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Benedict Option Countries

Might the nation that produced Pope St. John Paul II be calling to Christian migrants from the US? (Francesco Ferrarini/Shutterstock)

I’ve spent the last two days interviewing religious liberty litigators, law professors, and corporate officers about the present and emerging professional and economic environment for small-o orthodox Christians — this, for the Work chapter of my forthcoming Benedict Option book (now to be published in mid-March, in case you hadn’t heard). I’m going to hold this information for publication, but I want to let you know right now that the future for orthodox Christians on this front is much worse than most people understand. I thought I had a pretty good handle on how bad it was going to get, but even I learned some things that shook me up.

I now see how prophetic and absolutely dead-on the Law of Merited Impossibility was. When I think back ten, fifteen years ago, about how the gay marriage campaign was really gathering steam, and just about everybody said, “I can’t see how my gay neighbors’ marriage affects me,” people like me pointed to the network of civil rights laws, and how same-sex marriage would have a profound and wide-ranging effect. Very few people believed it. Thought we were scaremongers. And of course the news media had no interest at all in exploring this topic, because if ordinary people knew what was coming, they would have been much less willing to jump on the bandwagon.

This is when I came up with the Law of Merited Impossibility, which states, “It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.” This was to state succinctly the deceptive strategy that progressives undertook to get gay marriage passed. They dismissed the warnings of people like me as nothing but Henny-Penny nonsense. It was clear to any of us conservatives who have spent any time with this issue that when these things actually came to pass, the progressives would justify them by saying that bigots like us deserved whatever we got.

And now it’s happening. Believe me, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I’ve been getting a few e-mails from readers asking what I think about the possibility that in the future, the situation will become so intolerable for orthodox Christians that some of us will want to emigrate. Me, I find it hard to think of a situation in which it would be so bad that I would leave my native country, but then again, I learned things these past two days that I had not anticipated, even though I’m always expecting the worst on this front. I decided this morning to post a couple of these reader e-mails to stimulate discussion. The first comes from a law student in the UK, who says:

You often write about how Europe (or at any rate, Western Europe) is a generation further down the degeneracy route.

However, there are exceptions. The European Microstates: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_microstates (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco and San Marino – I leave the Vatican out).

In all these countries abortion is only allowed to save the life of the mother (Monaco is an exception and in 2009 legalised it for the “hard cases”: rape, incest, serious foetal defect). None of them have same sex marriage (though some have domestic partnerships open to all). Malta only allowed divorce in 2011 (the referendum was 53% in favour the change – picture that: only 53% of the population wanted divorce to be allowed). None of them have euthanasia.

These countries have done rather well at resisting “social progress”. In all of these countries the Catholic Church has a great influence and the mass attendance rates are high. Monaco and Liechtenstein have catholicism as their State religion and the monarchs there do retain some power. When they had a referendum on abortion the Prince of Liechtenstein said he would veto any relaxation of the ban on abortion. He also said that if the European Court of Human Rights held that they had to allow same sex adoption, he would just ignore the ruling.

I was wondering if they could be seen as a model for what a BenOp could look like (or indeed if the BenOp could consist of just moving there).

I was wondering if the size of those countries might also be a factor in explaining the difficulty of progressivism there. In a very small country where everyone knows everyone else, people can have a genuine experience of communities. This might make liberal individualism less appealing.

Great post. I’m sure these microstates would not welcome immigration, and I don’t blame them one bit for that. Nevertheless, does this e-mail inspire any creative thoughts, readers?

The second one is not an e-mail, but a comment from another UK reader, writing on the thread in which I invited conservative Christians who live outside the US to talk about their situation locally. The writer’s name is Lukasz:

Despite the fact the the invitation to share experiences was extended to those living in the countries rather obsessed with leftist cultural revolution, I’d like to write about something more hopeful.

I come from Catholic Poland, but I myself am an Orthodox Christian and currently I live in UK. Nevertheless, I am very much in touch with what’s going on in my country and in many aspects these things seem to be the opposite of the changes in other Western countries. Young Poles are much more conservative than their parents and grandparents, turning to Church and faith for the meaning of live. And it very much influences our politics. Last year parliamentary elections resulted in a conservative party coming to power, but that’s not even the most important result: because of ever younger generations voting this was the first time in modern history of Poland that the leftist parties, largely descended from former communist establishment, didn’t make it into the parliament at all!

The liberal media that dominate our media market are increasingly judged as manipulative and propagandistic by the society and there are lots of grass-roots initiatives aiming at providing more balanced journalism. Soon a citizens’ project (supported by over a million of citizens in 38 million Poland) of a more strict abortion law will be discussed in our parliament and there is a great pressure on the conservative government to vote in its favor (the new regulation would outlaw abortion entirely leaving only the freedom to save mother’s life if it’s directly threatened by the child). Same-sex marriage is out of the question. At the same time although the new government likes to present itself as Catholic and the officials often attend public religious events, the Church seems to have taken a much more humble stance securing it from being accused of directly influencing the government. And the Church slowly transforms from the organization ruled top-down, to a grass root movement with strong initiative of laypersons.

Overall, there’s hope, guys, not everything everywhere undergoes degeneration. And it hasn’t been so obvious 10-15 years ago that Poland will look like that today.

This raises some interesting questions. Poland is an outlier in its religiosity and cultural conservatism (and God bless Poland), but in general, the eastern European countries, despite their relative godlessness, have been less willing to go along with western-style multiculturalism and instituting in law the LGBT agenda. They are also facing population decline, like all the other countries within the territories of what we used to call Christendom.

Do you see it as possible that these nations — Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, etc. — would be willing to accept conservative Christian migrants from the US and Western Europe? I would think at this point it would be a very hard sell — I certainly wouldn’t uproot my family and move to such a foreign region — but who knows what conditions will look like in 20 years? What could these countries do to make themselves more attractive, economically and otherwise, to English-speaking Western Christians?
What could they do to make themselves more attractive to you and your family as a place to settle? Well-educated, prosperous Western Christians who speak English as a first language may have a lot to offer those nations who would welcome them.

America is my country. I love it, and find it all but impossible to consider leaving it permanently. But my faith matters much more to me than my country, and if my country were ever to become a persecutor, then I would have to face the possibility of leaving it for a land where my family and I could worship and live freely. My fear is that if things ever got so bad in the United States that conservative Christians felt compelled to emigrate for religious liberty reasons, they would be much, much worse in any feasible alternative.

Note well: for this thread, I’m not going to post comments from readers who have nothing but criticism for the idea, or rather, whose criticism comes from a progressive point of view. I’m genuinely interested, personally and professionally, in what readers have to say about the idea. I’m personally skeptical, simply on the grounds of historical prudence. A reader wrote the other day to suggest that Orthodox Russia might be a good place for us Orthodox Christians to end up one day. Me, I can’t imagine that, because of the experience of idealistic American Communists who emigrated there in the early 1920s to build socialism, and found themselves living a nightmare. Aside from the language barrier, there isn’t enough stability in Russia to make it a realistic opportunity for people like me. Maybe this is true for central and eastern Europe too, I don’t know. You tell me. Let’s have this thought experiment.

Oh, and readers, I know many of you continue to experience difficulties posting. Would you believe that two weeks after it first appeared, the interview I did with J.D. Vance continues to draw record page views? Our servers are struggling to handle all the traffic. Many people who have never had their comments go to spam are experiencing this. We are doing all we can to fix things, but we’ve never had to deal with anything like this, and it’s hard. It’s a good problem to have, I guess, but very inconvenient for you. Thanks for your patience.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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