Handle on Dreher, Abridged

short-ben-op-bloggable-coverIf you haven’t read The Benedict Option, Handle’s post (which I recommend, despite some foul language) will give you a sense of what the Ben Op is all about—with a better take than Dreher’s on how exactly we got to where we are now and what realistically we can do about it.

(How did we get to where we are now? TL;DR: The Enlightenment or Progressive worldview has been competing with Christianity for centuries—and winning.)

But Handle’s post is long and we moderns, as Handle notes, have notoriously short attention spans. So I’ve compiled and organized some of the excerpts which I found most important and illuminating. (And if you’re especially ADD, you can just read the parts in bold.)

I’ll keep my own commentary brief and say only the following:

Dreher and Handle both say a lot about home schooling but not much at all about house church. Perhaps unsurprising since Dreher is Eastern Orthodox, but unfortunate nonetheless. The implications of the Ben Op for house church should be obvious: If things are as bad as Dreher and Handle think—which they are, with all signs pointing towards their getting even worse (unless Trump or someone else somehow manages to reverse the Progressive tide)—then conservative Christians will not be able to meet out in the open for much longer. And if the solution to the problem of anti-Christian atomizing modernity is deeper community, then the consumer seeker-friendly Sunday show service isn’t going to cut it.

(Whether anyone will be able to reverse the Progressive tide remains to be seen. The damage has already mostly been done among Millennials and Gen Z’ers.)

And now, without further ado, here’s Handle on what Dreher and others get wrong about the New Left:

MacIntyre, Dreher, Deneen, and many other non-progressive Public Intellectuals of a certain age are still stuck in the ‘Relativist’ frame (cf: “Relativism and the Study of Man” – 1961) which goes back well over a century but which started to fade away during the early “New Left” era. They are beating a distracting dead horse, when there is a live one running around, winning the race.

Ask whether it makes sense that virtue is being undermined to critically low levels at the same time that “virtue signaling” is exploding in frequency of usage. It is being used as a legitimate complaint about an increasingly intense social phenomenon of sanctimonious conspicuously displays of critical and judgy-condemnations. One can’t signal arbitrary, individualized virtues. It’s only possible when there a dominant ideology emphasized by nearly all high status people has social currency.

Furthermore, does it make sense to say that it’s still all about choice and self-interest – the emancipation and liberation of individuals from authority – when ‘liberals’ are completely eager for state authority to impose various behavioral and speech rules on everybody, according to their moral vision?

All the relativism and principled (as opposed to boutique) multiculturalism talk occurred during what we can know appreciate to have been merely an intermediate phase of our political evolution. It characterized an early stage of the diffusion of a minority elite ideology into the cultural mainstream, until that ideology established sufficient levels of adoption and dominance to encourage its proponents to switch gears.

One argues for ‘relativism’ when one is trying to tear down an established moral order to make space for something new. And one drops that effort the moment one achieves the upper hand, then works to consolidate one’s gains and eliminate all rivals.

This evolution is entirely analogous to the evolution of progressive positions from free speech absolutists to ruthless speech police during the same time-frame.

The truth is, we’re not ‘after’ virtue at all. We’re just after the old set of virtues, which have been replaced by a new, progressive set.

We can demonstrate this by assessing the elements of [the list of relativistic/emotivistic qualities our society has].

1. Have we abandoned objective moral standards? Ask Americans whether slavery and racism are objectively evil. 95% at least for yes, especially if people are saying it in public under their own names.

2. Do people refuse to accept cultural narratives? Not if it’s the arc of history being long but bending towards social justice.

3. Is memory of the past irrelevant? Not when it comes to condemning most of that history as immoral by current standards.

4. Are we immune from communal standards of social obligations? Not when it comes to recycling or carbon emissions. Or paying taxes and supporting generous redistribution, unlike those evil, greedy, selfish people.

Dreher calls this barbarism, but it isn’t that at all. This is a rival set of moral and organization principles which form the basis for a different form of civilization than the traditional Western one it is displacing. Not an equal civilization, mind you. Like attempts to establish Communist societies, progressive civilization will have its unpleasant and dysfunctional aspects according to its fundamental characteristics. But it remains a rival foundation for a civilization nonetheless.

