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Benedict Option Countries

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. [1] 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 [2], 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.

138 Comments (Open | Close)

138 Comments To "Benedict Option Countries"

#1 Comment By Daniel (not Larison ) On August 6, 2016 @ 9:59 am

Uncle Chuckie wrote:

Is not. Is Coptic and you have a lot of Ethiopian restaurants around.

If you want to get technical, the Ethiopian Church has been independent of the Coptic (Egyptian) Church since 1959.

#2 Comment By An Agrarian On August 6, 2016 @ 10:33 am

I’ve asked this question (on potential of leaving US for religious freedom) of several Christian missionaries who have served for decades in Europe, Africa, Asia, & South America. For a variety of reasons they unanimously agreed that the US remains the last, best hope for religious freedom. I suspect there are potential outliers (microstates & private islands), but American Christians need to be focussed on making BenOp a reality wherever they are, right now. I trust the judgment of these many missionaries who constantly stress that there are no “New Worlds” for religious refuge.

Yes, times will get tougher as time marches on … but God always, always preserves His remnant. Many Christians seem to intellectualize (or snipe at) BenOp instead of making it a concrete reality … please get your book to print, and please carve out a chapter heading entitled “Making BenOp a Reality, Yesterday!”

#3 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On August 6, 2016 @ 10:45 am

It doesn’t take much imagination to figure what EU institutions would do to traditionalist thinking in Ukraine if given the opportunity.

This is a questionable statement, because as far as I understand it, the most ‘traditionalist’ and socially conservative parts of the Ukraine (i.e. Galicia, the parts that were ruled by Austria before WWI) are also the most pro-EU and anti-Russian. Likewise, the most pro-EU party (Svoboda) is also socially traditionalist. The hotbed of pro-Russian and anti-EU sentiment is in the Donbass, which was historically the most secular part of the Ukraine where communism had the deepest roots.(The DNR/LNR today have some culturally conservative stances, against abortion and homosexuality, but the golden age they look back on is more the Soviet era than an imagined premodern utopia).

This kind of underscores that sometimes to explain political loyalties you need Noah Millman’s three-dimensional spectrum, where the three axes are “economic left/right”, “liberal/authoritarian”, and the third is based on one’s attitude towards the direction of history.

#4 Comment By Nate On August 6, 2016 @ 11:03 am

[NFR: You would rather people be unbelievers than Protestant? Wow. Harsh. — RD]

Society will recover more quickly and more souls will be saved when Protestantism withers away. Why import the virus into areas of the world that haven’t suffered from it as much? We need to be rooting out the Protestant ideologies that have infected the Church, instead.

[NFR: If you think Protestants are the Catholic Church’s real enemy, you are about 200 years behind the times. (Same with Protestants and Orthodox who think the Roman Catholic Church is the real enemy.) — RD]

#5 Comment By TR On August 6, 2016 @ 11:22 am

My interest is purely intellectual–I would get thrown out of any group–but I hope this topic comes up often. A choice to emigrate has all kinds of ramifications. Particularly if you’re doing so for your progeny.

Even internal emigration is fraught with difficulty. Think about a Black living in a white neighborhood for the first time, or a non-Pentecostal white trying to attend a Black church.

#6 Comment By Rob R On August 6, 2016 @ 12:18 pm

[NFR: Your friends didn’t pay attention. Ethiopia is Orthodox. — RD]
Is not. Is Coptic and you have a lot of Ethiopian restaurants around.

Oh for God’s sake, they are [3]. Incidentally, they have been a Christian country since around 350 AD, longer than just about any European country besides Greece.

#7 Comment By Rick Wade On August 6, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

Christians have had to endure persecution that goes deeper than the loss of religious liberty as we have enjoyed it for a long time. That isn’t said to diminish the impact such a change would have in our lives, but just as a reminder that we have had it really good in the U.S. Genuine Christians have held to their faith, and the church has not been snuffed out.

