Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rod Dreher, Christian Masculinity and the Benedict Option.

So it is also, of course, with the contradictory charges of the anti-Christians about submission and slaughter. It is true that the Church told some men to fight and others not to fight; and it is true that those who fought were like thunderbolts and those who did not fight were like statues. All this simply means that the Church preferred to use its Supermen and to use its Tolstoyans. There must be some good in the life of battle, for so many good men have enjoyed being soldiers. There must be some good in the idea of non-resistance, for so many good men seem to enjoy being Quakers. All that the Church did (so far as that goes) was to prevent either of these good things from ousting the other. They existed side by side. The Tolstoyans, having all the scruples of monks, simply became monks. The Quakers became a club instead of becoming a sect. Monks said all that Tolstoy says; they poured out lucid lamentations about the cruelty of battles and the vanity of revenge. But the Tolstoyans are not quite right enough to run the whole world; and in the ages of faith they were not allowed to run it. The world did not lose the last charge of Sir James Douglas or the banner of Joan the Maid. And sometimes this pure gentleness and this pure fierceness met and justified their juncture; the paradox of all the prophets was fulfilled, and, in the soul of St. Louis, the lion lay down with the lamb. But remember that this text is too lightly interpreted. It is constantly assured, especially in our Tolstoyan tendencies, that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is -- Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? That is the problem the Church attempted; that is the miracle she achieved.

G.K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy.

One of the regrettable things about the current state of the Cuckservative meme is that it seems to have undergone semantic shift. Both the Left and Racial supremacists have focused it into a racial only dimension, ignoring its initial wider meaning of a lack of masculinity.  I personally think we have the whole race thing wrong and that the error comes from approaching the subject from a social Darwinistic perspective instead of one from human nature but that is for a different post. As I've said previously, this narrowing of definition plays straight into the Left's playbook, framing the definition along racial lines where it  both controls the terms of debate and is strong, instead of "Manliness" where the Left is weak.

Manliness is an important concept which this blog has alluded to before. Particularly, it has explored the relationship between the Christian tradition of downplaying Eros and separating the spirit from the flesh.  These were cultural preconditions which presage and inadvertently advanced the cause of sexual ambiguity and malleability. As this blog asserts, both masculinity and femininity become diluted when Eros is seen as irrelevant to our human natures and a Masculinity stripped of its muscles, aggression, determination and decision becomes limp wristed and and effete.

Which brings me to Rod Dreher.

His recent recent piece on L'Affair Megyn Kelly got me thinking about Christianity in general,
especially with regard to its monumental failure in the 20th Century, particularly in the West.

The 20th C was not a "good one" for the Western Church and from a demographic point of view it has essentially failed in its defence against secularism. I don't really need to explain just how far religion has fallen from the public square to the readers of this blog.  Traditionalists, like to put the blame, especially with regard to Catholicism on Vatican 2, but smarter observers had noted that the rot had set in deeply well before that.

It's important to remember just how powerful and culturally influential the Church was at the beginning of 20th C. It had the stronger hand against the Secularists and yet by the 20th C's end it was in widespread retreat.

Powerful armies can experience unexpected losses as part an parcel of the fortunes of War, but when an army suffers a string of unmitigated defeats,  questions need to be asked about the generalship of the troops. As usual, the generals will always try to deflect blame onto the troops, blaming them for their deficiencies. Likewise, amongst the traditionalists, the failure of religion in the 20thC is blamed on the faithful and not on the shepherds. The faithful have abandoned God they say, but it never occurs to them that they may be the ones at fault.

For example, the Child Abuse controversy that has plagued the Catholic Church is of a deeper problem than first appears. In large organisation such as the Church, given human nature, it is to be expected that there will be men who will abuse their position. It's also true that the Secular media will unfairly portray the abuse and distort its perspective however the inescapable fact is that the abuse was deep seated and the suppression of its discovery almost systematic. For an organisation who main mission is to bring light and truth to the world this demonstrates something profoundly wrong with it.

And let's not make a mistake here. The hierarchical mismanagement of the abuse was a clerical issue and not one of the laity. It appears, that in many instances, when the laity raised the issue of abuse to the clergy, they were ignored and sometimes threatened. The reality is that the men who ignored the teachings of Humane Vitae were men who were led by those who ignored the Ten Commandments.

