Culture, Politics

That Sounds Like Something Hitler Would Have Said

That Sounds LIke Something Hitler Would Have Said(From November 30, 2016)

Yesterday morning, president-elect Donald Trump laid out his plans to build concentration camps around the United States in order to begin his work of exterminating all minority groups.

Actually, I’m lying.

In reality, Trump didn’t say anything like that at all. But anyone who’s read the rhetoric flying around on Facebook could be forgiven for thinking that he had.

It’s been three weeks since the U.S. elections brought an unexpected victory for “the Donald.” Video footage from across the country on November 9 showed weeping, hand-wringing Democrats lamenting what seemed to be nothing less than the end of the world. It was only a matter of time—and very little time, as it turned out—before the memes and articles comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler began popping up in Facebook news feeds.

The comparisons between the president-elect and the German dictator certainly came as no surprise. If the election had gone the other way, we all know that nearly identical memes targeting Hillary Clinton would have flooded social media just as heavily as those targeting Trump did.

In the United States, we love comparing our political opponents—or anyone else with whom we seriously disagree—to Hitler. Doing so is an easy way to discredit those we don’t like.

It’s also lazy. And dangerous.

Regardless of how you might feel about keeping new immigrants out of the country or about deporting those already here in violation of the law, it’s hard to deny that there is a world of difference between policies like these and the mass execution of millions of innocent people. To portray the two as morally equivalent is an insult to the countless victims of the Nazi regime.

Giving insult, however, is not the worst result of these shoddy comparisons. Far more serious is the fact that these associations desensitize us to what true dictators actually look like. It’s much like the story of the boy who cried wolf or that of Chicken Little making his claim that the sky is falling.

If we continue on this path of lazy arguments and quickly-generated memes, I’m afraid we’ll one day get to the point where most of us will brush aside or gloss over genuine concerns about a particular candidate or office holder. That’s definitely not a place we want to be.

In order to avoid getting ourselves into this situation, I think it’s important that we try to focus on and debate the actual issues at stake. Doing so might take a little more effort than making rash comparisons to Nazi dictators, but in the long run it will be much safer for everyone.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Culture, Uncategorized

Lessons My Father Taught Me

Lessons My Father Taught MeSunday, June 18 is Father’s Day. While our modern society tends to celebrate this holiday with sales on gas grills and killer deals on power tools, there’s a lot more to being a father than all of that.

While I don’t have any children of my own, I do have a father, which I’m guessing is true of most people reading this. In honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to share and briefly reflect some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned from my own father over the years.

As I would imagine is true of most children, I learned a lot from my dad as I was growing up, and I owe much of who I am today to his influence. One of these lessons, however, stands out above all the rest in my mind. The best part is that my dad probably wouldn’t even know to what I am referring, as he likely has no idea that he ever taught me this lesson, but years afterward, it’s still vividly clear in my mind.

The story goes like this:

One day, when I was very young, my dad and I were in our family’s living room playing with the ubiquitous, little plastic army men. We had a lot of the tan-colored soldiers, but only a handful of the green ones. Without fail, my dad would always ask us—as a joke—if we’d rather be on the green side or on the tan side if we were fighting in that battle. All of us knew our part, and we’d jokingly respond that we’d rather be on the smaller, green side, after which we’d all laugh and carry on playing.

That winter day in the living room, however, something a little different happened. I asked my dad our usual question, but without even thinking about it, I changed the wording a bit. “Dad,” I asked, “if the tan guys were the bad guys and the green guys were the good guys, what side would you rather be on?”

I fully expected my dad to jokingly say he’d rather be on the larger, tan side, after which we’d laugh about it and keep playing, per standard practice. Instead, he looked at me and with uncharacteristic seriousness, he said: “I’d rather be on the good side even if I was the only one on it.”

I was dumbfounded for a moment, mulling over the words I had just heard. My dad, the person who I knew had all the answers, had just told me that it was always better to do the right thing, even if you knew you were going to lose.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve paused to reflect on these words over the years, either to guide me in making the right decision…or to rebuke me for making the wrong one. While I have without a doubt fallen short of this ideal far too often, it’s a principle that I hope will guide me for the rest of my life. It’s a lesson my father taught me.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Culture, Philosophy, Traditionalism

The Beauty of Tradition & An Important Lesson in Humility

Jesus & the ApostlesMy diocese recently endorsed the idea that local parish communities should form teams of street evangelists. I was very excited when I heard this news because street evangelization is something I have been very interested in ever since becoming Catholic. Without hesitation I volunteered to go and receive training to be a fisher of men. During the training session, God showed me something that humbled me to the core. While I was listening the speaker give his lecture on the importance of street evangelization, and how badly people need the healing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God showed me patterns of sinful pride in my intellectual habits. Then it dawned on me in a powerful way that God doesn’t need me to come up with great ideas or devise a grand vision for my life, and he definitely doesn’t need my personality, which can be annoying even for myself at times.

God doesn’t need my personality, my ideas, or my vision. I know, big breakthrough, right? Well, it can be an important corrective that God reveals to us in case we start to puff ourselves up in any way, thinking we are more important than we actually are. It is very easy to start believing that the Church needs original ideas, renewed creativity, or glowing personalities. The desire for renewal with “fresh ideas” is a ruse. The Church needs none of this, but I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I could bring something important to the Church. Now, I would never explicitly believe for a moment that God needs me. I am totally dependent upon His loving grace, and it is I who needs Him above all things. And while I have never intentionally pursued these kinds of thought patterns, that God might need me, the self-important prideful mentality can quite easily become actualized if humility is not energetically pursued each and every day. To properly fight against the sin of pride we have to fight to remain humble. Pride is an unfortunate potentiality of our fallen nature expressed through the patterns of concupiscence.

Being confronted by these truths, tears began to well up in my eyes as I realized how arrogant, selfish, and prideful I can be. It is truly a foolish mentality to think that God needs anything from us when the fact is that whatever we do have is a gift received from our Creator. As I wiped away my tears, embarrassed of my immaturity, God pressed upon me what it is He desires of me. It is as beautiful as it is simple.

I am called to love God and love my neighbor.

Be faithful to God, to Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, and to the deposit of faith given to the Church. Trust in the wisdom of the Church guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. Focus on leading my family through the sacramental vocation of marriage. Work to building up my local Parish in any way that I can. This is what God desires of me; that by loving Him I might love those around me, and by loving those around me in the name of Jesus Christ, God is glorified.

