Althouse | category: Rod Dreher



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative."

I'm reading this Vanity Fair article by Caleb Ecarma. Subtitle: "The right-wing commentator’s columns, which were unedited and bankrolled by a single donor, will be shuttered Friday after a 12-year run. Sources say it was ultimately a diatribe on circumcision that was a bridge too far."
Over the last 12 years, Dreher... has built a cult following with some of the most bizarre diatribes in opinion journalism. He has warned that so-called sissy hypnosis porn is “profoundly evil;” detailed the “formal” Catholic exorcism of a friend’s suicidal wife; and recalled—in unsettling detail—the time he witnessed a Black classmate's uncircumcised penis....

Howard Ahmanson Jr., the heir to a California banking fortune [was] the sole benefactor of Dreher’s six-figure salary.... This unique funding arrangement—a single donor choosing to cover one writer’s entire salary—was paired with an even more unusual editorial arrangement: Dreher was allowed to publish directly on TAC’s site without any revisions or legal oversight.... 

That is, I would say, Dreher was allowed to write a real blog. And he got real money for blogging the real way. It's appropriate that a writer be paid. But all the money came from one guy. How can you write like that?! I guess it depends on the guy. You'd have to think about whether this one guy is getting what he wants... or enough of what he wants... to keep the money flowing.

Ahmanson must have loved Dreher, so where did Dreher go wrong? Sources tell Vanity Fair it was that post about circumcision. Dreher wrote:

“All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that.” 

I took a moment to look up Ahmanson. From his Wikipedia page, check out his "occupation": 

"Heir, idle rich, financier." Oh, Wikipedia!

It wasn't just calling a black man's uncircumcised penis a "primitive root wiener."

Some of Dreher’s commentary on the gay and transgender communities also proved off-putting to Ahmanson, such as his lurid musings on anal sex, rectal bleeding, and the “partially rotted off” nose of a gay man who contracted monkeypox. 
“At some point, he basically decided, 'This is too weird,’” the source, paraphrasing Ahmanson, explained to me. “‘I don’t want to read this or pay for this anymore.’”

The problem was either that or the fact that Dreher, who lives in Hungary, revealed that the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said NATO is "in a war with Russia" and he wants out of the European Union. That caused a stir.

In his final TAC post, Dreher closed by saying to his readers: “All you Mongoloids were the Primitive Root Wiener in my Lucky Dog, and I love you very much.” I'm sure his closest readers understood all the references. I only get "Primitive Root Wiener" and it's hard to fathom why he would write that... other than that to blog well you have to take chances and say some unusual things. I'm going to guess that Dreher will be better off on his own at Substack with the money coming from a multitude of readers and not from one man — who, of course, had to worry about having his own reputation wedded to the words of a blogger.

"Weird Christianity is equal parts traditionalism and, well, punk: Christianity as transgressive alternative to contemporary secular capitalist culture."

"Like punk, Weird Christianity has its own, clearly defined aesthetic. Many Weird Christians across the denominational and political spectrum express fondness for older, more liturgically elaborate practices — like the Episcopal Rite I, a form of worship that draws on Elizabethan-era language, say, or the Latin Mass, or the wearing of veils to church.... One Weird Christian is Ben Crosby... a student at Yale Divinity School.... Raised Lutheran, he was unprepared for what he found as a first-year undergraduate at Yale in 2009 when he attended an Anglo-Catholic parish. 'I walked into a service and it’s a big, beautiful, 19th-century neo-Gothic nave, clouds of incense wafting up toward the ceiling, candles everywhere,' Mr. Crosby told me. 'It was like nothing I’d experienced before.' Likewise for Rod Dreher, a senior editor and blogger for The American Conservative magazine.... [W]hen he was 17, he told me, he visited Chartres Cathedral while on a group tour of France and he found himself moved by the majesty of the Gothic architecture. 'I think this is why a certain kind of person really is drawn to the older, ritualistic, aesthetic forms of Christian worship,' he said. 'It speaks to something deep inside us, and, I think, it is a kind of rebellion against the ugliness and barrenness of modernity.'... This sense of rebellion — of consciously being at variance with modernity — permeates Weird Christian politics no less than its aesthetics.... [F]or plenty of Weird Christians, their faith is a call to a far more progressive politics. Like their reactionary counterparts, they see Christianity as a bulwark against the worst of modernity, but they are more likely to associate modernity’s ills with the excesses of capitalism or with a transactional culture that reduces human beings to budget line items, or anonymous figures on a dating app.... Weird Christianity represents an alternative to 'both more liberal and conservative forms of American Christianity,' said Mr. Crosby.... In the age of lockdown, when so much of life exists in a nebulous digital space, a return to the Christianity of the Middle Ages — albeit one mediated through our screens — feels welcome.... Like the hipster obsession with 'authenticity' that marked the mid-2010s, the rise of Weird Christianity reflects America’s unfulfilled desire for, well, something real...."

