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‘Dunkirk’ As Benedict Option

Here is a tweet this morning from a transgender ACLU lawyer:

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It’s a small thing, but it’s the small things that tell a very big story. Notice that a major American hospital has already incorporated the gender ideology narrative into something as mundane as its intake form. This is the new reality. As the conservative Evangelical friend who sent this tweet to me put it, “There’s no going back.”

A Catholic theologian tweeted:

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He’s right. Think about how very far we have come, and how very fast. You might believe this is progress — I don’t, obviously — but the fact that we are even having this discussion (about the fact that the US military will pay for your sex change operation — is a sign of the times.

When even Sen. Orrin Hatch, an octogenarian Mormon Republican from Utah, supports allowing transgender soldiers to serve [6], and criticizes a Republican president for his order reversing the police, that too is a sign. A flashing-red-with-a-siren sign.

If we just elect Republicans, we can turn this thing around! a lot of my fellow conservatives still believe. You’re not going to find many people more socially conservative than Orrin Hatch, my friends. And yet, here we are. It reminds me of a conversation I had in the spring with a Southern friend, a stalwart small-town churchgoer of decades who is about as old as Sen. Hatch. We talked of church things, and he lamented the moral chaos of the world today, and how woefully the church is responding to it. But this Evangelical, who is everybody’s idea of a good-hearted, Jesus-loving pillar of the church, told me he is in favor of same-sex marriage, and looks forward to the day when his own church would perform them. “It’s all about love, son,” he told me.

When you’ve lost that man, you’ve lost.

I’m seeing some conservatives tweeting that the movie Dunkirk is a clarion call to defend beleaguered Western civilization. Maybe it is. I saw the movie last week, and found it excellent. I was thinking after it was over that it could be seen as a metaphor for The Benedict Option [7].

Religious and social conservatives have been routed. We are penned in on a beach. There is no hope, in our present condition, of fighting back the enemy and reclaiming the ground we’ve lost. Not now. The most important thing we can do is survive, regroup, retrain, and come back to fight another day. If we stay on the beach and think we have a chance of turning back the heavily armed enemy at this point, we’re suicidal.

The Benedict Option [7] says to the church: send your flotilla of small boats, too tiny to be a meaningful target for the enemy, and small enough to get right to the beach, where the defeated and demoralized soldiers are. It says to the soldiers: if you want to live, climb aboard those miniature arks, and get to safer ground.

Yes, what happened to us in this long, complex culture war of these past five decades has been what Winston Churchill, in his post-evacuation speech to Parliament [8], called the events that led to Dunkirk: “a colossal military disaster” — or, in culture-war terms, a colossal moral disaster, a colossal religious disaster, and a colossal cultural disaster. Churchill said that the evacuation from Dunkirk was a heroic accomplishment, but that Britain must not think of it as a victory.

“Wars are not won by evacuations,” he said. “But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted.”

What he meant was that the incredible performance of the Royal Air Force during the Dunkirk evacuation made the Army’s survival possible. Said Churchill, “May it not also be that the cause of civilization itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen?”

Christians are not called on to fight for “civilization,” but rather the church and the faith upon which our civilization has been built. May it not also be that that cause will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand men and women who understand the stakes, and who commit themselves to being the new and very different St. Benedicts of our time? I believe so.

They could not have long defended the British troops had those troops stayed on the beach. They could better defend them if the troops were back home in Britain, safe (or safer, anyway) from enemy fire, rebuilding their ranks, and training for the long war ahead.

Churchill famously ended his speech like this:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender… .

The men rescued from Dunkirk did not cease to fight when they were back home in Britain. Every single thing they did from the time they stepped back onto British soil until the day they returned to the Continent on D-Day, was part of the fight. This is quite clear when you look at it in military terms. At this low point for the church in the West, this fight for us is primarily within. Our ranks have been decimated from the outside, and from the inside as well. We are not going to win with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. We won’t even survive with it. We will only win with the true faith. This spiritual and cultural battle has to start within our own hearts and minds. Had the troops come back to their island home to await the inevitable arrival of the Germans, there would have been no hope. But they did not, and though the Germans bombed British cities in the Blitz, the British were resilient on the home front, kept the planned invasion at bay, and steadily built up their forces — and their spirits — for the battles yet to come.

The war did not stop with the Dunkirk retreat, not at all. But the British could defend their island, which, in Ben Op terms, was like a monastery. Similarly with us, we can better defend our churches, our schools, and our families by concentrating our fragmented forces there. If we don’t first defend them, we have no hope of reclaiming the massive ground we have lost.