And here is what all of this means for someone like me who lives quite a bit inside my own head – I am never going to come up with something better than or something that adds to the genius of the Thomistic tradition of thought. I will never be smarter, more creative, or more original than the Sacred Tradition I have inherited from those who came before me. I am blessed to have the opportunity to participate in these traditions, to articulate its wisdom against the enemies of the Church, and by the grace of God to bring people into its inheritance so that they might also know Christ, His Most Holy Mother Mary, and the sacramental life of the Church. Admitting this of my prideful self exposes the futility of pursuing “new ideas” or creating “new movements” in the Church to spark emotional excitement about her teachings. If Catholics cannot get excited about what is ancient in the Church, then the new will fade away just as quickly for it is the Gospel itself that is ancient, and we should never tire from hearing of its truth, its beauty, and its goodness.

The bottom line is that I, nor will anyone else, ever outsmart or outdo the wisdom of Sacred Tradition and the fiery trials of concrete historical experiences. And as a self-avowed traditionalist, a healthy amount of shame consumes me to even admit that this “renewal” mentality crept into my thinking.

Instead of renewal, the contemporary Church needs to be awakened to her traditions.

The Church, full of the Holy Spirit and by the authority of Christ the King proclaimed the New Covenant.

The Church, by her divine authority defined the Incarnation, the Blessed and Holy Trinity, and gave us the canon of the Sacred Page.

The Church broke through centuries of violent persecution to evangelize the world and develop an organic Christian society called Christendom.

The Church, in the tradition of Christian Wisdom synthesized the ancient philosophies with Patristic devotion, leaving us with the Scholastic heritage of theology and philosophy.

The Church, to guard against revolutionaries, gave us the Council of Trent and showed us the way to defend the Church with the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Universal and Angelic Doctor.

The Church, lead by many courageous Popes, provided encyclicals exposing the enemies of the faith and armed us with the spiritual weapons needed to defeat these diabolical foes.

The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has provided the soldiers of the Church Militant with an apostolic wisdom powerful enough to convert the nations.

It is our job now, as good soldiers loyal to the King of kings, to take this wisdom and baptize the nations through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church and her traditions do not need renewal, they need to be awakened so that the world may be renewed by her.

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

 

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Culture, Political Economy

Our Land of Plenty

Our Land of PlentyWalking through those doors is always a mind-blowing experience. I’m not exaggerating when I say I believe the sight behind those glass gates is one of the most incredible our country has to offer.

I am talking, of course, about the grocery store.

“The grocery store?” you ask. “That seems a bit melodramatic, don’t you think?”

“No,” I reply. “I don’t think so at all.”

While I have perhaps exaggerated a little, I’ve only done so in the sense that my mind isn’t always blown every time I pass through the doors of the local Cub Foods or Hy-Vee. But this is only because I, like most Americans, have become so accustomed to the superabundance of food with which our nation has been blessed that I often take it for granted. When I stop and think about it though, I am truly amazed.

Walking down the breakfast aisle alone, I count over 200 kinds of cereal, 97 kinds of jelly and jam, and nearly 30 varieties of peanut butter. Then there’s the produce section, overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, even in the middle of winter with subzero temperatures outside. There are fresh oranges from Florida and fresh bananas from Guatemala. There are sweet potatoes from Canada and berries from Mexico.

There is also the meat section, with every cut imaginable, both fresh and frozen. There’s beef and pork and poultry and seafood. If I so choose, I can purchase and consume filet mignon or lobster or ribeye or octopus.

My point is that we in the United States today have access to a greater amount and greater variety of food than the people of any other civilization in the entire history of the world. For the last several thousand years of human existence, most of mankind—or rather all of mankind—has only been able to dream about the variety of foods on the shelves in our grocery stores.

Let’s be honest, we are living like kings. Even the poorest among us can eat better than many of the wealthiest men of ages past.

A case in point is meat. It used to be that most people didn’t get to eat meat on a regular basis because it was too expensive. In many societies it was considered a luxury item to be consumed only on special occasions. Today, however, we get to eat meat, if not every day, at least multiple times a week. Even dirt-poor history teachers can pick up a Big Mac or throw some pre-pattied burgers on a $10 mini-grill from Walmart.

It’s hard to deny that we have it pretty good. While our ancestors used to have to go out and hunt and forage if they wanted to eat anything, we today can simply pick up the phone, order a pizza, and have it delivered—hot and delicious—right to our doorstep.

I’ll say it again: we in the United States today have access to a greater amount and greater variety of food than the people of any other civilization in the entire history of the world.

And how do we celebrate this superabundance of food?

Well, by wasting a lot of it, unfortunately.

It’s estimated that Americans throw away 6 billion pounds of food every month. That’s about 20 pounds of food per month for every man, woman, and child in the country. Of course not all of this waste happens at the consumer level. Plenty of food gets discarded at the source or at the retail level as well.

Still, that’s a pretty astonishing amount of waste.

I think a big part of the problem is the need for Tort reform. Many caterers, for example, won’t even let their own customers take home leftovers for fear of being sued if they happen to become ill after eating them.

Even more important though, I think, is a change in attitude. We need to stop taking this abundant food supply for granted. Most people in history haven’t had nearly this level of prosperity, and we might not always have it either. We need to be more grateful for it. And more amazed by it.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option Roundup

The Dreher Option RoundupI have spent some time criticizing Rod Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option, because it is a seriously flawed “manifesto.” It is as confused as it is shallow, and will accomplish nothing other than ceding more of the culture to our progressive rivals. Throughout the series of articles I renamed The Benedict Option to the Dreher option because there is nothing Benedictine about the suggested quasi-minimalist Christian movement constructed by Dreher. It would be unfair to the legacy of St. Benedict to associate a movement predicated on surrender to his rule of life, which is why I thought it fitting to associate the weak-kneed treatise with the author of the document giving up on the culture war.

