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Home/Rod Dreher

Saving Calvin

Pro-LGBT students at Calvin University (Source)

Last week, the Christian Reformed Church, the denomination that controls Calvin University, stood in front of the woke train yelling, “Stop!” — and they stopped it! :

The Christian Reformed Church, a small evangelical denomination of US and Canadian churches, voted Wednesday at its annual synod to codify its opposition to homosexual sex by elevating it to the status of confession, or declaration of faith.

The 123-53 vote at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, caps a process begun in 2016 when a previous synod voted to form a study committee to bring a report on the “biblical theology” of sexuality.

The vote, after two long days of debate, approves a list of what the denomination calls sexual immorality it won’t tolerate, including “adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex.”

“The church must warn its members that those who refuse to repent of these sins—as well as of idolatry, greed, and other such sins—will not inherit the kingdom of God,” the report says. “It must discipline those who refuse to repent of such sins for the sake of their souls.”

But 190 delegates to the synod spent the preponderance of time debating homosexuality, with many warning that passage of the so-called Human Sexuality Report and elevating its teachings to the status of confession would alienate LGBTQ people as well as younger generations of CRC members who have a different understanding of sexuality.

“This motion harms LGBTQ people, harms the church’s witness, and naming this as confession will have disastrous consequences for people and institutions,” said one delegate to the synod who voted against the motion.

The vote will also have profound consequences for its flagship university, Calvin. In December, one-third of Calvin faculty signed a letter expressing concerns about the Human Sexuality Report, and some are now expected to leave. Faculty at Calvin University must sign a document saying they align with the historical creeds and confessions of the Christian Reformed Church.

In response, one of the brightest lights of post-Christian Christianity has taken her stand. Excerpts:

This week has been filled with conversations among members of the CRC and Calvin faculty, staff, and students. Beautiful and heavy conversations. I’ve wept with parents of LGBTQ kids who are heartbroken and distraught that there is no place for them in our church. I’ve thought of the Calvin history student who was queer, who took her own life two years ago. I think of her often, and of others I can name, and for whom I fear. I’ve checked in with colleagues to see who is staying (for now) and who is planning to go. I’ve listened to current students discuss the possibilities of getting out of their leases for the coming year so they can transfer. I’ve listened to the struggles of a celibate gay pastor in our denomination who feels he belongs nowhere in all of this. I’ve watched the gloating of some in the denomination who have gotten their way who cannot disguise their eagerness to purge the church and the college of their fellow believers. I’ve watched others who also got their way struggling to come to terms with what they’ve accomplished.

For a sense of what has been done, I suggest reading the poignant words of my good friend Heidi De Jonge. (We’ve been friends since our flannel-shirt-and-baggy-jean-wearing days at Dordt College back in the 90s.)

This is who they are purging. This is what they have accomplished.

My own local Christian Reformed Church offers a glimpse at what this looks like on the ground. We have LGBTQ members who worship with us and who minister among us. We have many LGBTQ children, our covenant children, whom we’ve promised to guide in their faith as part of their baptismal vows. We have members who hold to traditional views of sexuality, particularly among our many immigrant members who attend our Basic English service.

These differences, however, have not interfered with the unity we have found in Christ—through the Word and the sacrament, through our common confession of faith across many languages, through our love for each other and ministry to one another. And so it is with great grief that our church now faces the possibility of this rare and beautiful thing unraveling.

Read it all.

I read De Jonge’s words, and they are moving and emotional … but totally disconnected from Biblical truth and tradition. Totally. Christians who chuck sexual teaching are going to end by chucking Christianity. It is a bright, clear line — whether the Du Mezes of the world realize it or not (and they don’t).

What’s going to happen to Calvin? It’s going to lose its rock star faculty. But it’s probably going to remain Christian. These liberal faculty are going to go on to greater things, professionally, and be able to dine out on how they were badly treated by the homo-hating fundagelicals at Calvin. But the CRC has taken a brave and unpopular stand for the Gospel. God sees.

UPDATE: Reader Andrew S.:

The momentary rush of conservative enthusiasm for this move will please Rod’s readers, but the fury of the left will be in full force over the next several weeks and months. Any university board contemplating a similar move better should study what will likely happen, and plan accordingly for a media siege of their institution. Watch for the following:

1) a sudden drop in college rankings, unattributable to any objective criterion currently used by the major ranking media;

2) a tsunami of requests, using already existing anonymous online reporting portals, for Biden’s Department of Education to open Title IX investigations at the universities in question;

3) calls by social media talking heads to blacklist graduates of the schools;

4) a sudden mysterious dearth of available federal and private grant money for faculty at these schools, along with the denial of conference platforms for faculty members.

Financial pressures are such that many if not most religiously-affiliated schools will quickly develop new “insights” into the Bible that permit them to cave in to the left, if they haven’t already. Board members sticking to Christian principles better raise prodigious sums of cash to plow into their endowments and strengthen ties with allied Christian schools to bolster their financial self-sufficiency. Woke winter is coming, and Calvin will provide an example of what other colleges should expect.

UPDATE.2: A reader is not optimistic:

I read your column on the Christian Reformed Church and Calvin with interest. I was in the CRC most of my life and served as an elder in that denomination. I am also a fourth generation Calvin alum and still have a child there. Most of my family is still associated with both institutions.

I saw the recent CRC synod actions and thought they were notable, but I’m not as optimistic as some that this portends some great stemming of what has been a rapid declension in orthodoxy that denomination has been pursuing since the 80’s. I would point to the following as counter-points:
1) The statement on human sexuality that was ultimately endorsed and made confessional is fairly weak by historical standards. It is loaded with significant exceptions and concessions. It is nowhere near a full throated defense of traditional Christian sexual ethics. I was relieved  by the headlines when it was first published, but then very disappointed when I actually read it.
2) The fact that so many openly oppose and defy it, and that even Calvin University rushed out a letter essentially stating that they don’t agree with it, find it harmful and plan to slow-roll any potential adoption of it speaks volumes about what is going on in the rank and file as well as the institutions associated with the denomination. Earlier this same year, when some students created a firestorm by even suggesting that same-sex orientation was sinful, Calvin was quick to reassure nervous parents that they stood by the denominations positions on the matter. The tune has changed in a matter of months.
3) An anecdotal point. Nearly every CRC member I know (and I know many) is shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that Synod did this and fully intend to ignore it and keep right on with what they are doing.
As we have seen with many other denominations (look at the recent history of the RCA, for example), statements mean little without action. After all, this statement was essentially re-iterating what the church says they already believe – but the fact that no pastors or elders are being disciplined, no churches are being censured or leaving tells you everything you need to know. Without teeth, the statement means little and will probably be the catalyst that finally destroys the uneasy coalition the CRC has become with progressives tolerating some rural more conservative brethren.
I hope and pray it is not so, but the majority of self-identifying conservatives left the denomination long ago, so all that really remains is progressives and the squishy middle who doesn’t like being accused of being haters. If there is no will or process to expel those in open defiance of their vows, then this is just the dying gasp of the remnant of orthodox believers there. If they don’t have the votes and networks to fight the bear they just poked, the bear will now proceed to devour them without remorse. Perhaps the bear will deign to permit them a “graceful separation” with some of their property in the future.
“Any institution that is not explicitly conservative will eventually become progressive”.

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Of Sovereigns And Drag Queens

With Jon Morgan outside of King's College, Cambridge

One of the great things about being marooned in England now while my Schengen visa is sorted out is that I get to spend more time with some great Christian folks I met last week. One of them is Jon Morgan, a graduate student at Queens’ College, within Cambridge University. Jon is an African-American — that is, he and his family emigrated to the US from South Africa when he was a boy. He’s involved with the Trinity Forum here at Cambridge, and came to my talks last week. Last night I saw him again at a Trinity Forum garden party. We got to talking about Orthodox Christianity, and I invited him to come to liturgy with me this morning at St. Clement’s church.

So he did. After services, we went for breakfast, and we talked about the religious situation in the West. Afterward, Jon wanted me to see Queens’, so we walked there. It’s one of the oldest colleges at Cambridge, founded in 1448 by Queen Margaret (of Anjou), wife of Henry VI, founder of King’s. (The Queens’ orthography reflects the “refounding” by Margaret’s successor and rival, Elizabeth, wife of Edward IV, who deposed Henry in the War of the Roses.)

Jon said that Queens’ is the best-preserved medieval college. He took me to the study room that was once home to Erasmus, one of the most famous alumni of the college. Here is the view from Erasmus’s room. The quad looks exactly as it would have to Erasmus’s eyes — and yes, the grass really is that green:

Here is Erasmus’s room, from the back quad. That’s it, the little window in the center:

 

Walking with Jon through Queens’, it was so touching to hear how passionate he is about his college. He has a deep sense of stewardship. I noticed at one point that he would touch wooden beams when he would talk about how these ones are original to the 15th century. “You like to put your hands on history, don’t you?” I said. He smiled, and said yes, he loves this place, feels honored and privileged to be studying here, and feels a deep urge to take care of what he has been given. We sat by the riverside for a bit and talked about how hard it is to get modern people to care about these things.

