So Christian Nationalism has feet apparently. Not only does it have feet, it has any number of feet, and in some places it is still getting those feet under it. In the meantime, it has generated any number of critical responses, and from very different directions too. The result has been a gangling collision of elbows and knees, with not a few bruises.
Some of the critiques are admittedly hard to answer, such as if Michael O’Fallon were to say that he predicted ten years ago what we were going to say or do next. To date, such things are beyond our telepathic reach. So no, we have not come to destroy constitutional government. But it is worth pointing out that the vaunted secularist read on the Constitution is in the middle of a grand mal seizure right now, and is drumming its heels on the floor. And helping to get the poor thing into the ambulance is not the same thing as working for its demise.
You can also ascertain that CN is becoming a real thing because of all those FBI and DOJ bro-bots—you know, fake-account feds in MAGA hats doing things like the antisemitic jag. You may not know this, but this is a real sign of having arrived. You know the kind of thing I am talking about . . . “I Doug Wilson, and Hitler had his good points.” The only real thing worth debating is which federal agency it was. And on those occasions when it really is an alt-right goober, we should learn to think of those guys as the volunteer militia for the federal agencies, helping them in their mission to discredit all responsible resistance. You know, the feds would be the standing armies, and the chumps show up with their individual bigot-guns to give the whole thing an air of verisimilitude.
And of course, then there is the pedantic interlocutor on Twitter who intones—it is hard to intone on Twitter, but they do it—who intones that a nation doesn’t have a soul, can’t be born again, and isn’t going to go to Heaven when it dies, and so how can there even be a Christian nation, hmmm? Great question, with wide applications. Let’s start with Christian colleges. Can there be such a thing as a Christian college? And no, Wheaton doesn’t count.
But out of all the current responses to Christian Nationalism, the tortured ones are coming from inside the house. I refer to the kind of people who contributed to the start of it all, but who are now conflicted over what is unfolding. Kind of like Erasmus, looking around at the Reformation-avalanche, and saying something like crikey to himself.
And in this category, I would put Rod Dreher, and not surprisingly, this brings us to the latest chapter of his doings.
A Summary of the Skirmishes to Date
Back in 2007, I reviewed Rod Dreher’s book Crunchy Cons, taking issue with some of it, and liking some of it. That series of reviews is now published as a small book by the Mablog Book and Tire Center, and is offered for the low, low price of one dollar. That price, incidentally, is not because we are trying to get rid of any back inventory. It is an e-book so there is no inventory, and it has always been that price.
Then in 2015, Rod Dreher joined up with the wrong side in one of our periodic gunk wars. Since that time, Natalie Greenfield has withdrawn her charges and made her peace with us, but Rod is apparently still sticking to her guns on her behalf. And then few years ago, Rod Dreher wrote another book entitled The Benedict Option, which I also reviewed chapter-by-chapter. You can find a number of those reviews here, which should get you caught up pretty good. After that, I read Dreher’s book Live Not by Lies, which was a very good book. I decided to remain largely silent about that one because while the book was strikingly fine, it contrasted sharply with our knowledge of how Dreher had willingly helped along the wholesaling of a bunch of lies about us. As you will see shortly, the spirit of this is still going on.
Running in the background is the fact that last year Andrew Torba (of Gab) and Andrew Isker published a book called Christian Nationalism that made quite a splash—getting all the kids wet, along with the cute lifeguard. In the aftermath, the cute lifeguard wrote an indignant piece for The Gospel Coalition. The Andrews were a couple of junior high boys who just cannon-balled off the high dive right before Stephen Wolfe, an Olympic diver, trained by Thomas Aquinas himself, made his splash with The Case for Christian Nationalism. This was followed by my Mere Christendom, which, naturally enough, answered all the remaining questions in a cogent and winsome fashion. I hear that answering things in a cogent and winsome fashion is quite important these days, and so that is what I did.