Almost as troubling as the Dreher option itself, is the amount of praise the capitulating manifesto has received from notable Catholics in the priestly hierarchy. This demonstrates that many in the Church have been persuaded into the false notion that the Great Commission is about getting along with liberally pluralistic societies rather than converting them. If the apostles had followed the advice of Dreher they would have never left the room they were gathered when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Instead of preaching at pentecost, St. Peter would have encouraged everyone to band together in small familial enclaves until the time was right to assert the Church’s political influence on society. If there were ever a politically and religiously marginalized group of people it was the early apostolic Church, and yet they emerged from their seclusion full of the Holy Spirit prepared to take on an ungodly empire with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It should shame us that the apostles had more fire and courage to move on behalf of God in their dire situation than the 1 billion Catholics alive in the world today. How is it that a handful of apostles could initiate the conversion of the worlds greatest empire and we can’t even secure the basic right to life for the unborn? Instead of shrinking into tiny ghettos the Church, the true Church, must remember her identity as the Church Militant. In order to reclaim the characteristics of spiritual warriors, the identity of the liberally infused Church ecumenical committed to a faceless global Christianity must be cast aside. The first step toward accomplishing this would be rejecting the Dreher option, or anything else suggesting an ecumenism that instills the errors of religious indifferentism.

The Church Militant has been commissioned by the King of kings to baptize the nations. It is time to reclaim our apostolic heritage and get to work.

Here are the articles in the series:

Part I – A Schismatic Teaches Stability

Part II – Misunderstanding the Ambitions of Our Enemy

Part III – Misunderstanding the Trump Phenomenon

Part IV – What is Called the Church?

 

– Lucas G. Westman

 

 

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Culture, Politics

The Hoax of White Nationalism

The Hoax of White NationalismThe alt-right political narrative is largely a reaction to the racialist politics of the atheistic progressive left. The emphasis on racial diversity, multiculturalism, the demonization of the mythic entity of “white privilege”, and the invented pseudo-Platonic metaphysical form of “whiteness” has naturally created a dialectical counterpart in the “White Nationalist” movement. The reactionary alt-right markets themselves as awakened Europeans who have discovered their true heritage, culture, and identity. This identity is linked to being a member of the white race. On this view, European heritage is reduced to the accidental feature of skin pigmentation. And this is supposed to be a motivating and powerful narrative against the progressive antifa enthusiasts. One might notice, however, that when the alt-right and antifa cultures clash there are a lot of white people fighting in the battle.

The fact that white identity is ignored when the alt-right and antifa collide exposes the transparently futile suggestion that racial ideology is enough to unite a community and culture. It suggests that being white has a prepackaged cultural distinctiveness and philosophical worldview embedded in the genes of the individual. This is entirely incorrect and introduces a kind of materialistic determinism in the development of culture, which is then expressed through some variant relativistic moral praxis.

The most significant error of the alt-right narrative is the idea that European heritage can be reduced to a collectivized genotype. The predominant European tradition isn’t the discovery of racial categories imbued with various cultural characteristics; it is the religious inheritance of the Catholic faith.

Christendom is the true European identity.

This historic truth demonstrates something important for a culture that is trapped in a dialectical hall of mirrors – unity can only be established under the Catholic banner of Christ.

Let’s say the alt-right were successful in carving out a section of society for whites only. Does it follow that this racial accord would entail a unified culture which share in the same values and beliefs expressed through common civil and religious actions? Not even close. The pluralism would be just as extensive as it was prior to the collectivization of white people into a single community. White people can be atheist, religious, or pagan; they can be moral degenerates or have a deep commitment to the virtues of chivalry; they can be sexual revolutionaries or puritans; they can be backstabbing schemers or hyper-loyal stoics. The bottom line is that “white” isn’t a worldview. Ask 10 white people what their worldview is and you might get 10 different answers.

The flimsiness of a racially constructed worldview falls apart when it is realized that true unity is deeper than skin-color.

Consider for a moment the inheritance of a truly Catholic identity united in common cause for the reestablishment of Christendom. The Catholic worldview brings with it an organic unity that transcends the racial categorizations of modern society. Under Christ the King there is, “One body and one Spirit; as you are called in the hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”[1]

The depth and richness this biblical truth brings to the human communal experience surpasses everything the secular world has attempted to create in order to replace the majestic throne of Christ. Among the endless parasitical ideologies masquerading as political anecdotes for the sacred tradition of the true Church lays the idol of secular autonomy. Replacing the revelation of the imago Christi is an endless array of theories posing as scientific solutions for the rejection of the Triune Creator. Instead of finding harmony in the Mystical Body of Christ, our godless materialistic culture has molded society into an organism conditioned to search for solidarity in economic, gender, sexual, or racial classifications. When these classifications fail to impart a meaningful realization of the human desire for transcendent meaning nihilistic relativism is often the next path taken.

“White Nationalism” is just another idolatrous political creed pursued by those who would rather bend their knee to the golden calf than to Christ the King. It isn’t race that divides a nation; it is sin. It isn’t race that can heal a nation; only the Gospel can do that. The emptiness of this movement, or any movement for that matter, which denies the Social Kingship of Christ inexorably leads to an endless abyss of dialectical identity crises.

Our identity, men and women made in the imago Christi, is only fulfilled when the grace of God prompts us toward the realization of our cruciform theosis.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Ephesians 4:4-6 (Douay-Rheims)

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option: What is Called the Church?

The Dreher Option - What is Called the Church?St. Francis de Sales and his cousin travelled light when they set out to bring Calvinist Geneva back to the Catholic faith. In preparation to do spiritual warfare against the heresiarchs, St. Francis brought with him powerful tools for the purpose of refuting the pretended ministers of the Reformation – the Sacred Scriptures and Bellarmine’s Controversies.[1] Following the long journey, St. Francis gazed upon a sight bringing him to tearful anguish,

“Francis only sighed deeply. Leaning on the parapet, he looked sadly forth over this fair land whose glorious beauty was ravaged by the signs of persecution – ruined churches; presbyteries and castles burned to the ground; crosses overthrown; gibbets erected instead: desolation everywhere. All this he saw from the height on which he stood, and he could not restrain his tears as he thought of millions of souls plunged in the darkness of schism, separated from the True Church.”[2]

The Calvinists had reduced “seventy-two parishes, containing 30,000 persons” to a mere handful of Catholics.[3] Considering the spiritual terrain he must traverse, St. Francis prayed that God would bless his work so that he and his cousin might “rebuild His sanctuaries, re-erect His altars, and gather the lost sheep into the true fold.”[4]