After we parted, I walked back to the house where I’m staying outside of Cambridge, and I thought about how badly our civilization needs men (and women) like Jon Morgan. He struck me as strong but humble, and with a sense of vision that is uncommon in his generation, and in our society at large. Maybe it’s because he’s a bit older — 33 — and had time to build something in the world (a company, with his brother, that he has sold). Whatever the reasons, he is a kind of knight: a defender driven by honor and loyalty to God, to Whom he is grateful. How wonderful to know that men like that are still in the world.

We are going to need them. Here is a pungent essay by the Dominican Norbertine monk Father Urban Hannon, on “the politics of hell”. Excerpts:

Let’s start with a little guided meditation. I want you to imagine a society—a society made up of self-absorbed, atomized individuals—a society in which the various members tolerate each other, because they know they need each other, but only so that each of them can achieve his own private ambitions and desires—a society, moreover, that is in open rebellion against its own origins. Sound familiar yet?

Now I want you to imagine that, once upon a time, this society had been noble, and civil, and good—but that its citizens—especially its elite citizens—out of a disordered sense of pride, effected a revolution against that received ancient order.

Imagine, if you will, that this revolution had some ironic consequences, such as that, in the name of liberating themselves from being subject to any official king, these citizens wound up creating for themselves an even more oppressive and authoritarian regime—and that their honorable hierarchy, which in their pettiness they would have liked to dissolve altogether, was merely replaced by a dishonorable hierarchy—that they traded an ordered harmony for hostile power relations, and a common good for private vices.

Now imagine that this populace—who, again, hate their own heritage and devote all their time and energy to contradicting it, loudly—is in fact deeply unsatisfied, frustrated, lonely, sad. And yet imagine that, despite their unhappiness in this society, they also live in constant, ever-growing fear—fear that this society of theirs, and everything it stands for, is on the verge of defeat.

Imagine, finally, that this hysterical anxiety of theirs makes them even more odious and offensive and obnoxious. Probably by now you are not having to imagine, because unfortunately what I have been describing is not imaginary. This is a society—or at least, a “society”—which is very real, which is all around us, and with which we are forced to interact on a daily basis.

I am speaking, of course, of the society of Satan and his demons. This is a talk about the politics of hell.

Got your attention? What follows is a deeply Thomistic account of the nature of demons and how it applies to our politics. Mind you, this appears at The Josias, a website dedicated to advocating Catholic integralism (the joining of Church and State in a mutual harmony dedicated to the Roman Catholic conception of the common good). I do not believe in integralism, not only because I’m not a Catholic, but because I also don’t believe the Church should be joined to the State. Orthodox Christianity has a long tradition, via Byzantium and her successors, of Church-State symphony, but I don’t think it has been good for the Church.

We can discuss and dispute what the best political system is, surely. But it seems impossible to deny Father Hannon’s description of where liberalism has gotten us. The question (to me, anyway), is how we are to be ruled. I don’t believe that integralism is realistic or even just, but I understand why it appeals to people. It is not going to be the only non-liberal option people consider as the decadent order we have now continues to unwind.

On the long walk home, I thought about the things I’ve learned this past week in Cambridge and Oxford. About how both great universities are under the domination of people who despise what the universities have historically stood for. How the ruling class of both schools are coming to hate everything about the civilization of which these ancient universities are a pinnacle. What does it mean, for example, that at Queens’ College last week, they ended the academic term with an obese drag queen galumphing around the quad for the entertainment and edification of the students? And that most of these students are part of a ruling class that celebrates the drag queen but despises the working-class people in their own country?

Same with us Americans, obviously. On the long walk back, I found myself wondering what we have to do. Is liberal democracy, and liberalism, a suicide note? I don’t think it has to be, but without a shared religious framework — which is to say, a shared belief in binding transcendent values — how can it not devolve into the politics of hell?

What should we do to save the inheritance represented by Oxford and Cambridge? What should we be prepared to do? I think of the drag queen in the Queens’ College quad, and say: that’s a metaphor. If democracy means the sovereignty not of godly queens, but of drag queens, then I don’t want it.

But what do I want? Father Urban Hannon knows what he wants. I don’t. Not yet.

UPDATE: OK, to answer a few objections in the comments:

I will never understand the simpleton progressive response to this that suggests conservatives think of the past as an Arcadian age of perfection. Maybe a few do, but I don’t, nor do any of the conservatives I know. The tendency to romanticize the past is common to all of us, though a tendency to romanticize the future is a vice limited to progressives (and America is full of right-wing progressives, in this sense).

The way I see the past is like family: progressives expect us to hate our ancestors because they weren’t all saints, judged by the standards of The Current Moment. Conservatives, on the other hand, take the bad with the good, and are capable of recognizing that terribly flawed people nevertheless produced some things of great good and lasting value. The passage of time and the use of discernment allows us to identify the good from the bad, and cherish the good while recognizing that the bad is also part of who we are.

For example, the plantation houses of the Deep South are truly beautiful, and worth cherishing. Yet they were also the products of a wicked civilizational order that enslaved human beings. The grandeur of those buildings does not justify the evil of slavery — nor does the evil of slavery negate the beauty of those buildings, any more than the evil of Roman civilization requires us to demolish the Pantheon and the Colosseum. Not everything old becomes valuable by virtue of its antiquity, nor should we preserve everything simply because it once meant something to people (e.g., no statues of Hitler or Stalin, please). Still, the shallow, ugly iconoclasm of the Current Thing ideologues is itself evil.

Jon Morgan told me yesterday about the hideous violence done to Queens’ College during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and then under the Cromwell regime. The smashing of the artefacts of “popery”. Once I visited the Salisbury Cathedral, and saw the breathtaking scars left by the English Reformation on that holy site. This is something that ought not to have been done, even if Catholicism was bound to be ended by force. I’m not making a religious judgment here, but a historical one.

I believe that change is inevitable; the question is, how do we manage change to also maintain continuity? For a week now I’ve been in Cambridge and Oxford, and have heard distressed conservative students telling me about what’s going on in their colleges. It’s grievous to think that these privileged young people (I’m not talking about the conservative students, but their Oxbridge generation) are being educated and indulged in an iconoclastic ideology that teaches them to despise what they’ve been given, and to consider it virtue. All it takes is a single generation to be lost to break the chain of transmission. Maybe two generations. That’s what’s happening now, and once it’s gone, will it come back?

You don’t have to affirm all the bad things that Britain has done in its history to affirm the good things to be found in Oxford and Cambridge, and throughout this country. I grew up in a small town in the Deep South. It was a real shock to me to learn, as an adult, about what the whites in our town had done to the blacks. I’m not talking about slavery — that was taught in school — but about KKK activity in the 1950s and 1960s. No doubt some of the white men I grew up respecting and caring for had been part of that, though kept it a secret. I have a reasonable idea about who some of them were, and I can only say that I hope they repented of those sins before they died. But can I deny the good that they did in this life because I am aware of that bad? No, of course not. I have to live with the tension. We all do. It’s the human condition, and mature people recognize that.

One of the reasons I recoil against this celebration of All Things Black now, because they are black, and All Things LGBT, is because I feel it is deeply important for us all to know the truth taught by Solzhenitsyn: that the line between good and evil passes down the middle of every human heart. I spent my morning yesterday with a white immigrant from South Africa. He is of English descent — that is, descended from English immigrants to South Africa — and explained to me the hatred Afrikaners — white South Africans of Dutch colonial descent — have for English South Africans. It came from the Boer War, in which the English invented the first concentration camps (that’s where the term comes from) in which to inter Afrikaner women and children. Jon was simply telling me that there is this very complex tribal history in his country, even within white society. I’m not exactly ill-informed about world history, but I didn’t know this. Jon told me that the British, from whom he descends, had done terrible things to the Afrikaners, and that the apartheid system in part came about as a result of that. It’s a complicated story, not worth getting into here. The point he was making was not ideological, but a general one about the vicissitudes of history, and how nobody, nowhere, has clean hands … but we still have to figure out how to live with that history without casting out what was good about it, while repenting of the evil. Those partisans on either side who insist on believing that any people’s history is All Good or All Evil are liars who lie most of all to themselves. Hitler and Goethe do not obviate each other; neither do Stalin and Tolstoy.

I told him about a paper I had done in college, when I was fairly liberal, during the anti-apartheid years, in which I argued that the South African situation would be better understood as a typical African tribal conflict, with the dominant tribe in that African country being the one with white skin. What brought me to that conclusion was work I was doing on campus with Amnesty International, and learning about black prisoners of conscience in black-ruled African countries. The more I dug into it, I realized that we Americans projected our own understanding of race onto Africa. For us, it was simply a matter of black and white. But in black African countries, tribal differences among peoples with black skin mattered just as much. The X tribe (all black) oppressed the Y tribe (also all black) — but we didn’t see this in the West, because it didn’t fit our narrative categories.

I lost a friend over that. There was a black guy in that class — it was a journalism class — and he became extremely angry. I emphasized that I wasn’t defending apartheid at all, but rather pointing out that apartheid was a manifestation of the tribalism and inhumanity that was common in Africa, and indeed a grim part of universal human history. I pointed out that I was actually making an argument for why we in the West should show more care for other oppressed black African peoples whose oppressors were black. But he was furious, though he couldn’t explain why I was wrong. It was a really uncomfortable period.