That is where the fight is today. This does not mean that we can cease to fight to keep those who would destroy us at bay. We have no choice, just as the RAF had no choice but to engage the enemy over the English Channel to protect the homeland. I see religious liberty lawyers and advocates as the main part of our culture-war RAF. If they succeed, they will defend for us the space in which the rest of us can train, spiritually and otherwise, for the immense task ahead.

If you think the Benedict Option advocates retreating to “monastery Britain,” where we can live peaceably, unbothered by the Germans, you are wrong, and you have always been wrong. We retreat to Britain so we can survive and train and arm ourselves to fight the long war, spiritually and culturally speaking.

The Dunkirk metaphor only goes so far. The British were fighting an actual war, and knew clearly where the battle lines were. It’s not like that with us. This requires discernment. And the British also knew what victory would look like. With the Church, there is no ultimate victory, until the end of time. As Tolkien wrote: [9]

Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.

Commenting on this remark, the Orthodox priest Fr. Stephen Freeman writes:

[T]he Classical Christian read on human life contains the deepest hope – set precisely in the heart of the long defeat.

It is that hope that sets the Christian gospel apart from earlier pagan historical notions. For the “long defeat” was a common assumption among the ancient peoples. The Greeks and Romans did not consider themselves to have exceeded the heroes who went before. They could model themselves on Achilles or Aeneas, but they did not expect to match their like. The Jews had no hope other than a “restoration of the Kingdom,” which was generally considered apocalyptic in nature. All of classical culture presumed a long decline.

The narrative was rewritten in the modern era – particularly during the 19th century. The Kingdom of God was transferred from apocalyptic hope (the end of the long defeat) to a material goal to be achieved in this world. This was a heresy, a radical revision of Christian thought. It became secularized and moderated into mere progress. It is worth doing a word study on the history of the word “progressive.”

But Tolkien notes that within the long defeat, there are “glimpses of final victory.” I would go further and say that the final victory already “tabernacles” among us. It hovers within and over our world, shaping it and forming it, even within its defeat. For the nature of our salvation is a Defeat. Therefore the defeat within the world itself is not a tragic deviation from the end, but an End that was always foreseen and present within the Cross itself. And the Cross itself was present “from before the foundation of the world.”

Tolkien’s long defeat, is, as he noted, of a piece with his Catholic, Christian faith. It is thoroughly Orthodox as well. For the victory that shall be ours, is not a work in progress – it is a work in wonder.

According to Christian belief, the decisive victory was won at the Resurrection. In Revelation 4, St. John writes:

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”

But in Revelation 5, it looked as if the promise he had been given — to be shown the future — was not going to be fulfilled. The future was written on a scroll, and no one was able to open the scroll. St. John began to cry.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

For Christians who believe, that scroll, which only Jesus Christ can open, foretells a future of global tribulation: war, famine, disease, natural disaster. This is the Apocalypse. The point the elder is making to St. John is that the future belongs to Jesus Christ. Even though terrible things may await us, we must place our hope in the assurance that these things must happen, but that the final victory has already been won. God is the author of history, and the master of this narrative.

We Christians have to find the victory inside this defeat. The entire narrative by which we make sense of our lives culminates in a staggering defeat — the death of God — and in His resurrection. In our own present defeat, we may relearn our radical dependence on God, and how our defeat is owed in large part to our trust in our own powers, and in making false idols — politics, wealth, worldly standing, America, the church — to stand in His place. As Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik has written, “redemption [is to be found] in the depth of crisis and failure.”

In his time — the sixth century — St. Benedict was living through a cultural and social collapse even greater, in most ways, than what we are mired in. His retreat from the city of Rome, and the life his parents sent him there to train for, was not for the sake of reclaiming civilization. It was only for worshiping God in community in a time of immense turmoil and decadence. In Benedict’s defeat was his victory — and ultimately, over the course of centuries, the victory of civilization, which was preserved and spread largely because of the Benedictine monks, as well as the efforts of heroic bishops and priests working in the dark wood of the post-Roman world.

Did the early Benedictines surrender? Or did they continue the fight in other ways — ways that would last?