St. Francis began his mission by preaching the word of God to all who had ears to hear, but his efforts were thwarted when the people were forbidden from listening to his message. In true perseverance, however, St. Francis would begin to write pamphlets exposing the errors of the pretended ministers while also explaining the true Catholic faith. His determinations in written form began to see fruitful results.[5] Many were enticed by the warmth and clarity of his exposition. But political power built upon the sands of heresy becomes jealous when exposed to be a façade. The Calvinists zealous after their power looked to have the priests assassinated. There were several attempts made on the life of St. Francis.[6]

Through the miraculous providence of God St. Francis endured the persecutions and his mission would eventually be accomplished,

“The ruin and desolation over which he had wept four years previously had vanished. The inhabitants of the Chablais were no longer aliens from the True Fold, and he, under Providence, had been the means of converting them. In this land, where, on his arrival in 1594, there had been only a hundred Catholics, there were now scarcely a hundred Calvinists. It is estimated that about Seventy-two thousand people were received by Francis de Sales and his fellow-missionaries into the Church.”[7]

The story of St. Francis’s missionary work in Geneva during the ongoing hostilities of the Protestant revolt teach us something very important about the nature of the true Church. The Church is not a pluralistic entity containing any and all peoples claiming to be Christian. If this were the case, St. Francis would not have wept over Calvinist Geneva prior to its conversion. The tears he shed were symbolic of the truth that there is no salvation outside of the Church. The numerous heresies of Calvinism put souls in danger of eternal damnation. St. Francis knew that only the true Gospel of Jesus Christ delivered to the Apostles and protected by the one, true Church over the course of history could rescue the people from the deceptions of John Calvin and Theodore Beza.

Applying this lesson of evangelization and passion for Christ’s Church allows us to recognize another significant weakness in the Dreher option. Dreher treats the Church of Jesus Christ as a pluralistic entity of disparate individuals who are all expressing competing truth claims regarding revelation. Dreher asserts,

“…I will discuss how the way of Christian living prescribed by the Rule can be adapted to the lives of modern conservative Christians of all Churches and confessions. To avoid political confusion, I use the word ‘orthodox’ – small ‘o’ – to refer to theologically traditional Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodoxy Christians. The Rule offers insights in how to approach politics, faith, family community, education, and work. I will detail how they manifest themselves in the lives of a diverse number of Christians who have lessons to teach the entire Church. Finally, I will consider the critical importance of believers thinking and acting radically in the face of the two most powerful phenomena directing contemporary life and pulverizing the church’s foundations: sex and technology.”[8]

Dreher later argues,

“Of course every age has its morally lax people, and people who have forsaken ideals and commitments to pursue their heart’s desire. In fact, every one of us Christians is like that at times; it’s called sin. What’s distinct about the present age, says Taylor, is that ‘today many people feel called to do this, feel they ought to do this, feel their lives would somehow be wasted or unfulfilled if they didn’t do it.’

What is ‘it’? Following your own heart, no matter what society says, or the church, or anybody else. This kind of thinking is devastating to every kind of social stability but especially to the church. The church, a community that authoritatively teaches and disciples its members, cannot withstand a revolution in which each member becomes, in effect, his own pope. Churches – Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox – that are nothing more than a loosely bound assembly of individuals committed to finding their own ‘truth,’ are no longer the church in any meaningful sense, because there is no shared belief.”[9]

These paragraphs highlight a major flaw in the Dreher option, which is the suggestion that Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox all share the same mantle of the “Church.”

This is false. Protestants reject the Catholic faith and her teachings on numerous points, hence the reason for their protest. Catholics and Protestants cannot both be the Church because of the extreme divergence of views on what has been revealed by God as binding truths delivered to the Apostles in the deposit of faith. The only “common ground” Protestants and Catholics might have with each other are those truths promulgated over the centuries by Rome. This, however, is only an illusion of commonality. It would be similar to an author picking up a forgery of his own book and looking for things he agrees with among the plagiarized words.

Similarly, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cannot equally share the mantle of the Church because the Orthodox have rejected the divinely instituted authority of the Pope. And while the East and West do in fact share much in creedal and theological commonality, there can ultimately be no agreement when the Vicar of Christ is rejected.

There can be no unity in the Church with heretics and schismatics. The spread of heresy by the pretended ministers of the Reformation and the schismatic act of rejecting the binding authority of the Pope are the kind of revolutionary acts decried by Dreher in the referenced paragraphs above, and yet he endorses the disharmony by trying to fuse truth with error.

What then is the Church?

The Church is the mystical body of Christ instituted by our Lord through which we share in the meritorious fruits of His Redemption. The Church is made up of the congregation of baptized peoples united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, partakes of the same Sacraments, and is governed by the priests and bishops in union with the Pope. The true Church also carries with it four distinctive marks, that is, the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. And these marks alone are found in the Holy Roman Catholic Church.[10]

When the true Church is properly recognized and defined, those who are outside of the Church can also be readily identified. The Council of Trent teaches,

“Hence there are but three classes of persons excluded form the Church’s pale: infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons. Infidels are outside the Church because they never belonged to, and never knew the Church, and were never made partakers of any of her Sacraments. Heretics and schismatics are excluded from the Church, because they have separated from her and belong to her only as deserters belong to the army from which they have deserted. It is not, however, to be denied that they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Church, inasmuch as they may be called before her tribunals, punished, and anathematized. Finally, excommunicated persons are not members of the Church, because they have been cut off by her sentence from the number of her children and belong not to her communion until they repent.”[11]

St. Robert Bellarmine echoes this teaching of Trent,

“Heretics retain those indelible characters outside of the Church, just as lost sheep retain the branding in their back and deserters of the army military signs: but they are not in the Church for that reason because those characters do not suffice to constitute someone in the Church; otherwise the Church would also be in hell. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the damned are not members of Christ in either act or potency. Besides, the character does not properly unite a man with the head, rather it is a sign of the power of a certain union, and consequently, in hell they are recognized by that sign as men who were members of Christ. Nevertheless, that it does not unite them is clear since something that is invisible cannot unite outwardly, nor interiorly, when it is not in act or when it is not an operative habit. For that reason St. Thomas places the first internal union in faith.”[12]

Identifying schismatics, Bellarmine says,

“Several Catholics deliberate whether schismatics are in the Church, on the other hand there are those who affirm that they are in the Church, such as Alphonso de Castro in the place we cited. Yet it is easy to teach the contrary from the Scripture and from the tradition of the Fathers. In the first place, when it is said in Luke that the nets were torn, schisms in the Church are understood through the tearing of the nets and the exit of fish from it, and the exit of heretics and schismatics, as St. Augustine explains.