So the thing is settled. We should stop obeying what man says to do, and start obeying what Jesus said to do. But such is our state of affairs that the foregoing has been controversial among Christians. But now that all the main questions have been answered, it should be controversial no more. Right?
And then a week or so ago Andrew Isker, a friend, published his book The Boniface Option, and I am about a half way through that book now. But Rod Dreher reads faster than I do, and has already published his review of that book here. Now I want to finish reading Boniface before I write my review of it, but that will happen soon enough, but down the road some. I might even say something about seed oils.
But I don’t need to wait until I finish Andrew’s book before responding to a few of the things that Dreher says in the course of his review. Not surprisingly, most of those things are about me, a subject on which I have a modicum of inside information.
So Let’s Get the Stinker Out of Way First
“When I finished The Boniface Option last night, I could only imagine a future in which Douglas Wilson’s brogue is stamping on a fake, disgusting, corpulent, but all too human face, forever.”
Rod Dreher, Reviewing ‘The Boniface Option’
In my Twitter response to Dreher’s review, I said that, with a few exceptions, he did not really damn Isker’s book with faint praise, but rather praised it with faint damns. This concluding comment of his, and a few others like it, are those exceptions. The damns aren’t faint here. This is where the claws came out.
His conclusion of course is a hat tip to the famous line from Orwell’s 1984.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
George Orwell, 1984
Now in the days of my pilgrimage here on this earth, I have had some times when my sanctification was not as bright and luminescent as it should have been, and so I do confess that I am a sinner. I am by nature an object of wrath, just like everybody else. However, though I do not want to put on airs, or preen myself in any way, even in my moments of backsliding, I have never worn brogues.
Just kidding. Neither have I descended to the level of wanting to be the dictator of Oceania or any other hellscape dystopia. And I don’t want to stomp on anyone’s face, still less some sad muffin’s face, and still less than that for ever and ever. So perhaps it is just me, or the way I was brought up, but accusing someone of being a sadistic monster on the basis of a book that some third person wrote is—how shall we say this?—one of those things that sort of ought not to be done. Just mentioning it here in case someone else agrees.
Seriously, for someone who wants to be the president of the Clean Up Boxing Coalition, Rod sure has a penchant for hitting below the belt. What? Did I run over his dog? Did I use my salad fork improperly? Did I tell a joke that he didn’t get? I noticed many years ago that the all-you-need-is-love Christians can be pretty poisonous, because wrapping yourself in the rhetorical mantle of meek-and-lowly is far easier than actually doing it.
Like I said, I am only half way through Andrew’s book—and remember that Dreher’s main complaint about it was concerning the toxic tone—but thus far Andrew hasn’t come close to doing what Dreher does in the course of his short review. Andrew’s attacks, which certainly are blunt force attacks, are third person assaults on unnamed members of classes and categories—Trashworld, bugmen, globohomo, and other pithy sentiments. But Andrew at least had the good sense not to accuse Charlotte Brontë by name of certain monstrous faults because of something Jane Austen wrote.
Puppies and Poison
So that deals with what happened. What follows is my take on why it happened.
The heart of Dreher’s trouble is that he has learned to detect one set of secularism’s lies but not another set. Now usually, when you finally come to understand that someone is a pathological liar, it is the part of prudence to start discounting everything they say.
Now Dreher flat knows that the utopian promises of the socialists, communists, and other assorted woke-artists are all lying promises that lead straight to the cattle cars and concentration camps. Dreher has very ably shown his understanding of that brutal reality over and over again. He knows and shows that their promises are lies, all lies, and lies clean through. He doesn’t believe their promises at all. He does not believe their soothing assurances. He sees through all of it. In this, he has provided us all with a most valuable service.
But for some weird reason, through some odd disconnect, he does believe their warnings. He believes all of their warnings.
