Rod Dreher

E-mail Rod

Lesson Of The Sand Palace

Here’s a good piece from the NYT about the Sand Palace, a beachfront house in Mexico Beach, Fla., that survived Hurricane Michael; all the neighboring houses were swept away. What made the difference? Read on:

Mr. King wouldn’t say how much he and Dr. Lackey spent to fortify the beachside home, which public records show has been assessed for tax purposes at a value of $400,000. Their architect, Charles A. Gaskin, said that building a house the way they did roughly doubles the cost per square foot, compared with ordinary building practices.


Dr. Lackey said he and Mr. King, who jointly own the Mexico Beach house, did not even refer to the minimum wind resistance required in Bay County. They built the sand palace to withstand 250 mile-an-hour winds.

The house was fashioned from poured concrete, reinforced by steel cables and rebar, with additional concrete bolstering the corners of the house. The space under the roof was minimized so that wind could not sneak in underneath and lift it off. The home’s elevation, on high pilings, was meant to keep it above the surge of seawater that usually accompanies powerful hurricanes.

“We’re thinking that we need to build a house that would survive for generations,” Dr. Lackey said.

“I believe the planet’s getting warmer and the storms are getting stronger,” said Mr. King, 68, an attorney. “We didn’t used to have storms like this. So people who live on the coast have to be ready for it.”

Read the whole thing. 

That house is a symbol of Benedict Option Christianity. It’s going to cost us a heck of a lot more, metaphorically speaking, to build a faith that can withstand the kinds of storms that are upon us in this post-Christian world. But what is the alternative? Look at the image above. There’s your answer.

Posted in , . Tagged , . One comment

Jim Jones & Harvey Milk: The Secret History

Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and the city that made them (detail from ISI Books)

Next month marks the 40th anniversary of two landmark events of American popular culture: the assassination of pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk, and the mass suicide of 900 members of the Peoples Temple cult.

If you remember anything about the mass suicide, it’s probably that cult leader Jim Jones was a fundamentalist Christian demon whose Bible-thumping berated brainwashed followers into drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

Harvey Milk, by contrast, is a folk hero. The San Francisco supervisor became a gay-rights saint because he was martyred by a right-wing fanatic.

That’s the received history in both cases. But according to author Daniel Flynn, it’s scarcely truth at all, but rather propaganda. And the way history remembers these men and the time and place that made them offers a dire warning to us today.

Flynn’s new book Cult City: Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books) is a bold, at times shocking work of revisionist history that challenges what we think we know about both men and the murderous events that brought them to national prominence.

Flynn reveals that Jones was in fact a socialist fanatic who, far from the theological and cultural fringes, was a key player in left-wing San Francisco politics. Flynn also shows that Milk was an opportunist and a showboater who was willing to use extremist rhetoric — and in one case, indulge in outing — to advance his political career. His assassin was not a homicidal homophobe, but a hotheaded former political ally furious over Milk’s political betrayal.

And, most bizarrely of all, Milk and Jones were friends and allies. That was the kind of place San Francisco was in the 1970s, says Flynn, who agreed to do an interview with me by e-mail:

RD: I was shocked to discover that Jim Jones and Harvey Milk were allies in the politics of 1970s San Francisco. Before we get into the details of that alliance, what does the fact that it existed have to do with the title of your book, Cult City?

DANIEL FLYNN: San Francisco suffered the hangover after the high.

Following the day-glo 1960s exemplified by the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury, and Golden Gate Park’s Human Be-In, San Francisco became a very dark place. The Zodiac Killer taunting the cops, the Zebra Murders racially targeting white people, the terrorism of the New World Liberation Front leading to a bomb placed on Dianne Feinstein’s windowsill, among other frightening acts. The Symbionese Liberation Army’s kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and so much else made a beautiful city ugly. Political crazies and just plain crazies intermingled with little to differentiate the two.

This worked as the ideal milieu for Jim Jones and Peoples Temple. It fit in to its time and place, even if it stands out to us forty years later.

The Temple’s politicized theology really grabbed Harvey Milk, a man heretofore largely indifferent to faith. Jim Jones promoted gay rights, which appealed to Harvey Milk. Beyond this, he provided his campaigns “volunteers,” a printing press, and publicity through his widely distributed newspaper. When Milk organized a fair on Castro Street, Peoples Temple provided professional-level entertainers. When his lover committed suicide, Temple members sent dozens of condolence letters inviting Milk to visit or even live in Jonestown.

Milk clearly found his association with Jim Jones exhilarating. “It may take me many a day to come back down from the high that I reach[ed] today,” he wrote Jim Jones after one Temple service. “I was sorry that I had to leave after 4 short hours …. I found something dear today. I found a sense of being that makes up for all the hours and energy placed in a fight. I found what you wanted me to find. I shall be back. For I can never leave.”

In exchange for all that, Milk provided legitimacy to Jim Jones. He spoke at Peoples Temple. He praised it in his column in the Bay Area Reporter. He lobbied on Jones’s behalf to President Jimmy Carter, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Califano, Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, and other powerful figures. As Cult City shows, this proved disastrous for many people.

So many local leaders enthusiastically vouching for Jim Jones made it easier for people in positions of responsibility far away to dismiss the charges against him as fantastical. Before the poor drank Jim Jones’s Kool Aid in South America, the powerful did in San Francisco.

I was a kid when the Jonestown mass suicide took place, and always assumed that Jim Jones was some kind of fundamentalist Christian. In fact, he and his Peoples Temple were very much the opposite. What were they really about? 

I had the same experience. I write about it briefly in the acknowledgments. Perhaps we both thought that because media initially reported this Bible-thumping Jim Jones as fact, and that first draft of history stuck.