Besides, Scripture calls the Church, ‘One, sheepfold,’ ‘One body,’ ‘One spouse, friend and dove.’ Moreover, schism tears that which is one into parts, as is clear from its name…Consequently, schismatics are not in the Church nor are they of the Church. For the part that is torn from the body is no longer a part of that body.”[13]

The Dreher option is attempting to reignite an “ecumenism of the trenches,”[14] which perpetuates the problem of institutionalized liberalism rather than solves it. This pseudo-Christian movement, then, suffers from a false ecumenism resulting in a religious indifferentism condemned by the true Church.[15] What Dreher is proposing is a multitude of tiny “Christian” enclaves where each little community not only gets to decide what Christianity amounts to, but also, what the suggested cultural option amounts to as well. Rather than bringing unity to the Church Dreher solidifies the fracturing which already reverberates throughout the culture.

There is a better way.

The Church Militant has been commissioned by the King of kings to baptize the nations. The only real option available to the Church, the Roman Catholic Church, is the one practiced by St. Francis de Sales during his mission in Geneva – The Gospel Option.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] St. Francis de Sales: A Biography of the Gentle Saint, Stacpoole-Kenny, Pg. 31

[2] Ibid, Pg. 32

[3] Ibid, Pg. 32

[4] Ibid, Pg. 33

[5] “The heretics, though they would not come to listen to his sermons, read these documents through curiosity; but many found them so convincing that they desired to learn more of a doctrine that appealed, not only to their reason, but to their hearts. Therefore by slow degrees, by twos and threes, they went to hear the discourses of the Provost and the Canon.” Ibid, Pg. 39

[6] “When the news of this straying of their flock reached the ears of the ministers, they became, if possible, more infuriated against the priests, and resolved to have them assassinated. Several times they hired ruffians to attempt their lives, but particularly the life of Francis, believing that if he were once removed Louis would return to Annecy.” Ibid, Pg. 39

[7] Ibid, Pg 73

[8] The Benedict Option, Pg. 5

[9] Ibid, Pg. 44

[10] These brief descriptions are taken from the Baltimore Catechism One, Pg. 25, 26

[11] Catechism of the Council of Trent, Pg. 104

[12] On the Church Militant, Pg. 24

[13] Ibid, Pg. 25, 26

[14] Pg. 136

[15] On Liberalism, Pope Gregory XVI, Paragraph 13. See also the Syllabus of Errors promulgated by Pope Pius IX, section III on Indifferentism and False Tolerance.

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option: Misunderstanding the Trump Phenomenon

The Dreher Option - Misunderstanding the Trump PhenomenonIn my first two installments examining the Dreher option, I highlighted Rod Dreher’s inability to practice what he preaches, and I also identified his inability to fully understand the enemy we are up against. In this installment I will focus on his total misunderstanding of the Trump phenomenon.

The reasons people voted for Donald Trump are diverse. Many selected him because they recognized in his Democratic adversary a level of evil and corruption never witnessed in American political history. The thought of another President Clinton being accompanied in the White House by their equally repulsive spouse was simply too much to stomach. This reason alone motivated a lot of people to partake in the democratic process.

Others voted for Donald Trump because the policies he articulated during the campaign trail were objectively better than those of Hillary Clinton. When delicate sensibilities are ignored, the foreign and domestic policies of an America first approach resonate with the citizens of this country far more than progressive liberal internationalism. Protectionism and the reversal of a belligerent, non-sensical interventionist foreign policy run contrary to the ideological desires of the elitist political establishment, but they align quite nicely with the working people of the American nation. Bush republicanism and Clinton internationalism are the mirror images of each other, and both major parties have successfully marketed these two political creeds as being rival options. Donald Trump cut through the illusion of choice and exposed this lie by speaking to the people who were being harmed by the deception.

The accomplishment of Trump to expose this mendacity is entirely ignored by Dreher. I made a similar argument when addressing one of his articles prior to the election,

“The reasoning in this piece by Rod Dreher, as well as the article he is highlighting by Ross Douthat, is as unoriginal as it is naive. In fact, the arguments offered are nothing new. They are the same whiney talking points veiled under the persona of prestige “conservatives” have been making against Trump from the beginning of his campaign. According to Dreher, there has not been an anti-Trump conservative argument articulated as well as Douthat’s. Not only does such an assertion exhibit magnificent cluelessness, it is yet another demonstration of the confused intellectual weakness of Dreher’s political opportunism. Apparently, leftist revolutionaries causing civil unrest if they don’t win an election is a consequence we should not be willing to live with, but the potential for nuclear war with Russia is worth the risk.”

I continued with these remarks,

“These voices attempting to influence public opinion are so frustratingly incoherent that the lack of argumentative self-awareness is as transparent as it is infuriating. When so-called conservatives parrot the arguments of their alleged progressive rivals, something other than an election is motivating these opinions. This mysterious “something” stirring up the mirrored triteness of progressive sensibilities among the “conservative” elite is the dreaded loss of meaningful influence peddling.

Simply stated, reputations are at stake.

At least one thing has become very clear in this election season, journalistically minded “conservatives” prefer the fuzzy feelings of well-articulated speeches coupled with disastrous neo-Jacobin foreign and domestic policies to a vulgarian attempting to forge a new America first priority in these same policy avenues. As long as you speak in a way that is acceptable, policies don’t really matter; they some how magically become conservative if the words sound right.

Now, if someone has an argument against Trump’s policies, then make the argument. If, however, the argument is couched in the notion suggested by Douthat and Dreher, that Trump tramples on the “traditions” conservatives extoll, such an argument not only misses the point, but it ignores the fact that conservatism has roots going back further than George W. Bush.

I am starting to understand why these men are labeled ‘cuckservatives.’”

This argument still applies to our current situation.

To be sure, Trump’s presidency has been neoconned, and he has left so many of his most important campaign promises unfulfilled that even his greatest supporters are becoming exceedingly worried about the direction he is heading. But the unfortunate turn in foreign and domestic policy made by the Trump administration does not negate the lessons that should have been learned during the campaign, nor does it justify ignoring the political and cultural revelations that exploded before and after his inauguration.