We don’t know how this war will end in our time, or if it will end in our time. I very much doubt it will. The work of recovery will take centuries. The only things we are assured of are these: 1) that all of history is a long defeat for the Church, and 2) that we are assured of the final victory. We are called neither to abject surrender, nor surrender masquerading as a valiant but impossible “last stand” on the battlefield. Would we consider Noah brave to have held his ground against the rising waters and refused to climb aboard the Ark?

Some of us Christians are called to send out the flotilla of arks to rescue those who want to get off the beach and live to fight another day. Others are called to board those little boats and head for a safer place — to “Britain,” so to speak, to “the monastery,” which is our true home. Some of us are called to defend the borders of the monastery with the skill and courage of RAF fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain.

But in no case may we let ourselves believe that the war is over. The enemy would cross the channel and conquer our monasteries, if we let him. We shall defend our Monastery, whatever the cost may be — and the Church’s 2,000-year history tells us that the cost may well be severe. At this point, that defense requires a retreat, but it’s a strategic one. The British did not surrender at Dunkirk, nor would the Church be surrendering by evacuating land it can no longer hold. Within that defeat lies the seeds of ultimate victory.

I invite Christian readers to go see Dunkirk with this in mind.


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UPDATE.2: A reader writes:

Just FYI, Mt. Sinai Hospital did not change its intake forms by choice. This has been mandated by the Federal Office for Civil Rights. Google “Brooklyn Hospital” and “transgender” to see what happens when a hospital inadvertently violates a transgender person’s perceived rights.

My gosh, the reader is correct: [11]

A landmark voluntary settlement agreement between the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and a New York City medical center announced last month has established a new standard for appropriate policies and procedures to ensure privacy and appropriate care of transgender patients.

OCR’s agreement with The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) was prompted by allegations that it violated an antidiscrimination provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) when it assigned “a transgender female who presented as a female at the hospital…to a double occupancy patient room with a male occupant.”

Under the terms of a two-year settlement, TBHC agreed to adopt, and train employees, on new policies and procedures tailored to transgender patients that address everything from admitting and rooming to documenting patients’ “legal and a preferred name” and their “gender and/or transgender status, if the Patient has identified that status and agrees that it should be recorded.” Employees also are to become familiar with terms such as “gender non-conformity” and “sex assigned at birth.”

Another reader, this one a physician, tells me that the Dunkirk analogy is spot-on, and that it drives him crazy to see how many fellow Christian conservatives don’t recognize how thoroughly we have been defeated. He told me that the new, post-Christian — indeed anti-Christian — reality is being written into the bureaucratic structures of our lives. And so few of us notice what’s happening, or appreciate the magnitude of it all.

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80 Comments To "‘Dunkirk’ As Benedict Option"

#1 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On July 27, 2017 @ 4:49 pm

By the way, I like a different metaphor for the BenOp – which is not just a metaphor – but something better: it’s reality.
My hero is His Excellency Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov, a.k.a. General Kutuzov.
He’s the man who, under the steady protection of Our Lady, by retreating, allowed that monster and anti-Christ, that lowest scum of the human race, that modernist, progressive, secularist devil (until, understanding the emptiness of his own life, he converted on his deathbed – laus Deo! There are no limits to what God’s grace can do), that criminal, Napoleon I Bonaparte, into the depths of Holy Mother Russia. General Kutuzov’s retreat was full of moral courage. He let the imperialist liberals burn the sainted city, the heir of Constantinople, the city made of white stone like the temple of Solomon, the Third Rome.
And then, after they destroyed everything sacred, reveling in looting and celebratory orgies as dyonisian as gay prides, they found themselves abandoned in the forlorn emptiness of the ice-cold great steppes, so similar to the emptiness of their souls, bereaved of any sparkle of heavenly warmth, until they starved and froze to (spiritual as well as bodily) death.
So we must do with rampant secularism. Let’s allow them to destroy everything holy and sacred until they will find themselves in a spiritual desert, starving and thirsting. And then, and only then, like the good God-fearing Russian peasant pitying the defeated and humiliated hussar who fed on his own horse, let’s hand them the coveted bowl of kasha and the glass of vodka, so that they may learn again what a warm heart means, what being a human being means, and let’s extend our arms around their shoulders in brotherly love.
Our retreat will be long and painful. But, as Rod says, it’s part of a war. A war which is fought for our enemies too.

#2 Comment By mrscracker On July 27, 2017 @ 4:55 pm

Mike W says:

July 27, 2017 at 2:31 pm

I gave blood recently and in addition asking me to confirm my name and birthday multiple times, they asked me to confirm my gender. That was a new one. I had a four word response: “Are you kidding me?”
They ask your race now too even if it seems obvious.