The New York Times, for instance, described Jones’s preaching as “fundamentalist Christianity” immediately after the tragedy. They knew better. A.M. Rosenthal, the managing editor of the paper, several years earlier ridiculed the first expose on the Temple by a religion writer in the San Francisco Examiner, explaining to a Temple member: “We do expect to be attacked by people like Lester Kinsolving and others who have political axes to grind.”

In reality, Peoples Temple used the trappings of Pentecostal Christianity to win over large numbers of people to socialism. Jim Jones ridiculed the Bible, stomped on it in front of his flock, and instructed his followers to use it as toilet paper when their supply of the luxury ran out in Jonestown. The rest that Temple survivors told me about this really dropped my jaw.

The Nation stood as one of the few outlets to accurately report on Peoples Temple’s outlook in the aftermath of the tragedy. “The temple was as much a left-wing political crusade as a church,” the weekly noted. “In the course of the 1970s, its social program grew steadily more disaffected from what Jim Jones came to regard as a ‘Fascist America’ and drifted rapidly toward outspoken Communist sympathies.”

In members occasionally donning red uniforms, frequently singing “The Internationale,” and teaching Russian to Jonestown inhabitants, Peoples Temple advertised its political creed. Jones even politicized the group’s grisly coda, calling it “revolutionary suicide” as though the nihilistic act contained some higher ideological purpose. Who Jones borrowed this “revolutionary suicide” concept from, and how it slowly developed within the Temple, may surprise a lot of readers.

The received story about Harvey Milk is that he is a secular saint. In fact, as you show, he was sexually involved with underage boys, and he was willing to use slanderous extreme rhetoric against his opponents, even other gay people. Why have these facts been shoved down the memory hole?

When a supporter discovered that Milk had fabricated a tale of a dishonorable discharge from the Navy—only in San Francisco would a politician lie about his honorable service to enhance credibility—Milk responded, “Symbols. Symbols. Symbols.”

In death, Milk the man became Milk the myth—a human symbol of something greater than himself. Men are complicated. Myths? Not so much. The need to be neat and pure.

Gays understandably tried to make sense of a senseless act. Rather than a petty man seeking murderous redress for a petty grievance, the assassination of Harvey Milk became an act of homophobia and its victim a martyr of the gay rights movement.

Part of this mythology involves creating a caricature of Dan White and his motives. What I discovered about Milk’s assassin from interviewing people close to him really floored me. I will leave all that for the book. The other part of the equation of the mythologizing involves transforming Harvey Milk, who authored one single city ordinance—sensibly ordering dog owners to clean up the mess their pets leave—in his 11 months in office into a colossal figure (and a secular saint).

Saints require saintliness. Harvey Milk acted as a great friend, demonstrated a terrific sense of humor, exhibited an amazing penchant for reinvention, and tenaciously served the causes in which he believed. He was not a saint.

His biggest critics are not right wingers (John Briggs [a retired California politician best known for an anti-gay bill — RD] clearly conveyed to me in our conversation how much he enjoyed Milk’s company) but gay men, several of whom spoke to me for this book. Other gay men jealously guard Milk’s legacy. One refused to answer my questions but instead began asking me questions about my book. There’s a bowdlerized quality to books on Harvey Milk. I hope this book helps to change that. Affirmative action history with varying standards for people according to identity politics isn’t history. It’s propaganda. My aim is not to make Milk into a monster, but a man. Men are flawed. People who choose to worship a man find this hard to accept.

Jim Jones has been largely forgotten today, but I think it matters that people today, if they think of him at all, remember him as a lone cult crazy, like a predecessor of David Koresh or Warren Jeffs. In fact, before he exiled himself and his congregation to Guyana, he was a mainstream left-wing figure of his time and place. Why has our historical memory been falsified?

Jim Jones held private meetings with Jimmy Carter’s running mate Walter Mondale and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, during the 1976 presidential campaign. San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appointed him chairman of the city’s Housing Commission Authority, effectively making him the city’s largest landlord (scary when thinking of how he treated his tenants in Guyana). Jane Fonda, Huey Newton, Angela Davis, and others heaped praise upon him. Willie Brown compared him to Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.

Jones was very much in with the in crowd. Then he orchestrated the murders of more than 900 people. At this point, the evangelical atheist and committed Communist morphed into a “power-hungry fascist” in the words of Walter Cronkite, and his followers became “religious zealots” in the words of the Associated Press.

The reasons for this Jedi Mind Trick appear pretty obvious. Many powerful politicians killed investigations of Peoples Temple. Many famous journalists, including San Francisco Chronicle mainstay Herb Caen, acted as boosters for Jim Jones. Many had blood on their hands. Beyond this, Jones discredited the politicians who aided and abetted him and the political causes they valued. So, they turned him into something he was not.

When one thinks of weak but frequent attempts to link mass murderers to political figures without any evidence—one thinks of the lame gambit to tie Tucson mass murderer Jared Lee Loughner to Sara Palin and the Tea Party—the disassociation of Jim Jones from the very real friendships and alliances he forged with San Francisco Democratic elies astounds. He was close to Supervisor Harvey Milk, future San Francisco mayors Willie Brown and Art Agnos, and California Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, who actually made a pilgrimage to Jonestown and colored himself impressed.

On the other hand, the fact that so many journalists had skin in the game helps explain why, after providing laudatory coverage of Jones during his life, they danced around the subject of his famous friends and fashionable causes after his death. Journalists had compromised themselves.

You say in your conclusion that “the lessons of Jonestown remain unlearned”? Explain.

People lied. People died.

People died. People lied.

Jim Jones could not have killed 918 people without politicians, journalists, and activists running interference for him. They mistook ideology for ethics, a mistake common to fanatics of all stripes. Rather than learn from this mistake, they compounded it by portraying Jones posthumously as someone he was not to protect their ideology, shield their political skullduggery, and absolve themselves from the journalistic sin of performing PR instead of real reporting.