From "Christianity Gets Weird/Modern life is ugly, brutal and barren. Maybe you should try a Latin Mass" by Tara Isabella Burton (NYT).

I'm not getting the use of the word "weird" here. Burton makes it sound like she's involved in coining (and promoting) the term: "Many of us call ourselves 'Weird Christians,' albeit partly in jest." But she seems to be calling Episcopalians weird. Maybe I'm a little too close to the experience, but to me, Episcopalian is the least weird religion. Yes, the aesthetics are good, and high-quality aesthetics are appealing. But what's weird? You could find all religion weird, but I don't think "the older, ritualistic, aesthetic forms of Christian worship" are particularly weird. In fact, the purported "weirdness" of the aesthetically appealing form of worship is a shield from the real weirdness in religion: true belief.

It's funny. I'm reading (rereading) a novel that has a character whose problems are initially revealed in terms of an inability to say that anything is "bad." She "would only say that this was very 'weird.'"
... Patty was incapable of going past “weird”... the worst she would say aloud... was that [something] was very weird....
The reliance on "weird" is a tell.

Here's the place in the post where I look up the key word in the Oxford English Dictionary. It's the older, ritualistic, aesthetic side of me. "Weird" originally meant:
Having the power to control the fate or destiny of human beings, etc.; later, claiming the supernatural power of dealing with fate or destiny.
Later, in the 1800s, there was:
Partaking of or suggestive of the supernatural; of a mysterious or unearthly character; unaccountably or uncomfortably strange; uncanny.
It seems that religion is inherently weird. It's weird to think you're saying something special by calling your little corner of religiosity weird. What is the motivation to call your religion "weird"... and then back off and say that's "partly in jest"? People who call themselves weird... what's up with them? Especially, when all they're doing is Episcopal Rite I. Are they doing it partly in jest? Is it "weird" because they fear it's only cushioning from "the ugliness and barrenness of modernity"? Or is it weird because they find they truly believe?

"Sex is the new opium of the masses... a temporary heart in a heartless world."

"Unfortunately, something so immanent as sex will not — and cannot — function in the manner in which religion can, has, and does.... Sex does not explain the world. It is not a master narrative. It has little to offer by way of convincing theodicy. But in a world increasingly missing transcendence, longing for sexual expression makes sense. It should not surprised us, however, that those who (unconsciously) demand sex function like religion will come up short. Maybe that is why very liberal women are also twice as likely to report being depressed or currently in psychotherapy than very conservative women."

Writes University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus in "Cheap Sex," quoted in an American Conservative piece by Rod Dreher, "Liberal Women Are Lustier."

Liberal women are lustier? The basis for that headline is:
... sociological data showing that “more politically liberal young-adult women report wanting more sex than they have been having.” Regnerus says the percentage of women who said they would prefer to have more sex is as follows:
  • 16 percent of “very conservative” women
  • 30 percent of “conservative” women
  • 38 percent of moderate women
  • 44 percent of “liberal” women
  • 53 percent of “very liberal” women
I don't see the correspondence between the extent of "lustiness" and whether you're getting as much sex as you want. What if a woman has a partner who provides her with sex whenever she wants it, and she wants it a lot? Is she not lusty? And what about a woman who isn't feeling much or any sexual desire and therefore doesn't have much sex but she feels she should have more sex because she believes it's important or the meaning of life or the way to happiness? Is she getting counted in that sociological data? Because she's not "lusty."

Now, the headline made me click, but I'm really annoyed at the word "lustier." I don't think The American Conservate should be eager to credit liberal women with lustiness, if that's a positive quality, and since "lust" is on the old-time list of "sins" (and sex is being discussed as a substitute for religion), I'm not sure that "lustier" isn't meant as a disparagement. In any case, "lust" — which only appears in the headline — is a bad distraction and beneath the dignity of The American Conservative.

What's important, apparently, to Regnerus and Dreher, is sex as an inadequate substituted for religion. Liberalism only comes into play because it has some correspondence to religiosity.

As for "Sex is the new opium of the masses" — it's odd to hear that from someone who favors religion. It seems to say: I've got the best opium!

"Duke Divinity Crisis: The Documents Are Out."

Have you been following the "Duke Divinity Crisis" with Rod Dreher at The American Conservative?