The decision to emigrate, then, would hinge on more than just diminished religious liberties. My wife and I are in our 60s and require the health care people our age often do, in some ways more. Can we get it in another country? Could we possibly learn another language at this point? Is the loss of freedom sufficient enough to leave other family and friends? What about work? What about the daily requirements of life? It became clear that we couldn’t move to a certain foreign country in the early ’90s to work as missionaries because of the necessity of a daily climb up and down stairs in apartments buildings in which elevators were non-existent or failed routinely (made extremely difficult because of health problems). (That particular condition may not exist today; I use it simply as an example of the realities of daily life involved in a decision to emigrate.)

#8 Comment By mrscracker On August 6, 2016 @ 2:14 pm

Thank you for the explanation about the Ethiopian church. I didn’t know all that. It’s very interesting to read about.

#9 Comment By Olivier On August 6, 2016 @ 2:25 pm

Malta has massive water problems and is arguably already well beyond carrying capacity. The last thing it needs is more people although the government is foolishly encouraging immigration in the name of (what else?) economic development.

#10 Comment By Nate On August 6, 2016 @ 3:11 pm

[NFR: If you think Protestants are the Catholic Church’s real enemy, you are about 200 years behind the times. (Same with Protestants and Orthodox who think the Roman Catholic Church is the real enemy.) — RD]

The real enemy of the Church (and all mankind), as you know, is the devil. Heresy is far more dangerous to Christianity than external enemies like the secularists.

#11 Comment By VikingLS On August 6, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

“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. ”

If you’re not going to enforce these caveats, don’t make them.

#12 Comment By VikingLS On August 6, 2016 @ 3:49 pm

GM accuses us of wanting some sort of state enforced christofacism, TR of anti-antisemitism, Gabriel of racism, German-reader of violent homophobia. Not only did you post those comments you didn’t even challenge them.

I get that that may be only 10% of the liberal comments that ignored the parameter you set, but when you ignore them you set yourself, and those of us who could do without the peanut gallery on occasion, up for more of it in the future.

#13 Comment By Aaron On August 6, 2016 @ 5:50 pm

There’s a lot of misinformation here (no doubt unintentional).

“Young Poles are much more conservative than their parents and grandparents, turning to Church and faith for the meaning of live.”

Not true, I think. How has Mass attendance in Poland fallen so precipitously? At 39%, Mass attendance among Catholics in Poland is now at the same level as it is among Catholics here in England. Perhaps all of the old people in Poland have abandoned the churches and left them to conservative youngsters? I doubt it. And its not what my Polish relatives and friends there tell me.

Andorra a Ben-Op country? Sandwiched betwixt uber-liberal France and uber-liberal Spain? Where only 9% of Catholics go to Mass? Please.

The fact that Christians in the US are even discussing the idea of running away to Poland — when Polish Christians themselves stayed in their own country and preserved their faith and culture through the dark days of Nazism and Communism — says something about why Christianity is declining in the US.

#14 Comment By dominic1955 On August 6, 2016 @ 5:55 pm

“The last thing Eastern Europe and Latin America need is a further influx of American Protestants. If the secular tidal wave drowns that particular set of heresies, then it won’t be a total catastrophe.

[NFR: You would rather people be unbelievers than Protestant? Wow. Harsh. — RD]”

Seems legit to me. South America and Eastern Europe are worse off as Americanized Evangelicals than apathetic Catholics. Of course they are much better off being good Catholics or even Orthodox but I can’t say they’d be better off as Health ‘n Wealth holy rollers.

#15 Comment By Erin Manning On August 6, 2016 @ 6:30 pm

When people go to training classes about how to survive an active shooter situation (and what a lovely comment on our society that these classes are becoming rather common), the order of actions is taught this way: run, hide, fight.

I think when you’re talking about the possibility of present and/or future persecutions of orthodox Christians the order should be reversed: fight, hide, run.

That is, in spite of the fact that many of us dislike and distrust the federal government (as well as many state and local examples) especially when it comes to questions of religious liberty, the fight to preserve religious liberty is still in its infancy. Granted, SCOTUS is, intellectually speaking, a bunch of whores for sale to the highest bidders these days, and Congress is worse; as for the presidency, it’s pretty clear that the whole purpose of the office in modern times is to make bad situations worse and distract the attention of the populace from the looming financial crash. But I think there may be ways to fight that haven’t been explored yet. Getting Muslim-Americans to be the face of religious liberty under threat might be one strategy, for instance; is any liberal politician going to tell a local Muslim-owned business that they must accommodate gay weddings and open their women’s rooms up to men, for instance?