Cult City is a case study in the worst that can happen when powerful people look away from evil because the evildoer shares their politics. This repeats itself in the Jonestown post mortem, which witnesses a massive attempt to suppress the whole point of Peoples Temple: to promote left-wing politics. Because the truth discredits famous people and favored causes, the cable-TV documentaries and newspaper retrospectives that surely commemorate the 40th anniversary of the tragedy next month go into contortions to maneuver around the truth.

Jim Jones believed in making heaven on earth. Like so many others devoted to that proposition, he ended up making hell on earth. Jonestown, and the politicians who helped make it happen, is a truly amazing story—but an untold one. I think curious people who want to know the truth of what happened in this stranger-than-fiction tale will want to read my book.

The book is ‘Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco’ (ISI Books), by Daniel Flynn.

Posted in , , , , . Tagged , , , , , . 46 comments

A Great Orthodox Schism

The Russian Orthodox Church has formally cut all ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul:

In the biggest rift in modern Orthodox history, the Russian Orthodox Church has cut all ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate, effectively splitting from it after it granted independence to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Holy Synod, the governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church, has ruled that any further clerical relations with Constantinople are impossible, Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s External Relations Department, told journalists, de facto announcing the breaking of relations between the two churches.


The move comes days after the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate decided to eventually grant ‘autocephaly’ to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, thus making the clerical organization, which earlier enjoyed broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, fully independent.

The move taken by Moscow arguably marks the greatest split in the history of the Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054, which separated Catholics and Orthodox Christians, as it involves a break of communion between the biggest existing Orthodox Church – the Moscow Patriarchate – and the Constantinople Patriarch, who is widely regarded as a spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, even though his status is nothing like that of the Pope in the Catholic Church.

Writing in the Catholic Herald a couple of weeks ago, Father Mark Drew gave a backgrounder on the historical and ecclesiological issues in play.

These are very deep waters. My natural sympathies lie with the Russians here, but I don’t know enough about the details to offer an informed opinion. I welcome your commentary in the comments thread — but please, be civil.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , . 44 comments

An Ivy League School For SJW Service

I’ve been in touch this morning with a reader who is working on his PhD in a humanities field at an Ivy League school. He’s been reading the recent posts on this blog on the strident intolerance of progressive culture, and said that he is having second thoughts about his decision to attend the university. As a conservative, he wanted to earn his doctorate at a top-quality university where his thinking would be challenged. But, he writes:

I never could have imagined some of the stuff that happens around here. I thought [name of university] would challenge me, but it really doesn’t. It’s difficult to be challenged in a world where disagreement feels like a mistake. For a place that claims to encourage differing ideas, I feel like I want as few people as possible to know I’m a conservative.

It’s difficult to be challenged in a world where disagreement feels like a mistake. I’m not going to reveal which Ivy he’s studying at, but it’s easy to find examples of militant political correctness at that institution — in particular, of non-conforming opinions being stigmatized as “violence.” To an outsider like me, the place looks like a madhouse. What kind of university creates a space in which a student is afraid to disagree with the party line, for fear of what will happen to him?

I’ve actually met and talked with this reader in the past, in connection with my Benedict Option work. He’s a gentle person, and struck me as the kind of curious intellectual that any university would want to have within it. But here he is at one of the world’s most prestigious universities, and he’s not only having to live deeply closeted because of his moral and political views, but he’s also receiving a deficient education, because the bounds of thought and discourse have been so severely constricted by political correctness.

Reading online about some of the recent controversies at this particular institution, it is striking to observe how these students, who are by definition among the most privileged people to walk the planet, portray themselves as among the most oppressed on earth. I put that question to the student. He responded with this characterization of the scholarly ethos there:

Everything is violence. Disagreement is violence. Ideas are violence. Translation is rape.

This university and this program will be insulated from consequences for a very long time, because of the status at degree from it confers, and because of its endowment. But it is pretty clear that it is going down the same path to institutional irrelevance as the Church Of England. From The Guardian:

The Church of England is facing a generational catastrophe with only 2% of young adults identifying with it, while seven out of 10 under-24s say they have no religion, research reveals.

C of E affiliation is at a record low among all age groups, and has halved since 2002, according to the British Social Attitudes survey. Far fewer actually attend church services on a regular basis.

To be sure, the C of E’s reasons for fading into irrelevance are not the same as this Ivy League school’s (at least the program there in which my correspondent is studying). The similarities, though, have to do with losing touch with the wider society of which you are a part, and that irrelevance having been concealed for a long time by material wealth and social status. What happens when the Real World™ discovers that graduates of that doctoral program at that Ivy League university don’t actually know much about their field, but instead have their heads filled with progressive propaganda?

I’ll repeat the grad student’s line: It’s difficult to be challenged in a world where disagreement feels like a mistake.

If you are administering a school where a student can reach that conclusion, then you are failing. It doesn’t matter how prestigious your institution is, or how big its endowment. You are failing. You are not fit for purpose.

Posted in , , . Tagged , . 33 comments

‘The Rubicon Is A Very Narrow Stream’

The River Rubicon: Julius Caesar’s crossing this small stream changed world history — and he knew it would

Catholic theologian Larry Chapp needs his own blog, where he can publish his thoughtful, challenging comments all the livelong day. Until he has one, let me share with you (he’s given me permission) this letter he just sent me:

One of the interesting things I noticed in reading the responses to my comments you posted yesterday on the Youth Synod was that there were a couple of posts that were basically saying “Oh come on. Stop the hysteria.  Stop the paranoia already”.  These kinds of responses always trouble me the most because I find them most indicative of a peculiarly American cast of mind.  There is a strong intellectual tradition in this country of eschewing metaphysical thinking in favor of a pragmatism that is taken to be “common sense” and as pertaining to “real life” as opposed to the “abstractions” of philosophy, and so on.