Handle on BenOpping…

[F]ull participation and the social integration of ‘normalcy’ is now deeply incompatible with a traditional lifestyle. And, like it or not, there is no alternative but to surrender on the one hand, or retreat and withdraw on the other. If you want your kids to grow up a certain way, believe in and cherish certain things, then there is no other option but to separate them from general society and surround them with a highly-selective peer group – really an entire sub-society – which will give you the support you need.

That’s a tough message. The first thing people try to do to deal when presented with very hard choices is to try to deny the reality of the trade-off they face.

People prefer to live in their illusions, able to tell their lies. They want to be normal people, fully participating in normal American society. They may like to signal different priorities, and claim that they’d be willing to give up some of the benefits of normalcy if there were any conflict with their sacred values and religious commitments. But, then that conveniently never happens to be the case.

People are going to have make the hard choice about how much they are willing to sacrifice. On the one hand, there is fidelity to faith but cultural withdrawal and separation. On the other, a normal, successful life, integrated into mainstream society and culture, and able to interact and socialize in general with one’s reputation and status intact, able to get into the good schools and good jobs.

[E]veryone has a huge stake in what the social environment feels like, what messages it sends and influences it has. Taking a hands-off and free-market approach – a legacy of enlightenment values – is unilateral disarmament in the never-ending war for our souls.

It is no longer possible for there to be a cohesive, coherent, and unified American popular culture in which the religious enjoy sufficient status with enough respect and perceived normalcy that they and their children can remain fully integrated into ordinary life while keeping their faith from imploding. The excruciatingly hard choice is either capitulation or strategic withdrawal with increased insularity. There is no alternative.

At the very least, people are going to need tight-knit and geographically proximate local communities to protect their interests and their faith. But our nations are still urbanizing, leading to a hollowing out the smaller locales where such communities ones existed. We are quickly moving to an increasingly atomized society and a point where nobody knows how to live in that old fashion anymore, let alone form them in sustainable and enduring ways.

Ghettos work.

Many traditionalist religious groups require conspicuously distinctive habits of dress and patterns of life which by design do not allow one to blend in with mainstream society. Members of future churches will need to be metaphorically and psychologically ‘branded’ with costly signals of commitment in a similar, hard-to-reverse fashion.

[I]f living the faith means it looks like a “cult” from the outside, then what’s wrong with a cult? Weren’t the early Christians we’re supposed to be learning from and imitating considered to be developing a cult by their pagan compatriots? … Didn’t the Bendas tell these (completely accurate) tales to their own children, that their Communist-run world and most other people in it were full of nothing but evil and lies and that they were to trust no one else but those in the family and their small group of trusted relations, all keeping the faith together?

A modern, working faith community that gets people together all the time simply can’t afford to have its members spread out, even just a few miles apart across the same urban area. Except for some orthodox Jews, most religious traditions in America don’t have experience with dictating where congregants actually live.

But for any Benedict Option to be viable, matters of real estate and concentration will have to have central importance to the overall plan.

Like it or not, and whether they want to admit it or not, Christians are indeed weird now.

Open entry is not an option without guaranteeing a quick descent to the lowest common denominator.

If we start to pull all of Dreher’s suggestions into a synthesis we get something approaching a residential college campus. … Like military bases abroad, residents would likely spend most of their time and social interactions with each other, living in ‘base housing’ or barracks, dormitories, faculty quarters, or fraternity group arrangements, and with everything revolving around the primary mission of the community. … [S]ome sort of ‘religious campus’ is the only sort of thing that has any hope of solving all the big problems at once.

Be prepared to accept shrinkage by “evaporative concentration”, letting all the loosely attached members go (who were unlikely to tough it out anyway), and keeping only the truly committed and reliable.

…and Dreher:

The time was coming, said MacIntyre, when men and women of virtue would understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who wanted to live a life of traditional virtue.

American Christians are going to have to come to terms with the brute fact that we live in a culture, one in which our beliefs make increasingly little sense. We speak a language that the world more and more either cannot hear or finds offensive to its ears.

[I]n the years to come, faithful Christians may have to choose between being a good American and being a good Christian.