Anyway, I bring that up to say that to overly moralize history is a form of blindness, just as fully demoralizing it is. The historian Tom Holland’s great book Dominion is about the way Christianity made the West, including the things that we all cherish most about Western civilization. He begins by talking about how he wasn’t raised religious, and had come to love the world of the Greeks and the Romans, personally and professionally. But one day he realized that Greco-Roman civilization was incredibly cruel. How did we rid ourselves of those ways of seeing the world, and treating other people? Christianity is the answer. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen — and Dominion tells the story of how it did. Tom confesses in the book that going deep into that history gave him a newfound respect for Christianity and its achievements.

Does that negate the evil things Christians have done, especially in the name of Christianity? Of course not. But neither do those evil things negate the great good Christianity accomplished, including creating the phenomenon of universal human rights. Grown-ups understand this.

What troubles me about the stupid iconoclasm of our ruling classes today is that, to borrow the line that Ann Richards applied to George H.W. Bush, they were born on third base and think they hit a triple. I found Jon so admirable because I could tell he has an instinctive love for Queens’, because he is grateful for it. This is the proper conservative disposition towards the world: gratitude. Yesterday was Father’s Day — the sixth one I’ve had without my dad. Regular readers know that my wrestling with my father and his legacy has been the great struggle that has defined my life. I would never hold him up as a saint. That said, I find myself so grateful for all the good things he gave me, and believe that they more than justify his life, even his sins and failings. I could list all kinds of sins and failings of my grandparents, and all my ancestors, but if I rejected all they stood for, and all they were, because of that, that would be more of a judgment on me than on them.

The Christendom that built the old Oxbridge colleges was very far from perfect. Queens’ is tied deeply into the savage War of the Roses, for example. But it was a civilization built on deep and good principles, however much people pledged to live by them failed. Nothing we build today, architecturally or otherwise, can hold a candle to who they were and what they did. If you cross the Mathematical Bridge behind Queens’, and go over to the other side of the river, to the 1970s-era Queens’ building, you have taken a journey into degeneracy. We are incomparably richer and more comfortable than they were in the old days, but we can only seem to put up buildings that look like machines, and therefore unworthy of human habitation.

On the left, Cripps Court, part of Queens’; on the right, across the Mathematical Bridge, old medieval Queens’:

There are plenty of modern people who have the idea that the invention of dental anesthesia somehow renders the medieval period and everything about the past worthless. These are Therapeutic Whigs; we must bless their hearts, but not pay them much attention.

About the fact that men dressing as women as entertainment is not something new — yes, of course, I get that. If you’ve been reading me long enough, you’ll know that some years back, I wrote with affection about Ginger Snap, the town drag queen in St. Francisville. Ginger Snap is tolerable and even enjoyable as an eccentric. It’s when more people start to think that maybe men really can be women if they want to be, and that the laws should be changed to recognize drag queens who think they really are women, not just playing a caricature of a woman, that the drag queen becomes subversive and a threat to the social order.

A drag queen flolloping around the inner courts of Queens’ College in the 1970s is funny. A drag queen flolloping around there in 2022, in a time when people are losing their jobs and facing criminal charges in some places for refusing to pretend that the man dressed as a woman really is a woman — that’s something different.

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The Abbess Of The Moorings

The Rev. Helen Orr, at home in Cambridge

I wanted to share with you some good news, for once. What follows is the text of my last two Substack newsletters, to which you can subscribe here. I use the newsletter to focus on spiritual, religious, and aesthetic interests — which is to say, no culture-warring or politics. Though I am unhappy to be a displaced person (I’m in the UK, waiting on getting a visa to get back to Europe), graces abound. Read on. — RD

[The first one, titled, “The Abbess of The Moorings]

You readers are going to get two of these today. I’m on my way back to England, having been deported by the Austrian authorities when I tried to return to Vienna last night. My papers weren’t in order. Totally my fault! And the border police were actually very nice about it. Still, I have to go back to the UK and appeal to the Austrian Embassy in London for a visa. Further bad news: my research trip to France is now impossible, because I can’t get anywhere into the EU without a visa.

The good news is that I will now have more time to write. The further good news is that I’ll be returning to The Moorings, the Cambridge home of my friends James and Helen Orr, who hosted me there this week. I have to tell you, their rambling home on the banks of the river Cam, north of the town, is an oasis of peace and Benedictine hospitality.

James Orr is one of the bravest men in British public life — for instance, he led the resistance to the university’s attempt to crush free speech and keep Jordan Peterson from speaking there — but Helen is the happy genius of their household. I had not met her until this trip. She is the daughter of a prominent Anglican bishop, the late Simon Barrington-Ward, and is herself an Anglican parish priest. She and James, and their two children, host Christian student boarders in their house, and have built a kind of Benedict Option community there. The place and its people are so welcoming, and I think it’s mostly down to Helen.

(I’ve added her as a subscriber to this newsletter, so I know she will be reading this and will probably be embarrassed by my praise, but sometimes one has to push on ascetically through such trials.)

When I arrived there earlier this week, Helen took me on a walk through their back garden. One of the best things about England is their gardens. I’m an ardent Francophile in most things, but on gardens, I much prefer to messy English approach to the Cartesian severity of the French style. Helen told me of her plans to build a chapel there, and to keep working to make it a real center of art and healing in Christ.

She knew about my divorce situation from her husband, with whom I have been friends for several years. We stood down by the river and she spoke to me about it with directness and pastoral compassion in equal measure. I sure needed to hear what she had to say. In an earlier time and place, she would have been a great abbess of a vast and famous monastery. Today, she is vicar of the countryside parish of Bassingbourn, which dates back at least to the 13th century.

Over the past few days, I’ve watched Helen oversee people coming and going from her house, feeding us, taking her kids to their activities, running a lodger to the doctor, and so forth. It was really something to see, how much passion she poured into making us all feel at home and cared for. And then when she sat down to talk with me from time to time about life in Christ, her words were always deep, wise, and comforting — in fact, comforting because deep and wise. She has a rare gift of being able to speak with casual cheerfulness about profound things. Helen makes one feel seen. Whatever one thinks of women’s ordination — I think it’s impossible for us Orthodox, but the Anglicans can do what they want — Helen has a pastoral gift that might be more powerful than any I have ever seen.

It might be that she made such a powerful impression on me because she reminds me of my Aunt Lois and Aunt Hilda, about whom I’ve written a number of times over the years. Lois and Hilda were sisters of my father’s grandmother. They were born in the 1890s, and were very old when I was a little boy, and knew them. I would go to their tiny cabin at the end of a pecan orchard every day to visit, and to be dazzled by their presence, and their stories. Here they are with little me, about 1969:

 

That’s Hilda on the left, and Lois on the right. They were formidable, let me tell you. They had volunteered to be Red Cross nurses during World War I. I trace my abiding love of France to their stories about serving in the canteen in Dijon, and traveling around France after the war. Hilda was especially indomitable. In the great 1927 Mississippi River flood, she wanted to deliver relief supplies to the stranded in rural north Louisiana, but the Red Cross wouldn’t allow its female workers to take that risk. So Hilda disguised herself as a man, took command of a supply boat, and went into the wild.

That’s the kind of women they were. So is Helen, I divine.

I wish I had been able to get through the border police and back to my apartment in Vienna. But it is not necessarily a bad thing that I’m headed back to Cambridge, and to the home of the Orr family. Last night I bedded down in the airport chapel here in Vienna, comforted by the thought of sleeping where travelers pray. I was thinking that though my interrupted travel is unwelcome, maybe God allowed it to happen because He has something He needs to show me back in England. Helen is so full of life and curiosity about the world God has made that I can easily believe enchanted things are about to happen.

More later today — I have to transcribe and publish here an amazing interview I did with an Anglican ordinand. And I want to share with you some things I read in the Venerable Bede last night, about St. Cuthbert. I had never really thought about the Anglo-Saxon saints until hearing about them this week in England. You just never know who you are going to meet, and what you are going to learn once you step off the everyday path.

The plane is boarding here in Vienna now. Back to Blighty!

[Here is the second one, titled “The Pearls Of The Abbess”]

Well, the adventure continues. Last night at the vacant terminal at the Vienna airport, I took comfort in the fact that the only place I could find to sleep not on the floor was in the airport chapel. It calmed me deeply, because I was resting where God is praised. It made me trust that despite the unpleasantness of being deported, and losing my pilgrimage to holy places in France next week (because I can’t get back into the European Union/Schengen area until I get a visa, for which I have now applied), I felt assured that God was in it. That He has a plan here. I should have been quite distressed and unhappy, but somehow, I was calm, and thought, “OK, God, what are you up to?”

I arrived back at London’s Stansted airport, and waited in a very long passport control line. There’s a rail strike on here now, so trains were running off schedule. I finally caught a local up to Cambridge, and arrived in the sweltering heat not long after eleven a.m. I couldn’t get an Uber — none available, unusually — so I decided to walk to The Moorings. Only twenty minutes away, though the weather was hot, and I was toting three bags. Still, I just wanted to get a shower and fall into bed, so off I went.

On the way, I began to pray the Jesus Prayer. I usually do when I’m walking. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I walked a few minutes like that, but then the thought crossed my mind: back in the Before Times, I used to love calling my wife and sharing, in delight, the craziness of things like this (“Can you believe it? I got deported! Isn’t that just how it goes?”). Now I can’t do that. I haven’t been able to do this for about a decade. I miss it so much. That thought settled in, and brought with it sadness, and anger, and suddenly, I couldn’t pray any more.