It is as though a child were walking down the street, and a creepy looking man accosts her, and says, “Come over here, you sweet little girl. I have a basket of puppies in my van here. Would you like to see them?” And the girl, well-trained and thus forearmed, says, “No! You are a creepy man, and obviously a degenerate. I know that if I listen to you it will go ill with me.” And she turns to run. But then the man calls out after her, “Little girl, wait! If you don’t want to see the puppies, that’s your loss. But whatever else you do, you need to understand what will happen if you go home this afternoon. When your parents feed you dinner tonight, they are going to pretend that they have prepared your very favorite food. But they have poisoned your food, and so if you go home, you are going to die an agonizing death. I am warning you.”
Now what kind of sense would it make for this little girl to see through the lie about the puppies, but to go home worried sick about the poison? No sense at all, but that is what Dreher is doing.
Here. Let me show you.
“What happens when all the bugmen have been exterminated, so to speak? Should Trashworld be consigned to the ash heap of history, what then? What will Iskerworld be like? What kind of peace will it impose? What happens to its dissidents, Christian and otherwise? What happens to the women? To the Catholics, the Orthodox, and the non-believers? How about to the fake, the gay, the fetid and the corpulent? Is there a place for them at all? Is all the world to become Moscow, Idaho?”
Rod Dreher, Reviewing ‘The Boniface Option’
The prospect of a Christian social order conjures up a series of terrifying questions for Dreher, and all because the man with the puppies beside the van warned him about us.
Notice the verbs first. When the bugmen have been “exterminated.” The peace of Iskerworld will have been “imposed.” What “happens” to the women? We all know the answer to that last one. Red dresses and breeding farms!
“Is all the world to become Moscow, Idaho?”
This of course makes me wonder just what exactly he thinks is going on out here. We aren’t making the infidels do anything. They make us do stuff, but that is another story. Perhaps Dreher could visit a Logos School Friday night football game. Or try attending our annual block party where everybody is welcome, and the tri-tip is free. Thousands come to that event, and there is psalm-singing, and dancing, and a bubble machine for the kids. Or he could try the Andies, the NSA talent show. That should break a few stereotypes. Or he could visit the Canon Press warehouse, where countless books on marriage and family are shipped all over the world. Or he could just talk to us.
A Sincere Invitation
So let me finish all this with a straight up invitation, and no guile. If Rod Dreher would agree to it, we would fly him out here, not to confront him about anything, but rather to show him around. We would pay for his plane ticket, and we would arrange for him to speak at one of our events, and with no restrictions on what he might say. There would be a decent honorarium. He would be welcome as a guest at one of our sabbath dinners, and would be invited to attend one of our worship services. In short, we are in a position to guarantee safe passage.
A few years ago, a friend tried to broker a behind-the-scenes meeting between Dreher and me. I agreed, gladly, but Dreher declined because he is not a “confrontational” kind of guy. But actually he is being plenty confrontational, only from a distance, and without all the facts. We would love to close that distance, and would be happy to provide him with some facts.
Try this thought experiment. Imagine a community somewhere, not here, that implemented and embodied everything that Dreher commended in his Benedict Option. The totalitolerant would of course want to shut it down, and if they had the power in hand, they of course would do so. But short of an exercise of raw power, what else might they do? Well, they would of course circulate a metric ton of lies about the place—extremists, cult members, terrorists, white supremacists, and so on. You know the drill And so now imagine a writer somewhere else, not Dreher, but with all of Dreher’s convictions. Should he believe all those lies? Or should he perhaps go check? Should he attack Dreher for something that Schwartz wrote?
We have been laboring for some decades now on our instantiation of the Benedict Option, which is also our Boniface Option. Over these years, we have in numerous ways addressed all the questions that Dreher raised in his review. Because we are robustly Protestant, we could also call it our Beza Option. And so in this ironic twist, it is kind of odd to have one of the snipers who is shooting into our community be the author of The Benedict Option. Friendly fire or not, accidental or not, it is still really unfortunate.
I honestly believe that this would stop if Rod Dreher were ever to do us the honor of paying us a visit. And so it is that he is cordially invited, and no hard feelings.