What did we learn following the election of Donald Trump?

  1. First, the progressive left can no longer hide behind their tired slogans while pretending to have climbed the peak of moral enlightenment. The unhinged rioting following the electoral process demonstrates that democracy is not something these progressive radicals care much about unless the results land in their favor.
  2. Second, the neoconservatives dominating the G.O.P. since Bush II have now openly expressed their loyalties to the empire, totalitarian bureaucracy, and the deep state. William Kristol has stated that if he must choose the deep state or Trump, he prefers the shadow government to an elected executive.
  3. Third, is the total unreliability and corruption of the media. Their commitment to delegitimizing the Trump presidency and undermining a potential transition to sane, America first policies is an important reminder of the control corporations and special interests have over the political narrative.
  4. Fourth, is the power wielded by lobbying interests over the decisions concerning American foreign and domestic affairs. Most notably is the unrelenting influence the Israel Lobby has over our foreign policy. Within a matter of 100 days, President Trump transitioned from a committed non-interventionist to bombing Syria under the flimsiest of false flag pretenses. Intervention in Syria is primarily in the interest of the Jewish state, whose interests are fueled by AIPAC propaganda. Let’s be totally clear that intervention in Syria has absolutely nothing to do with America’s national security. Conducting air strikes against a country that is fighting a common enemy in the War on Terror weakens our security objectives. Moreover, it is also worth noting the profit attained by the Military Industrial Complex due to this operation. The maneuver made to allegedly punish Assad for using chemical weapons against his own people is an attempt to shift President Trump’s foreign policy back towards unilateral global military hegemony.

Dreher’s analysis of the Trump phenomenon has very little to say about any of this, which contributes to the deflation of his proposed counter-cultural, Christian revival.

Dreher argues,

“Today the culture war as we knew it is over. The so-called values voters – social and religious conservatives – have been defeated and are being swept to the political margins. Moral issues may not be as central to our politics as they once were, but the American people remain fragmented, often bitterly, by these concerns. Though Donald Trump won the presidency in part with the strong support of Catholics and Evangelicals, the idea that someone as robustly vulgar, fiercely combative, and morally compromised as Trump will be an avatar for the restoration of Christian morality and social unity is beyond delusional. He is not a solution to the problem of America’s cultural decline, but a symptom of it.”[1]

The only thing that seems delusional is Dreher’s reasoning. Consider for a moment that he completely contradicts himself when stating that social and religious conservatives have been swept to the margins, but these same social and religious conservatives found within the Catholic Church and Evangelical circles are a primary reason for Donald Trump winning the election. People who have been swept to the margins don’t usually hold sway over a national election. Moreover, I have yet to see anyone of serious intellectual merit argue that Donald Trump is not only the exemplification of Christian morality, but will also be the sole reason for the restoration of Christian ethics in the culture. Dreher’s analysis is based on constructing a robust straw man and then mercilessly beating it to death all while reality conveniently escapes his perspective.

Dreher says,

“Our big issues – abortion and religious liberty – were not part of the GOP primary campaign. Donald Trump captured the party’s nomination without having to court religious conservatives. In his convention acceptance speech, he ignored us. During the general election campaign, some prominent Evangelicals and a handful of leading Catholics climbed aboard the Trump train out of naked fear of a Hillary Clinton administration. In his upset victory, Trump captured 52 percent of the Catholic vote and a stunning 81 percent of the Evangelical vote.”[2]

This paragraph also contains glaring problems. It is ludicrous to argue that 52% of the Catholic vote and 81% of the Evangelical vote amounts to “some prominent Evangelicals” and a “handful of Catholics.” Those numbers indicate an overwhelming desire to elect a man for a diverse range of reasons, and only one of them might be “naked fear.” It is also entirely disingenuous to argue that “big issues” such as abortion played no role in the election. Abortion may not have played a role in the G.O.P. primary campaign because it is taken for granted that those in the Republican Party would articulate a pro-life position. The issue of abortion, however, did play a significant role in the general election due to the reality of Justice Scalia’s vacant seat on the Supreme Court. This is what Trump said about Hillary Clinton’s radically abhorrent views on late term abortion during the third presidential debate,

““Well, I think it’s terrible”…“If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s okay, and Hillary can say that that’s okay, but it’s not okay with me because based on what she’s saying and based on where she’s going and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day, and that’s not acceptable.”

To the contrary of Dreher’s political examination, the big issue of abortion played a significant role in the mind of the potential voter, especially the “politically homeless” conservative Christian.

As confused and double-minded as Dreher is on these issues, these remarks may be the most telling,

“For another, the church is not merely politically conservative white people at prayer. Many Hispanics and other Christians of color, as well as all who, for whatever reason, did not vote for the divisive Trump, do not thereby cease to be Christians. Holding the church together during the Trump years will pose a strong challenge to us all.

Besides, fair or not, conservative Christianity will be associated with Trump for the next few years, and no doubt beyond. If conservative Church leaders aren’t extraordinarily careful in how they manage their public relationship to the Trump administration, anti-Trump blowback will do sever damage to the church’s reputation. Trump’s election solves some problems for the church, but given the man’s character, it creates others. Political power is not a moral disinfectant.

And this brings us to the more subtle but potentially more devastating effects of this unexpected GOP election victory. There is first the temptation to worship power, and to compromise one’s soul to maintain access to it. There are many ways to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar, and some prominent pro-Trump Christians arguably crossed that line during the campaign season. Again, political victory does not vitiate the vice of hypocrisy.”[3]

These paragraphs uncover Dreher’s real concern – image. Remember, it was also image that deeply concerned Dreher during the Kim Davis situation. His obsession about how the “church” might look to the culture is one of the most glaring weaknesses in almost everything he writes concerning culture and political activism. It demonstrates, once again, that he does not understand the enemy Christians are up against. Pretending that President Trump might reflect badly on the “church” because he is “vulgar” ignores the fact that the progressive left always casts Christians in a negative light no matter who is the potential, or actual Republican president. President Trump isn’t the first person to be labeled a fascist by progressives, and his supporters are not the first ones to be smeared by leftists as bigots, homophobes, xenophobes, Islamophobes, racist, sexist etc. No matter how well polished and politically correct a person might be, if they oppose the progressive social, cultural, economic, and political agenda in even the slightest of detail, they are painted with a pejorative brush.

