Rod Dreher

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[M]aster your own passions, lest they master you. I will be struggling in this way until they day I die. All of us should be.

Ray Oliver "Rod" Dreher, Jr. (born 14 February 1967) is an American writer and editor. He is a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative and author of several books, including How Dante Can Save Your Life and The Benedict Option. He has written about religion, politics, film, and culture in National Review and National Review Online, The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, Touchstone, Men's Health, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He was a film reviewer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and chief film critic for the New York Post. His commentaries have been broadcast on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, and he has appeared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Court TV, and other television networks. The Benedict Option has been described as "the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade".

Quotes[edit]

There was nothing worth saving in what the Nazis built — but could any non-fanatic plausibly say that everything German has been so tainted by Nazism that all expressions of Germanness (Goethe, Bach, Beethoven, all of it) should be annihilated? Of course not. Nor did the evil of Soviet communism negate the greatness of Russian culture.
The more I dug into Russian history, the better I understood where the radicalism came from. Ordinary Russian people had been kept down for so long that they were willing to believe that anything would be better than what they had. So, Russia had a revolution, and it got incomparably worse.
They begin by destroying statues. They will end by destroying people.
[S]omeone driving a Geo Metro in this day and age isn't rich.
To be able to see God and hear God requires faith. And faith requires humility, and commitment. You cannot know what the sea feels and tastes like if you will never leave the beach.
[T]he only way for people in a multiracial, pluralistic, modern democratic society to live together is through the old-fashioned liberal principles whose most prominent advocate was Martin Luther King, Jr. The left, led by academic and media institutions, is pulling those principles down with the ideological fervor of fanatical iconoclasts. Nobody is thinking about where this cannot help but lead.
The cruelty, the injustice, the implacability, and at times the sheer stupidity of the imperial Russian government and social order in no way justifies all that followed—but it does explain why the revolutionary Russian generation was so eager to place its hope in communism.

2010s[edit]

  • [T]he establishment that promotes and encourages inflammatory racial views by racial minorities implicitly and unavoidably calls forth these demons from whites like Richard Spencer. Race hatred of any kind is never justifiable, and is not the way to any kind of future worth having.
  • God does exist, and He does want us to be good. The problem with MTD, in both its progressive and its conservative versions, is that it’s mostly about improving one’s self-esteem and subjective happiness and getting along well with others. It has little to do with the Christianity of Scripture and tradition, which teaches repentance, self-sacrificial love, and purity of heart, and commends suffering—the Way of the Cross—as the pathway to God. Though superficially Christian, MTD is the natural religion of a culture that worships the Self and material comfort.

White People & The Persistence Of Culture (2014)[edit]

"White People & The Persistence Of Culture" (10 January 2014), The American Conservative
  • [I]deas have consequences — that is, material realities derive from immaterial sources.
  • You cannot reform people who do not recognize that there is anything that needs reforming.

How Ta-Nehisi Coates Got That Way (2018)[edit]

"How Ta-Nehisi Coates Got That Way" (8 May 2018), The American Conservative
  • Ross Douthat’s line can’t be said often enough: if you don’t like the Religious Right, just wait till you see the Post-Religious Right.
  • This story is not going to end with humanity completely vanquishing white supremacy, black supremacy, or any evil at all. Our hearts are too crooked for that. But we have it on good authority that the story ends — no thanks to us — with the defeat of evil and its poisoned fruit, death. It already has, for those with eyes to see and hearts willing to receive the good news.

2020s[edit]