I don’t think actual “hiding” is necessary yet, though I think the Benedict Option is a plan of strategic withdrawal. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Running–leaving America for another country–is the final option for that point in the future when the Bill of Rights has pretty much been destroyed. I think some of us close our eyes to how much it has been already. But given the global spread of Americanism it may be hard to find a place to settle where you won’t still be denied those freedoms.

I wonder which would be safer, though: some of those Eastern European countries that have already lived through the worst phases of the present storm, or some of the countries elsewhere who have so far preserved a more traditional culture? I’ve read everybody’s suggestions so far with interest, as it seems that there is quite a division of opinion on that point.

#16 Comment By Greg On August 6, 2016 @ 6:50 pm

First of all, let me say that most (not quite all) central-to-eastern European countries are quite lovely in many respects and would be relatively easy to live in as an outsider. If you specifically want a country where the Faith (Catholic or Orthodox) is actively practiced by a significant percentage of the country, that reduces the options a bit (for example, Czech Republic has one of the highest percentages of atheist populations).

The major challenges you will face relate to economic development and of course there is persistent corruption in many cases. Neither are unmanageable. I am not sure what your concern is with Russia specifically, but with a good job you can live a very rich life and the cultural opportunities are virtually limitless (far better, in my opinion, than anything you will find in the US).

My personal observation on Orthodox countries is that even in countries where parish attendance is not high (Russia, for example, or, say, Serbia), there are thriving parish communities and monasteries. You may not fit in to the mainstream, but you can pursue an active/vibrant religious life – and your children’s children will at least maintain an affiliation with the Church even if along the way one generation becomes essentially non observant.

In many cases you should expect to learn both the language of your new country AND a liturgical language as well. To be perfectly candid, having to learn Church Slavonic is a major impediment to actively engaging with the Faith and will certainly be a problem for your children. In some countries, like Greece, this is marginally less challenging, but Orthodoxy in Greece is regrettably not vibrant at all.

#17 Comment By Buck Farmer On August 6, 2016 @ 8:10 pm

As Christians we should ask if it is moral to move en masse to another country uninvited inevitably changing our host’s way of life. All the world is changing, influenced by the same forces; why should we think our message will be welcomed in a place that does not speak our language or practice our customs when we cannot spread it among people who share so much more with us.

If Christians face physical danger, the moral case for fleeing without invitation (as Syrian Christians have) is strong, but subtler persecution complicates the question for me.

#18 Comment By Fran Macadam On August 7, 2016 @ 1:38 am

The difficulty is that it is economically impossible for anyone to emigrate except those financially well off – or the absolutely impoverished who are willing to do so illegally, becoming exploited “untouchables” without rights.. Look how hard it is, and expensive, to even move across town. I predict almost all would rather burn their pinch of incense.

But you’re right, you might wish you could, and just remain faithful under duress and poverty until heaven waits. Now that Trump’s been written off as self-destructed, that’s the fate that awaits in America’s future.

#19 Comment By oakinhou On August 7, 2016 @ 8:50 am

Erin says

“Getting Muslim-Americans to be the face of religious liberty under threat might be one strategy, for instance; is any liberal politician going to tell a local Muslim-owned business that they must accommodate gay weddings and open their women’s rooms up to men, for instance?”

Because the concern Muslims have about their religious liberty is bad gays trying to force mosques to host same sex wedding parties, and not good Christians trying to ban mosques *cough*Murfreesboro, TN*cough* or Muslin cemeteries *cough*Farmersville, TX – hey, Erin’s own part of the world*cough*

If orthodox Christians want to be trusted in their fight for Religious Freedom, if would do them good to take up the fight for the Religious Freedom of others Trying, instead, to use others to fight against LGBT Antidiscrimination provisions is what make people believe the fight for Religious Freedom is actually a fight against something else.