Trying to understand how the abuse became institutionalised is important, if only to avoid repeating the same mistakes again. The malign elements of society see paedophilla as being a secret preoccupation with priests, for a variety of reasons this in my view is wrong. Selecting a governing caste on the basis of celibacy means that you're going to get some men who  have no attraction to women and others who have an attraction to God that overrides it.  There was a bias in the selection process which almost guaranteed that paedophiles would be selected.

But it also needs to be remembered that Church wants to forgive men of their sins. And I imagine that many of the Priests and Bishops who heard about the abuse were prepared to forgive their brothers in the hope that they would stop sinning. Combined with a fear of Scandal, many probably hoped that the problem would go away.

At yet it didn't.

Indeed,  this effectively passive response to evil is a characteristic of the Church in the 20th C and one of the reasons why the Left has run rings around it. Christ as a passive Victim, seems to it preferred operating model amongst the hierarchy as opposed to Christ actively choosing to take a bullet for the team.  And yet the Church was not always like this, in the ages of faith it was quite happy to put the hurt on evil.

Part of the reason why I think the Church has adopted this model is because it has been infected with two very subtle heresies; one is chivalric notions of sexuality and the other is Aristotlean notions of human rationality. I hope to deal with the problems of rationality in a different post.

Rod Dreher typifies this form of passive "chivalric" man. I know he is Orthodox now, but Rod Dreher is typical of the serious Christian types that now occupy positions of authority in "conservative" Christian Churches.  Pious, gentlemanly and chivalric he prefers to "reasonably" deal with opponents, and suffer for the Faith rather than take the battle to the enemy.  Niceness is akin to goodness and rude virtue is to be deplored as much as polite vice is to be pardoned. Low class women have a greater moral worth than boorish yet effective billionaires. His approach to the onslaught of the enemy is one of passivity and hoping that the problem will go away. His "strength" lays in his capacity to suffer and bear "his cross". 

This passive approach to things has led Dreher to advocate the "Benedict" option when it comes to dealing with the Leftist onslaught. In essence this option involves pious Christian types forming little communities which are culturally separated from the rest of the surrounding climate. As the idea goes, these small communities will form small nuclei which will re-evangalise the surrounding communities once the leftist menace has been spent. Effectively it is a strategy of running away and hoping that things will pass over.
Unfortunately this displays an extraordinary naivete with regard to 20th Century. A cursory study of this period makes one aware of the fact that when the Left is out for blood there is no place to hide. They will not leave you alone to form your communities. In many ways the Benedict option is what the leaders of the Church did when it came to handling the pedophilia scandal. They hoped it would blow over and failed to do the things they needed to do. It has now come to bite them on the arse.

Many pious Christian types seem to forget that the monasteries thrived in a peace secured by armed Christians, those who were prepared to defend the Christians from armed attack. I wonder how many monasteries would have survived in Charles Martel had not stopped the Muslim tide? And though Martel was a pious man, he had to resort to the force of arms to get things done. The Siege of Vienna and the Battle of Lepanto weren't spiritual ones.

The more I mediate on this matter the more I am convinced that respectable "Christian masculinity" has produced a type of man who cannot virtuously strike back at evil. Rather he must "passively" take it. Modern Christian theology has virtually made it impossible to wage a just war. The death penalty is effectively losing all theological justification and compassion for criminals assumes a greater significance than justice for the victims. The Church is effectively run by beta males.

Any Christian resurgence is not going to come about from a "Benedict option" rather it will come about from a new and assertive Christianity, made up of assertive Christians men who wont be apologising for their faith and running away from their duties of evangelisation.

24 comments:

Julian O'Dea said...

I am not sure if this is relevant, but I have noticed that women from Eastern Europe don't seem to have this expectation of chivalry much. Hellshound, the Manosphere commenter, pointed out a very interesting thing lately; namely that chivalry was never strong in the East.

I would say that it is critical that Western men dump chivalrous attitudes as soon as possible. They were clearly a temporary bit of pedestalisation that has hugely outlived its usefulness.

It is not even as if women like chivalry. I think they have long, maybe always, thought it was absurd. Women are pragmatists, and I suspect that, deep down, they really only respect power. The idea of a man willingly ceding power seems absurd to them.

The real problem Christian men face these days is being confused with Ned Flanders.

As for the Benedict option, what this seems to be about is the endless debate between Mary and Martha in the church. Benedict wants to "take the better part". Francis wants us to be more like practical Martha.



August said...

