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.