  • Remember this: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character"? That’s an ideal worth defending. But do liberals even believe it anymore?
  • There was nothing worth saving in what the Nazis built — but could any non-fanatic plausibly say that everything German has been so tainted by Nazism that all expressions of Germanness (Goethe, Bach, Beethoven, all of it) should be annihilated? Of course not. Nor did the evil of Soviet communism negate the greatness of Russian culture. Both the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, though, worked systematically to eliminate any perspective that challenged their respective ideologies — and not just their political monopolies. As proper totalitarians, they knew that cementing their power required controlling the culture’s memory.
  • I know it's a naive question at this point, but what the hell is wrong with people? Why are people so merciless, and take such pleasure in destroying others? Why do people demand that those we target on social media not be merely shamed, but gutted in every way possible? The mob is absolutely merciless.
  • There really is a difference between hard totalitarianism and soft totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is a mindset before it is anything else. Totalitarianism is the idea that there is no area of life that is free from politics — and that also means cultural politics.
  • I fear that there will be blood. I hope and pray that there won’t be, and I will be looking for any way to avoid it.
  • To be able to see God and hear God requires faith. And faith requires humility, and commitment. You cannot know what the sea feels and tastes like if you will never leave the beach.
  • [A] country whose elderly — considered by most societies to be repositories of wisdom and dignity — aspire to be perpetual rutting teenagers is not a country that has much to look forward to. If you want to have a future, you need a past.
  • I am thinking about something a Dutch historian once told me about the cultural revolution that swept over the Netherlands in the 1960s. It had been such a settled, orderly, bourgeois nation. The Second World War and the Nazi occupation shattered something deep in the Dutch. After the war, they tried to rebuild what they had, but it was a feeble replica. When the winds of the counterculture began to blow, the establishment institutions collapsed, as if the revolution were inevitable.
  • For all its problems, I can’t see any governing system available to us in our pluralistic, multiracial democracy than classical liberalism.
  • The cruelty, the injustice, the implacability, and at times the sheer stupidity of the imperial Russian government and social order in no way justifies all that followed—but it does explain why the revolutionary Russian generation was so eager to place its hope in communism.

Amy Cooper, Race, and Mercy (May 2020)[edit]

"Amy Cooper, Race, and Mercy" (27 May 2020), The American Conservative
  • I am an emotional person, no doubt about it. The point of growing in maturity, and growing as a mature Christian, is to learn how to master your own passions, lest they master you. I will be struggling in this way until they day I die. All of us should be. One of the great lessons I learned from studying the testimonies of Christian political prisoners under the communist regimes is how even though they were treated unjustly, and even tortured, they never, ever gave in to self-pity, or hatred of their persecutors. How they did this is some kind of miracle — but it is vital wisdom for our time.
  • [W]e are post-Christian now. Mercy and pity are signs of weakness. Rage is a measure of one’s authenticity. The line between good and evil does not pass down the middle of each person’s heart, as Solzhenitsyn learned in the gulag, but rather, as we see it, between the races, between the secular and the religious, between economic classes, and so forth. We absolve ourselves in advance, and nurture grievance, because we think it gives our lives meaning.
  • [W]e live in a world in which people of the left and the right alike can be rewarded handsomely for making hate symbols of flesh-and-blood human beings, and causing others to give in to primitive hatred. The President of the United States does it, especially on social media — but don’t for a second believe that he is anything other than a product of this culture. There are leftists who quite rightly denounce him, but who are blind to the capacity for blind, destructive hatred in themselves.

The Road To Soft Totalitarianism (1 June 2020)[edit]

"The Road To Soft Totalitarianism" (1 June 2020), The American Conservative
  • There is no way — no way — that any faithful Christian can tolerate racial bigotry and still call himself faithful to Jesus Christ. Racism is a sin, straight up. You may not hate your brother because of the color of his skin, period. It is a compliment to Christianity that the white supremacist Sam Francis identified the Christian faith as an obstacle to the white racial consciousness that he wanted to see.
    • Emphasis in original.
  • The more I dug into Russian history, the better I understood where the radicalism came from. Ordinary Russian people had been kept down for so long that they were willing to believe that anything would be better than what they had. So, Russia had a revolution, and it got incomparably worse.
  • [W]e have become a country in which many people, regardless of their race, are willing to believe lies if the lies feel right to them, and suit their ideological preferences. Hannah Arendt said this kind of thing is a prelude to totalitarianism.

Culture War Back To The Future (3 June 2020)[edit]

"Culture War Back To The Future" (3 June 2020), The American Conservative
  • It should go without saying that we must instruct our children that racism is evil. But this is part of any truly liberal education. What’s happening now is that ideologues, many of them not fully aware of what they are doing, are taking advantage of the persistence of an old and universal human evil — hating the Other by race — and using it to carry out a far more sweeping agenda. We cannot count on universities anymore.
  • Don’t misunderstand: racism is a malignancy, and so is police brutality; decent people should stand up against them. But resisting these evils are going to occasion the embrace of other evils, masquerading as virtues and imperatives.
    • Emphasis in original.
  • [W]e have moved into a new phase of ideological conflict, one in which leftist elites hold the high ground. One major difference between today and the period Roger Kimball refers to is that in 2020, Woke Capitalism is a thing; the radicals hold power within corporations. Daniel McCarthy calls out the hypocrisy of the big corporations. Nike, for example, is Very, Very Concerned about white supremacy in America. Concentration camp for Muslim Uighurs in China? Not so much.
  • [t]he forces of disintegration are far more powerful than this rhetoric implicitly acknowledges. Roger Kimball, the author of Tenured Radicals, certainly does not need to be educated in the toxicity of progressivism. He gets that. What I’m not sure that he gets is how resisting it is going to require much more than countercultural education. It is going to require forming generations henceforth in the awareness that if they hold on to their religion and their traditional beliefs — including a belief in the virtues of the Western tradition — they will be regarded by the dominant culture as moral reprobates, as outlaws. They will be hated, and in many cases made to suffer.