But as you and I both know, what counts as “common sense” and “real life” in any given period of time, is greatly modified and influenced by the social constructions of the time.  That is what good propagandists count on.  Very few people think things through to the grounding first principles upon which “real life” is rooted.  That is the essence of metaphysical thinking – – thinking things back to their first principles – – and those who are gifted in such forms of discourse are also adept at understanding what the inevitable “real life” consequences will be once certain first principles are abrogated in the name of some “need”.

I take this form of thinking to be the very soul of the prophet.  A true prophet, both secular as well as religious, is often thought of as a loon by his or her contemporaries.  The average person, caught up in the pragmatism of day-to-day living, just doesn’t see what the prophet sees or why the prophet is raising such a “stink” over such small things.  But what the metaphysical thinker “sees” that others don’t is what will happen down the road if certain principles are violated in the name of some expediency.  It always bracing to remember that the Rubicon is a very narrow stream.

History also shows us that indeed some historical eras are more heavily freighted than others with momentous, “fork-in-the-road” decisions.  That very often, when the form and structure of a particular civilization begins to collapse, that the citizens of that culture are forced by events out of the normalcy of the status quo, out of the illusion of “everydayness as what is real”.  The acedia induced by the noonday devil is precisely designed to make us think that the quotidian is what is truly real and everything else is just alarmist nonsense.

Now, I am not saying that I am a prophet.  Far from it.  But I do think that you and I and those who agree with your analysis of modernity, precisely because we are orthodox Christians who think things through to their logical end, are on to something important.  What we see is that so many foundational principles of human nature, and of its constitutive orientation to fulfillment in God, have been violated by modernity that there are going to be unpleasant consequences that are actually quite easy to foresee.

Richard Weaver’s “witches on the heath” passage from Ideas Have Consequences is the most famous modern conservative statement of this idea.

More Chapp:

Therefore, from my perspective, the biggest problem with the current Youth Synod in Rome is not that there is some grand nefarious plot, engineered by infiltrating Freemasons and demonic illuminati, to bring down the Church.  I will leave such speculations to the loony Right.  Rather, my contention is that the primary sin of this Synod is just its sheer managerial class mediocrity.  It is really just business as usual boredom.  These guys just don’t “get it” or the crisis we face.  They really actually think that the bishops still have credibility.  They really think that the whole world is just waiting around for clerics to now give “young people of today” (talk about abstractions!) “permission” to go to communion regardless of their sexual proclivities.  This is clericalism at its finest, actually.  I look at the Synod and what I see is silliness.  Old men pretending to be “hip” in order to be “relevant”.  And in so doing they show themselves to be a group of unreconstructed refugees from the 60’s and 70’s.  They are not only not fighting the grand reversal of values at work in our culture today, they are actively contributing to it.  And insofar as they are accommodating violations of fundamental first principles concerning human nature, and God, and of the relation between the two, they are irrelevant at best, and complicit at worst.

As I said in my follow up post, the ongoing project of the “reversal of values” is increasing, exponentially, in speed.  It is no longer possible for a Christian to deny this.  And those who do are either being mendacious for ideological reasons, or they are just naive.

If you had told my father 40 years ago that someday pornographers would be lionized in our culture as champions of free speech, but the Boy Scouts would be hounded into submission as homophobic Hitler Youth, he would have laughed you out of the room.  He would have said:  “oh stop it with your theological and religious hysteria already.  Stop your paranoia.  Of course that will never happen.  Get real.”

He isn’t laughing now.

One of this blog’s faithful conservative Catholic commenters observed on the Jill Soloway thread that he wishes I wouldn’t focus so much on the freaks. The thing is, we all have to be aware of how those who control the cultural means of production are redefining normality. My point is not to poke a mocking finger at the freaks, but rather to point out that societal norms are rapidly changing, and that this will have major consequences, especially for social and religious conservatives. I received a kind e-mail the other day from a social scientist who said that as a liberal and an atheist, he disagrees with most of what I write here, but he keeps reading in part because he believes that I have an intuitive grasp of realities that many people don’t yet recognize.

Larry Chapp’s e-mail today might explain why: because I tend to think metaphysically. And, if I’m honest, it might be because of latent Asperger’s tendencies within me. I’ve mentioned before that it runs in my family. I don’t think I would be quite diagnosable, but it wasn’t until one of my own kids received a diagnosis of mild Asperger’s that I began to learn about it, and began to see these traits within myself.

People on the autism spectrum (of which Asperger’s is at the mildest end) have the gift of seeing patterns. In The Big Short, the financial journalist Michael Lewis profiles a young man who made himself a billion dollars by doing a deep dive on market data, and perceiving patterns that others could not see — patterns that predicted a stock market crash. It reminded me of the time I was working for the Templeton Foundation, and visited the late genius investor Sir John Templeton’s personal office in the Bahamas. Someone who had known him then said that Sir John would sit at his desk with the stock pages laid out in front of him, and get into some kind of zone, and make his investment decisions from what he discerned in those sessions. I thought at the time that Sir John was most likely on the spectrum. The insights of non-neurotypicals can seem uncanny, but there’s nothing psychic about it; they just see more deeply than the rest of us do.

If my non-neurotypical offspring were to turn his gifts to stock-picking, his old pop could probably retire in that cottage in Burgundy he’s had his eye on. But that’s not the lad’s calling. In any case, his neurological talents are pretty incredible, though I think he would concede that they can be as much a curse as a blessing.