In fact, Dreher gives a hat tip to the progressive narrative by saying that the church isn’t “merely politically conservative white people at prayer,” and that not voting for the “divisive Trump” doesn’t amount to relinquishing one’s Christian status. Who on earth is making this argument? Which serious thinker has ever argued that Christianity in America can be demographically identified on a one-to-one basis with “politically conservative white people at prayer”? Which conservative argued that by not voting for the “divisive” Donald Trump, “Christians of color” would cease being Christians? Who on earth is Dreher arguing with at this point? Who is he trying to reach with this argument? Who is he trying to impress by borrowing from the progressive guide to smearing Christians?

By suggestively associating Christianity with racial distinctions such as this concedes even more ground to the progressive left who eagerly link Trump’s victory to white Christian backlash against the first black president. Giving a wink to the left as he is offering advice to the “church” reveals the lack of seriousness in his phony option.

President Trump is not the new Moses leading Christians to the political Promised Land. However, he did show Christians a thing or two about how to break through establishment narratives that are constructed to protect the ruling class from taking responsibility for the disastrous effects of their policies. No matter what was done to try and destroy his campaign, he went after the internationalist trade deals and foreign policy of the establishment elite. Whenever a Republican candidate tried to tame Trump’s approach, he increased the intensity of his message. The best example of this is how he completely decimated Bush republicanism with an unrelenting attack on the failure of protecting America on 9/11. As I have argued before, the President doesn’t get to ignore the catastrophic events of 9/11 by saying, “Okay….starting now,” when keeping tally on the security of the nation.

Most importantly is that Donald Trump was able to identify with the working class men of America. These are the men who view themselves as the patriarchs of their families, communities, and country. They saw in Trump a person who was unafraid of the progressive onslaught looking to diminish his own patriarchal identity. The primal nature of the masculine protector was reignited by the nationalist message of the anti-feminist Trump. How many Republican candidates would have had the resolute commitment to protecting our country from a Hillary Clinton presidency by saying, in her presence, that she is a “nasty woman?” How many of the “greatest Republican candidates” in the history of the party would have said that if they were in charge, Hillary Clinton would be in jail? How many of them would have brought the past victims of Bill Clinton’s exploits to a presidential debate?

The answer – none of them would have gone after Clinton in this way because they have buried deep in their cerebellum the cultural feminist implant. They would have been afraid to speak the truth about Hillary Clinton for fear of being labeled a sexist. The nationalist patriarch Donald Trump, having purged himself of the 3rd wave “mother-may-I”[4] cultural mentality, possessed no such fear. The masculine protector doesn’t tremble when hearing the criticisms of weaklings who proudly proclaim themselves to be feminists.

What Donald Trump showed Christians is that you don’t have to surrender an inch to the progressives in order to defeat them. The same things that were said about Trump would have been said about Jeb Bush or Governor Kasich if they had won the primary. By all accounts of political decency and respectable decorum, Mitt Romney should have been the perfect candidate to run against President Obama, but the left attacked and destroyed him the same way they went after Trump. The difference being that the masculinity of the Trump persona intensified rather than yielding to the pressure. The Christians and workingmen naturally drifted toward the message of family, community, and the nation for a reason. The psychological character of patriarchal fraternity and the moral virtue of the masculine protector is imbued in the very fiber of what it means to be a male. And because Christian men are called to these duties, they gravitate toward the message of Donald Trump rather than the “crunchy cons” like Rod Dreher, or the country club conservatives who look down their noses while viciously attacking the blue-collar laborer.

Dreher misses all of this because he too is attempting to pacify the radically vitriolic nature of the progressive leftist enemy Christianity is facing in the culture war. This brand of pseudo-traditionalism the Dreher option is pushing will accomplish nothing more than losing even more ground to the progressives gearing up for the next battle. And until Dreher can begin to understand the deleterious consequences progressive feminism has had on our culture, he will inexorably miscalculate the vital importance of Christian patriarchal fraternity working in united fashion to baptize the nations.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] Pg. 79

[2] Pg. 80

[3] Pg. 81

[4] This phrase is taken from a Jack Donovan essay titled, “Mother May I” Masculinity

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option: Misunderstanding the Ambitions of Our Enemy

The Dreher Option - Misunderstanding the Ambitions of Our EnemyThe first installment analyzing the Dreher option identified a weakness in the character of the author looking to spark a Christian cultural revival, which is his distinct inability to practice what he preaches. In the article I highlighted, Dreher says that he “lost his Catholic faith” and that this event was one of the most painful of his life. The language employed by Dreher attempting to justify his schismatic action is meant to invoke a sense of sorrow from the reader, that we should feel bad that Dreher lost his Catholic faith because of poor doctrinal articulation during his tenure as a practicing Catholic.

Dreher’s story is a rhetorical ruse. The sad tale being spun is couched upon the flimsiest of emotional pretenses, and is as unjustified as a husband looking to divorce his wife because, you know, “he just fell out of love with her.” Dreher didn’t lose anything. He chose to leave the Catholic faith because he wasn’t getting what he wanted, and decided to do some ‘Church hopping’ as if the trials facing the “pillar and bulwark of truth” were an adequate reason to seek a divorce from the Bridegroom.

While this is a fatal flaw for the Dreher option, there are many more weaknesses that must be exposed because numerous people, including many in the Catholic faith, are unfortunately under the impression that this proposal is a groundbreaking solution to our cultural ills.[1]

A major weakness of the Dreher option is its inability to comprehend the ambitions of the enemy. Before examining the confused advice in the book, let’s go back to an important instance that sheds light on Dreher’s intellectual and spiritual surrender to the cultural left.

Following the Obergefell decision, Kim Davis, a county clerk located in Rowan County, Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis was taking a stand against unjust judicial activism, putting herself at personal risk of being crushed by the cultural left in the name of her faith. As the left usually does, they began with character assassination by pointing out that Davis’s past life of divorce and remarriage is a less than exemplary model of the Christian faith she is attempting to live. In addition to this, she was labeled a bigot, a homophobe, a religious fanatic etc.

How did Rod Dreher respond to those attacks against Kim Davis? Did he defend her against these ravenous leftist maniacs? Did he use his media platform to defend her against the abuse she was taking from the cultural revolutionaries? Did he use his influence to rally support for Kim Davis’s bravery? No. He did not.