#3 Comment By Ken Zaretzke On July 27, 2017 @ 4:57 pm

The Luftwaffe is to the beach at Dunkirk what Obergefell is to the beleaguered but very possibly eventually victorious supporters of traditional marriage.

My confidence is based on the fact that proponents of same-sex marriage depend on a kind of “naive realism” to politically and constitutionally justify marriage equality. The naive realism in question involves the idea of gender-neutrality, which says it doesn’t matter, with lovers X and Y, whether they are opposite-sex or same-sex. Insofar as gender-neutrality evokes a judgment of “fair enough” from everyday common sense in a secular society, or in a society heading in the direction of increasing secularization, then SSM would seem to be perfectly innocuous, indeed inevitable. So far, so good for the progressives–for Hitler’s air force, in the analogy.

Unfortunately for the progressives (Germans), there’s a monkey wrench in the machinery. The Luftwaffe’s heavy strafing of the troops on the beach comes to little in the end. This part of the analogy doesn’t hold–there was no monkey wrench in the Nazi war machine, at least not at Dunkirk.

Gender-neutrality denotes one possible form of marriage, while another form of marriage involves gender complementarity. The first encompasses same-sex couples, the second encompasses opposite-sex couples. In theory these forms of marriage can coexist, and naive realism seems to show how. Naive realism encourages us to leap to the conclusion that the two forms of marriage are like different breeds of dogs. A Dachshund (SSM) is as much a dog as is a Labrador retriever (traditional marriage).

This supposition is the machine whose gears grind to a halt because of the monkey wrench.

Unlike a given form of marriage, the conception of marriage underlying a form of marriage must encompass *all* married couples, regardless of gender. The problem is that the conception of marriage that underlies SSM–commitment-in-lieu-of-procreation–is incompatible with the conception that underlies traditional marriage, namely, commitment-in-light-of-procreation.

What we have here with same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage is not different breeds of dogs but different species entirely. If we chose, we could call them marriage-1 and marriage-2 or ^marriage^ and ^^marriage^^, or whatever, but we can’t reasonably call both of them by the same name of “marriage.” Analysis of the conception of marriage–this is the monkey wrench–shows that naive realism about the forms of marriage misleads us.

We can, and should, go on to ask whether one conception of marriage makes more sense than the other, but that’s a deep issue separate from the seemingly simple issue of the assumed plausibility of gender-neutral marriage. Naive realism is a formidable but ultimately illusory weapon. SSM cannot rely on it for its legitimacy in the long run. Proponents of SSM must show that commitment-in-lieu-of-procreation is the correct conception of marriage, and not commitment-in-light-of-procreation. If they fail to do this (and I think they will), Obergefell v. Hodges will inevitably join the class of Supreme Court decisions that were wrong on the day they were decided.

#4 Comment By Rusty On July 27, 2017 @ 5:08 pm

He told me that the new, post-Christian — indeed anti-Christian — reality is being written into the bureaucratic structures of our lives.

I confess: I really am beginning to wonder if I will live to see the day when a pundit cites a legitimate study showing that conservative orthodox Christians, a beleaguered minority, have demonstrably higher rates of depression and substance abuse and are therefore mentally ill and unfit to serve in the military.

… for Catholics taking a medicine to restore the health and function to an organ which is absent to do disease or age is licit.

Well, that’s ‘licit’ for lots of people, not just Catholics, but if organ function is absent due to age, this is entirely natural and as God intended. Why on earth should the taxpayers be accountable for reversing God’s will, as made manifest by natural processes? “E.D.” is not a disease, regardless of what the marketers of Viagra say.

#5 Comment By John_M On July 27, 2017 @ 5:22 pm

Don’t assume ultimate victory. Survival is the objective and tolerance is to be cultivated. The modern Haredim and the Amish and the medieval Benedictines are probably the models to follow.

#6 Comment By pepi On July 27, 2017 @ 5:57 pm

You say “those who would destroy us” because they want to serve in the military and have their full health details taken when admitted to the hospital. I’m sorry but I do not see how those things detract from your religious freedom. I get the bit about weddings and such but how do these things reduce your religious freedom? On the other hand, what you want to do to “those” is keep them from serving in the military or having their full health details taken when they are admitted to the hospital. It seems to me that what you really want is for them to cease existing or, if that is impossible, to at least appear to not exist. They are individuals, you know, and human beings and citizens of the USA. They do, and should, have rights. It is really rather hard to see it as them wanting to destroy you when it is you who wants them to live as non-people, non-citizens, non-entities.