Building communities means a lot more than what Dreher is suggesting, I think. I don't know- does he start with easily defensible land? Is he committed to developing an economy capable of sustaining real family formation?
I suspect it would just be more of church as a luxury good, which it is already. Doctors and Lawyers can make themselves feel better on the weekends, after a week of compromising with modernity to get the big paycheck. So the Benedict option would likely just turn into a pricey housing development for the upper middle classes with particular aesthetics.

I think there is a lot that can be done, but there is an activeness to it. I think in terms of a city and it's hinterlands- with farming being a component, and every attempt made to build up an economy- not a total self-sufficiency model, but something that might be recognizable to the ancient city-states. With luck we wouldn't be noticed until it we were strong enough to fend off potential attackers.

Matthew said...

fwiw I recently flicked through a coffee table book I saw someplace on Cistercian monasteries. Some fantastic photos and interesting history about 50 or 60 odd of these communities scattered around Western Europe. Great centres of learning, wine and food, and community in their time. But all bar a handful (like 5 or 6) were ruins. All of them had been destroyed in various invasions, revolutions, the Reformation, etc. So, yeah, great example to follow.

Anonymous said...

"...respectable "Christian masculinity" has produced a type of man who cannot virtuously strike back at evil."

If so the "Church militant" no longer exists and the See of Peter is vacant...

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Julian

The real problem Christian men face these days is being confused with Ned Flanders.

I think the bigger problem is that Ned Flanders is seen amongst many as the ideal Christian man.

@August

With luck we wouldn't be noticed until it we were strong enough to fend off potential attackers.

We'll be noticed.

@Matthew

All of them had been destroyed in various invasions, revolutions, the Reformation, etc. So, yeah, great example to follow.

Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Dreher's ramblings are those of a man who has never lived through violence. So many in the West are clueless as to how bad things can get.

@Anonymous

If so the "Church militant" no longer exists and the See of Peter is vacant...

That's a pretty stretched conclusion. Remember the Church is not just the clergy but also the laity as well. Many of them still have a pair.

entropyismygod said...

Chivalry is a useful tool for Moloch. It allows child sacrifice. It foments child molestation. It espouses androgyny and sexlessness. It makes men and women both unhappy. Chivalry is pure evil in which there is no good.

Praise Moloch for chivalry!

August said...

No, we may be noticed, if we ever actually do anything. This is why I suggest easily defensible land. I am not relying on luck. I would, however, be happy to look harmless for as long as possible. In business you see this effect- businesses that are basically 'known' to governments are highly regulated, but businesses in newer fields can innovate because they are not well known or understood. This is why Google managed to become what it is, but the government is getting ever better at extracting value, information, etc- from Silicon Valley.

A strategic approach includes many things, including camouflage, in order to get to a more resilient stage.

Pauli said...

These are mostly very good reflections, but I'm not sure this is true:

Likewise, amongst the traditionalists, the failure of religion in the 20thC is blamed on the faithful and not on the shepherds.

In my experience the trads blame the lack of good lay formation at the feet of the bishops and clergy pretty regularly. People like Michael Voris are one-note Johnny on this.

David Foster said...

C S Lewis, The Necessity of Chivalry

http://yourdailycslewis.blogspot.com/2005/08/necessity-of-chivalry.html

lozozlo said...

And though Martel was a pious man, he had to resort to the force of arms to get things done.

Heck even here, as a person who is critically examining this phenomenon, your choice of language here implies (at least to me) that being pious and resorting to force of arms are inherently at odds with one another.

Basically, I am reading this as: Despite being pious, he still had to fight - which indicates to me that the attribute 'pious' is to be understood as inherently in contradiction to fighting.

Although I'm a Christian myself, at this point, a mindset of passive suffering, nigh-pacifism, being nice, and effeminate surrender have so pervaded the modern church and modern Christian thought that at this point they have become essentially synomomous with Christianity.

Ned Flanders isn't just held up as the ideal (modern) Christian man, the whole current of Christian thought in the modern world appears to emanate from him.

Modern Christianity isn't the Lion of Judah, it's Ethel the church lady. It's a mewling, saccharine mess wrapped in a cross.

Nick B Steves said...

Likewise, amongst the traditionalists, the failure of religion in the 20thC is blamed on the faithful and not on the shepherds.

I know you must have certain traditionalists in mind here, but as a group traditionalists have been not at all shy in calling out the bishops of the church for their failures, their sins, their errors, their weakness, their sycophantic ass-kissing of modernity. Often up to and including the Papacy itself. You try too hard to blame trads, and tar them with one overly broad brush. Did a trad kill your father or something?