My father coached my Little League baseball team. He used to laugh about what a tortured player I was. He said, “You were something to watch. When you were in the field, you knew before every pitch where the play would be, no matter where the ball would be hit. But you couldn’t get anybody on the same page with you. Y’all were just little boys. The rest of the team was out to have fun. This tore you up.”

Yes, because as my confessor would tell you, I live in my head. The error is living too much in abstraction. The equal and opposite error is living without the capacity to abstract at all. This is partly where the “Oh come on, stop the hysteria, stop the paranoia” stuff is coming from. Of course it’s also coming from a very human place — from fearful people refusing to see what is right in front of their eyes, because it’s too threatening.

Anyway, pay attention to what Chapp is trying to tell us. What is happening in Rome now, under this papacy, is an attempt to rewrite the basic coding of Catholic Christianity to make it conform to the spirit of the age. I don’t know where any of this goes from this point, but I know that Catholics had better pay very close attention, and watch with great discernment. It’s also worth reading Chapp’s 2013 warning upon Benedict XVI’s resignation.

Some of you might wonder why I’m so fixated on the Roman church, given that I left it 12 years ago, and why I’m not writing about the massive crisis upon the Orthodox world, having to do with schism in Ukraine. Well, for one, I can’t begin to fathom the complexity of the issues at play in the Orthodox crisis. I hate to see schism, but I don’t want to comment on something I truly don’t understand — especially because it has nothing at all practically to do with Orthodox life in this country, thank God. Second, it is a fight about ecclesiology and church jurisdictional boundaries, not about fundamental doctrinal truth. It’s bad, but not a threat to the integrity of the faith.

And third, as I’ve said many times, as goes the Catholic Church, so goes the West. For better or for worse, it is the core institution of Western civilization. From a purely sociological point of view, Orthodox Christianity is nothing in the West. Even Protestantism defines itself as against Catholic Christianity. My Reformed and Evangelical Protestant friends will no doubt disagree, but I doubt that they will have the stability to withstand liquid modernity (I hope I’m wrong). It has long been obvious that huge portions of the Catholic Church in the West have been lost to modernism, but it has been possible to be confident that the core, guarded by Rome, would hold the line.

I don’t think that confidence is warranted any longer. What this means for the future of Catholicism, and of the West, I don’t know.

A German Catholic friend told me recently that he expects the institutional Catholic Church to collapse in his country in the next 20 years or so, and for the Catholic faith in Europe to be carried on within faithful families who immerse themselves in the faith, and who marry among each other. Preparing for that possible future is what The Benedict Option is about. We have to get to know each other now, and build these networks of resistance now. You’ll be happy to know that a potential funder has come forward who might be willing to pay for the building and upkeep of a website whose purpose is Ben Op networking. More on that later; we’re having a meeting this week about it.

Posted in , , , , . Tagged , , , , , . 34 comments

BBC To Identify Haters Within

LGBT ‘Ally’ flag (Yaroslav Melnik/Shutterstock)

This is genius, actually — and exactly what I’ve been saying for years was going to happen. From the Times of London; emphasis below is mine:

BBC staff have been told to use non- binary pronouns when addressing gender-fluid or transgender employees to ensure that the corporation does not develop a “heteronormative culture”.

The policy means that BBC workers will be encouraged to refer to non-binary colleagues as “they” or “them”, rather than “he” or “she”.

The broadcaster will also review its “systems and practices” to ensure that they are inclusive of non-binary genders, and will train managers on how to support transgender staff, especially when they are transitioning.

In addition heterosexual BBC staff will be asked to wear badges identifying themselves as “straight allies” to help their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) colleagues.

The corporation’s television, radio and news teams are also being told to increase the “incidental portrayal of LGBT identities” in their programmes.

This is about manufacturing reality among the BBC’s viewers, of course, but the really interesting thing about this is how BBC staff are asked to identify publicly as LGBT “allies.” What if you don’t want to do that, for religious reasons, or any other reason? Everyone in the workplace will know that you do not wish to be seen as an “ally.” Even if you treat your LGBT colleagues with total fairness and respect, that will not matter. Suddenly LGBT people and their “allies” will look upon you with suspicion. If you’re not an ally, what are you, an enemy? Stands to reason.

At some point, when it comes time for promotion, you will be asked to explain why you have not declared yourself an “ally” — and if you think this won’t hurt your chances of advancing in your career, you’re a fool.

The BBC has ingeniously designed a policy that, on its surface, is meant to help, but which serves to out those within the organization who aren’t 100 percent on board with the party line. The absence of badges will play the same role as a yellow star on Jews in anti-Semitic Europe: setting apart those within the group that it is okay to despise, because they are tainted with a quality hated by the majority.

Who do you think this is going to harm the most within the BBC? Low-ranking support staff — secretaries, janitors, etc. — who are immigrants from more conservative countries.

I have mentioned on a number of occasions in this space the case of a friend who is a traditional Catholic. He works as a senior manager for a major corporation. He has gays and lesbians on his staff. Says they’re good workers. His professional ethics ensure that he treats them no different from anybody else. He takes that very seriously. For the past few years, the company, which is strongly pro-LGBT, has invited its employees to identify publicly as “allies,” though it hasn’t come to the point of badge-wearing. His policy has simply been to withhold his name from the “allies” list, as a matter of conscience. But he also knows where the corporate culture in his workplace is headed, and is preparing for the day when he is compelled to declare himself an “ally,” or resign.

He trained and got certified for another line of work so he would have something to fall back on if he has to leave the corporation.

From the chapter on Work in The Benedict Option:

In the end, it comes down to what believers are willing to suffer for the faith. Are we ready to have our social capital devalued and lose professional status, including the possibility of accumulating wealth? Are we prepared to relocate to places far from the wealth and power of the cities of the empire, in search of a more religiously free way of life? It’s going to come to that for more and more of us. The time of testing is at hand.