[NFR: Law of Merited Impossibility Alert! — RD]

#20 Comment By German_reader On August 7, 2016 @ 10:33 am

“German-reader of violent homophobia. ”

I’m not a liberal, but frankly, when someone thinks it’s good if a country makes homosexual acts illegal (that is throws homosexuals into prison) what am I to think of such a person? I’m not a fan of the LBGT movement myself (especially the T part), and if you think homosexuality is immoral or decadent, I won’t argue with you about that (I find some of the forms of “gay culture” pretty repellent myself); and of course there may be some valid concerns about religious liberty issues – nobody should force Christians to have a positive view of homosexuality, let alone force churches to acknowledge “gay marriage” as valid”). But if you want the state to actively persecute homosexuals you’re losing any right to whine about your own alleged “persecution”, sorry.
Besides, it seems pretty ridiculous wanting to go to Zambia because of concerns about sexual morality…according to Wiki 17% of the population in the 15-49 range there is HIV positive. Does that sound like a country where sex is limited to stable monogamous marriages and extramarital sex, going to prostitutes etc. is totally unheard of?

#21 Comment By German_reader On August 7, 2016 @ 11:14 am

I have to admit though that maybe I shouldn’t have written my original comment…I had only skimmed through RD’s post and gone straight to the comments so I hadn’t read his injunction against overly negative or critical comments. My mistake, sorry about that.
Have to say though, I don’t really understand the idea…gay marriage or not, from the outside the US still seems like an intensely religious country compared to other developed countries. I don’t think any American who intends to leave the US for primarily religious reasons will really find a suitable alternative (at least in Europe, East or West).

#22 Comment By Marguerite On August 7, 2016 @ 11:53 am

I’m in my late 20s and am very interested in living the BenOp – but I don’t completely understand the idea of running away from America, where there are many ways in the northeast to practice the BenOp, to live in a more conservative country like Poland. Yes I’d feel more comfortable living out my faith with the encouragement of the mass population behind me – but is that what will make me a better Christian?
I don’t think it’s a historically Christian way to deal with a country that is antagonistic to our beliefs (I can’t call it persecution quite yet…). Thousands of people have been martyrs in the past living in hostile countries – God didn’t call them to flee to safety. I understand families should look out for their children’s safety, but it altogether still just doesn’t jive with me. We need to be witnesses to the truth – in season and out of season. The real mission field is America – although in it’s present state of an appetite intend on being sated with gluttonous desires of consumption (in entertaining ourselves to death), well it’s really a rocky field. We’re called to sanctity, not to a life lived in complete security and safety. Utopia is in Heaven, not on earth.

#23 Comment By Keith On August 7, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

People wanting to immigrate to more socially conservative countries should take a look at Southeast Asia. The Philippines, Malaysia, or Singapore could be a good choice depending on your situation. The Philippines is a majority Catholic country that also has a thriving Protestant minority. English is widely spoken, and one of the official languages–almost all official documents are in English. Because of historical ties between the two countries, Americans are generally well liked. The main drawback is that the infrastructure is not well developed–traffic in Manila is especially a problem.

Malaysia is a Muslim majority country, but there is a great deal of religious toleration, and Christianity can be practiced openly. Again English is widely spoken, and there is more Western high culture, including classical music, than you might expect. The infrastructure is well developed, at least in Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore is very expensive and crowded, so that will be a drawback for some. But there is religious freedom, and again English is an official language and widely spoken.

#24 Comment By Judith Sylvester On August 7, 2016 @ 6:53 pm


“South America and Eastern Europe are worse off as Americanized Evangelicals than apathetic Catholics. Of course they are much better off being good Catholics or even Orthodox but I can’t say they’d be better off as Health ‘n Wealth holy rollers.”

Every charismatic community starts off with an inspired view of the future, and ends up in a tedious small minded discussion about what is allowed.

#25 Comment By Lisa Eichman On August 7, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

I read an interesting article today on “political” refugees (aka Conservatives) moving into Wyoming and Idaho at the invitation of those state to live as one sees fit. Could that be the BenOp target – move to those states and set up Catholic, and Orthodox communities of all types. It would be a similar migration to other persecuted groups’ earlier in our history. There are places in those states that could support communities, towns, monastaries…, that could be vibrant centers for religious freedom. Is this an option, rather than leaving our country? Could this be a way to secure in place?