How Do We Fight The Woke Militants? (11 June 2020)[edit]

"How Do We Fight The Woke Militants?" (11 June 2020), The American Conservative
  • [T]he coming battle will actually sideline many practicing Christians. That it will be between the Woke on one side, and white nationalists on the other. There is no way that authentic followers of Jesus Christ can endorse race nationalism of either the white or the black kind.
    • Emphasis in original.
  • Wishy-washy Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is going to be burned up, and is now being burned up. There is going to be no middle ground left. Churches will either go militantly woke, or may turn to a Christianized version of white nationalism. The rest of us believers will be doing our best simply to hold our churches and families together, and not lose our members to the passionate ideologies tearing the country apart.

The Possessed (19 June 2020)[edit]

"The Possessed" (19 June 2020), The American Conservative
  • They begin by destroying statues. They will end by destroying people.
  • I’ve had it. My “Law of Merited Impossibility” (“It will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it”) was meant as a joke, but the reality it pointed to was serious. Now it’s not even funny in a black-humor way. It’s just true. I don’t believe there is any limiting principle to the destruction that progressives will bring.

Ancien Regime Change (20 June 2020)[edit]

"Ancien Regime Change" (20 June 2020), The American Conservative
  • Bolsheviks actually had a vision of what they wanted to see replace the order they destroyed. Other than “defund the police,” the Woke do not.
  • They start with pulling down and abusing statues; they will end by doing this to people.

Red Guards Then, Black Guards Now (23 June 2020)[edit]

"Red Guards Then, Black Guards Now" (23 June 2020), The American Conservative
  • [S]omeone driving a Geo Metro in this day and age isn't rich.
  • [T]he deepest level of hell is reserved for traitors. Why traitors? Because they make life in community impossible. In medieval Italy, cities were in a frequent state of war with each other. When they closed the city gates at night, everybody in the city had to trust that no one would open the gates during the night and let in troops of the enemy. If you could not have that trust, you couldn’t sleep. You couldn’t live, for fear that your neighbor would betray you, and everyone, to the enemy. To render everyone isolated from everyone else, and living in fear — this was hell.

Yankee Doodle Yugoslavia (29 June 2020)[edit]

"Yankee Doodle Yugoslavia" (29 June 2020), The American Conservative
  • The American left, abetted by the media, is racializing everything, in extremely toxic ways. I don’t say this as whatabouttery. You longtime readers know I have been saying for years in this space that the race-conscious left, by explicitly repudiating the liberal, MLK-era model of race relations, is calling up demons that they won’t be able to control. Well, those demons are now showing themselves. America is in for a terrible, terrible time.
  • [T]he only way for people in a multiracial, pluralistic, modern democratic society to live together is through the old-fashioned liberal principles whose most prominent advocate was Martin Luther King, Jr. The left, led by academic and media institutions, is pulling those principles down with the ideological fervor of fanatical iconoclasts. Nobody is thinking about where this cannot help but lead.

What Can the Church Say Today? (1 July 2020)[edit]