#7 Comment By MrsDK On July 27, 2017 @ 6:27 pm

Rod’s comments about the Mount Sinai hospital form have nothing to do with preferred metaphysics. As a parent with a would-be teen “transman”, I continue to be astonished at the utter lack of concern regarding the fact that there is NO medical science backing up secular gender ideology, NO clinical trials proving that the medicalization of gender dysphoria is an evidence-based response. Not to mention NO concern about the horrifying social contagion going on among teens or the skyrocketing number of academically gifted young girls on the autism spectrum who are insisting on gender transition (my own daughter falls into this category).

No therapist, no doctor can stop this or question it. Our family doctor just gave in to our 18-year-old’s demands to give her a letter so she can change the sex on her driver’s license to male. He did this through emails only, without even seeing her once in person. Since she is 18, we as her parents can do nothing. Look on-line at 4th Wave Now or Transgender Trend from the U.K. — see the despair of parents who have been abandoned by the medical community, the schools, the universities, the scientists, with no way to rationally battle against this overwhelming trans narrative. I ask for your prayers.

#8 Comment By Rabbi Eukel On July 27, 2017 @ 6:40 pm

Shalom ~ First, let me applaud the muscular thinking about Vision & Values exercised by both the author and the many (45)posters. Engagement is crucial. The many culture allusions (Dunkirk, Star Wars, Star Trek and Trump tweets) make for an interesting read, but remind me of the lazy discussions had during the 60s and 70s using culture pushing-pulling films, art and politics to arouse the crowd. Perhaps those engaged now have a vested interest in defending their posted positions. Pride of a stated position will be defended. If it is the Truth, please defend with muscular diplomacy. However, if you are really only expressing with educated verbosity your considered opinion, then please make room for a view that expresses the Truth before “a cross” and before the church’s man-made trinitarian doctrine. Of course, I am speaking as a Jew whose Hebrew Scriptures pre-date all this replacement theology spin. GOD Who is The Master of the universe is not, nor has ever been defeated. Noach went into the Ark because of the loving relationship he had with ADONAI and trusted in both the tangible Redemptive-Deliverance from the flood and the spiritual Covenant Redemption. Each of the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs walked a similar Providential Path paved with Love. Our fathers of faith Trusted that HaShem is Faithful to His Promises, though He knows how frail and unfaithful we often are. But we are not defeated, even in death, because ADONAI is not the GOD of the dead, but of the Living – Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov. GOD Who does “tabernacle” with us, in the flesh, Named Himself in typical Hebrew fashion reading from the RIGHT to the left (ayin-vav-shin-yud), Y’SHUA, which means “GOD’s Salvation.” Politics is NOT, nor has ever been GOD’s Salvation. However, it would serve the discussion well if we embrace the classical definition of politics: Who Gets What, When, Where, Why and How. Notice that “politics” classically defined is not a pejorative term. It is the reality of living within a covenant community. It is the Truth: GOD is political! It is GOD’s Will to Heal every dimension of your life and circumstances, in the here and now, not only in the bye & bye. Perhaps if good churchmen and churchwomen would demonstrate the Power and Love of our Redeemer to Heal the hurting then we would have less discussion about retreating to retrain and not let even the gates of sh’ol withstand our breaking in to lead captives away to Freedom in our Master Rabbi & Messiah. The rabbi is finished, for now, but not defeated.

#9 Comment By Don Pepe On July 27, 2017 @ 7:37 pm

I find the analogy false, Viagra restores a natural body function, just like calcium supplements may restore natural bone density in older patients, now; to mutilate a man, invert his scrotum to simulate a vagina, give him testosterone suppressants and pump it with estrogen for the rest of his life is considered restoring him to his “natural” gender ?

I’m sure that Caitlin Jenner is addressed as Mrs. Jenner by his doctor whenever he shows up for his regular check up, but I’m also sure that his doctor -considering Caitlin’s age-performs regular prostate exams on him, it wouldn’t do to be on the wrong end of malpractice litigation from failing to diagnose prostate cancer on the “lady”, I’m also sure that the word “Papanicolau” never enter their conversation.

#10 Comment By Brendan from Oz On July 27, 2017 @ 8:05 pm

Four companies of Indian troops out of 350000 and all the tokenistas are flapping and squawking “Racism!”