Excerpt from the documents:
Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I’m responding to Thea’s exhortation that we should attend the Racial Equity Institute Phase 1 Training scheduled for 4-5 March. In her message she made her ideological commitments clear. I’ll do the same, in the interests of free exchange.

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance....

"This [law] professor is a practicing Christian, deeply closeted in the workplace..."

"...he is convinced that if his colleagues in academia knew of his faith, they would make it very hard for him.... He agreed to speak with me" — writes Rod Dreher — "about the Indiana situation on condition that I not identify him by name or by institution."
“The fact that Mike Pence can’t articulate [religious liberty], and Asa Hutchinson doesn’t care and can’t articulate it, is shocking,” Kingsfield [a pseudonym] said. “Huckabee gets it and Santorum gets it, but they’re marginal figures. Why can’t Republicans articulate this? We don’t have anybody who gets it and who can unite us. Barring that, the craven business community will drag the Republican Party along wherever the culture is leading, and lawyers, academics, and media will cheer because they can’t imagine that they might be wrong about any of it.”...

Christians should put their families on a “media fast,” he says. “Throw out the TV. Limit Netflix. You cannot let in contemporary stuff. It’s garbage. It’s a sewage pipe into your home. So many parents think they’re holding the line, but they let their kids have unfettered access to TV, the Internet, and smartphones. You can’t do that. And if you can’t trust that the families of the kids that your kids play with are on the same team with all this, then find another peer group among families that are,” he said. “It really is that important.”
Much more at the link.

The conservative argument against Governor Scott Walker's education reforms.

From Peter Lawler, a professor of politics and political philosophy at at Berry College, here's a piece titled "What Gov. Scott Walker Misses About Higher Education/Most Republican leaders, including potential presidential candidate Scott Walker, don’t understand that focusing college solely on careers serves leftism."
You really do find in higher education a lot of complacent politically correctness, relativism, and partisan self-indulgence. “Civic engagement” for college credit seems often to mean enlightening the rubes in the local communities about their true interests, which are almost always in the direction of redistribution in the service of equality, green initiatives, insufficient liberation regarding “relational autonomy,” sensitivity to diversity, and so forth....

But if Walker had looked more closely, he would have seen that on most of our campuses political correctness and careerism now go hand in hand....
Rod Dreher at The American Conservative reads Lawler and concludes:
It really does fall to us conservatives who appreciate and support the humanities to stand up to people like Gov. Walker. They mean well, but what they don’t understand is that it is difficult to impossible to quantify the value of learning in the humanities. You can’t map virtue on a spreadsheet, and you can’t do a pie chart to demonstrate why it helps the bottom line to learn the best that humanity has thought, written, composed, painted, and so forth. As Lawler avers, the wisdom embedded in the humanities, as traditionally understood (read: not “Queering John Locke,” “Post-Colonial Narratives in Lady Gaga,” etc.), offer the only firm standpoint from which to defend the human person against the Leviathan of Washington, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley.
IN THE COMMENTS: traditionalguy said:
Berry College is the private north Georgia. Liberal arts school founded to extend college opportunity to poor mountain folks that had no chance at scholarships to big State Schools. Berry school is now the focal point for College scholarships for abandoned children that have been raised in foster families under a Foundation that donates the money for both. That money comes from one man who sells chicken....I mean Chik-Fil-A sandwiches.

I doubt this is directed against Walker. It may help him by making reform of education the issue.

"Not much annoys me more than the stereotype that to be liberal is to be full of guilt."

"To be socially liberal, in my view, is to be more mindful of compassion and empathy for others. On the basis of that compassion we choose to make lifestyle choices (taking public transport, boycotting Nestle, going vegetarian, donating to charity for example) and do our bit. But given that humans are full of contradiction between what they should do and what they want to do, there is always some conflict."

Wrote Sunny Hundal in a 2007 Guardian article titled "The guilt-free liberal." I'm looking into the topic of "liberal guilt" after my post earlier this morning in which I rejected Power Line's "liberal guilt" theory of why Brian Williams lied. I said:
I've spent decades deeply embedded among liberals and guilt just doesn't seem to be the central force in their psychology. "Liberal guilt" is some kind of meme among conservatives, and it doesn't resonate for me.
Meade questioned "Is 'liberal guilt' a conservative meme?" That got me searching. My report from decades of embedding amongst the liberals is that liberals think they are good, not bad. They feel like repositories of virtue — "mindful of compassion and empathy for others," as Hundal put it. They tend to guilt-trip conservatives, who are regarded as lacking compassion and empathy.

Meade and I also got into a conversation about the difference between "guilt" and "shame," which would take me a long time to pursue in a blog post, so I'll just quickly recall the anti-Walker protesters who endlessly shouted "Shame! Shame!" Conservatives were supposed to be ashamed of not caring enough about the plight of the unionized public employees. These protesters evinced no shame or guilt about themselves. They seemed to feel ultra-righteous.