Nick B Steves said...

A cursory study of this period makes one aware of the fact that when the Left is out for blood there is no place to hide. They will not leave you alone to form your communities. In many ways the Benedict option is what the leaders of the Church did when it came to handling the pedophilia scandal. They hoped it would blow over and failed to do the things they needed to do. It has now come to bite them on the arse.

Not at all true. Have the left come after the Amish? Not really (unless you including "making" them send their kids to school (schools they completely own) until 8th grade? Why? The Amish are not a threat to the Left's power. The Amish are not interested in the world the Left runs. the Amish built their own goddamn World. People of true traditional faith must do the same. NRx is doing the same. We cannot save the Cathedral from its collapse whether it is in 10 or 100 years. And if we tried, we will be shot. Leave them to their world. Build a better one. That is what the Benedict Option means to me. (Whether it means that to Dreher I cannot say.)

Nick B Steves said...

In spite of my critical comments, I do agree with the main thrust of the argument. Indeed we do need a more muscular and masculine Christianity. And indeed any benedictine future we make for ourselves will have to be defended. But it will have to be defensible. That to me is the benedict option. Not pacificist, but passivist. Blithely uninterested in the larger world gone to hell in its own handbasket. But a very dangerous creature when threatened. Again, whether that is the view of Dreher, I cannot say, but it is my view. And I think it completely coherent with the so-called "Benedict Option".

Nick B Steves said...

As if on cue: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2015/08/the-barbarism-of-the-benedict-option.html

The Social Pathologist said...

Sorry Guys, haven't had time to get back to the blog.

@entropyismygod and David Foster. Chivalry is important, but we've got to define what Chivalry exactly is since there appears to be some form of conceptual ambiguity with the term. Honourable behaviour is one thing, but letting oneself be taken advantage of in the name of some "higher principle" is not.

The medieval ideal brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate towards one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valour of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely as not to be a milksop

Chivalry now means "cultured behaviour and urbanity" it does not emphasise the valour component.

@Lozozlo GBFM?

Modern Christianity isn't the Lion of Judah, it's Ethel the church lady. It's a mewling, saccharine mess wrapped in a cross.

Yep. Christianity has become one giant Social Welfare Organisation and I say this with regret. But I think the problem is far deeper, with the war against carnality, I think Christianity has produced homely women and wimpy men--a sort of sexual androgeny. And yes, I do think in contemporary usage, that piety seems to be opposed to valour.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Pauli and Nick

Firstly Nick, thanks for the link to the article.

Secondly,

I know you must have certain traditionalists in mind here, but as a group traditionalists have been not at all shy in calling out the bishops of the church for their failures, their sins, their errors, their weakness, their sycophantic ass-kissing of modernity. Often up to and including the Papacy itself. You try too hard to blame trads, and tar them with one overly broad brush. Did a trad kill your father or something?

Believe it or not, my natural sympathies are with the Trads. But.........

But the Trads are the ass-kissers of tradition and not necessarily the Truth. I think it is important to emphasise that we worship God and not the traditions of men. I think many amongst the traditional faction conflate the two.

There is something wrong with the Trad faction and the guy who finally opened my eyes on the issue was Whittaker Chambers. Chambers saw that the old world did not "work" any more, and what impelled men to embrace Socialism and other stupid ideologies was the "escape " from the contemporary predicament. People forget that Socialism and Modernism were born in a world where tradition reigned supreme. It appears that tradition wasn't an antidote to their Gestation. Here's an interesting question, do you think that tradition may have in someway been responsible for the Growth of Modernism? Was tradition a synergist?

The problem with the Trads is that they thought all was fine prior to Modernism yet seriously deep thinkers like Blondel, de Lubac and Ratzinger saw that Christianity was in deep trouble and Modernism was exploiting but not causing that weakness.

Let me explain using a military analogy. The Trads are very much like WW1 generals who believed that the way to overcome the machine gun and artillery was double down on the discipline, maintain a tight line and overcome the enemy through sheer mass. The liberals are bit like the Nazi's using Ludendorff Stormtroop tactics to wipe the floor with the Trads. When any novel innovation comes along to fight off the Stormtroopers, the trads put the nix on it since it is Contra tradition. This is why I don't like the Trads, but his is why the Stormtroopers Love the trads as their success is predicated on the trads being continually stupid.

The Trads do frequently call out the other clergy (i.e. not of their faction) but there is very little introspection of themselves since they are always right.