Don’t surrender to it, I thought. Keep praying. But I remember making a deliberate choice to poke the sore tooth with my tongue, to linger on my unhappiness, and my sense of dislocation, of exile. I thought about this for the rest of the walk to The Moorings.

I let myself through the gate, and found the Abbess in her living room. I set my bags down, and flopped onto the sofa, while she flurried to the kitchen to get me something to drink. When she sat down, she showed me the handsome strand of pearls she was wearing.

“I put them on today to remind myself to tell you the story about them,” she said. The Abbess told me that she loved these pearls, but one day, she noticed they had gone missing. She looked everywhere for them, but couldn’t find them. She was heartbroken, but figured that was just the way it goes sometimes.

As the year went on, Helen began to doubt whether she was doing the right things with her life. Finally, she prayed, “Lord, if I am where I’m supposed to be, doing the things I’m supposed to do, please bring me back my pearls.”

The next day, the Abbess got a call from her sister in Scotland. “Did you lose your pearls?” the sister asked. “My friend found some pearls in the back garden. She thought maybe they were costume jewelry. I told her that no, I think those are my sister’s pearls. Are they?”

They were! The sister pointed out that her dog had gotten into Helen’s bag when she, her husband James, and the kids had been visiting last. The dog must have pulled the pearls out, and dropped them in the garden. For a year, people had been treading that garden, mowing it, and tending it, but no one had seen the pearls — until that day. Until Helen had asked God to return them to her as a sign.

“I wanted to share that with you because it’s a sign of enchantment,” she told me. And of course I agreed.

We talked a bit more. She mentioned her late father, Anglican Bishop Simon Barrington-Ward, and how intimate was his friendship with C.S. Lewis — and indeed, how before the bishop died in 2020, had been one of the last people left living who had been close to Lewis.

Soon I apologized to my hostess, and told her, “My mind is so discombobulated that I can’t form a coherent thought. I need to go down to the room, get a shower, and get some sleep.”

At that moment, a neighbor showed up, poked her head in the back door, and gave Helen some information. I can’t remember what it was about, but what I do remember was that the neighbor said that she felt so “discombobulated.” I don’t know when I last used or heard that word, but now it had been spoken twice within four minutes. By now in my life, I’ve learned to take that kind of thing as a synchronicity, as a meaningful coincidence. It always means, simply, pay attention, God is revealing something to you.

I went down to my room at the side of the garden, and got the last of my clean clothes to take to the bathroom for a shower. Ten minutes later, I was freshly washed and lying in the cool darkness of the room. Before I fell asleep, I looked at my e-mail. There was this from my friend Wesley J. Smith, a fellow Orthodox convert:

Just read of your travail in being barred from the EU.

If you are in England for a while, please spend a day or two at the Monastery of St. John in Essex. Founded by St. Sophrony the Athonite. Experience the Jesus Prayer service. Imagine hours of the JP chanted in different languages. It has to be experienced, it can’t be described. I prayed at his tomb, and I have never felt the Holy Spirit so strongly. Completely off the grid. You have to call. Do. It is sublime.

Well, turns out that that monastery is not too far from where I’m staying in Cambridge. Maybe I can get there.

Then there was a letter from another reader of this Substack, a priest, who sent this video. It’s from eight years ago, with Helen interviewing her father, the late and much beloved Bishop Simon — about the Jesus Prayer! I started watching it, and look, here is the first image, of Helen introducing her dad:

 

She’s wearing the pearls.

I thought, okay, this is a real synchronicity. I need to watch this video, but only when I’m in my right mind. I closed my laptop and fell asleep.

A few hours later, when I woke up, I watched it. Here it is:

It is plain and gentle and like cool, clear water. The bishop — who, Helen told me, wrote two books about the Jesus Prayer — talks about what it is and why it’s so important. He mentions going to the Monastery in Essex, becoming close friends with the Abbot Sophrony, and learning the Jesus Prayer from him. In the video, the bishop holds a prayer rope that the future canonized saint gave him. Bishop Simon simply tells how to pray the Jesus Prayer, and why (e.g., he explains theosis). None of it was new information to me, but it was like being stopped wandering off the road, and pointed back to the straight path by this dear old Christian Englishman, the father of my new friend the Abbess.

Do I even need to tell you that I am going to do my very best to get out to that Monastery this weekend, or at least while I am in England waiting on my visa problem to get sorted? I am so sorry to be missing Mont-Saint-Michel and Rocamadour next week, but I will get there eventually. There is something God has for me to learn here, in England, at St. Sophrony’s monastery.

When I finished the video, I came up to the house, and found the Abbess finishing her sermon for this Sunday. She told me that she has never watched that video of herself and her dad, but maybe now she should. What if it is, for Helen, another strand of pearls, lost in the garden, but now turned up at just the right moment?

I asked the Abbess if I could photograph her with the pearls. Yes, she said, but do so in front of this colorful painting hanging in her living room. She bought it many years ago, after a painful crisis in her life, one that she was coming out of with some professional success (before she became a vicar, Helen was a recording artist). She explained that she was walking in Notting Hill one day after signing a recording deal, saw the painting in a shop, and was so moved by the brightness of it, the warmth, and the life in its colors. But she figured it would be too expensive. It wasn’t, so she bought it.

Helen’s husband James, a Cambridge professor, commented, “That painting has enlivened every house we lived in, no matter how Dickensian.” And there is the happy genius of her household, wearing pearls, in front of the painting.

Later, she loaned me one of her late father’s prayer ropes (not the one from St. Sophrony, which is with a friend at the moment), so I can pray the Jesus Prayer on it while I’m here. I will pray it tonight, and ask for Bishop Simon and his friend St. Sophrony to join me in prayer. I’m onto something. Turns out I was right to be calm in the airport chapel last night, and to trust that God was going to use that crisis to show me something I needed to see.

But what? I’ll soon find out. And you know I’ll report back!

Helen just showed me something she wrote down a while back to comfort her husband in a time of stress, and has kept near to hand in their bedroom. She wants me to share it as the Abbess’s pastoral message to you all this evening:

 

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My Life As A Tom Hanks Movie

God's Hostel: my overnight lodging in Vienna Airport!

You know that 2004 Tom Hanks movie The Terminal, about the guy who gets stranded in an airport and can’t leave for years? Because I’m an idiot, I’m getting to live that movie tonight.

I flew into Vienna late tonight from London, but got hung up at the border crossing at the airport. Turns out that I have overstayed my allotted period in the Schengen Area of the European Union. All the time I spent in Hungary earlier this year counted against my credit. I had this crazy idea that the clock started over after my going back to the US for a month. Nope. I thought that you couldn’t stay more than 90 days in a particular country. Nope — it’s the whole Schengen Zone.

Gosh, I’m thick. O Fortuna!

The Austrian border polizei were very nice, to be honest … but they couldn’t let me in. I had to be escorted by armed guards to go fetch my bag at the baggage carousel. I’m leaving for London on the first flight out in the morning, and will be staying with friends while I appeal to the Austrian Embassy for a residence visa so I can come back to the place I rented in Vienna and spend the rest of the summer. Matt and I were supposed to go next week to Mont-Saint-Michel, Rocamadour, and other places — but I can’t get back into Europe at all without a visa.

The police escorted me to an empty wing here at the airport. It’s desolate. “Find a bench, if you can,” one of them kindly suggested. I’m not being sarcastic: the two young officers, Gregor and Bütul, really did feel sorry for me — but rules are rules, and I am in the wrong. But I do want to thank them for their kindness, and hope their bosses reward them for treating a bumbling American traveler with courtesy and compassion.

As it happens, the door to the airport chapel was open, and I thought, “Yep, I’m going to bed down where people pray to God.” I shoved some benches together, and I’m about to go to sleep for three hours, before I wake up and go meet the police to be escorted to my flight.

What an adventure! I tell you what, they need to build walls to keep dumbasses like me out of Europe. I’ll probably end up having to be in England all next week, so maybe I can get up to Anglo-Saxon holy sites, or something. A friend in Cambridge gave me a book called The Age of Bede today after lunch, and I read the Venerable Bede’s “Life Of St. Cuthbert” on the flight back. On the flight, I closed my eyes and asked St. Cuthbert to pray for a friend who is suffering. Maybe this current travail of mine is St. Cuthbert’s way to get me to come up to Lindisfarne without delay.

UPDATE: Good morning. Slept three hours. As I put my recharged laptop away to leave, I saw a sign in English on the far wall, instructing visitors not to sleep in the chapel. I sure do have a way of bumbling right across other people’s rules and regulations, don’t I? Well, I’m glad I didn’t see it, because I would have ended up sleeping in the hallway. Off to Blighty!

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Pride Bocce With The Pritzkers

Jennifer Pritzker, born James -- a scioness of billionaire family pouring fortune into transgender causes (Elizabeth Dole Foundation)

Hello from a London airport. It’s been really hard to keep the blog up this week of toggling between Oxford and Cambridge. I’m headed back to Vienna a day early, to get caught up on work before going to France next week for research. You readers of my Substack, expect a rich post later tonight.