That photograph of mine first appeared in a March 2011 post titled "Shame, shame, shame. Where is the shame?" ("Is it in wearing a gray hoodie under a tailored blazer, a little black derby hat, and a smelled-a-fart expression while carrying a pre-printed 'SHAME' sign when the guy marching after you is wearing a windbreaker and carrying a handmade 'TAX the RICH' sign?..."). "Shame!" — by the way — was #5 on my 2012 list of "Top 5 Wisconsin Protests That In Retrospect Sound Like Pro-Walker Protests Against the Protests."

Anyway, back to "liberal guilt." If you Google "liberal guilt," the top hit is a Wikipedia article, but it's not an article titled "Liberal guilt," it's an article titled "White guilt." And the second hit is a 2008 Slate article titled "In Praise of Liberal Guilt." The subtitle says a lot about what made the term "liberal guilt" go viral among conservatives: "It's not wrong to favor Obama because of race."
If you Google "liberal guilt" and "Obama," among the nearly 32,000 hits you get are a syndicated Charles Krauthammer column under the headline "Obama's Speech Plays On Liberal Guilt" [dead link, but this might be the column]; a Mark Steyn post [dead link] on the National Review Online that describes "a Democrat nominating process that's a self-torturing satire of upscale liberal guilt confusions" ; a column by self-styled "crunchy con" Rod Dreher, who suggests [dead link] the mainstream media coverage of Obama indicates that "liberal guilt will work [on them] like kryptonite." Even liberals make fun of liberal guilt. A couple of years ago, Salon coyly proposed [dead link] supplementing the Oscars with the Liberal Guilt Awards and awarding political dramas with "Guilties."
My working theory is that "liberal guilt" got traction as a race-neutral way to accuse people of voting for Obama out of "white guilt" and that the term metastasized into a way to impugn any liberal policy with the idea that it is not rational but emanating from someplace emotional. Of course, those who recast liberal guilt as compassion and empathy are conceding that their predilections come from an emotional place, but they are proud of that, not guilty (or ashamed). Many conservatives react to this prideful confession of emotion by asserting that conservative ideas come straight from the rational mind unclouded by emotion. In my view, that's the most emotive position of all, and I would recommend that conservatives present their ideas as grounded in compassion and empathy, as — obviously — some of them do.

How are you prepping for the "pastoral earthquake"?

"The relatio post disceptationem read aloud in the synod hall, while defending fundamental doctrine, calls for the church to build on positive values in unions that the church has always considered 'irregular,' including cohabitating couples, second marriages undertaken without annulments and even homosexual unions."

ADDED: The linked article above goes to Rod Dreher's analysis in The American Conservative. And here's Andrew Sullivan's take: "Yes, This Is A Pastoral Revolution."
I never thought I would live to read these words in a Vatican document. Gone are the cruel and wounding words of Benedict XVI to stigmatize us; instead we have the authentic witness of someone following Christ who came to minister to the broken and the hurt, and the strong, the people who had long been excluded from the feast – but now invited to join it as brothers and sisters – “a fraternal space” in the church. Notice too that the church is now emphasizing a pastoral “accepting and valuing” of homosexual orientation, yes, “valuing” the divine gift of our nature and our loves. Yes, the doctrine does not change. The sacrament of matrimony is intrinsically heterosexual – a position, by the way, I have long held as well...
Instead of defining us as living in sexual sin, the church is suddenly seeing all aspects of our relationships – the care for one another, the sacrifices of daily life, the mutual responsibilities for children, the love of our families, the dignity of our work, and all that makes up a commitment to one another. We are actually being seen as fully human, instead of uniquely crippled humans directed always and everywhere toward sin. And, yes, there is concern for our children as well – and their need for care and love and support.

"Why Poor People Act That Way."

That's quite a headline. The piece is by Rod Dreher in The American Conservative.

MEANWHILE: Paul Krugman says his "point is that while chiding the rich for their vulgarity may not be as offensive as lecturing the poor on their moral failings, it’s just as futile. Human nature being what it is, it’s silly to expect humility from a highly privileged elite. So if you think our society needs more humility, you should support policies that would reduce the elite’s privileges."
"How Rod Dreher's Blog Got a Little 'Too Weird' for The American Conservative.""Sex is the new opium of the masses... a temporary heart in a heartless world.""Might it be that non-Southerners, for cultural reasons, simply cannot understand why it’s difficult for Southerners to execrate their ancestors, even if their ancestors did bad things?"

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