Secede culturally from the mainstream. Turn off the television. Put the smartphones away. Read books. Play games. Make music. Feast with your neighbors. It is not good enough to avoid what is bad; you must also embrace what is good. Start a church, or a group within your church. Open a classical Christian school, or join and strengthen one that exists. Plant a garden, and participate in a local farmer’s market. Teach kids how to play music, and start a band. Join the volunteer fire department.

The fate of religion in America is inextricably tied to the fate of the family, and the fate of the family is tied to the fate of the community. … When both the family and community become fragmented and fail, the transmission of religion to the next generation becomes far more difficult.

“A dead thing goes with the stream, but only a living thing goes against it,” said G.K. Chesterton.

Work is a good thing, even a holy thing, but it must not be allowed to dominate one’s life.

We may not (yet) be at the point where Christians are forbidden to buy and sell in general without state approval, but we are on the brink of entire areas of commercial and professional life being off-limits to believers whose consciences will not allow them to burn incense to the gods of our age.

As the LGBT agenda advances, broad interpretations of antidiscrimination laws are going to push traditional Christians increasingly out of the marketplace, and the corporate world will become hostile toward Christian bigots, considering them a danger to the working environment.

[A]ccording to one religious liberty litigator who has had to defend clients against an exasperating array of antidiscrimination lawsuits, the only thing standing between an employer or employee and a court action is the imagination of LGBT plaintiffs and their lawyers.

Christians need to ask themselves some tough questions. Am I called to work in this industry? If so, how do I live faithfully within it? If not, can I find a safer line of work?

For Technological Man, choice matters more than what is chosen. He is no much concerned with what he should desire; rather, he is preoccupied with how he can acquire or accomplish what he desires.

Developing the cognitive control that leads to a more contemplative Christian life is the key to living as free men and women in post-Christian America.

The man whose desires are under the control of his reason is free. The man who does whatever occurs to him is a slave.

If you don’t control your own attention, there are plenty of people eager to do it for you. The first step in regaining cognitive control is creating a space of silence in which you can think.

If Christians today do not stand firm on the rock of sacred order as revealed in our holy tradition – ways of thinking, speaking and acting that incarnate the Christian in culture and pass it on from generation to generation – we will have nothing to stand on at all. If we don’t take on everyday practices that keep that sacred order present to ourselves, our families, and our communities, we are going to lose it. And if we lose it, we are at great risk of losing sight of the One to whom everything in that sacred order, like a divine treasure map, points.

Handle on contemporary church culture…

[M]aybe the church shouldn’t be so obsessed with its reputation, after all.

The attitude of “the customer is always right” (or else he’ll leave) reverses the typical relations of authority and status. It also leads to gimmicks of low-brow appeal which are by their nature fragile and ephemeral when exposed to the fickle and discursive whims of the masses.

[W]hen churches are in a position of open competition it is inevitable that many will succumb to the pressure to converge to whatever else tends to succeed in the markets for mainstream culture and entertainment. That in turn means a constant temptation to compromise on matters of faith when it conflicts with the popular zeitgeist.

This alienates the orthodox, conservative, and traditionalist congregants who, judging by existing demographic trends, are the constituents of the only future the church is likely to have, if indeed it is to have one at all. In the present egalitarian cultural context, it also increasingly turns off men, with an emphasis on messages tending to lower the status of fathers and undermine traditional biblical conceptions of male roles and masculine virtues. Staying attractive and useful to fathers may seem to just be a different aspect of the “need to appeal” disease, but it’s really not. The church must provide the pragmatic utility of constantly repeating messages which reinforce institutions and practices which are fighting uphill battles against both animal impulses and the mainstream culture.

Consumerist churches bending their practices to the needs of popular appeal simply cannot carry on their worship in traditional ways that convey deep solemnity, sacredness, gravity, intellectual maturity and seriousness.

There are many other substitutes and opportunities for “fun group events” in modern life (indeed, this is part of the problem). But there is no alternative for the routine reminding and re-grounding in theological metaphysics. For the reorientation from the mundane and worldly to the deep foundation of everything in the miraculous divine. To preserve one’s animating enchantment with everything as rooted in and emanating from God’s cosmic order, such that one feels compelled to live one’s life in harmony with that order instead of by mere whim.

