In the reaction to a libelously edited video, Rod Dreher, who was traveling in Ireland at the time, retweeted a denunciation of a bunch of white Catholic kids in MAGA hats being harassed by an elderly Native American man with a little drum. Later, he realized the situation was a little more complicated after viewing a longer video, and retreated to a position of equivocation and advocacy for more thoughtfulness and less rush to judgement in the future (We’ll see if that happens).
The racial overtones that come up with this scene shouldn’t be overlooked. Had the group of white kids from a Catholic school been instead a youth group of black kids, and the Native American man been an overweight white guy wearing a tricorner hat obnoxiously playing a bugle, Rod (in addition to many others) would have instinctively sided with the blacks kids even if all he had seen was the deceptively edited version. Of course, this leaves out the the Catholic kids were being harassed by a group of black nationalists hurling slurs of all sorts at them, and had the races been reversed in that angle, things would have been much, much different indeed. Not only would Rod (and everyone else) side with the black kids in the race-switching scenario, he would (rightfully) laud their poise, composure and maturity in facing down chanting white nationalists and a crazy guy in a tricorner hat.
But that’s a criticism that could be laid at the feet of hundreds of political pundits, what I really want to get at is how this impacts my view of Rod’s book The Benedict Option. In this books Rod makes the case that the world is turning against Christians in the very countries that used to be bulwarks of the Christian faith. Rod’s solution to this is to build strong Christian communities that adhere to religious orthodoxy (no lesbian priests, blessing abortion clinics or drag queen storytime), which can whether the storm and preserve Western Christian culture until such a time as it becomes widely accepted again.
The problem is that Rod’s reaction undermines the entire case the book makes, or at least shows that even he is not ready to be a part of the communities he wishes to see built. Having an instinctive reaction to side with the atheists, woke Christians, secular Jews, and outright anti-theists that make up political media against a group of Catholic teenagers is certainly not conducive to forming Christian communities that can withstand the storm. Rod, in fact, became an (albiet small) part of that storm, that takes any opportunity to bash Christians, particularly white ones. Just after Senators and the media called the Knights of Columbus an extremist group, it should be plenty obvious that these people do not have an interest in being fair or charitable when it comes to reporting on Christians, and Rod should have learned that lesson well by now.
In order for the communities that Dreher wants to exist and survive, the people in them need to learn to make Christian’s their in-group. That means instinctively siding with fellow Christians against a hostile world. It means giving Christians support when they need it, and letting them know that you are on the same side, even when the world is against them. It means offering, at most, private constructive criticism, while publicly defending Christians against media-inspired harassment and threats.
The Benedict Option is a book about preserving Christianity and the institutions that maintain it for generations to come. How do you think these boys feel about Christian institutions when so many of their fellow Christians and even their Church, turned their backs on them in their moment of crisis, when they needed people to stand up for them? Do you think they are more likely or less likely to stay committed to their church communities after this?