The Rats of Tobruk were the Australian 9th Division (including 3 of my uncles), some of the 7th Division, British artillery, a Polish Rifle Brigade and the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade.

I have every respect for the history of India and their armed forces. Real history, not tokenism.

But history must be rewritten and all SJW tokenism must be prominent in every movie, book and public statement henceforth.

Anyone who thinks the total cost is purely medical expenses is not serious.

Cyberspace is everywhere, and erases/disrupts history and even biology with a mouse-click. There is no virtual Albion across the sea for us to find refuge and recover.

#11 Comment By OrthodoxJew On July 27, 2017 @ 9:32 pm

Rod, how can you say there is no hope? What percentage of non-socially-conservative Americans have ever even heard a coherent argument for socially conservative positions? Probably less than 10%! If they were actually exposed to these arguments, many people would come around.

The Christian right just took their silent majority for granted, and never tried to convince the public. If we don’t try, how will be find out if it works?

We have a lot of articulate, persuasive, cultured people, like you and Ryan Anderson and so on, who have the ability to convince people if we actually try to disseminate our views.

For example, why isn’t there a big catchall socially conservative news source, like the Drudge Report for social conservatives? Why aren’t there well-funded socially-conservative outreach groups for college students around the country? Why isn’t there a national newspaper that is committed above all to socially-conservative positions? In Israel just a single billionaire, Adelson, created a free daily newspaper with conservative views (Israel HaYom), and it quickly became one of the most popular newspapers in the country and helped keep conservatives in power.

We can build up our own traditionalist communities while at the same time we try to, for the first time, promote our ideas in a palatable, PR-friendly, persuasive way to the population for the first time.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 27, 2017 @ 10:34 pm

Dunkirk was a great movie. Its not a metaphor.

Carefully Giuseppe… General Kutuzov is a Stalinist hero (recognized posthumously of course). But I can agree that liberals like Napoleon and bourgeois kleptocrats like the Directory really should have been sent to the guillotine.

Of course Napoleon became a Catholic. He was in the hands of Anglican Brits. What other option did he have left to tweak his captors?

#13 Comment By S Sherman On July 27, 2017 @ 10:50 pm

Note that some members of Britain’s Greatest Generation were so disgusted by what Britain (i.e. the West) has become, that they said their sacrifices weren’t worth it(!)


#14 Comment By Josh G On July 27, 2017 @ 11:42 pm

Just a thought on the lines “The only things we are assured of are these: 1) that all of history is a long defeat for the Church, and 2) that we are assured of the final victory.” I’ve know people who emphasis either victory (like postmillienals, which can result in to much focus on material/cultural gains) or defeat (like amillenials, which can result in a gloomy pietism), while in reality, both perspectives offer some truth.

You hint at it earlier, but making the point explicit: the Church’s victory is ‘defeat’. As Leithart has pointed out, in Revelation, the Church wins by the death of the martyrs. Just to change the emphasis of your statement: yes, all of history is a long defeat for the Church, but it’s really a long victory, like Dunkirk turned out to be, culminating in the final victory. Something like sin and grace: we don’t sin that grace may abound, but grace does abound when we do sin. So we do not seek or hope for defeat that victory may abound, but victory is nevertheless in every defeat for the Church.

#15 Comment By a commenter On July 27, 2017 @ 11:56 pm

I haven’t read your book yet but just wanted to share something with you. I was recently in a town that had a Benedictine monastery that was old but still very active and thriving. As we drove past, my host and tourguide was talking about some of the decisions that the Monks (?) had made in order to keep their community healthy over such a long time. I commented how neat that was and my host (knowing nothing about the Benedict Option, by the way) replied, “The charism of the Benedictines is stability.” And I thought, “Oh, Benedict Option. Now I get it!”

#16 Comment By TR On July 28, 2017 @ 1:05 am

Napoleon did not become a Catholic, he returned to the Church (if he did–never trust pious accounts of servants and chaplains).

As for Kutuzov, I don’t remember Tolstoy mentioning Our Lady, and it’s a pity that she couldn’t have figured out a way, if she was interested in the campaign, for getting all those French troops, Catholic and non-schismatic as many of them were, home safely from Russia. In any case I can assure anyone interested that the Duke of Wellington did not ask for help from Our Lady.