There is of course plenty of room for the occasional fun holiday celebration and other outlets for youthful energies. But that ‘carnival concert’ spirit simply cannot become the regular mode of worship without coming off as puerile, off-putting, and low-brow to the smarter, higher-status, and more successful members of the congregation. These people constitute the natural aristocracy and indispensable pool of leaders of the religious community, and they will naturally balk and defect at the constant carnival. Instead, they will preferentially associate with the rest of their class, which is increasingly atheistic. They will need substance that induces a more contemplative frame of mind, when one can exercise higher intellectual skills and meditate and reflect on the meaning and implication of the overall theological framework.

This is an entirely different problem from merely being ‘weird’. Movements which are merely ‘weird’ don’t show any systemic disability in attracting intelligent leaders, and often start out with a cadre of highly intelligent people focusing on a new, ‘weird’ idea.

This isn’t about being a kind of elitist snob, just for tastes in churching. If the church, or Christianity, or religion in general becomes perceived as a low-brow pursuit of low-intellect, low-status, low-class people, then it will shed higher-status members below the critical mass it needs to function as an institution capable of providing deeply spiritual and intellectual fulfillment. Sadly, things have already moved a long way in this direction. A longer way than many people would like to admit.

In such circumstances the church becomes unable to focus on emphasizing knowledge and theological reasoning. It cannot be constantly teaching and reteaching the essential knowledge keeping people tied to the faith. The carnival displaces the catechism.

The religious mind needs time to ponder, contemplate, meditate, and commune with the divine: to concentrate deeply for an extended time on prayers and big questions. But such things become impossible when the temptation to constant distraction is ever-present, and when the yielding to it with collapsed attention spans ubiquitous.

…and Dreher:

Too many of our churches function as secular entertainment centers with religious morals slapped on top, when they should be functioning as the living, breathing Body of Christ. Too many churches have succumbed to modernity, rejecting the wisdom of past ages, treating worship as a consumer activity, and allowing parishioners to function as unaccountable atomized members. The sad truth is, when the world sees us, it often fails to see anything different from nonbelievers. Christians often talk about “reaching the culture” without realizing that, having no distinct Christian culture of their own, they have been co-opted by the secular culture they wish to evangelize.

In her church and religious school, [one girl] was fed nothing but the thin gruel of contemporary Christianity, with its shallow theology and upbeat sloganeering.

Evangelicalism has historically been focused not on institution building but on revivalism, making it inherently unstable. It has also taken an individualistic approach to faith that leaves it vulnerable to pop culture trends.

Plus, evangelicalism developed partly in reaction to liberalism within Mainline Protestant denominations, whose more formal worship style led Evangelical dissenters to associate (wrongly, in Chan’s view) liturgy with spiritual deadness.

[A] worship approach that focuses on seeking spiritual highs – church as pep rally – is unsustainable. If you want to build faith capable of maintaining stability and continuity, you need to regularly attend a church that celebrates a fixed liturgy.

A church that looks and talks and sounds just like the world has no reason to exist.

In the early church, the willingness to suffer, even to the point of laying down one’s life, for Christ was seen as the most powerful testimony to the truth of Christ. Today’s churches will not be equipped if we do not keep this in mind and live lives prepared to suffer severe hardship even death, for our faith. … We should stop trying to meet the world on its own terms and focus on building up fidelity in distinct community. Instead of being seeker-friendly, we should be finder-friendly, offering those who come to us a new and different way of life.

Handle on BenOp parenting…

Passive evangelism goes both ways.

Parents simply can’t do it alone while trying to raise their families in the middle of a raging river with the current flowing the other way (especially when one sees brave salmon jumping straight into the bear’s mouth.) It does no good to try and install the best air filters in one’s own house when as soon as the kids head outside they are choking on poison gas.

So traditionalists need to shape the whole mental environment not just for their kids, but for themselves. … [I]f one can’t rely on the whole of society, then one needs the liberty to construct a separate, micro-society that accomplishes as much of the same functions as possible.

[Dreher] is quick to blame lazy and weak parents for not doing enough at home, for not choosing Christian schools or homeschooling, for not going to church enough or living Christian-enough lives, and for allowing their kids access to popular culture and social media technologies.

But then he posts letter after letter from people whose parents did pretty much everything possible along those lines, or sometimes from the parents themselves about their lost kids, as projects that ended in complete failure. Usually the very minute the kids left home and joined mainstream society.