#26 Comment By Patrick On August 7, 2016 @ 7:37 pm

“When people go to training classes about how to survive an active shooter situation…the order of actions is taught this way: run, hide, fight.”

Haha – people need a class to know to run and hide when someone starts shooting? As opposed to…? What did they think to do? “When someone starts shooting, do the Electric Slide/order a sandwich to go/complain loudly about your ex.”

#27 Comment By Jason Wills On August 8, 2016 @ 12:57 am

“. . . people like me pointed to the network of civil rights laws, and how same-sex marriage would have a profound and wide-ranging effect.”

What profound and wide-ranging effect? Same-sex marriage has been legal in MA for 12 years and the state’s civil rights law has covered sexual orientation since 1989. And in that entire time, there has not been a single case against a church (as all churches are exempt), nor against a photographer, baker or florist. Zero. In the 13 months since the Obergefell ruling, the total number cases brought against churches, bakers, photographers and florists is precisely zero. In the entire United States of America, from the beginning of gay marriage in 2003-4, up until August 2016, there has been only been a single case – literally one – involving a florist, a single case involving a photographer and two cases involving bakers. And 3 of the 4 were essentially small claims cases involving a few thousand dollars. This is why you are making plans to migrate to Bulgaria? You folks are absolutely insane. You have no sense of perspective, no capacity to rank perceived wrongs, no willingness to avail yourselves of any facts which might take you out of your state of hysteria, and most importantly, no ability or willingness to map out a reasonable response to those wrongs which are, based on evidence, perceived as serious.

#28 Comment By Scott On August 8, 2016 @ 7:41 am

Serbia and Montenegro are great particularly for Orthodox. I have owned a vacation home in Montenegro for 11 years. Religion is identity and culture. Secular governments in thrall with eu but church as an institution is held in higher regard than government by citizens even by those who don`t attend church regularly. Founders of serbian state (Nemanjic dynasty) all saints. Family atmosphere where people adore children. Croatia also good for Catholics. northern coast of Montenegro also good for catholics. You can buy Montenegro citizenship.

#29 Comment By Brooklyn Blue Dog On August 8, 2016 @ 9:47 am

Rod, although I disagree with your project, I will exercise commenter’s privilege and stick my nose in anyway.

Why emigrate abroad when you could address the situation in a perfectly practical manner right here in the US, even if the overarching legal regime is against you?

In pretty much every state, there are small towns that are literally dying. All the young people have left because there is no reason to be there. Only old people remain, and they are dying off. And these areas tend to be rural and more conservative.

Take a page from the orthodox Jews and move en masse to one of these towns. The smaller the better. Maybe even someplace that is nearly a ghost town, and somewhat isolated from others.

If you do that, chances are, you just won’t run into the issues you fear. Perhaps the law will require your local baker to bake a cake for a gay marriage, but there won’t be any gay marriages because there won’t be any gays around. The issue just won’t come up.

Perhaps you worry that some SJWs will seek you out and try to force your local baker to bake them a cake. Even if this is within the realm of possibility, there is probably a low likelihood of this ever happening. I have yet to hear of an Amish or orthodox Jews in upstate New York being the victims of SJWs.

If you get a reputation as a small religious community that wants to be left alone, and you leave others alone, then people won’t bug you. Perhaps you get the reputation of being a little weird, but what do you care?

As long as you keep to yourselves, don’t create any scandals involving refusing to pay taxes, trying to take over federal or state land, or child molestation, people will basically leave you alone.

Friction with self-isolated groups seems to erupt when they do things that interfere with non-members’ rights, such as when the orthodox Jews upstate try to defund the public schools because they don’t want to pay property taxes for schools their children don’t attend. But if you find a place that is isolated enough, you won’t have this issue. And there are plenty of towns in the country that are too small for their own public schools.

It seems the solution is right here. You don’t need to go away. And, plus, who knows what the craft beer situation is in Lichtenstein. Are you really willing to take that chance?!

[NFR: Well, to be sure, I’m not emigrating. It’s an interesting thought experiment. — RD]

#30 Comment By bacon On August 8, 2016 @ 2:57 pm

I haven’t yet read all the comments to this post, so if others have said what I am about to say, sorry.