Here is what he had to say about the situation,

“I have said these past couple of days that as gay rights and the ideology at its heart continues to conquer our culture, I expect us small-o orthodox Christians to have to take a hard, sacrificial stand against the state and society, for the sake of religious liberty. Kim Davis’s situation, I’ve said, is not the hill to die on.”

Stand and fight is not the rally call. Dreher calls for surrender. According to Dreher, the sacrament of marriage is not the hill to die on, even if its redefinition is the battle the left has been looking to secure from the very beginning of their ideological rebirth in the 70s. The Obergefell case will be the legal means used to undermine and eradicate traditional values in our society; and it will be done in the name of egalitarian sexual nihilism.

Dreher attempts to justify his surrender with these explanatory remarks,


  1. Kim Davis’s position is unwinnable. Nobody seriously expects her to get gay marriage overturned, or even to succeed in carving out a special zone of protection for public officials who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to carry out lawful decisions of the courts. Even if we believe that the Obergefell decision lacks moral legitimacy, there can be no doubt that as a matter of legal procedure, the Supreme Court’s decision is the law. Our side lost that battle decisively. Kim Davis’s stance, while it may be personally courageous, is going to result in another defeat, because it cannot be otherwise in our system. The only point of backing it is to flip the bird to the state and to the broader culture — something I have great sympathy for, but it’s a pointless gesture that can only hurt us in the battles to come.
  2. This is because the cause of religious liberty will become synonymous in the public’s mind with a government official refusing to obey the law because it conflicts with her Christian beliefs. It matters a great deal that Kim Davis is an official of the state. By definition, her role is to execute the laws of the state. Many people, even many conservatives who may well opposeObergefell,and who care about religious liberty, hold it to be unreasonable to expect state officials to reserve the right to decide which of those laws they will enforce. The political danger here is that when the public hears “religious liberty,” they will think about Kim Davis and her special pleading for a right that, if it existed, would mean anarchy. Angry Christians should consider how they would feel if “religious liberty” meant that a sharia-observant Muslim elected official refused to grant a building permit to a congregation for a new church because it conflicted with his religious beliefs. This is how many people in this post-Christian country — and it is that — see us re: Kim Davis.
  3. The day is fast coming when we will have to fight big and important battles that have not yet been decided. When that happens, we will need the support of fair-minded Americans who may disagree with us on gay marriage, but who still, in some way, hold to the unfashionable belief that religious liberty really does matter. If we have wasted our already-diminishing political capital on vain protest gestures like Kim Davis’s stance, we are going to find it much harder to win the legal and political contests to come.

The pathetic naiveté and intellectual cowardice in these paragraphs is transparent. Dreher doesn’t want to defeat the left, he wants to wait out the storm to try and curry favor with those who might disagree with his perspective, but are willing to act politically reasonable despite whatever cultural disagreements may arise, all in the name of a secular religious liberty. For Dreher and those who think like him, it is always the next battle worth fighting for. And while everyone waits for Dreher’s approval of the appropriate battle to fight, the left has secured more cultural territory.

Following this despicable surrender to the left, Dreher informs us of the hill that we should be willing to die on (emphasis his),

“So, if Kim Davis isn’t a hill to die on, what is? It’s a fair question. Broadly speaking, my answer is this: when they start trying to tell us how to run our own religious institutions — churches, schools, hospitals, and the like — and trying to close them or otherwise destroy them for refusing to accept LGBT ideology. This is a bright red line — and it’s a fight in which we might yet win meaningful victories, given the strong precedents in constitutional jurisprudence.”

I am not sure what planet Dreher is on, but elements of this are already taking place. Christian business owners have had their lives destroyed for refusing to accept LGBT ideology. Catholic charities have been forced out of providing adoption services due to laws being passed forcing them to service homosexual couples. These instances took place before Obergefell, and it is absurd to believe for even an instant that this Supreme Court decision will not be weaponized by the left to further dominate the culture.

Dreher’s ‘bright red line’ has already been crossed.

The confusion doesn’t stop there. In his book Dreher argues that Christians should practice localism in their political ambitions because influence at the national level is sparse. However, he says that Christians cannot entirely vacate the national scene because protecting religious liberty is vitally important for the Dreher option.[2] He says,

“Without a robust and successful defense of the First Amendment protections, Christians will not be able to build the communal institutions that are vital to maintaining our identity and values. What’s more, Christians who don’t act decisively within the embattled zone of freedom we have now are wasting precious time – time that may run out faster than we think.”[3]

So which is it? Should Christians focus on building local communities and strengthening those bonds through activist localism because our national influence is non-existent, or should Christians engage the national debate in order to protect the waning religious liberties that are under vicious assault?

This is where Dreher is the most indecisive and confusing. He wants to spark a cultural Christian renewal by saying that national political activism has failed, therefore focusing on the local is imperative for the preservation of traditional values…but we also need to focus on national politics, especially for the sake of electing officials who appropriately recognize the importance of religious liberty protected by the First Amendment because local politics is largely influenced by laws passed at the federal level.

So basically, the Dreher option retains the status quo ante of political activism. But this doesn’t tell us anything important, nor does it offer guidance regarding the battles that we should fight or the principles we ought to utilize when discerning the political hill to die on.

And this is ultimately why Dreher doesn’t understand the leftist enemy looking to erase Christian influence in the culture at large.

For the political revolutionary every hill is the hill to die on. No matter how slight the infraction or the legislative set back, the left takes to the streets. They protest, riot, destroy property, commit acts of violence, and shout their opponents into the shadows of “respectability.” Does this mean that Christians need to act like a bunch of unhinged maniacs taking to the streets with pitchforks and torches? No. What it does mean, however, is that if Christian communities are going to be built on the strength of local communal bonds, we don’t throw our own under the bus in order to look respectable to people whose single aim is to destroy us.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] It must be remembered that the last sentence of Dreher’s article celebrating his schism states that those problems the Catholic Church is facing are no longer his to be concerned with. And yet, we are to believe that Dreher is up to the task of facing the problems of Christianity in the entire nation.

[2] Pg. 84.

[3] Ibid.

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Culture, Politics

The Dreher Option: A Schismatic Teaches Stability

The Dreher Option - A Schistmatic Teaches StabilityIn 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.”[1]

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.

Dreher says,

“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


[1] This portion of the interview begins at the 10:43 marker linked to above.

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