Exit Benedict

I reproduce publicly something I wrote in a private group about the outlook for Western Christians. Even if the stuff about liberal sexuality were not true, I think points 9-14 would still hold. The LGBT crusade is just helpful in making the necessity of this rather obvious to anyone paying attention. (Read Rod Dreher’s book.)

Here’s a rough outline of my thinking on this:

1) Christians are a minority in Western culture now.  We do not hold cultural or political power.

2) The liberal sexual paradigm is ascendant and dominant, culturally, politically, and religiously.

3) The liberal sexual paradigm is opposite to and irreconcilable with the Christian sexual paradigm.

4) The liberal sexual paradigm does not allow for dissent. Normalization and celebration of deviancy is being/will be compelled.
5) The educational establishment is pushing the liberal sexual paradigm, including transgenderism, at all levels of education, requiring both students and faculty to assent to it.

6) The corporate world (finance, administration, media, law, retail, etc) is fully on board with the same. HR departments routinely push for ‘diversity training’ and public expressions of ‘allyship.’

7) Christians are already being terminated from these jobs in small numbers.

8) All indicators say those numbers will increase.

9) This means large numbers of Christians in those fields will need some sort of livelihood and a place to educate their children.

10) Those will only be possible in a thick community of like-minded, serious, orthodox Christians living in close physical proximity to one another and serving one another and their wider community in interlocking vocations.

11) Such a community cannot be built over night, so waiting until one is fired to begin building it means you’ve waited too late.

12) LGBT woes are the occasion for our strategic withdrawal, but they are only a recent symptom of a deeper, older problem that the Church has failed to address.

13) Failure to form these thick communities will mean widespread apostasy, isolation (ironically) of individual Christians, and irrelevance of the Church.

14) It is only from these thick communities that we can hope to be a compelling witness for Christ and His kingdom.


Whither Conservatives?

It’s worth noting that virtually anybody who could be called ‘conservative’ in the 19th and early 20th centuries was alarmed by the shift to an industrial society from an agrarian one. Our seers consulted the stars and were able to discern many of the deferred costs we’d have to pay for our newfound material comfort and ‘progress.’ They saw, with a clarity that amazes me, the social, political, religious, and economic goods that we’d eventually be forced to relinquish. Fatherlessness, wage slavery, loss of inherited liberty, sexual deviancy, breakdown of kinship relations, rootlessness, ennui, and more besides were all foretold. And while I don’t think industrialism is the sole cause of any of those, it is difficult to overstate the role it has had in producing them.

John Crowe Ransom states well the old conservative sentiment: “Industrialism is rightfully a menial, of almost mircaulous cunning but no intelligence; it needs to be strongly governed or it will destroy the economy of the household. Only a community of tough conservative habit can master it.” The fact that modern Americans, whether self-professed conservatives or no, will scratch their heads at talk of ‘the economy of the household’ is enough to show that we did not have a sufficiently conservative habit. Since Ransom’s day, we’ve more or less capitulated to the industrial mindset, left, right, and center.

And so modern political and social (even religious) discourse consists of talk among various wings of the industrial party. Ironically, our ‘conservatives’ are some of the most ardent defenders of the industrial gospel. (Which makes me wonder what exactly they mean to be conserving.) They have made an about-face. ‘Conservative’ is more or less synonymous with Republican, and everybody knows Republican politicians will back Big Business to the hilt, family, religion, and tradition be damned. The average conservative is somewhat better than the politicians, of course, but even there you won’t find a very robust esteem for the past. You can occasionally arouse a fighting spirit that will take on corporations, like what we’ve seen with the NFL and Nike. But that’s a fickle spirit and not to be relied upon.

So where does a young conservative go? What does he do with his energy? If he wants a settled household nestled within a community that is committed to a particular place, that is largely independent politically and economically, and a church that proclaims the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, to whom does he turn? Who are his brothers-in-arms? Neither major party represents him. Ostensible ‘lay’ conservatives often are committed to fortifying the very forces that are undermining that vision of the good life.

That’s basically me. And as angsty as that sounds, I’m more hopeful than anxious. But boy do we need good conservative voices to interpret the times AND provide practical advice for living, which we haven’t had in a long time. May the Lord raise them up for us.

Friday Five: 2

One of my goals in life is to see traditional patterns of living restored in some measure. I don’t have utopian dreams of a society-wide rediscovery of past wisdom; I’m pessimistic on that front. I do think, though, that it’s possible for some of us in small communities to resurrect aspects of our common Western heritage. To that end, this week Friday Five has something of a theme. One way in which we can learn from our ancestors is to consider how they crafted the built environment and the government they instituted to protect it. None of this is heavy reading, but I hope it is helpful in fleshing out what I’m after.

Home Rule

By Phillip Campbell at the Distributist Review. How have cities traditionally related to higher governments? Are there ways to devolve power back to local communities?