“A lot of Christians see no difference between being faithfully Christian and being professionally and socially ambitious,” says a religious liberty activist. “That is ending.”

True story: a couple in suburban Washington, D.C., approached their pastor asking him to help their college student daughter, who felt a calling to be an overseas missionary.

“That’s wonderful!” said the pastor.

“Oh no, you misunderstand,” said the parents. “We want you to help us talk her out of ruining her life.”

Christians like that couple won’t make it through what’s to come. Christians with sacrificial hearts like their daughter’s will. But it’s going to cost them plenty.

A young Christian who dreams of being a lawyer or doctor might have to abandon that hope and enter a career in which she makes far less money than a lawyer or doctor would. An aspiring Christian academic might have to be happy with the smaller salary and lower prestige of teaching at a classical Christian high school.

A Christian family might be forced to sell or close a business rather than submit to state dictates. The Stormans family of Washington state faced this decision after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a state law requiring its pharmacy to sell pills the family considers abortifacient. Depending on the ultimate outcome of her legal fight, florist Barronelle Stutzman, who declined for conscience reasons to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, faces the same choice.

When that price needs to be paid, Benedict Option Christians should be ready to support one another economically—through offering jobs, patronizing businesses, professional networking, and so forth. This will not be a cure-all; the conversion of the public square into a politicized zone will be too far-reaching for orthodox Christian networks to employ or otherwise financially support all their economic refugees. But we will be able to help some.

Wake up. It’s coming.

UPDATE: Reader The Other Side comments:

I work at what has always been a rather traditional insurance company. Last year all first level managers were asked to put a rainbow “I am an Ally” signs outside their cubicle. I know for a fact not all of them are “ally’s” but obviously you better put that up. While it’s not yet mandatory managers have the option of signing their teams up for unconscious bias training. Also, one of the core skills you can put on your internal resume is “inclusiveness.” The more support you show for LGBTQ+ through various approved activities the more it’s adds to your official internal marketability. I don’t know if that many people take it seriously yet but the idea that inclusiveness is a specifically listed marketable skill means it’s being taken seriously somewhere in the company. To me it looks likes the goal is that in future generations if you don’t support this, you won’t get promotions beyond entry level positions.

I believe they call this your “social credit” score in China.

UPDATE.2: From another reader:

All too familiar. I work at a public university. For the past few years, we’ve all been encouraged to attend “Safe Zone” LGBTQIA+ training sessions as well as sessions on “Racial Justice.” Complete the training and you get a sticker to put on your office door; the “Racial Justice” badge has a little fist and tells people you’re an “activist.” At this point, I’m one of a tiny handful of faculty members who don’t have either badge. (I won’t go to the trainings.) Since this process began, I’ve felt an accumulating coldness from colleagues along with occasional actions that border on harassment. I should point out that my gay colleagues have had no interest in this; it’s the ideologized “non-binary” people who’ve been pushing this regime of trainings and badges.

UPDATE.3: Reader Kevin Davis:

Three years ago, a friend of mine encountered something similar. He works for a major bank, as a statistician, and the director of his team (of a couple dozen or so workers) “asked” everyone to identify as an ally. I think it was meant for everyone’s LinkedIn account. Anyway, he was the only one who refused, not by raising a ruckus but by simply being silent and not doing it. Sure enough, he got called by the director into her office, where he was politely told — albeit not explicitly — that his career was on the line, certainly in terms of promotions, bonuses, and the like. (Or, what happens when the company downsizes and cuts 15% of staff, for example?) Meanwhile, his wife is pregnant with their first kid, and they are buying their first house. He ultimately decided to do it. That was three years ago. This is not a company-wide policy (yet), but I guarantee you that this is happening all over the corporate world.

Yes. Readers, this is eventually going to be almost everywhere. 

Posted in , , , . Tagged , , . 98 comments

Maps And Legends From The Inklings

Here is something truly wonderful. Next weekend in Wichita (October 19-21), the Eighth Day Institute is having its annual Inklings Oktoberfest, celebrating the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and other members of the informal Oxford literary circle that met at the Eagle And Child pub. The great Ralph Wood will deliver a lecture about G.K. Chesterton as “father” of all the Inklings, and Richard Rohlin will conduct a couple of seminars. 

This year’s Inklings festival coincides with the 30th anniversary of Wichita’s Eighth Day Books, which is the best Christian bookstore on the planet — and I’ll fight the man who doubts me! Three years ago, Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times profiled the bookstore and its founder, Warren Farha.  The piece gives you an idea about why and how this place is so very special, but trust me, there’s no substitute for being there. If you are anywhere within a day’s drive of Wichita, please make every effort to get to Inklings Oktoberfest. And be sure to leave room in your trunk for all the books you will buy. Eighth Day’s selection is phenomenal.

Here’s a delightful aspect of the October event: an Inklings Cartography Contest. Information:

The field is wide open to create maps from any world within the literature of any of the Inklings. That means your creativity is unlimited, i.e., you need not limit yourself to Narnia or Middle-earth, although those worlds are definitely options.

Maps will be judged in four categories, and each category winner will receive an award:

1) Age 7 and below – Inklings Coloring Book

2) Age 8-11 – The Hobbit and $10 Gift Certificate to Eighth Day Books

3) Age 12-18 – Lord of the Rings (boxed set)

4) Age 18+ – $50 Gift Certificate to Eighth Day Books

Other important information:

Maps must be flat (two-dimensional) and no larger than 11×17 inches
Maps must be hand drawn
Maps should be original, creative, and unassisted
Maps may depict any place within the worlds of the Inklings, but should be illustrated; in other words, use pictures
Drop maps off before Oct 21 at Eighth Day Books during normal business hours or have entries brought to Oktoberfest before 4 pm on Oct 21.