Poland is a nice place. The language is hard but not impossible and many Poles speak English. The current conservative government is a bit of a concern for liberals, but maybe not for potential religious refugees. Someone serious about the idea should consider a visit.

#31 Comment By Alan On August 8, 2016 @ 4:10 pm

Jason, It’s great that you can just make up your own “facts.” You said “…a few thousand dollars.” I guess you’re not familiar with the case in Oregon where the the Kleins were fined $135,000 for exercising their Constitutional rights of freedom of association and freedom of liberty. A family owned Pharmacy in WA state will now have to close, because they refuse to see the abortion inducing drug. Nevermind the fact that the court case revealed that there were more than 30 other pharmacies within a 5 mile radius that did sell the drug. You’re obviously missing the point that no dissension will be tolerated by the fascist left.

#32 Comment By Quizman On August 8, 2016 @ 5:48 pm

Chimananda Ngozi Adichie of ‘Americanah’ fame had interesting observation on American evangelicals preaching to the Christians in African countries during her interview in NPR’s Fresh Air. Pasting salient excerpts here.

GROSS: In your book, the main character’s mother in Nigeria converts to evangelical Christianity – converts from Catholicism. And when she’s born again, she burns all of her Catholic objects. Is that based on a real story?


ADICHIE: Yes. I think many Nigerians will probably find that familiar. There’s a growing Pentecostal – Christian Pentecostalism is growing in Nigeria. It’s been growing, I think, for the past 20 years. So I grew up in a Catholic family – very moderate Catholic. And growing up, I realized that slowly people were leaving the Catholic Church, and there were expressions like, it’s a dead church and there’s a lot of devil worshiping and that sort of thing. And so I have a relative who left the Catholic Church and I was very, I found it very interesting that what he did, the first thing he
did to show that he was making this break from the Catholic Church and was going to join a Pentecostal church was that he gathered all his rosaries and all of his Sunday missals and he burnt them.

GROSS: That’s really quite an statement.

ADICHIE: I thought it was and I was quite young but I was very much struck by, so I’ve actually use – which is why I use a version of that story in my book. Because it’s, you know, it’s also quite powerful, and makes one think
about how, you know, because I think that for him being Catholic meant that he had invested a lot of his faith in those objects. And I think it was his way of saying, that’s it. I’m not doing the rosary and the scapula and the
Miraculous Medal and that sort of thing. And, yeah, it’s interesting; Nigeria now – Nigeria is very religious – extremely religious and on both sides. So it’s very religious in the north with Islam. It’s very religious in the south with Christianity. But what’s interesting is that the version
of Christianity now is very Pentecostal, very prosperity preaching; and for me, also quite strange and troubling.

GROSS: Again, a kind of comparison between the U.S. and Nigeria, where you’re from, I think there’s a lot of African-Americans who want to absorb a certain amount of traditional African religion into their life. Whatever,
you know, that religion of choice is. But at the same time in Africa, so many people have been converted to, you know, Pentecostalism or another form of even of, you know, evangelical Christianity, or even like the Mormon faith. And I just think it’s just an interesting contrast.

ADICHIE: It is. It is. But I suppose again, just thinking about also how education came to Africa and to West African continent…

GROSS: You mean, like, through missionaries?

ADICHIE: Yes. But education came with – came, that missionaries brought education. So that it wasn’t just education, it was religion, so both came hand-in-hand. So that for my father, for example, who was born in 1932, and
who started to go to school in eastern Nigeria in 1936, you didn’t just go to learn math and English and science, you also learned that Jesus was Lord and that everything your parents were doing at home was evil and demonic,
and all of that. And so now we have a generation of educated Africans who are also very Christianized, but not only Christianized though, because I think it’s possible to be Christianized and still have a certain respect for other traditions. But many of them don’t, because the version of
Christianity they got was one in which to be Christian meant, not only to reject, but to demonize traditional religion. So many people in my father’s generation think that what their fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers did, was, you know, evil or the use interesting words like heathen and pagan and that sort of thing, and the very negative associations. And so it is interesting.