A Glorified Sidewalk, and the Path to Transform Atlanta

Written by Richard Fausset in the New York Times. If I had to call a (sort of) major city “home,” Atlanta would be the one. I go to university here, and it’s the closest one to my actual home. That being the case, I have a particular interest in seeing how the BeltLine project proceeds. It has the potential to be a great success, or a dismal failure. My hope is that the project leaders are able to resist the temptation to rely too much on government aid.

The Alpine Heart

From Stephen Heiner of Front Porch Republic. This one got me to wondering what local, communal traditions we have here. Has the ease of mobility erased them all?

Why Sprawl Is Not the Only Choice

By Matthew Robare, writing for The American Conservative. Urban sprawl is something of a cancer in the eyes of traditionalists and localists.

My Take on the Local Food Movement

By Rachel Quednau at Strong Towns. I think of a comment from Lewis in one of his letters:

“Tolkien once remarked to me that the feeling about home must have been quite different in the days when the family had fed on the produce of the same few miles of country for six generations, and that perhaps this was why they saw nymphs in the fountains and dryads in the wood – they were not mistaken for there was in a sense a real (not metaphorical) connection between them and the countryside. What had been earth and air & later corn, and later still bread, really was in them. We of course who live on a standardised international diet (you may have had Canadian flour, English meat, Scotch oatmeal, African oranges, & Australian wine to day) are really artificial beings and have no connection (save in sentiment) with any place on earth. We are synthetic men, uprooted. The strength of the hills is not ours.”

Friday Five: 1

Every Friday I am going to share five links to pieces I’ve read during the week. The sole criterion is that I want to share the piece. (I know, I need to lower my standards.) Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

The Moral Structure of Pedophilia

This one’s by Anthony Esolen. It’s a sobering comparison of pedophilia and divorce. If you read only one of these items, let it be this one.

A Room for the Family

By John Cuddeback. Consider reading the whole series of which this is a part.

An Abomination of Desolation

By Rod Dreher. Scientists continue their effort to blot out humanity.

Regarding Nebraska

From Jake Meador, on home and history.

The Monster We Created: Councils, Brand Names, and Celebrites

A piece by Rev. Kyle Borg. Though it’s been a problem for a long while, the recent debates over Trinitarian orthodoxy and ESS/ERAS have brought to the fore the issues with an over-reaching parachurch.

An Argument

1) We have moral duties to our blood relations, our church communities, and those who have directly blessed us, over and above those to mankind in general.
2) The aforementioned groups (we’ll call them one’s “tribe”) typically live in a particular location with more or less clear boundaries encompassing a reasonably small area.
3) A particular location with more or less clear boundaries encompassing a reasonably small area is a “place.”
4) Our moral duties to our tribe include, but aren’t limited to, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care.
5) Our ability to provide physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care is diminished with increasing physical distance from the subjects of our duties.
6) It is not good to diminish one’s ability to do one’s duty.
7) Leaving the place where one’s tribe resides is to diminish one’s ability to do one’s duty.
8) Therefore, it is not good to leave the place where one’s tribe resides.

A Non-Accident of Birth

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place… – Acts 17:26

“I can’t wait to get out of this rinky-dink little town!” How often have you heard some variation of this sentiment expressed? I know I’ve heard it too much, and I’m always saddened when I do. The attitude is one of dissatisfaction with and disdain for the place of one’s birth. Such an attitude might be alright1 if the proposition that “the place of a person’s birth is an ‘accident,'” is true. (“Accident” here means there isn’t a deliberate cause for the thing addressed.) In that case, a person was just unfortunately paired with a place that doesn’t match his personality, needs, or desires. Leaving is of no consequence, because there was never a reason to be there in the first place.

 A Christian, however, cannot hold that proposition as true. As the passage above says, the Lord fixes the “boundaries of our dwelling places.”2  He has “placed” us and given us a particular group of people to keep. If not even a sparrow can fall outside of God’s will, why do we think there are such things as “accidents of birth?”

This doesn’t mean providence should be read in an absolute sense. There may be very good reasons for moving from your home. What I want to highlight is simply this: If, in the course of deciding whether to leave or stay, you find yourself assuming that where you were born is an “accident,” start over. You may come to a different conclusion if you begin with the understanding that God is sovereign even over your birthplace.

[1] “Might” is the operative word here; I don’t think it is even if the truth of the proposition is granted.

[2] Yes, I know that is in reference to “nations.” How does God fix a nation’s dwelling place without fixing the dwelling places of individuals in the nation? Hint: He doesn’t. In this case, the proposed dichotomy between the “corporate” and “individual,” such as is often brought up in relation to election, is a false one.


Since I’ve already departed from my original plan by not posting in a while, I’m going to postpone the completion of my series on Desiring the Kingdom and write a tangentially related ramble of a piece.

