visiting my grandparents- my grandfather is experiencing some serious medical issues, and helping deal with those reminds me a little bit about your writing about you’re father’s last illness a year or two ago. I think I can relate to your experience now a lot better than I could before- some things really need to be experienced to be understood. (I won’t go into more details here for privacy related issues, so let’s leave it at that).

I really should have taken a photo of what we had for lunch yesterday- a VFYT of a South Indian home cooked meal would be a pretty cool addition to the collection we’ve amassed at this blog so far. (The meal was delicious too- potato pancakes, chayote squash sautéed with carrots, sautéed spiced okra, and a thick soup).

I’m going to be in England for about a week after this- does any of the Dreher commentariat live there at the moment?

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 6, 2017 @ 10:31 am

36 hours without a new post or an approved comment. This is a record. I hope it means Rod is besieged by adoring throngs who will make his book a best seller in France.

#15 Comment By JonF On October 6, 2017 @ 12:32 pm

Hope you are on your way home: there’s a hurricane that has Louisiana as its target for this weekend.

[NFR: It’s Saturday, and I’m flying over the Atlantic. My connection in DFW is supposed to take off at 6:35pm for BTR. I’d say it’s a near-certainty that the flight will be cancelled, as that’s when the storm is supposed to be ramping up. It will be so disappointing to have to wait another day to seem my family, and my dog. There is no journey like going home. — RD]

#16 Comment By grumpy realist On October 6, 2017 @ 1:19 pm

Rod–OT but I think you would find the following article from the Guardian about the whole technosphere and its effects on us very interesting:


(My friends laugh when I grumble about how I’m going to go back to carrier pigeons but I’m starting to love low technology solutions.)

#17 Comment By Jones On October 6, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

I hope you’re enjoying France! Meanwhile, here’s a neat capsule of what awaits you back in America: a gay-married homosexual singing “America the Beautiful” for a room full of Nazis we’ve all decided to pretend are not Nazis.

Context: [7]

#18 Comment By Nelson On October 6, 2017 @ 8:01 pm

I hope your feet feel better soon. Thank you for sharing your working vacation with us. Reading this is a pleasant break from the daily disasters coverage.

#19 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 7, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

grumpy realist, I have only had a smart phone for a few months. I am NOT addicted. I’ve barely touched most of its functions, and I don’t care about them. I am addicted to getting on line at this blog however, and this may require serious therapy if I can’t turn away when there is real work to do.

#20 Comment By Philly guy On October 8, 2017 @ 12:08 am

Ham + egg + cheese + bread sounds a lot like an egg mcmuffin.

#21 Comment By Madeline J On October 9, 2017 @ 5:06 am

@Rod, yep, I’m that Madeline. After I left the comment, I realized, “Well, right now, they hang out with Rod Dreher.” I’m so glad I came to the talk, and I can’t thank you enough for welcoming me and making introductions (and H. and Y. for inviting me along to dinner!) I’m thrilled to have been put in touch with this coterie, and I have to hope I have some sort of role to play in the fostering of French-American connections that you talk about in your October 7th post. If you see a role for a young semi-bilingual philosophy student who likes to write, I’m your girl. Until then, I’ll be working away immersing myself in this new world of Limite and Le pari benedictin. Many, many thanks, and glad you had safe travels home!