The lesson is that it’s impossible to do it alone, but it’s easy if the elites, law, and culture have your back. The public square has private impact, and so everyone has a stake in it. A hands-off strategy just means being at the mercy of whoever owns the megaphones. And if you can’t control the public square, all that’s left is exit of some kind or other, to your own private village where you can make your own square.

[W]hile teenagers are often portrayed in popular culture as being naturally “rebellious”, they are in fact incredibly conformist and hypersensitive to matters regarding social opinion and approval. This may seem unbelievable to any parent who has experienced the struggle with surly and disobedient adolescents, probing for opportunities to reset the boundaries of dominance and power in the relationship. But that ‘rebellion’ is merely the manifestation of the teenager’s status radars switching targets away from their parents and locking instead to the worldview and attitudes of their peers and that of the general mainstream culture.

“[G]ood peers” are a scarce resource.

The fact that Hollywood seems particularly fond of [stories of children who rebelled against strict religious upbringings] should clue one in to what’s really going on. A big role of human consciousness seems to be in concocting rationalizations and narratives and to tell ourselves ‘explanatory’ stories that have little to do with actual cause and effect, and everything to do with blame-shifting excuses that will be socially accepted by our audience.

[P]arents don’t make teens into ‘rebels’. Teens ‘rebel’ because they are conforming to new sources of ‘social authority’ which are displacing familial authority. … Ellen’s parents failed because they lacked a village.

[T]he real problem here is the lack of a full-life plan. That is, a place in the village for children, for students, for adults with young families, for the retired, and for everybody at every stage. What even the most devout Christians – especially Americans – have been doing instead is just “raise and release”. As with domesticated animals, this is a perfect recipe for quick feralization.

The Anglo-Saxon tradition of having children move away from home and establish their own distinct lives at relatively young ages could only work to preserve family traditions in a cultural environment in which the fact that those traditions were widely shared could be taken for granted. But … that practice has always been counterproductive for counterculturalists, which Christians now are. So “raise and release” will have to change too.

Children will have to be taught an accurate and measured story about how and why it all went wrong in the secular mainstream, why the differences are significant and unbridgeable, and why it’s important that they withdraw and keep their distance to the extent possible. As of yet, Christians have been both reluctant and incompetent at researching and imparting this tale, and that will have to change.

Having a social scene of other mothers where religious homeschooling is uniformly highly encouraged, respected, and perceived as both normal and noble is essential. It reverses the polarity of [social] pressures and provides the kind of social reinforcement that enable confidence, satisfaction, and pride.

Another useful supplement to the “no smartphones” policy is a “no screens in bedrooms” rule. The only way to deal with the risks of digital connectivity while preserving some of the benefits is to make the use of such devices as public as possible.

[O]ne either makes the public world safe for children or has to keep them sheltered from it.

…and Dreher:

[Y]our kids need to see you and your spouse sacrificing attendance at events if they conflict with church. And they need to see that you are serious about the spiritual life.

Raise your kids to know that your family is different – and don’t apologize for it.

The culture of the group of which your child is a part growing up will be the culture he or she adopts as their own.

Mothers and fathers have to be far more aggressive in governing their kids’ access to media and technology.

My wife once asked a new Christian friend why she homeschools her children, given that they live in a good public school district. Said the friend, “The day my fifth-grade son came home from school and said his friends were watching hardcore porn on their smartphones was the day my husband and I made the call.”


Handle on BenOp education…

Any attempt to wrest control over education that the state perceives is opposed and threatening to its interests will clearly be met whatever legal and political measures are thought necessary to neutralize that threat.

The obvious implication of all this emphasis on education is the need for an institutional arrangement that insists upon a perpetual, lifetime of learning, and of staying together with one’s ‘classmates’ for as much of one’s life as feasible.

Dreher’s appeal is to connect people of the present to their deep heritage and to honor and carry on the memory of the entire long chain of their predecessors. Notice how opposite this spirit is from the recent trend of the Great Erasure, the PC-based implementation of damnatio memoriae which involves blotting out every public trace of each and every historical figure who would not be found perfectly compliant with today’s dyspathetic sensibilities. The effect of all of which is to alienate moderns from their history, focus on condemnation instead of respect, insist on the past’s irrelevance instead of the idea of that history containing insights worthy of modern consideration. To break any sense of continuity or commonality, gratitude or duty.