For Christmas I received a few nice additions to my library, among them an anthology of essays entitled Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America.  (A review of this is at Fare Forward.) The goal of this collection is to give an apologia for “place” (i.e. a particular location with a particular culture) and rootedness. Unfortunately, modern America’s obsession with mobility and autonomy means having a strong sense of place and rootedness is seen as an oppressive burden, rather than a pillar of human flourishing. Though I have not finished reading the volume, I believe it will be a help to those of us who understand the danger of that sentiment and see the necessity of reestablishing our roots and revitalizing our places.

Indeed, it has already been a help to me. After reading a few of the first essays last night, I woke up this morning and read the first three chapters of Ecclesiastes. Verse 11 of the first chapter says, “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” Given that I had just been reading an essay on how we’ve largely lost our places and that I’ve been thinking about Evangelicals’ lack of respect for church tradition, this verse leapt at me from the page. (The aforementioned circumstances, and the fact that it is an overcast, rainy day, also put me in a melancholy mood.)

My thoughts centered around questions like: “What is the relationship between our rootlessness and our forgetfulness? Will a rootless people be able to stand for goodness or truth, or will they be tossed about by every cultural wave that breaks against them?”

I’ll put my cards on the table: I think losing our roots in a place will mean losing our cultural memory, and a rootless people will not have the strength of character to stand up to evil and falsehood. In this post I’ll mainly be addressing the latter concern, and in order to begin making the case that love for a particular place is a necessary trait for a person who would stand for the good, the true, and the beautiful,  I turn to The Lord of the Rings.

In this grand epic, Tolkien addresses the importance of place and rootedness with his characteristic depth of insight. The story is, hopefully, familiar. Bilbo Baggins finds a magic ring that turns out to be the One Ring, the Dark Lord Sauron’s terrible weapon. Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo, inherits the Ring and must set out for Mount Doom on a quest to destroy it. He is joined by a menagerie of companions: three hobbits, two men, an elf, a dwarf, and a wizard. At a point on the journey, this Fellowship is split, and each smaller company must continue to do its part to defeat Sauron and save what they love.

Those things that they love are what keep the members of the Fellowship resolved to fight in the face of certain death. What is that they love so much that death is not too high a price to pay for its preservation? Well:

Though this exact scene is not in the book, it is certainly in the spirit of Tolkien’s thought. I imagine the following excerpt from The Return of the King served to inspire the cinematic adaptation:

‘So that was the job I felt I had to do when I started,’ thought Sam: ‘to help Mr. Frodo to the last step and then die with him? Well, if that is the job then I must do it. But I would dearly like to see Bywater again, and Rosie Cotton and her brothers, and the Gaffer and Marigold and all. I can’t think somehow that Gandalf would have sent Mr. Frodo on this errand, if there hadn’t a’ been any hope of his ever coming back at all. Things went all wrong when he went down in Moria. I wish he hadn’t. He would have done something.’

But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength. Sam’s plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.

At one of the most difficult parts of the journey, when Frodo is weakened by the trials through which he has gone to the point where he can’t even walk, Sam finds the strength to continue, both for himself and for Frodo. Sam’s manner of doing so may seem strange to modern ears, but it springs from an ancient well of wisdom. He doesn’t turn to abstract principles of Right, or Good, or Liberty, as important as those are. Rather, he relies on his memories of particular places and humble happenings which embody those grand ideas.

For Sam and Frodo (and Merry and Pippin), those places are the lands of the Shire. It is their love of the Shire, with its quaint, little people and quaint, quiet ways, that leads them to dare great deeds. Blossoming orchards, Rosie Cotton, fields of summer barley, Bywater, and strawberries and cream are the memories to which Sam turns to stave off fear and weariness. Nearer the beginning of their journey, Frodo relied on similar recollections to get him through tough times. It’s notable that, as Frodo’s memory of his home is clouded by visions of the Eye, he becomes unable to complete his task alone. He must be carried by one who remains spiritually connected to the Shire.

To briefly address the other members of the Fellowship, though the scope may differ, they are driven by comparable affections: Legolas for woodland realms, Gimli for stone halls, Boromir for shining towers. Aragorn and, even more so, Gandalf certainly have a greater number of particular places in mind, but they are still particular places. Attachment to a particular place is what Saruman is mocking when he tells Gandalf that “love of the Halfling’s leaf” has clouded his judgment. More could be about these characters on this subject, but I’ll leave it there for now.

To reiterate and conclude: rootedness in a place, while perhaps not essential in an absolute sense, is yet an important trait for one who would be good, true, and beautiful. This theme runs throughout J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, coming through especially strong in the person of Samwise Gamgee.  In subsequent posts I’ll attempt to explain more fully why I think that in order to be as true a friend as Sam we must give up our attachment to mobility and settle down in our places.