I sat next to Cardinal Gerhard Müller at dinner last night in Oxford. He’s the former doctrine chief in the Vatican, sent down by Pope Francis. A German giant! If that mighty oak were pope, a lot of people would be sorted with a couple of sweeps of those massive bear claws. Mostly, though, I enjoyed meeting ordinary Christians and political conservatives, as well as some writers and activists. Had lunch yesterday with Mary Harrington, Calvin Robinson, Father Daniel French, James Orr, and Father Bernard Randall, a former school chaplain reported to UK anti-terrorism authorities because he questioned LGBT ideology, in a gentle way. The school destroyed his ministry and career. Here we were at lunch in James’s back garden. From left, not including me: Calvin Robinson, Bernard Randall, Daniel French, James Orr, and Mary Harrington:

I had such a great sense of camaraderie and good cheer, from these friends and from those I met in both places, especially young people. I met more than a few young Christian converts, undergraduates who complained that now that they believe, they struggle to find churches where priests and pastors seem to believe. They are eager to find solid ground. Pastors and laymen of my generation and older need to be more courageous and forthright. In one of my talks, someone in the audience, a Christian, said that I’m too harsh here on this blog (versus my books, talks, and Substack). But another young Christian told me afterward that the boldness here is what signaled to him and his friends that I’m serious.

I see that the Evangelical pundit Michael Gerson, former G.W. Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist, today, against all clear Biblical teaching, celebrates LGBT Pride. Excerpt:

Among religious young people, certain questions are growing more insistent: Why should we assess homosexuality according to Old Testament law that also advocates the stoning of children who disobey their parents? Isn’t it possible that the Apostle Paul’s views on homosexuality reflected the standards of his own time, rather than the views of Jesus, who never mentioned the topic? There is little wonder that, according to a Pew Research Center poll, over half of White evangelicals 50 and older oppose gay marriage while over half of those under 50 years old in the same group support gay marriage.

It is still possible for the gay rights movement to destructively overreach — as in denying the right of religious schools and charities to shape their own institutional standards. But in the meantime, I’m up for some Pride bocce.

He’s no Bernard Randall, that’s for sure. This is what it means to be tamed and assimilated by the ruling class. It’s useful to get that learned.

Meanwhile, I wonder if Michael Gerson would consider that the superrich Pritzker family of Chicago is pushing LGBDT too far? From an astonishing investigative piece by Jennifer Bilek in Tablet magazine:

One of the most powerful yet unremarked-upon drivers of our current wars over definitions of gender is a concerted push by members of one of the richest families in the United States to transition Americans from a dimorphic definition of sex to the broad acceptance and propagation of synthetic sex identities (SSI). Over the past decade, the Pritzkers of Illinois, who helped put Barack Obama in the White House and include among their number former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, current Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and philanthropist Jennifer Pritzker, appear to have used a family philanthropic apparatus to drive an ideology and practice of disembodiment into our medical, legal, cultural, and educational institutions.

I first wrote about the Pritzkers, whose fortune originated in the Hyatt hotel chain, and their philanthropy directed toward normalizing what people call “transgenderism” in 2018. I have since stopped using the word “transgenderism” as it has no clear boundaries, which makes it useless for communication, and have instead opted for the term SSI, which more clearly defines what some of the Pritzkers and their allies are funding—even as it ignores the biological reality of “male” and “female” and “gay” and “straight.”

It’s very, very creepy — Eyes Wide Shut stuff. More:

With the introduction of SSI, the current incarnation of the LGBTQ+ network—as distinct from the prior movement that fought for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, and which ended in 2020 with Bostock v. Clayton County, finding that LGBTQ+ is a protected class for discrimination purposes—is working closely with the techno-medical complex, big banks, international law firms, pharma giants, and corporate power to solidify the idea that humans are not a sexually dimorphic species—which contradicts reality and the fundamental premises not only of “traditional” religions but of the gay and lesbian civil rights movements and much of the feminist movement, for which sexual dimorphism and resulting gender differences are foundational premises.

Through investments in the techno-medical complex, where new highly medicalized sex identities are being conjured, Pritzkers and other elite donors are attempting to normalize the idea that human reproductive sex exists on a spectrum. These investments go toward creating new SSI using surgeries and drugs, and by instituting rapid language reforms to prop up these new identities and induce institutions and individuals to normalize them. In 2018, for example, at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center at the University of California Los Angeles (where the Pritzkers are major donors and hold various titles), the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology advertised several options for young females who think they can be men to have their reproductive organs removed, a procedure termed “gender-affirming care.”

This family, whose number includes male-to-female transsexual Jennifer Pritzker, throws its money everywhere in the movement. Read this, especially the part about Martine Rothblatt. Emphasis mine:

Pritzker’s philanthropy is also active in Canada, where Jennifer has helped fund the University of Toronto’s Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, a teaching institution invested in the deconstruction of human sex. An instructor in the Bonham Centre and the curator of its Sexual Representation Collection—“Canada’s largest archival collection of pornography”—is transgender studies professor Nicholas Matte, who denies categorically that sexual dimorphism exists. Prtizker also created the first chair in transgender studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. The current chair, Aaron Devor, founded an annual conference called Moving Trans History Forward, whose keynote speaker in 2016 was the renowned transhumanist, Martine Rothblatt, who was mentored by the transhumanist Ray Kurzweil of Google. Rothblatt lectured there on the value of creating an organization such as WPATH to serve “tech transgenders” in the cultivation of “tech transhumanists.” (Rothblatt’s ideology of disembodiment and technological religion seems to be having nearly as much influence on American culture as Sirius satellite radio, which Rothblatt co-founded.) Rothblatt is an integral presence at Out Leadership, a business networking arm of the LGBTQ+ movement, and appears to believe that “we are making God as we are implementing technology that is ever more all-knowing, ever-present, all-powerful, and beneficent.”

This is literally satanic. You know that, right? I interviewed in Oxford a young Anglican ordinand who used to work in elite advertising in London. He said that he didn’t know any other Christians in his office, but knew no atheists either. Everybody was into New Age and the occult, he said — even satanism, which they defined as living up to your fullest potential and most authentic self.

One more quote:

While many Americans are still trying to understand why women are being erased in language and law, and why children are being taught they can choose their sex, the Pritzker cousins and others may be well on their way to engineering a new way to be human. But what could possibly explain the abrupt drive of wealthy elites to deconstruct who and what we are and to manipulate children’s sex characteristics in clinics now spanning the globe while claiming new rights for those being deconstructed? Perhaps it is profit. Perhaps it is the pleasure of seeing one’s own personal obsessions writ large. Perhaps it is the human temptation to play God. No matter what the answer is, it seems clear that SSI will be an enduring part of America’s future.

Read it all. Really, do — it’s very important.

Love is love, right? Look what we are opening the door to. Have fun playing Pride bocce while Western civilization burns. I’ll take my stand with the Bernard Randalls against the Pritzkers and the medical and media elite.

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The Twitchy Stump

The Machine, grinding up our generativity, and our humanity (Source)

Read this thread from a man who had sex-change surgery in an attempt to become female, but who is now detransitioning. If you check it out on Twitter now, there are two posts missing; he says he didn’t delete it, but Twitter did because so many pro-trans people complained that this is “transphobic”. Someone archived the whole thing before Twitter’s censors got to work; this link includes what was missing. I’m going to post photos of the entire thread — including the restored censored parts — just in case someone else tries to take it down. I’ve drawn from both the archived version and shots I took just now from the live thread; this accounts for the different time stamps. What you see below is the content as it first appeared on Twitter::

 

Here is a link to the existing Twitter thread, with a couple of posts removed.

Here is a link to one of the posts on TullipR’s Substack about life as a detransitioner. Excerpts:

To catch you up, I began medical transition at age 26 and had penile inversion with a scrotal graft at 30. If you’re wondering what that is and only if you have the stomach for it (You have been warned!), go here to see for yourself what the ‘procedure’ looks like.

If you want to see the potential outcomes, horrors, and disasters, as well as the butchers that do this, head over to this thread on kiwi farms. I cannot possibly stress enough that these links are not for the faint of heart.

I share this only because this thread has saved some of my detrans friends from doing this. Not all. Some of us have to live with this shit forever. We were too unwell and socially inept to understand what it meant when we went through it.

Detrans people who have been on HRT for only a few months may get off lucky. Some people can get rapid development in a short time frame depending on age and sensitivity to hormone treatment, but many will effectively return to normal. Then you have those who were cut; had their breasts, testicles, genitals inverted, changed, mutilated, amputated, lobotomized – whatever term you feel fits – but the impact is the same. It’s gone forever.

For detrans women who have had mastectomies, there is a promising field of breast reconstruction thanks to the developments in care for breast cancer patients (if you can get funding, that is…). Unfortunately, if they’ve had a hysterectomy, like detrans men who had their testicles removed, they will be reliant on HRT for the rest of their lives.

Gonads play an important part in our endocrine system, responsible for more than just reproduction, which is something I didn’t learn until I detransitioned. In nearly a decade of medical care, not one medical professional made this clear.

He goes on:

I feel panicked at the thought of being a hairy dude with a front hole. It’s a devastating thought, and no disrespect to other detrans men who have found solace in taking testosterone but it’s not just the physical aspects that scare me, it’s the psychological ones too.