#17 Comment By John Dixon On July 28, 2017 @ 3:05 am

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

Hopkins, “The Habit of Perfection”

#18 Comment By Berlicche On July 28, 2017 @ 3:23 am

This is not Dunkirk. Do you think that if you flee the triumphant enemy will let you survive in a shelter? They will hunt you up to the last sanctuary.

The trick is, we are not defeated. This is just what Enemy’s propaganda is trying to make you think. Kill the hope, the army collapses.
There is not another day to fight. This is the day.

[NFR: You plainly didn’t understand a word of what I wrote. — RD]

#19 Comment By Johann On July 28, 2017 @ 10:23 am

Britain would never have prevailed alone against the Nazis. Who will be the spiritual equivalence of America and the Soviet Union? Do they exist? To carry the analogy further, could it be that Christians will have as allies against the our current sick culture an equally sick alternative culture?

Just pondering.

#20 Comment By Terry On July 28, 2017 @ 10:29 am

The current conservative mind: “Everything that I think is good is just like my own personal hobbyhorse. Everything I don’t like is evil liberal stuff.”

By the way, Hitler, Mussolini and the other fascists explicitly claimed to be “defending Western Civilization,” so may want to go easy on all that talk if you don’t like being compared to the actual bad guys at Dunkirk, conservatives.

#21 Comment By Mike Schilling On July 28, 2017 @ 10:42 am

Worse than Trump attacking an unpopular minority in a transparent attempt to distract from the shambles his administration has become: that apparently it works.

#22 Comment By DRK On July 28, 2017 @ 11:14 am

“Four companies of Indian troops out of 350000 and all the tokenistas are flapping and squawking “Racism!””

60% of the Free French troops during WW2 were nonwhite, mostly due to West African conscripts. By the time France fell to the Germans, for instance, as many as 17,000 of its Senegalese troops had been killed. A few years later, in a foretaste of what commenters here would like to do, the Allied high command insisted that all troops involved in the liberation of Paris be white; a tall order for the French, since at the time there was only one all-white French infantry unit, and it was in Morocco. De Gaulle wanted French troops to lead the way in liberating Paris, but the Allied High Command would only agree if he purged the ranks of nonwhites; the US was of course still segregating its troops at the time.

From a BBC article, “Paris Liberation Made Whites Only”:

“In January 1944 Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, was to write in a memo stamped, “confidential”: “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.

“This would indicate the Second Armoured Division, which with only one fourth native personnel, is the only French division operationally available that could be made one hundred percent white.”

Interesting that even back then, the powers that be were so committed to pushing the narrative that only white men fought in WW2. Depressing that people still hold so fiercely to this myth even today.


#23 Comment By Fran Macadam On July 28, 2017 @ 11:54 am

Rod, if you thought “christianity lost the culture” I’d like to know how you square that with Jesus’ multiple warnings about how those who truly were saved would always be small, with the road to destruction wide? What Jesus’ authority pronounced doesn’t jibe with the faithlessness of a religion that has supposed billions of adherents. The fatal compromises of a thin popular religion had been internalized and accepted, and the shock of those the culture and state now demand as new ones are momentarily disorienting, but ultimately also acceptable. There has never been a time when Bunyan’s Mr. Worldly Wise Man was genuinely a saint, even when his hypocrisy was the tribute vice paid to virtue, and especially now when all personal restraint’s been thrown to the winds in our cultural maelstrom of narcissism and materialism. The true Christian hasn’t lost; what’s happening is the ebb and flow of degree of persecution, true all these centuries, from grudging tolerance or pretense, useful manipulation of soft theology to outright discrimination and persecution as hated restraint and impediment upon rebel appetite. To be honest, the adversary is at his weakest when so clearly revealed and vulnerable to the critique of reality. By all means, morally vacate the world, that is, worldliness, else there is no place to stand for faith, but don’t think the war for truth – ultimately, residing in reality – has been lost. This particular revolution is as ill considered with the seeds of its own collapse, as was that before Thermidor. What is important is to know where oneself stands.

#24 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 28, 2017 @ 6:57 pm

This is not Dunkirk. Do you think that if you flee the triumphant enemy will let you survive in a shelter? They will hunt you up to the last sanctuary.

You don’t understand Dunkirk either. Dunkirk was a miracle precisely because this is a concise description of exactly what the Wehrmacht tried to accomplish.

#25 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 28, 2017 @ 9:24 pm

OCR’s agreement with The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) was prompted by allegations that it violated an antidiscrimination provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) when it assigned “a transgender female who presented as a female at the hospital…to a double occupancy patient room with a male occupant.”