I, for example, wish that I had been taught a bit more about Igbo traditional religion. The little did I know about it, it seems to me to have been a very accepting, open and quite beautiful way of looking at the world.

GROSS: Does religion – any religion – have a place in your life now, if that’s not too personal to ask?

ADICHIE: I don’t know.

GROSS: Is it you don’t know if it’s too personal or you don’t know if it does?





ADICHIE: I mean it’s, yeah. I mean I do feel ambivalent because I’m very interested in religion. When I was growing up, I was – I grew up Catholic and my family was moderate, my father – who’s still very much a devoted Catholic – was very kind and also very open to my asking questions, and I
was a child who endlessly asked questions. And, oh, and I should also say that when I was growing up, there was often a divide between the Catholics and the Anglicans – not the Pentecostalists – these are, it was a more
orthodox denominations, but still the children would have these fights in the playgrounds about Catholics versus Anglicans. And I was always the spokesperson for the Catholic side. And because I was also fairly good at
talking about things I knew nothing about, I would speak very, very forcefully for Catholicism, so we always want the arguments. And maybe my interest in religion has become a lot more – I don’t know if political is the right word – so I’m a lot more interested in how religion shapes the way people make choices that affect their lives. The way people will vote for a certain thing or person, because of religion. And also how religion can be such a good force in people’s lives.

I’ve seen people who have faith and for whom it’s just brought a lot of meaning and hope and, you know, I also respect that. So, and it’s impossible not to, I think it’s impossible to engage with Nigeria – which is a country I love very much – without engaging with religion. It’s just impossible.

GROSS: Can you give us an example of how you would defend the Catholic faith to your Anglican friends when you were a kid?

ADICHIE: Yes. Absolutely. So they would – so we were often accused of worshiping the Blessed Virgin. And so I would then, sort of, go on and on about, you don’t know the difference between honoring and worshiping. We
honor her because she’s the mother of Christ, but we don’t worship her. What we worship is the Blessed Trinity. Right, and these poor kids would think, oh my Lord, she’s probably right because she seems to be making sense.


ADICHIE: And then I would selectively read the Bible, so that I would only get the bits that I felt supported Catholic teaching. And I should note that I was about 10 when this was going on.


ADICHIE: And so I still have memories, I still have some of them in my head. And so the Anglicans would make fun of us about the Anointing of the Sick – which is one of the sacraments in Catholicism. I would then quote from a passage from the Letter of St. James, I think, which goes: Is anyone sick among you? Let him bring in the priest of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up. And if he’d
be in sin, they shall be forgiven. So if you’re 10, and you have your playmates reciting this in support of Catholicism, I think you would sort of very easily give up.


ADICHIE: So it worked out quite well for the Catholic group and yeah, some of my friends and I still talk about it and laugh.


#33 Comment By The Professor On August 9, 2016 @ 5:54 am

If you think these are acceptable ways the government of a country should treat its gay citizens, by all means, do move. To compare lawsuits against florists and bakers who break anti discrimination laws to the treatment dissenters and gay people receive in these countries, is akin to the whoppers Trump is trying to push. All the result the result of the commingling of church and politicians who resemble modern day Nazis. In Poland they have pretty much establish a national church, a completely un American idea. But if you think this is OK, I’ll help you pack.



#34 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On August 9, 2016 @ 9:02 pm

The Professor,

The opposite of pushing SSMs through highly biased courts trampling on the mere notion of popular vote. And Poles are not the ones who started it. But they’ll be on the winner’s bandwagon. And that’s not because our side is so right and moral while yours is so wrong and wicked. That’s not how politics works. You’ll lose because you also managed to screw up the economy. It may have to do something with the lack of moral principles, though.

And you’ll be actually lucky if Trump wins. This way you may get some very, very moderate caudillo akin to Bouterse at worst. But if he loses, after Clinton’s four-year long streak of disasters comes Sulla. And you don’t wanna cross such guy’s road. He comes anyways, but after Trump he’ll be a tiny bit less angry.

#35 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On August 12, 2016 @ 7:57 am

In Poland they have pretty much establish a national church, a completely un American idea. But if you think this is OK, I’ll help you pack.