Like my transition itself, my inverted penis is a caricature of a female body part that despite being dressed up to appear female, is unmistakably male. During surgery, they retain the Kepler gland, which produces seminal fluid. You can produce quite a lot, but only once you climax. Women produce fluid leading up to, during, and after – and the difference is unmistakable, which is why I struggle to call it a vagina. It’s not. It’s a lobotomised penis.

Read all of TullipR’s Substack posts here.

A twitchy stump. A lobotimized penis. A hairy dude with a front hole.

This is what we are doing to people — especially to our children! Permissive parents are allowing this. The medical profession celebrates this, as do the media, universities, Democratic politicians, and of course, Woke Capitalism. I used to wonder how in the world all the right-thinking educated people of the early 20th century embraced eugenics. Now I know.

Yesterday I was in Cambridge, giving a couple of talks to people at the university, and meeting others for conversation. It was an amazing day. I learned the extent to which wokeness and soft totalitarianism have captured this, one of the world’s great universities, and I also met some people who, with tremendous courage, are taking and have taken risks to resist it. These are the Live Not By Lies dissidents — always few in number, always unspeakably admirable. I can do what I do to tell the truth because I am fortunate enough to write for an independent magazine, and not to have an income dependent on not angering the woke. These people — some of them students, which is to say, young people at the most vulnerable time of their adult lives — do not.

I’m thinking this morning about a young woman I’ll call Jane. She might be fine with me using her real name, but I’ll exercise caution. Her name is Charlie Bentley-Astor, and she has given me permission to use her name.

Jane Charlie is in her early 20s. She grew up in a working-class family. Both parents and grandparents were atheists. She came to hear me talk about Live Not By Lies, in a speech sponsored by a Christian organization at Cambridge, the Trinity Forum (which is also at Oxford and Edinburgh, as well as in the US), because she has recently converted to Christianity become open to the idea of converting to Christianity (she told me later, in a correction). She said that she used to think she was an atheist, but she came to believe that nobody is truly an atheist — that everybody worships something. “And what I worshiped was Science,” she said.

Anyway, she told me and others in the group that as a teenager, she had fallen deeply into the woke cult, and was starting to succumb to the trans part of it at around age 17. She said she was following the script of uglifying her body, and had begun to wear a breast binder. She was suicidal and deeply depressed; all of these things she was doing to be her “authentic self,” as the propaganda stated, were only alienating her more profoundly from her body and her soul.

She had dreamed of being an artist from childhood, and had some early success (I looked this up online to confirm it; she was telling the truth); she must be quite talented. She said joining the artistic communities in the UK means having to embrace and affirm all things woke. The details she shared were stunning. It really is a cult. There was an older professional artist in the room listening to this, and she, though only having met Jane a few minutes earlier, confirmed everything she was saying about how utterly hostile the artistic world in the UK is to any traditional standards of beauty, or any traditions at all.

Charlie said that one night, she was in her room, and somehow a Jordan Peterson lecture turned up on her social media feed. “I thought, oh ho ho, let’s have a look at what this Nazi has to say,” she said, explaining that Peterson is a total hate figure in those left-wing circles. She really did think he was some sort of fascist, and decided to hate-watch his lecture.

By the end, she said, she was astonished to discover that she agreed with everything JBP said. That began the process of her losing her woke religion. She quit wearing the breast binder. As Charlie was telling us about this yesterday, she said that it’s astonishing to her now to recognize how anti-feminine wokeness is. You have all these extremely woke women who have convinced themselves that men are evil, and that the only way to know freedom and authenticity is to refuse to partner with them or to make yourself attractive in any way to them, and of course to refuse to have children. And yet, to take hormones and have surgeries in an effort to become a man (as if that were possible) is the height of progressive achievement! It’s so bizarre.

Charlie, who, again, is only in her early twenties, said what a revelation it was to her to discover that she actually likes being a woman, actually wants to have a husband and children, actually wants to be alive, and can actually cope with life without antidepressants. She gives thanks to Jordan Peterson for being the one figure who spoke to her in the darkness, and led her to the light.

But she had her artistic dream shattered. Charlie talked about how she has been kicked out of every artistic association for refusing to go along with wokeness. Her silence equals violence. In one example, she said declining to affirm this or that thing got her reported to the authority in charge of the group. The offended students said nothing to her personally. She only learned that they had been offended when the adult in charge of the group called her in and warned her that she had made others feel unsafe. Typical wokesters: sneakily appealing to authority to make disagreement, or just a refusal to be coerced, into an issue of personal security.

Charlie will not be able to become the artist she wanted to be. That is clear now. That world is closed to her. But she has her freedom, and her integrity. She lives not by lies. Me, I could hardly believe that someone so young and vulnerable-seeming could be so brave and so self-assured. Listening to her tell her story, I thought that I am looking at the 2022 equivalent of Havel’s Greengrocer. Just to be around someone who is willing to suffer bravely for the truth, as Charlie has, is incredibly inspiring. If you meet her, you might not realize at first the kind of courage you are seeing, because she is so modest. But this woman is a lioness!

In fact, I have met a surprising number of people — young people — both at Oxford and Cambridge, who understand exactly what’s happening, and who are looking for ways to resist. They know that they are a minority, but their Christian faith, and their personal integrity, makes them conclude that they have no choice. Thank God they have older figures like the Cambridge philosopher of religion James Orr, who runs Trinity Forum at this university, to rely on for advice. I’m finding out that there is a quiet but effective network of older resisters operating in the UK. Later this morning, I will meet with some who are working above ground, and will report back.

So, I will leave you with hope. The atrocity story that TullipR tells is infuriating, especially when you realize that all the institutions in our culture have lined up to draw troubled people like him into this meat grinder, and to destroy anyone who dares to resist. But people like Jordan Peterson, who has been living not by lies since that day years ago at his university, when he refused to be coerced into using pseudo-pronouns, are inspiring resistance from others — and even, in Jane’s case, saving a young person’s life.

The fight is going to get more intense. Read the latest Substack newsletter from the invaluable Abigail Shrier. Excerpt:

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis earned uncommon rebuke from conservative pundits last week, when he indicated he might sic child protective services on parents who take their children to drag shows.

“I’m a very big fan of DeSantis and very not a fan of kids at drag shows,” writer Bethany Mandel wrote on Twitter. “But conservatives have to recognize the Pandora’s box we’re opening by involving CPS in judgment call parenting decisions. It’s not abuse.”

Mandel is right: Child Protective Services should not be sent after these families. Parents ought to be free to make all kinds of decisions regarding what ideas to expose their children to, how and when—especially with regard to matters that we typically consider private and deeply personal: Religion is one. Sexuality, another.

But here’s the hitch: as with so many of our institutions, CPS has already become thoroughly politicized and weaponized by the Left. Dozens and dozens of loving parents have told me over the last two years that CPS showed up at their homes or threatened their custody or even testified against them in court, all for the sin of failing to “affirm” their minor child’s newly-announced gender identity or vetoing the kid’s immediate medical transition.

In California, matters head from bad to worse: a new bill aspires to transform California into a “sanctuary state” for gender-swapping youth, making it possible for even a non-custodial parent who wishes to transition her child against her spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) wishes, to run to California and proceed.

Here, then, is the question: If our ultimate goal is return to a normalcy in which government agencies and corporations treat all Americans fairly regardless of viewpoint, how are we to achieve this? First, acknowledge that they are already weaponized and the artillery points only in one direction: against the opponents of the Left. Acknowledge that an ever-increasing tyranny is ratcheted upon those who dare criticize the indefatigable encroachment of gender ideology. The playing field is about as level as San Francisco’s Filbert Street.

 

Read it all. This once again confirms my belief that Viktor Orban is one of the only major politicians in the West who understands what’s really happening, and how to fight it. The old paradigm, the one under which so many conservatives still live, is not enough to fight this David and Goliath battle.

Join the Rebel Alliance! You meet the best people, and it’s invigorating to be fighting for truth, beauty, and goodness.

Finally, I just had a conversation this morning, over coffee, with a young criminologist who is keen on studying civilizational decline. I’m going to interview him later about his latest paper (he’s about to be finished with it). Using statistical analysis, he talks about how the collapse of the normative family, and normative gender relations, means that we really are living through the fall of civilization right now. He explained this to me, but I’m going to save it all for the interview I’ll do with him when he completes his paper.

He has not read The Benedict Option, but when I told him the thesis, he said, “That’s exactly right” — meaning that the only reasonable thing to do now is to build arks within which to ride out the tempest.

The twitchy stump really is a sign of the times. I know many of you are tired of hearing me say it, but once again: Prepare.

 

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Oxbridge Days

Sir Tom Stoppard and Self, at dinner in Oxford

Hello from Cambridge. I have been unable to connect to the Internet for over 24 hours, which is why I haven’t been able to approve comments or post new things. But what a glorious time off! I was at Oxford for an all-day symposium and lecture with the great Iain McGilchrist. Look who came to the event, and to dinner: Sir Tom Stoppard, Britain’s greatest living playwright.

Here’s the view from my window at Brasenose College:

Heaven on earth, if you ask me.

