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On Ben Op Christians and Rod Dreher

April 27, 2017

As a moth is drawn to the flame, I confess that I’m drawn to comment on works by, and about, orthodox Christians and evangelical Catholics. Hence my reading of Joshua Rothman’s essay on Rod Dreher. But, in order to avoid being singed this time, I’ll limit my commentary. (Aside: I left a superficial, reactionary comment on Corey Robin’s Facebook page about this essay. After rereading, I realized I had burned myself and deleted it.)

First, I’m with Andrew Sullivan: Rod Dreher is “a mess.” I may be influenced by the Rothman’s perspective in saying this, but there is so much Freudian psychodrama in this piece that one does not know where to begin to unpack it. I’ll just say that Dreher’s father problems color everything he touches. And where is his mother in this drama for authenticity?

Second, I know it’s mentioned in the piece, but I can’t get past the superficial pluralism inherent in all of these Ben Op endeavors. Where is the true Christian love of engagement and respect for human dignity—a dignity that recognizes deep difference?

Third—and this question is urgent for Christians during Easter—how do Dreher’s Ben Op communities square themselves with The Great Commission? How are these retreats “going forth” in any way? Isn’t a better model Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin’s urban Worker Houses?

Finally, Dreher seems to me a kind of unconscious pied piper for scared Catholics and Orthodox Christians. I can’t get over the underlying fear, as well as umbrage, these people have for modernity and the Enlightenment. They have forgotten that courage is one of the seven cardinal virtues. Where will they be in the fight against injustices perpetrated by the current presidential administration? How will they aid the oppressed while living in their enclosures? – TL

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