…and Dreher:

[I]f we want to know what to do, we must first determine the story to which we belong.

In the years to come, Christians will face mounting pressure to withdraw their children from public schools. Secular private schools may offer a better education, but their moral and spiritual ethos will likely be scarcely better. And established Christian schools may not be sufficiently orthodox, academically challenging, or morally sound. A tight communal network generates the social capital needed to launch a school, or to reform and revive an existing one.

It’s hard to overstate the important of the Christian educational mission. Aside from building up the assembly of believers in the church, there is no more important institutional work to be done in the Benedict Option.

Today, across the Christian community, there is a growing movement called classical Christian education. It is countercultural in both form and content and presents to students the Western tradition – both Greco-Roman and Christian – in all its depth. Doing it right requires a level of effort and commitment that contemporary Americans are not accustomed to – but what alternative do we have?

[M]any Christians today don’t realize how the nature of education has changed over the past hundred years. The progressivism of the 1920s involved using schools to change the culture. The vocationalism of the 1940s and 1950s tries to use schools to conform children to the culture. But the traditional way of education, which reigned from the Greco-Roman period until the modern era, was about passing on a culture and one culture in particular: the culture of the West, and for most of that time, the Christian West.

The deeper our roots in the past, the more secure our anchor against the swift currents of liquid modernity. The greater our understanding of where we came from, the more securely we can stand in the post-Christian present, and the more confidently we can chart a course for the post-Christian future.

My understanding of Western history began with the Enlightenment. Everything that came before it was lost behind a misty curtain of forgetting.

Because public education in America is neither rightly ordered, not religiously informed, nor able to form an imagination devoted to Western civilization, it is time for all Christians to pull their children out of the public school system.

Plus, public schools by nature are on the front lines of the latest and worst trends in popular culture. For example, under pressure from the federal government and LGBT activists, many school systems are now welcoming and normalizing transgenderism – with the support of many parents.

Few parents have the presence of mind and strength of character to do what’s necessary to protect their children from forms of disordered sexuality accepted by mainstream American youth culture. For one thing, the power of the media to set the terms of what’s considered normal is immense, and it affects adults as well as children. For another, parents are just as susceptible to peer pressure as their children are.

Some tell themselves that their children need to remain there to be “salt and light” to the other kids. As popular culture continues its downward slide, however, this rationale begins to sounds like a rationalization. It brings to mind a father who tosses his child into a whitewater river in hopes that she’ll save another drowning child.

Handle on Progressivism as a competing religion…

Whether recognized as such or not, all states have an effective state religion, with or without a supernatural Deity, and America is no different.

[T]hings have evolved and advanced to the point where the real distinction is between progressives and traditionalists of all stripes.

There is a worthy ‘Social Justice’ tradition in orthodox Christianity, and Dreher doesn’t want to get caught in the trap of criticizing that tradition. But he knows full well, and better than most, that the movement going by that name has warped and metastasized into a terrible monstrosity that must be discouraged and de-emphasized if there is to be any hope of restoring it to its proper bounds. Personal sacrifice to privately contribute to worthy charity is laudable. Encouraging conspicuous and heavily politicized virtue signaling at no personal expense is socially corrosive and downright contemptible when displacing traditional religious activities and values.


Handle on the atomizing effects of modern life…

More choices means less social synchronization. Choosing preferences for individual experiences can therefore undermine fulfilling ones preferences for collective experiences.

…and Dreher:

[T]he atomizing structures of American suburban life make it harder to be truly Christian.

…and on sex, the family, and singlehood…

[T]he traditionalist conception of social organization is one in which the fundamental and culturally prioritized unit is the family, not the individual.

[A]ny ideology that focuses on the family cannot help but be “stuck on sex” as the most fundamental matter to regulate and tame, and the most fundamental impulse to be channeled and elevated to sacred importance. In an ideologically-stable family-based society, everything necessarily orbits around a particular ideal enjoying the highest status and level of social (and divine) approval.

This necessarily comes at the expense and exclusion of all deviations from this ideal, which is unfortunate. But that’s part of the tragedy of the human condition.

Nothing but the whole arsenal of social institutions and pressures can hope to contain impulses as powerful, volcanic, and potentially dangerous as those surrounding the evolutionary imperative of sexual reproduction.