At dinner last night, Jonathan Price, an Oxford fellow (forgotten the college), gave me a tin of snuff as a gift. I was persuaded to try it. It was fine powder, for sniffing. Well, when in Oxford … . I tried it, and it was highly unpleasant at first, but it gave one a lovely feeling. This snuff is flavored with bergamot and rose. Smelled lovely, but goes off like gunpowder in one’s sinuses.

I don’t have much time now to write, because I have two talks to give in Cambridge today, but I did want to report something I heard at Oxbridge since arriving in England. I’m not going to specify where. I spoke to an American military officer who is over here now, and who was present at a social event where I was. One of my British friends asked me to tell the American about all the people who write to me from the US military, saying they want out, and will never let their children join, because of wokeness.

“Is that your experience too?” I asked.

He could only have been more emphatic if he had stood up and shouted, “YES!”

He said, “I would give my left arm to keep any of my children from going into the services.”

Why? Well, you know: wokeness. He gave some specific examples, which I don’t want to cite out of an abundance of caution, protecting him. He said that it’s hard to overstate how much ruin all this politicization has brought to the US military. There are plenty of people within the armed forces who hate this, but they also know that if you want to get ahead, you have to be politically “reliable” — meaning either woke, or no opponent of wokeness.

He said this is eviscerating esprit de corps, and is going to wreck military readiness. He told me, “Everybody” — meaning the American people — “needs to know this. They need to know what’s happening in our military.” The man was emphatic. This stuff is not being talked about nearly as much as it should be — no doubt (in my view) because the media think this is a great thing, and that normies shouldn’t know about it.

He said that a change of administration in Washington could help, but this kind of thing is buried deeply in the bureaucracy. He gave an example about a diversity trainer who is a military contractor, who is an actual Marxist. This is what the military has invited into its culture, and it’s transforming everything.

I was told later by somebody who knows this man that he is really one of the best. If this is what men like him are thinking, it’s hugely significant.

 

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Weimar West

Proud tranny twerks and blasphemes at Pride parade in DC

Look:

This is the elite governing class of the West, scampering behind a tranny hooker, or pro-hooker tranny. The male-to-female topless transsexual twerker is carrying a sign advertising “SEX WORK”; on the other side was the name of St. Mary Magdalene, meaning that this creep is also a blasphemer. Shows you where this stuff comes from, does it not? Over the weekend at Vienna Pride, there was a contingent of “Diplomats For Pride” marching in the parade. I swear, it’s like the Weimar Republic, without the good art and music. You’re not supposed to notice this decadence, unless it is to praise it.

This kind of thing was always part of Pride parades. I remember seeing footage of Pride parades in Washington DC in the early 1990s. I believe it was Pat Robertson’s CBN that recorded footage of the parade and aired parts of it. They were condemned as bigots at the time, simply for broadcasting what actually happened at DC Pride. What has changed is that this kind of thing — the kink — has been embraced and celebrated by the globalist ruling class.

Something big is happening to us. Something very big.

A reader writes that Pride month is celebrated with all the fervor of the high holy days precisely because it has been so effectively commercialized and fits extremely nicely into the Western model of creating a completely atomized society where everyone exists alone and without any support. Those who play by the rules get customized soma products, whereas those who do not end like Winston Smith. This is being heavily driven by commercial forces that discovered in the 1990s that gays and their activist allies are the easiest consumers who will buy anything with the Pride label. Now that accusations of homophobia will silence the overwhelming majority of middle and upper class normies, there is no reason not to pursue this strategy.

Meanwhile, another terrible disease rages, but AVOIDING HATE is the most important thing, according to the Washington Post:

Monkeypox had arrived in Salt Lake County, with two men testing positive after returning from Europe, the epicenter of a global outbreak concentrated in gay and bisexual men.

Officials there faced a dilemma. They wanted to warn men who have sex with men that they were at higher risk for exposure to the virus. But they feared unintended consequences: heterosexual people assuming they’re not susceptible, closeted men in a heavily Mormon community avoiding care so they’re not seen as gay, and critics exploiting the infections to sow bigotry.

It’s not just Utah officials who are struggling to find the right message. As the United States confronts its largest-ever monkeypox outbreak, with nearly 50 probable cases, public health authorities navigate a delicate but familiar balancing act. In the 17 U.S. cases in which the sexual behavior of the patient is known, all but one involve men who have sex with men, mirroring trends in Europe. It’s something never recognized before in outbreaks of the virus.
In Salt Lake County, health officials consulted with advocacy groups and decided to get the message out to gay and bisexual men without making the message about them. At a booth during the Utah Pride Festival in Salt Lake City this month, Health Department staff distributed business-card-sized monkeypox warnings urging people to avoid close or sexual contact with anyone experiencing a rash or flu-like symptoms. The warning didn’t say anything about the gay community.

“We don’t need to put rainbows all over and make clear it’s only for [men who have sex with men] because it’s not,” said Nicholas Rupp, who oversees public outreach for the Salt Lake County Health Department. “The virus, of course, doesn’t see sexual orientation.”

Yeah, right, Nicholas Rupp. It’s weird, though, how the virus is different in the West, versus Africa — just like AIDS.

I’m old enough to remember when AIDS debuted in the West. We were all told that anybody could get it. Anybody! In fact, my journalism career started with an editorial in the campus newspaper — an editorial that won a national college journalism award — about how all of us were vulnerable to AIDS. Not long ago a straight friend a bit younger than me told me, laughing, about how back in the day, he had unprotected heterosexual sex, and scared that he might have been exposed to HIV, went for a test. He said the health workers laughed at him in a friendly way, and told him that the odds of catching HIV from conventional (e.g., non-anal) heterosexual sex were tiny. The health warnings were all propaganda to keep people from hating promiscuous gay men.

Lies, lies, lies. Our ruling class demands that we all deny the evidence of our eyes. Here is some more Pride Month copium from the Washington Post:

As Pride month gets underway around the world, and LGBTQ communities take stock of accomplishments and challenges, Ukraine’s is contending with a strange new reality. War here is causing tragedy and hardship for every Ukrainian, but it may accelerate their movement for equal rights.

There are practical factors — for instance, Ukraine has formally applied to become a member of the European Union, a process that would require steps toward greater rights and protections for LGBTQ people. But more powerful, said activists who have organized the community for the past decade, is a budding sense of national unity that is inclusive and tolerant — and unlike Russia in every way.

Look, I think Russia’s invasion was morally wrong, and I hope that Ukraine kicks the Russians out — even as I think the US should stay out of it. But it’s really interesting to observe how our media frame the war. To whom but a Western liberal journalist would it occur to frame Russia’s savage invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity to advance gay rights, as an anti-Russian strategy?

As the gay journalist Andy Ngo points out, the Ukraine cause has been grafted into the progressive Grand March, even though actual Ukrainians are pretty conservative on LGBT matters:


How many volunteer Pride battalions have gone to Ukraine to fight? Compare that to the Muslims from the West who went to Syria to fight jihad. The strength of the Weimar contingent is that they have all the institutional power. In a society as demoralized and atomized as the West has become, this counts for a lot.

In Vienna over the weekend, I was struck by the large number of girls, aged 13 to 16, who were at Pride, all decked out in rainbow gear and facepaint. This is a huge thing for that age group, it seems. A reader sends in this photo of a Pride Month display at the entrance to a Target’s section for adolescent girls:

They’re getting them young for the Cause.

Overnight I received an email from one of my sources for Live Not By Lies, a man who fled to the West from a Communist country back in the 1980s. He said that if he had known that democracy was going to deliver us to where we are today, he never would have supported it. That was very striking to me. This man is a staunch anti-communist, but he believes that we in the West are sick and suicidal. He tells me he is not alone — that others of his generation who came to the West seeking liberty and normalcy are equally pessimistic. One of them even moved back to Eastern Europe, to the country from which he fled. It’s a democracy now, but he said that at least there normalcy has a fighting chance. America and western Europe, this man believes, are lost.

History shows that what comes after this efflorescence of decadence is horrible. Either the West will step back from the brink, or we will face something worse than most of us living in the West today have never seen. We are not going to be able to go on like this indefinitely. I want to make it perfectly clear that I absolutely detest the idea of fascism! But you’d have to be a total fool, utterly ignorant of history, not to see the risks we are running with our continued indulgence of decadence and atomization. Hannah Arendt warned that embracing transgressiveness for its own sake is a precursor of totalitarianism!

UPDATE: A reader sends in this essay his wife wrote for an online support group of parents grieving their children caught up in the trans cult. Excerpts:

In 2021, my 19 year old son walked from his college campus to Planned Parenthood and was prescribed wrong sex hormones on his first visit, no therapy required. There was no differential diagnosis. Some days, it’s an effort to walk my dog and cook dinner, let alone write an essay about the nuances of what my family is enduring. But I can write about sadness in bullet form, which is apropos, since my family has been fired upon by insidious gender ideology like a spray of bullets, hitting us randomly from all directions.

More:

Photos: I’m sad every time I walk by the family photos that hang in the hallway. Do I take down these photos of our family on a boat ride, at the beach, of my son as a toddler grinning with his sister on a carousel?  No. Though my memories are tainted, I do not deserve to have them deleted. Some days, I allow a glimpse of my handsome son in his senior photo before he graduated high school. This photo, now in a drawer, used to be on the fridge, but it was too painful there. In the living room, my wedding photo pains me too. On that special day, it was inconceivable that my future child would try to escape his own body, and that his self-harm path would be sanctioned. I struggle to hold onto the reality of the goodness of my family and the meaningfulness of years filled with the daily effort of raising my son. My confused son deadnames his birth name and devalues his family. Along with the present and the future, the trans cult stomps on my memories. There is sadness in every direction.