Good luck, mapmakers! Here’s a link to the PDF flyer for the entire festival. Partial view here:


(Partial view of schedule)

Posted in , , . Tagged , , , , , , . 6 comments

Hollywood’s Mxelangelo

Jill Soloway (Ga Fullner/Shutterstock)

Behold, The New York Times identifies a Renaissance woman entity of our fin-de-everything era. Excerpts:

There were show tunes rolling through the bright, loft-like spaces of Topple, Jill Soloway’s production company on the Paramount lot, just across the street from the Gene Roddenberry building.

The walls, some of them white clapboard, as in a beach house, were decorated with movie posters: there was one of a pulpy, porny 1977 docudrama called, “Born a Man, Let Me Die a Woman,” and of Mx. Soloway’s own work, including “Afternoon Delight,” their directorial feature debut about a bored Silver Lake wife who invites an exotic dancer into her home. (For the last few years, Mx. Soloway has identified as non-binary and prefers the third-person plural pronoun.)

A sign on the bathroom proclaimed, “Every Body,” three times. A glass cabinet was an armory for Mx. Soloway’s trophies, Emmys and Golden Globes for “Transparent,” their groundbreaking Amazon series about a family of three preening, questing and hapless adult siblings whose father has come out as a transgender woman, a plot sparked by the coming-out of their own parent, now known as Carrie (her daughters, Jill and Faith, call her Moppa). There were awards from GLAAD, the LGBT advocacy and media monitoring organization, and from the NAACP.

Soloway has a new memoir out, titled “She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy,” which might be something you can buy for Mrs. Victoria B. Brown to celebrate her release from the straitjacket. More:

“She Wants It” is a coming-of-age and coming out story that is gently comedic, like most of Mx. Soloway’s oeuvre, and interwoven, as its grandiose subtitle suggests, with some gender studies pontificating. (Talking with Mx. Soloway can feel like you’ve wandered into a class taught by Judith Butler, the gender theorist.) It is bogged down with much psychotherapeutic jargon — “Filmmaking was revealing itself to be a permission structure for me to recreate places and moments from my life,” for example — but raised up by Mx. Soloway’s sense of humor and of the absurd.

After the author falls in love with a lesbian while still married, the two enthusiastically make a short comedy about female ejaculation. The Topple crew pitched in, building a giant vagina and helping with costumes. Mx. Soloway calls the film, inevitably, “If You Build It, She Will Come.”

When Mx. Soloway imagined a scenario in which Ali, the youngest Pfefferman, would fall in love with a women’s studies professor, they had the fleeting notion to cast Eileen Myles, the queer essayist and poet (Cherry Jones ended up with the role; Ms. Myles was an extra). Nonetheless, Mx. Soloway found herself on a panel with the poet, and ended up falling in love with her. When Ms. Myles invited her back to her hotel room, Mx. Soloway demurred, worried that she is wearing the wrong bra. On a trip to Paris with Ms. Myles, the couple channeled Jacques Lacan. They watched heterosexual porn, marveled at the tired plots and were moved to write a manifesto declaring that men must be banned from the porn business for 100 years. Instructing an assistant to buy the domain name,, and post the manifesto, Mx. Soloway and Ms. Myles were stunned when it didn’t explode on Twitter. Their breakup was presaged by an episode of “Transparent,” and then re-enacted in a “breakup processing session” at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Read the whole thing, if you can stomach it.

Hey, y’all know that I’m totally Ignatius-at-the-Prytania about stuff like this Mxelangelo dame, but seriously. Seriously. Some of you left-liberal readers criticize me for allegedly picking out the farthest-out weirdos and holding them up as if they represented mainstream liberalism. But look, here is the Times holding up Soloway and her pomps and works as if they were a glorious thing. She — and they — are mainstreaming total madness, branding it as personal and cultural liberation.


Posted in , , , , . Tagged , , . 53 comments

LSU Haka Dad FTW!

Here’s what happened above:

LSU defensive end Breiden Fehoko joined his father for a special tradition ahead of the Tigers’ game against No. 2 Georgia on Saturday.

The junior — who played his first two seasons at Texas Tech before transferring to LSU — is from Honolulu, and his father, Vili, was “Vili the Warrior,” who performed at halftime for Hawaii’s football and men’s volleyball games while dressed as an ancient Polynesian warrior, according to The Advocate in Baton Rouge. It was a way for Vili to share that culture, and the family is doing something similar at LSU, which entered Week 7 ranked No. 13 in the nation.

The Tigers beat the everliving crap out of Georgia today. Wooooooo!

Posted in , . 18 comments

Francis Abolishing Family Norms?

I would like to hear the context in which the cardinal archbishop of Barcelona made this comment. Perhaps it is less worrying than it seems here — but I doubt it.

Did you ever think you would see the Catholic Church deconstruct and abandon its own fundamental moral tradition on marriage and family as Francis and his team are now doing? It’s happening so fast. Remember what top Francis advisor Father Thomas Rosica wrote recently:

Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants because he is “free from disordered attachments.” Our Church has indeed entered a new phase: with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.

Let the reader understand.

UPDATE: News from the Synod working group headed by Cardinal Cupich of Chicago:

Also, there are many other forms of family other than the nuclear family or the extended family. We had a debate in our small group about non-ideal groupings from the Christian perspective. Does leadership in the Church require bishops and priests to proclaim the Gospel truth by denying that these are families? Or does our leadership require us to accompany the young people in the reality in which they find themselves? Perhaps these are not contradictory realities: St John recounts that Jesus both accepted the woman caught in adultery and proposed something else. Is it possible for us to both accept and even honour the family unit that a young person finds herself in and to share the Gospel ideal to her?