Progressives have a long tradition of arguing against the ‘stigma’ that traditional social institutions place on anti-social behaviors. But that stigma, emotionally difficult as it may be to bear, serves a vital social function.

And in contemporary America, it’s remarkable to what extent life in high status circles – where intense working conditions are common – is dominated and run by singles. Or by people who relegate their family life to such minor important they might as well be single. That’s because people who have to devote any percentage of their potential working time to the needs of family or church are at an obvious competitive disadvantage when it comes to maximizing productivity, availability, and flexibility. They will either not be selected to fill those top roles, or they will not even try in the first place.

These incentives are highly discouraging of family formation. At these levels, the scales of the secular world are already out of balance in favor of singles, and it is entirely appropriate for religions to push them in the other direction, to say that it is the duty of singles to join the social order of family life, or to serve it in prescribed ways, but not to stand apart from it.

…and on the folly of compromising with Progressivism…

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, or a thousand times in a row, shame on me. So don’t trust them again. They’ll ask for an inch, but when you give it to them, they’ll take a mile, call it justice, and still ask for more and more again. Either insist on rock solid assurances, or fight them to the end.

When traditionalists and social conservatives predict a parade of social horribles and cultural undermining or moral collapse as a result of new policies, subsidies, and norms, the progressives will insist that’s all exaggerated crazy talk that will never happen, and then when it does, say it’s a good thing, after all.

[A]ny hesitation in unconditional surrender will be chalked up to bigotry, plain and simple.

…and on prominent right-wingers…

Nearly all prominent right wing writers want desperately to be taken seriously and to be seen as special cases worthy of civility, respect, and thoughtful consideration in the eyes of liberals and progressive elites. They want to be friends, not enemies. They want to be seen as distinct: more principled, sophisticated, and nuanced than those straight-ticket-voter-for-life hoi polloi fundamentalists. They don’t want to be presumptively dismissed, reflexively disposed of, and ostracized from polite society. They abhor being found guilty by association.

[W]hy do American Christian public intellectual commentators so often stick with advocating naively idealistic policies even when they are clearly counterproductive? There’s just no incentive for them to do otherwise. That’s what virtue signaling is all about. When one doesn’t actually bear any responsibility for consequences, one is judged only on what one says, not on the bad results which follow. That why they focus on things like ‘reputation’ instead of consequences.

…and, lastly, on Evangelical support of Trump:

[S]upport for Trump derives from the pragmatic political necessity of making the best of a tough situation, and dancing with the one that brought you when nobody else would.

Dreher warns this will ruin [Christians’] reputation, but that’s trying to close the barn door after the horse has already bolted.

I’ll close with a couple of Dreher’s observations on the early church…

The early church maintained fairly strict discipline among its congregations. They believed that the Way led somewhere and that those who refused to walk the Way needed to be brought back to it, or, if they persisted in sin, be sent away from their own congregations.

The first Christians gained converts not because their arguments were better than those of the pagans but because people saw in them and their communities something good and beautiful – and they wanted it. This led them to the Truth.

…and with (most of) his calls to action for Christians in a post-Christian world:

1. Rediscover the past.

2. Recover liturgical worship.

3. Relearn the traditional Christian habits of asceticism.

4. Tighten church discipline.

5. Evangelize with goodness and beauty.

6. Embrace exile and the possibility of martyrdom.

7. Turn your home into a domestic monastery.

8. Don’t be afraid to be a nonconformist.

9. Don’t take your kids’ friends for granted.

11. Live close to other members of your community.

12. Make the church’s social network real.

15. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

16. Teach the children Scripture.

17. Immerse the young in the history of Western civilization.

18. Pull your children out of public schools.

19. Don’t kid yourself about Christian schools.

21. No classical Christian school? Then homeschool.

23. Go back to the classics and forward to the future.

29. Buy Christian, even if it costs more.

30. Build Christian employment networks.

31. Rediscover the trades.

32. Prepare to be poorer and more marginalized.

33. Don’t compromise to keep the young.

36. Parents must be primary sex educators.

39. Take on digital fasting as an ascetic practice.

40. Take smartphones away from kids.

41. Keep social media out of worship.

42. Do things with your hands.

43. Question progress.


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