"What Can the Church Say Today?" (1 July 2020), The American Conservative
  • For as long as there are human beings, there will be prejudice. We are wired that way. It is impossible for most Americans to detect any difference at all between Serbs and Croats, but these ancient rivals very much see the difference between themselves. I could not detect the difference between an Ulster Protestant and an Ulster Catholic, but men have killed each other over that difference, until fairly recently, and, God forbid, may do again.
  • [R]emember that because everyone is made in the image of God, and therefore has inalienable dignity, everyone is also susceptible to deformations of virtue — that is to say, sin. This ought to make us all clear-eyed about human nature.
  • The hearts of men are exceedingly complex, as are their lives. Men who were capable of great good and decency were also capable of the exact opposite. One does not cancel the other. That is a very, very hard lesson to learn...
    • Emphasis in original.
  • This is not a popular truth to say right now, in this time of moral hysteria and purity trials, but it remains true. The color of your skin does not guarantee virtue or vice. Rather, as King taught, and as the Bible teaches, it’s what’s in your heart. Jesus condemned the Pharisees as “whited sepulchres” — tombs that were gleaming on the outside, but that concealed foulness within.
  • The same mob that demanded the death of Jesus, and the release of Barabbas. The same mob that any one of us, whatever our race, could find ourselves standing in, pumping our fists and shouting, under the right circumstances. All of us could be tempted to pick up the stones and hurl them at a great sinner. Stones come in many shapes and sizes. If you don’t think you could brain a sinner with one, or egg on the stone-throwers, then you don’t know your own heart as well as you should.
  • These are some of the things the Church has to say to the public right now. We are all under judgment. We are all under mercy. There is none righteous, no, not one. But the One who was and is righteous — through obedience to Him, we can be healed.
    • Emphasis in original.
  • [H]atred and tribal violence is endemic to the human condition. Cain slew Abel, and it’s been downhill from there.
  • Everybody is afraid. The Gospel speaks to this fear! It offers a way out, and a way forward!

The Kampf Of The Woke (6 July 2020)[edit]

"The Kampf Of The Woke" (6 July 2020), The American Conservative
  • [T]he American media, whether it believes it is doing this or not, is seeding violent racial conflict — and that we are going to see it sooner rather than later.
  • Hear me clearly: racism exists, it's a sin, and it should be resisted. But these SJWs, deeply embedded in institutions, and in command of the propaganda apparatus, are taking a genuine social problem — racism — that always needs attention, but construing it in a highly ideological way that has very little to do with addressing with this complex problem, and everything to do with advancing a narrative of command and control that demonizes an entire race of people as plunderers and parasites by nature, and incites others to despise them. We know from history where things like this go.
    • Emphasis in original.

"Systemic Racism": An Uncontestable Axiom (13 July 2020)[edit]

"'Systemic Racism': An Uncontestable Axiom" (13 July 2020), The American Conservative
  • [C]laims of systemic racism in particular institutions are now accepted and repeated as fact, and that it is practically impossible to criticize or reject those claims in any way. "Systemic racism" is as fundamental to the construal of reality in the fast-emerging social order as “class conflict” was in Marxist social orders. It is the uncontestable axiom on which the entire ideological structure is built. Deny that, and you’re part of the racist system.
  • If you can’t prove that particular claims of systemic racism are wrong, you have no reliable way of proving that they are correct either. Again, though, what is true and what is false is a sideshow. The real deal is about power.

Heroes, Villains, And America's Fate (20 July 2020)[edit]

"Heroes, Villains, And America's Fate" (20 July 2020), The American Conservative
  • “Do you believe in the civic religion of America?” Think of it like this: how could the Catholic Church hold itself together if a significant number of Catholics decided that Jesus Christ, St. Peter, and St. Paul were villains? It couldn’t. A nation is not a religion, but it has to hold its founders in esteem — and this is especially true of America, which was not founded on a tribe, as most other nations were. You don’t have to believe that Washington, Jefferson, and the Founders were without sin — of course they weren’t — but you do have to believe that what they did was good, even heroic. Certainly not villainous.
  • I utterly despise this shallow, mendacious, destructive habit of mind we have of demonizing people in the past who don’t live up to our supposedly perfect standards.
  • [T]hings we thought were permanent and stable are not. Soft totalitarianism is coming. It is time to prepare for the struggle ahead.

American Totalitarianism (August 2020)[edit]

"American Totalitarianism" (3 August 2020), The American Conservative
  • [A]n American public that has been so propagandized and demoralized that it cannot see the true nature of the threats to it, or if it can, it lacks the wherewithal to respond appropriately. The rot has gone very deep.
  • How do you know that such a silent majority exists? I know a lot of people are planning to vote for Trump as their contribution to the fight against this madness. Vote for Trump if you want to, but understand that all of this has happened under Trump. I think there’s no question that it will accelerate under Biden, and in that sense, a vote for Trump is reasonable. But don’t think for one second that Trump is going to stop any of it. He doesn’t know how. Whether Trump is re-elected or not, the war on faith, family, and the foundations of American democracy will continue.
  • Notice that none of this has to do with the government. If you think totalitarianism is only something that the state can impose, you’re wrong. This is what Woke Capitalism is doing to us. We are in a different world now.
    • Emphasis in original.

External links[edit]

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