And, Catholic theologian Larry Chapp, in the comments:

I highly doubt that Pope Francis will just flat-out repudiate the Catholic doctrine that marriage is a life long sacramental union of one man and one women for the purpose of mutual support and procreation. For starters…. he can’t. Those are clearly infallible teachings of the Church and if he were to just repudiate them, there would be a schism, without a doubt, and open rebellion to his legitimacy as Pope. Now, maybe that is his end game, but even if it is, the time is not yet ripe for such a move.

Rather, look to the methodology followed in Amoris. Do not openly deny any doctrine, just undermine it in actual pastoral practice by calling for more “discernment” and paying attention to “concrete experiences” and so on.

That is how the Pope will get acceptance of “gay” families in the Church. He will call for pastors to “accompany” such individuals in order to “discern” if they are doing the very best they can to live up to the Church’s “ideals”. And if they are doing their best, to let them take communion, since living the commandments, as Cardinal Kasper said with regard to those divorced and remarried, is only for the “heroic”.

The same approach could also be applied to contraception and co-habitation. The doctrine will be affirmed as an “ideal”, with different individuals falling into a spectrum on how close they are to the ideal. And so long as they are at peace in their own conscience, no matter how poorly formed, then they can go to communion. This will be done under the banner of “pastoral” sensitivity and an opposition to “rigid” rules. The appeal will be to an “inclusive” Catholicism that has a “big tent” that allows for almost everyone to go to communion under the guise of a kind of “gradualism” in moral matters. This view was condemned explicitly by JPII. But heck… that was a long time ago and who remembers that stuff?

The goal is obviously to someday eliminate the doctrine of infallibility completely, and to create practices in the Church that make such behaviors and lifestyles commonplace, so that when the doctrines are eventually changed, nobody will even notice or care. Since the Church does have a Magisterium, in order for the Roman Church to go full-on Episcopalian, you have to first destroy that Magisterium. But that has to be done in steps. And it begins by “allowing” behaviors that the Church has heretofore infallibly said no to. Over time, it will just become obvious to everyone that nobody really believes any of that silly medieval nonsense anymore and the transformation into liberal Episcopalians will be complete.

But why bother with such a ruse? Why not just have Francis publicly repudiate the doctrine of infallibility, change some central moral teachings, and foment a schism letting the chips fall where they may? Why not let the damn homophobic conservatives run off to Orthodoxy or to the schismatic traditionalists? The answer is simple, though shocking. So shocking many will refuse to accept it. Why don’t they just make their move and let the conservatives bolt out the door? Because this gaggle of progressives is demonic. And I mean that in a very real way and not as just a hyperbolic metaphor. What they seek is nothing short of the total annihilation and humiliation of the conservatives by way of a total reversal of values: the good becomes evil and the evil good. They want conservatives discredited as “fringe group” wing nuts so that they cannot even mount a populist revolt from the outside. They want to rob them of any constituency and of any legitimacy. They want them labeled as “bad people”. They want, as the Pope has recently done, to cast their conservative enemies as Satan, and themselves as Jesus. They want the opposition liquidated so that there isn’t even the appearance any longer of a “debate”. They want opposition to gay families and abortion and sexual libertinism to be viewed right up there with opposition to racial equality, thus painting the defenders of traditional morality, not just as “wrong”, but as stupid at best, and evil at worst.

Finally, it is demonic because the end game is a de facto secularist atheism. Naturalism with a religious halo. Worldliness dressed up as “inclusive diversity”. The average person in the pew is unaware that for the better part of the past two centuries the Christian theological guild has, for the most part, reinterpreted Jesus in completely non supernatural categories. This is especially true among scholars of the New Testament. Jesus has been transformed. No longer the second person of the Trinity, Incarnate for our salvation, but rather, now just a protagonist of class warfare on the side of the “marginalized” and in opposition to “power”. And if you are a traditional Christian you are thus categorized as part of that “power” that oppresses.

So faith in Jesus as the Incarnate God comes to be viewed as a form of patriarchal, white male, cisnormative oppression. The faith of our ancestors and of the martyrs, was merely a cipher for hegemonic power and control.

Wake up. I know most people are not theologians and are not knoweldgeable of intellectual and cultural history, but we no longer have the luxury of such ignorance. And part of any Ben Op community must be an education precisely into the richest resources of our Tradition and of the manner in which hyper-modernity (liquid modernity) is destroying them. The situation of any true Ben Op community is not enviable. For we must now labor to preserve our past, not in the face of pagan barbarity, but in a swirling cesspool of post-Christian hatred (a visceral and irrational hatred I might add) and the aforementioned reversal of values. In other words, a true Ben Op community is going to be hated. Vilified. Attacked. Hounded into submission. Just look at the Youth Synod’s little dig at home schoolers for being “ideological”. And our public schools aren’t? Of course they are. But they have a “good” ideology. Homeschoolers have an evil one.

We had better get ready for what is rapidly approaching. Already, in the few short years since Rod published the Ben Op, we have seen things grow exponentially worse. And the brief respite purchased for us by the wretched clown that is Donald Trump, will not last long. Indeed, in my view, it will only create a far worse backlash once he is gone because we will be blamed for him being in power in the first place. We will be the scapegoat.

And because the secular worldview, especially in its emphasis on an empty Epicurean hedonism, is so nihilistic, only unhappiness will follow in its wake. It advocates an impossible marriage with matter, that cannot satisfy, it will create resentment and hostility in an undifferentiated manner … just a general dissipation and acedia of the soul that leads to despair. And that will only make their rage at traditional religious people all the more incendiary.

I wish that these comments at the Youth Synod on marriage were just a mild stupidity by a nobody prelate that we can just dismiss. But we can’t. This IS what these quislings think.

We face a more radical decision in the near future than we think.

Posted in , . Tagged , , , . 94 comments
← Older posts