Ugh. Of course it’s un-American. Poles aren’t Americans. And of course it’s OK. Where does this absurd idea come from that the way that Americans do things is the only right thing for them to be done?

Separation of church and state (like liberal democracy, freedom of speech etc.) are not some sort of natural yearning of the human soul. There is no natural law that states “thou shalt not religiously discriminate”, in the way there is one stating “thou shalt not kill”. These are political norms of our society that we decided on for various reasons, to solve particular challenges. Other societies solved the problem in quite different ways. The classic European solution to religious differences was cuius regio, eius religio, set down after the carnage of the Thirty Years’ War, which did rely on a network of national churches (and, crucially, strict national sovereignty, so that someone who didn’t like living in a Catholic country could go move to a Lutheran or a Zwinglian one).

This is simultaneously one of the most inspiring and depressing threads in a long time (and I mean that in mostly a good way). It’s inspiring because, like Rod, I’ve been dreaming since I was in college of moving and living somewhere else. Because I realize that by temperament and ideology, I’m a deeply un-American (for that matter, you could even say anti-American) person. I can’t visit Washington DC and go to the Jefferson Memorial and all the other monuments of our civil religion without wanting to bang my head against a wall and scream at the ghosts of the dead worthies, “But what if you were wrong? What if people like regimentation and collectivism? What if we’re sheep that long for a shepherd?” I got what I want for a few years in the mid-2000s, when I worked with the Peace Corps in Africa. I loved it, but Africa is not really where I want to live the rest of my life, for a variety of reasons, and I was ready to live in America again when I moved back. Well, I’m fairly sick of it now, and I’m seriously looking into the possibility of living somewhere else. I’m delighted that Rod is looking into it, and this is what I find inspiring, that people are seriously considering whether the American way of life may not need serious questioning.

Of course, the depressing thing about this thread is that it’s showing- as if we needed more proof- that liberals can just be as blindly and idiotically patriotic as conservatives, and get just as irritated when you question the pieties of American civil religion. Even when it takes the purely passive form, “I’d like to live somewhere else.”

#36 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On August 12, 2016 @ 7:59 am

Why emigrate abroad when you could address the situation in a perfectly practical manner right here in the US, even if the overarching legal regime is against you?

Why not emigrate abroad? America is the zenith of classical liberalism, so if you dissent from those ideals, why wouldn’t you move to Russia, or Latin America, or Eastern Europe, or some other place where the national worldview is more to your liking?

#37 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On August 12, 2016 @ 8:06 am

Neither are unmanageable. I am not sure what your concern is with Russia specifically, but with a good job you can live a very rich life and the cultural opportunities are virtually limitless (far better, in my opinion, than anything you will find in the US).

The Russian Far East is currently advertising free land for foreigners, last I checked. I’ve had more than one (left leaning) friend suggest to me I’d be happier in the Russosphere. I suspect M_Young and Rod would be too. These are of course industrialized countries, albeit poorer than America or Western Europe, so they’re in a very different position than, say, Africa or India.

If you specifically want a country where the Faith (Catholic or Orthodox) is actively practiced by a significant percentage of the country, that reduces the options a bit (for example, Czech Republic has one of the highest percentages of atheist populations).

I think this is an important point. There are some ways in which eastern European countries really are culturally conservative (more hostility towards immigration, importantly, and a strong sense of ethnic and national identity). Conservative sexual mores and high religious attendance aren’t among them. To take one example, Russia (for all its tough laws against the LGBT agenda) is not a conservative place regarding sexual mores. More people tell pollsters they approve of sex outside marriage than in America, and based on anecdotes from my friend who lived there, cheating on your romantic partner / spouse is much more common in Russian culture than in the west. Both among men and women. Church attendance is also quite a bit lower than it is here.

#38 Comment By Robert Lerner On August 14, 2016 @ 3:51 pm

Does the acceptance of your ideal, that of a conservative church, in effect writing laws, mean that I, as a non practicing individual would have to leave the country to find a place where my views would be accepted. How very narrow minded of you to assume that your majority impose their will upon me.
Isn’t better that we each do as we wish as long as we do not impose our will on others as long as no harm is done to them. Are you hoping for a Christian Sharia?