The spineless hospital should have refused the agreement and said “See you in court” after counter-proposing that any patient with a documented diagnosis or history of unresolved trans-sexuality will be provided with a private room, since no other patient this patient accepts as a room-mate can reasonably be expected to share a room with him/her.

#26 Comment By Anne (the other one) On July 30, 2017 @ 4:14 pm

This is late for the discussion but I thought you might like to see it.


July 30, 2017
by Fr. George W. Rutler

Jan Struther (1901-1953) wrote popular hymns but is best known for the book that became the 1942 film Mrs. Miniver, starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. The Dunkirk evacuation figures in it and was emotive propaganda as the United States was just getting involved in the war. A new film about Dunkirk is educating many young people who never knew the story, and who may not realize that if it had not been for the “miracle” of events from May 26 to June 3 in 1940, the world would be unrecognizable today.

With 338,000 troops of the British Expeditionary Force and the French Army in danger of being annihilated, optimists expected that no more than 30,000 could be saved. The British civilians manned every boat they could muster: barges, tugboats, pleasure crafts, lifeboats and fishing trawlers and, led by the Royal Navy, rescued 335,000 soldiers.

One of the great characters I knew, the novelist Barbara Cartland, told me stories of the period, but spoke little of her beloved brother Ronald, who was killed behind the lines at Dunkirk, an anti-appeaser and the first and youngest Member of Parliament to die in the war. She wrote his biography, and her good friend Winston Churchill wrote a preface to it.

In the House of Commons on June 4, Churchill delivered perhaps the greatest speech of the twentieth century. The text I have has 3,767 words, but every line is riveting, especially its conclusion: “Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. . . ” But what he said is disserved if his warning halfway through is forgotten: “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.”

In the spiritual life, too, there must be strategic withdrawals from time to time. “. . . lee from any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the tradition received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). So the spiritual fathers enjoin us to flee from the Devil. In our own trying times, we have all the saints to help in the evacuation, like those who lent their boats for Dunkirk. But spiritual wars are not won by evacuations. The Church regroups and then charges the enemy.


#27 Comment By Brendan from Oz On July 31, 2017 @ 12:06 am

“60% of the Free French troops during WW2 were nonwhite, mostly due to West African conscripts. By the time France fell to the Germans, for instance, as many as 17,000 of its Senegalese troops had been killed. A few years later …”

None of which has anything at all to do with Dunkirk and the British forces (350000) which included 4 companies of Indian troops.

#28 Comment By Allen Carl Guelzo On July 31, 2017 @ 1:06 pm

No, no, no. Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ is not about a heroic band of brothers, fighting their way to the coast, helping each other escape through the miraculous intervention of angel boat-captains so that they can live and fight another day. It’s not the Song of Roland, not Travis at the Alamo, not Henry V at Agincourt. It’s about a deserter who throws away his weapons and finagles this way and that to save his own hide; about a pilot whose interventions backfire for himself and others; and a boat-captain whose generosity is rewarded by incomprehension and murder. ‘Dunkirk’ is a story of futility and desperation. If this is what the Benedict Option is about, Dreher has just given us every good reason to reject it.

#29 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On August 1, 2017 @ 11:49 am


As for Kutuzov, I don’t remember Tolstoy mentioning Our Lady, and it’s a pity that she couldn’t have figured out a way, if she was interested in the campaign, for getting all those French troops, Catholic and non-schismatic as many of them were, home safely from Russia.

War and Peace, III/II/21 (Tolstoy doesn’t present the episode under a favorable light, I must admit. But it remains grandiose against his will)

And by the way, it is a well established historical fact, see e.g.,

Napoleon’s Army, made of recruits from all over Europe, was the army of secularism, and the enemy of the Catholic West. The private faith of some soldiers doesn’t change this fact, as the fact that some soldiers of the Holy League were heathens doesn’t change the fact that it was the army of Christianity.

In any case I can assure anyone interested that the Duke of Wellington did not ask for help from Our Lady.

Well, Tolstoy doesn’t mention that for sure,p 🙂 But who knows? And, by the way, at Waterloo Napoleon was a much lesser threat than at the time of the Russian campaign. The writing was on the wall for him.

#30 Comment By Luc Lalongé On August 3, 2017 @ 10:34 am

Bonjour Rod. Our RAF’s lawyers and defenders? Yes. RAF meaning ”Resist the Anti-Christ Forces”!