Have the left come after the Amish?

If they were in Eastern Europe they'd be dead. Expect more heat on them soon. The Left are not about power, they encapsulate evil and wish it propagated. Power is simply a means for them to achieve that effect. Ideal evil would impose no compulsion on its victims at all, rather it would ask them to voluntarily choose their demise. Violence always runs the risk of Martyrdom which is something the left desperately want. This is why they always, always, always go after the seriously religious first.

Not pacificist, but passivist.

Disagree. When Christ commissioned the apostles he sent them out to proclaim the Word i.e he started a cultural offensive. Sitting back was not an option.

Mark Citadel said...

I have actually written on this topic, and it's one that interests me greatly. Your instincts are correct. I essentially tell Dreher where to get off in my essay on the forging of a true, hostile, parallel society.

http://citadelfoundations.blogspot.com/2015/07/parallel-blueprint-to-victory.html

I think the key is for Christians to begin seeing themselves as a diaspora in time, who have essentially been robbed of lands they rightfully own. Critical to the future is resurrecting the martial character in Christianity, but I think before any of this happens, we have to revive manhood. At root, the religion is failing so miserably because of the quality of those men who adhere to it. Men have lost the great virtues of heroism and asceticism, and it shows, not just in terms of religion, but in terms of society and nation in general. In a three step process, I think we...

1) Resurrect Traditional Manhood (Note, there is little for Modernity to tempt men with anymore. Life now sucks for men under Modernity)
2) Resurrect Traditional Christianity
3) Inherit the ruins of the Occident

Liberalism as an ideology is dying the death of entropy. My real concern is, can we cultivate a parallel culture that can actually take advantage of this, and stop Occidental lands falling into the hands of our 'barbarous cousins' from the southeast who have entered one of the most destructive holiness spirals humanity has ever witnessed.

Nick B Steves said...

When Christ commissioned the apostles he sent them out to proclaim the Word i.e he started a cultural offensive. Sitting back was not an option.

You keep, I think quite falsely, equating strategic retreat to defensible territory--arguably just staunching the bleeding--with "sitting back" and doing nothing. You don't win a war by being an idiot. The Church did not seek to conquer the entire world all at once. It sought to make gains and then consolidate them. Some individuals it is true were called to heroic virtue, i.e., martyrdom. But that wasn't The Strategy. You can't have a strategy that depends on martyrdom. If God does, that's his business.

lozozlo said...

@SP

Thanks for the follow-up to my comment.

BTW I am not GBFM, but I am a fan of his so I took my moniker from one of his most famous and profound idioms. :=)

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Nick

You keep, I think quite falsely, equating strategic retreat to defensible territory--arguably just staunching the bleeding--with "sitting back" and doing nothing.

Are you arguing that envisioned "strategic retreats" ,as they are currently conceived, are going to produce a more masculine Christianity? I mean what sort of defending do you envisage against the power of the state?

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Nick

You might find this interesting,

http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/08/17/where-is-the-church-on-planned-parenthood/

Trust them for your defence?

I think the reformation of the Catholic Church will come from outside the clergy.

ElectricAngel said...

@SP,

Coming in a bit on the side of Nick, allow me to use the Muslim concept of Jihad. We think of it as holy war, but it really means a struggle with the self. There is a manly nature that defies the crowd; we consider Pilate a coward because he would not stand up to the crowd demanding Jesus' death in contradiction to the Roman law. So having a group willi to stand apart and extend a middle finger to the modern world like the Amish do takes a certain strength of character and resistance. It is not martial, of course, but it is stronger than going along with modernity.

The bigger thing about the Benedict option is how strategic it is. The Enemy is weak on martial matters (an army of gays and transgenders is unlikely to defeat a cadre of committed and brutal men) and weak of demography and taxation: evil is not fruitful. Benedict does not fight directly, but by denying bodies and money to the leftists, hollows them out. The Amish have no financial wealth to seize, and they don't pay Social Security or Medicare taxes, so they don't fund their own destruction.

Anonymous said...

Julian O'Dea said, "As for the Benedict option, what this seems to be about is the endless debate between Mary and Martha in the church. Benedict wants to "take the better part". Francis wants us to be more like practical Martha."

I was under the impression that the Benedict of the option referred to Saint Benedict of Nursia, founder of medieval monasticism, and not to Pope Benedict XVI. So juxtaposing current and former Popes is not apt here, unless you first show that one of them is "Benedictine" in the context of the option.

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