And:

My son: Mark is an exceptionally intelligent, quirky person with a great smile. He has a history of speech delay, affect dysregulation, anxiety, constrained food preferences, rigidity, and difficulty making friends. He is likely on the autistic spectrum. He was unlucky to be a teenager in the digital age when this social contagion spread. In high school, he flirted with the trans cult, but my husband and I thought we had helped him find his way back to material reality. Of course, his anxiety has not magically gone away with wrong sex hormones, and an SSRI joins his mix of daily pills. Mark was a tall teenager on the verge of thriving as a young adult. Today he is a tall, gullible young man who believes his longer hair, small HRT induced breasts, and costume of dresses or skirts fools others. During his formative college years, his mind and body have been hijacked by an evil mind virus that was and continues to be aided and abetted by Planned Parenthood, others institutions, and many gaslit people. It’s terribly sad.

 

Read it all. It’s crushing, and it’s evil, but it’s real. This is really happening to families, and it is celebrated by our ruling class, for which it is a religion. I happen to know something about this reader. These people are not religious or conservative. If the normies don’t somehow find a way to fight back effectively, the only ones who will are the extremists — and they will attract the support of normies who are so sick of having this decadence shoved down their throats, and even stealing their children.

UPDATE.2: I received an e-mail from a Navy officer who retired not long ago. He asked me not to use his identifying information, so I’m going to redact that. I verified his name and identity. He writes:

I am often asked why I chose to retire now. I have been in the Navy [over two decades] but I chose to retire at the earliest possible opportunity at this paygrade, which for some people seems surprising. The attached photo should explain it all, though it is a symptom of a larger cultural malignancy that grips our culture.

The reader goes on:

I am no longer interested in carrying the water for an organization that so regularly lies to itself, and distracts itself with indulging the dominant culture. And while the likelihood of such a deployment is quite low, I have ZERO interest in continuing to risk my well-being to maintain the Global American Empire. [XX] years of sea duty and a year in Iraq are quite enough.

I spoke on background to a reporter after the 2017 collisions and commented that if the reporter really wanted to get a sense of the poor cultural state of the Navy, to ask how many officers would want their kids to follow them into the service. (I certainly did … my father was in the Navy for [decades]). I wouldn’t say my recent polling of that question is unanimous, but it certainly appears to me that the overwhelming number of current officers would not recommend that their children follow them into the Navy. A sizable portion of that cohort are quite vociferous in that position.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for the experiences that the Navy afforded me. But the rot is too deep, both in the service and in the culture. My daughter is very small, and I dread the day that we walk into the library, some store, or my workplace and I have to field the question about rainbow flags. But I live in [a liberal city], so it’s coming and my family and I need to prepare. But what I absolutely refuse to do anymore is pretend that this culture deserves my continued service.

Thank you, sir, for your service — and thank you for the courage of recognizing that what our elites — I’m looking at you, Gen. Mark Milley, but you’re not the only one — have done to our armed forces, and how they have made military service alien to those who hold to traditional values.

Where do people like this man and his wife go? Who defends them? Who speaks for them? I wish I knew.

UPDATE.3: The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of San Francisco:

The rot goes all the way to the top.

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Vienna Celebrates The New Religion

Tower of St. Ruprecht's, the oldest church in Vienna: Out with the Holy Ghost, in with the Zeitgeist

Today was the big Pride Parade in Vienna. I’ve never seen a Pride parade. The most striking things were all the kids there, especially middle school and teenage girls, all decked out in their rainbow gear. Everybody seemed to be really into it, and having a good time.

It really was like a huge religious festival. A Christian friend with whom I walked through the city today said, “Imagine being a pagan in fourth century Rome, and seeing Christians gathering for a procession honoring the Virgin, or something. You might think it’s an odd thing, but let them have their parade, what does it hurt. Thirty years later, they’re tearing down your temples. Doesn’t this have the same feeling?”

Yes, it does. Can you imagine telling any previous generation that worshiped at St. Ruprecht’s, founded in the eighth century, and the oldest church in Vienna, that one day, a banner would fly from their tower celebrating a festival of sodomy? It happened today. The parish priest is — surprise! — a Jesuit.

The Pride festival is the most vivid expression of the repaganization of the West via the overturning of the Christian order. What my friend meant by his comment was a reference to Edward Watts’s great book The Final Pagan Generation, which I wrote about here a few years ago. 

Watts writes about Roman pagan elites of the fourth century, who did not fully appreciate how radical the threat from Christians was to the pagan order that had ruled Rome since time immemorial. They assumed traditional paganism would last forever, but in fact, passion for and understanding of the old religion was exhausted by the time the new faith challenged it. The book is incredibly relevant to our time. Back then, I wrote of its lessons:

What are the lessons I draw from all this for Christians in our own time? Let’s stipulate that the world of 21st century Europe and North America is very different, in obvious ways, from that of fourth-century Rome. But there are parallels.

  1. Christianity today is like traditional religion of the fourth century. We are at the end of the Christian age, not at its beginning. Christianity back then had muscle. It is now decrepit, as a social force. The fact that we Christians believe that our faith is true can blind us to the fact that what is obvious to us is by no means obvious to others.
  2. It is not clear what the Roman pagans could have done to have slowed or stopped Christianity, but it is quite clear, in retrospect, that they did not take it seriously enough as a threat. This was a failure of imagination on their part. They assumed that the world would always be as it was, because it always had been.
  3. Worldly power matters. If Constantine had not converted, the future of Christianity in the West would have looked different.
  4. Yet worldly power is limited. Julian the Apostate failed miserably. You cannot legislate belief.
  5. Talented elites who form, and who are formed by, a counterculture, can have an outsized effect. Bishops and priests who saw their function as to serve the imperial system were not as inspiring to the young as those who rejected it, and its promises.
  6. The old ways of resisting anti-religious forces — fighting within the system — don’t work. This makes me doubtful about the strategy that people like me have generally adopted: fighting within liberalism for liberal goals, like religious liberty. The asymmetrical strategies of opponents, like LGBT rights groups, overwhelm us. But what can we do?

In the main, the story of the final pagan generation ought to be a severe warning to us complacent 21st century Christians. Ours is also a time of “storehouses full of gold coins, elaborate dinner parties honoring letter carriers, public orations before emperors, and ceremonies commemorating office-holders.” Christians are complicit in all of these. But the deeper shifts in the culture are clear for those with eyes to see. The old religion — Christianity — is fast fading. The young believe in a new religion of self-worship, hedonism, and materialism. The laws are not yet anti-Christian, but the broader culture is moving to push Christianity to the margins quickly. This is not likely to change. Christians need to prepare for this.

By “prepare for this,” I mean several things, all of which can be summed up with: Stop the complacency. Details:

  1. Stop thinking that it’s always going to be this way, and that anything short of radical action is sufficient. The mindset of older Christians may actually be a hindrance, because they don’t understand how radically different the world today is.

  2. Do not mistake the presence of Christian churches and symbols in public life for the true condition of Christianity in the hearts and minds of people. Remember, the pagan temples and statues of the gods remained long after paganism was a dead letter.

  3. Clean up our own churches. Stop tolerating corruption within the church — especially corruption that benefits the leadership class, at the expense of the church’s authority and integrity. Watts presents no evidence that pagan temples were corrupt. I bring this up simply to point out that Christians are in an existential fight, and cannot afford to have our own positions weakened by internal corruption.

  4. Train ourselves and our children to stand aside from the promises of the world, and to cultivate asceticism, like the elite Christians of the mid-fourth century did. Only then will we develop the heart and the mind to resist.

  5. Understand that we, like the final pagan generation, might think we are fighting for tolerance, but our opponents are fighting for victory. We have to change our tactics. We are bad at asymmetrical warfare. Frankly, like an old pagan of the fourth century, I would prefer to fight for tolerance — but that is not the fight that’s upon us.

  6. Neither abandon politics entirely, nor put too much faith in princes. Elites cultivated relationships within the imperial power structure, and served that power structure. But the real work of conversion happened among the people, through the labors and examples of saintly ascetics and charismatics.

How far has it gone? Fox News is now celebrating transitioning children:

And here’s something that’s really gross, but the fact that it’s done at all by Woke Capitalism is telling. It’s a Pride Month promotion from a Los Angeles food delivery company, which has come up with a menu for “bottoms”: people who like to receive anal sex; the menu keeps them from being constipated and therefore having less back door fun:

It’s not a joke.

Give the US Armed Forces three years, and they will be distributing Pride Month MREs for bottoms, and Jesuit soup kitchens will be have special Pride Month menus for same. What a great and glorious civilization the post-Christian West is building! Somebody asked me at a gathering the other night if I had to write The Benedict Option over again, what would I change. I told him that even though I don’t believe that one can ever fully escape this crisis, I would take more seriously the idea of literally heading for the hills. The day is coming when churches that don’t fly the Pride banner to signify submission to the New Faith will be at risk of attack.

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