In an interview with E. Michael Jones, Mike Church references an article from The American Conservative Magazine outlining the cultural defeat conservatives must readily acknowledge, and follows this reference with a concise description of Rod Dreher’s suggested counter to this downfall, titled – The Benedict Option. In response to what Church introduced, Jones says this,
“That’s ridiculous. That’s completely ridiculous. This is why conservatism isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on. Who cares what conservatives think? Who cares? Secondly, who cares what Rod Dreher thinks? Rod Dreher is a political opportunist; he’s a chameleon. He was an evangelical, then he was a Catholic, now he’s Orthodox or something like that.”
Jones is entirely correct in his assessment.
Let’s first acknowledge the fact that Dreher isn’t even willing to practice what he preaches, which is the committed communal stability of the Benedictine rule he is pretending to be so moved by. The evidence for this can be found in the article he wrote describing his departure from the Catholic Church. His description of the American Catholic Church becoming a retreat center for emotional therapy is apt, but it does not justify leaving the Mystical Body of Christ for a schismatic sect of Christianity.
“Flannery O’Connor, one of my Catholic heroes, famously said, “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” American Catholicism was not pushing back against the hostile age at all. Rather, it had become a pushover. God is love was not a proclamation that liberated us captives from our sin and despair but rather a bromide and a platitude that allowed us to believe that and to behave as if our lust, greed, malice and so forth — sins that I struggled with every day — weren’t to be despised and cast out but rather shellacked by a river of treacle.
I finally broke. Losing my Catholic faith was the most painful thing that ever happened to me.”
Weak homilies ignoring the reality of sin and the need of repentance are not a justification for leaving the Catholic Church. It is an excuse used to justify personal double-mindedness. Instead of securing his position in a parish to help build the local community and influence a trend toward tradition, Dreher took his ball and went home. When he had the chance to be courageous in the Catholic faith, Dreher chose cowardice.
I am a convert to the Catholic faith myself. I have met many elderly members of my parish who have weathered the storm of priests who lack the historic tenacity of the Church Militant. A few months ago I attended a parish meeting where we discussed ways to strengthen our community and bring people into the Mystical Body of Christ. One woman who attended the meeting was over 90 years old. She had been a member of our parish community her entire life. Her age indicates that she has lived through good and bad times in the Church. She has had the opportunity to practice the faith during the stability of the pre-conciliar era, and she has weathered the tumultuous storm of novelty following Vatican II. And yet, she soldiers on without “losing her Catholic faith.”
The person who is most responsible for influencing my wife and I toward Catholicism has also lived through the age of poor catechesis, terrible homilies, liturgical abuses of the Novus Ordo Missae, the priestly abuse scandal, and the troubled Francis papacy. And yet, she soldiers on without “losing her Catholic faith.”
Many important Catholic mentors of mine have lived through all of this, and yet, they soldier on without “losing their Catholic faith.”
Indeed, many millions of Catholics have remained faithful to the Church, and therefore Christ, during this era of unprecedented confusion accurately labeled the regime of novelty.
Why is that? Why is it that they can endure and fight against corruption in the ranks of Christ’s Church but Dreher will not? Why is it that they are willing to practice what Dreher is preaching, but he is not willing to do it himself? And it is worth noting that these elderly warriors of the Church Militant were practicing community building before Dreher put pen to paper. So why is it that Dreher can write about the importance of culture, communal stability, and tradition, but lacks the conviction to practice what he preaches?
It is simple – a person doesn’t become Catholic because they like the homilies. Church hopping in pursuit of a good preacher is what Protestants do. The intensity of the homilies being preached is not what binds the Mystical Body of Christ to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The unifying bond is the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. The pinnacle of the Mass isn’t the exposition of the Sacred Page; it is the sacramental re-presentation of the Incarnate Word dying on Calvary’s Cross. When we partake in the Eucharist, we are mystically united to God and each other in ways that transcend all physical reality. The objective reality of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist is a truth far exceeding the subjective desire for a good homily. It is faithful assent to this revealed truth which binds the loyalty of Christ’s sheep to the salvific protection of the Good Shepherd. When in the midst of the trials of life or the storm of scandal, Christ’s true disciples echo the words of St. Peter, “Where am I to go?”
During my transition into Catholicism there was one thing keeping me from being frustrated by the indignities of the contemporary Church – truth. I was well aware of the sexual abuse scandals of the priesthood. They are the sickening marks of what evil men might do when influenced by the demonic spiritual betrayal of the Judas kiss.
But what impact does this wickedness have to do with the truth? Nothing.
Truth is not negated by the actions of evil men. Revelation is not dependent upon the virtue of those receiving it. I am not sure why Dreher became a Catholic, but the fact that he left indicates his blatant disregard for revealed truth.
Dreher concludes his article with these words (emphasis added),
“There is, of course, no such thing as the perfect church, but in Orthodoxy, which radically resists the moralistic therapeutic deism that characterizes so much American Christianity, I found a soul-healing balance. In my Russian Orthodox country mission parish this past Sunday, the priest preached about love, joy, repentance and forgiveness — in all its dimensions. Addressing parents in the congregation, he exhorted us to be merciful, kind and forgiving toward our children. But he also warned against thinking of love as giving our children what they want as opposed to what they need.
“Giving them what they want may make it easier for us,” he said, “but we must love our children enough to teach them the hard lessons and compel them toward the good.”
True, that. And I cherish this pastor because he loves his people enough to teach us the hard lessons, and to compel us past mediocrity and toward the good. Catholic priests of the same mind and orientation as my Orthodox pastor — and I know many of them — are telling me that the Holy Father, by signaling to his American flock that God is love and the rest doesn’t really matter, just made their mission a lot more difficult. But that is no longer my problem.”
The issues facing the Catholic Church are no longer Dreher’s problem.
So be it.
But this schismatic surrender creates a massive problem for Dreher’s counter to the secular rot that has become institutionalized in the culture. If Dreher is not willing to confront the problems facing the Catholic Church in America within a communal locality, why should we believe that he is going to be the steadfast leader willing to take on the problems of the entire nation? If he doesn’t have the fortitude to practice what he preaches at a local parish, he cannot be a leader for those willing to sacrifice far more than he ever has in building local communities and reigniting a true sense of tradition among the faithful remnant.
There are many more weaknesses in Dreher’s proposal, weaknesses such as a total misunderstanding of what the Church is, little regard for revealed truth, the espousal of liberal ecumenism, religious indifference, his inability to understand the spirituality of the leftist revolutionary enemy, the failure to comprehend the Trump phenomenon, and much more. Dreher’s attempt to confront the degeneracy of our “post-Christian” culture is in actuality a blueprint for capitulation. The fact that so many people are attracted to the Dreher option, especially those in the Catholic Church, is a frightening reality that must be confronted head on. All of this will be examined in forthcoming articles.
– Lucas G. Westman
 This portion of the interview begins at the 10:43 marker linked to above.