Hi and welcome back! We’ve been having a very unofficial Love Week around here these past couple of weeks. Mostly, we’ve focused on evangelical women and their inability to find husbands — and evangelicals’ utter inability to follow their own rules about sex. Today, the ever-hilarious Rod Dreher clutches his pearls over young women’s lack of interest in sex with
him right-wing Christian men — and then offers the tribe a non-solution to this non-problem that just so happens to enrich him personally.
(When I talk about Christians finding “The Big Problem Here,” I mean it very mockingly. It’s like they settle on some nonsensical idea as the cause of all their fretting, and then attack that misidentified problem with all the gusto they can manage. Obviously, the solution to The Big Problem Here always coincidentally grants them more power over others. It’s really just the strangest thing.)
Everyone, Meet Rod Dreher.
Rod Dreher is a religion-hopper. He started life as a Methodist, then went Catholic. When the Catholic child-rape scandal got out, he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. But that history is the least of the reasons I hold him in disdain.
Just to illustrate one of the reasons nobody should take Rod Dreher seriously, he erroneously blames the Catholic child-rape scandal on an organized pedophile ring of gay priests. That is so bees-headed, so eye-poppingly ridiculous, running so absolutely counter to the evidence we had even in the early 00s, that it just had to be stated for the record. Really, correct accusations and conclusions have never been his forte — only pearl-clutching, poorly-directed blame, tribalism, and non-solutions.
He’s also responsible for the utterly failed notion of “the Benedict Option.” This idea involves TRUE CHRISTIANS™ retreating into planned communities. These communities are occupied and controlled only by themselves. He has never bothered to see how that “option” plays out in reality. However, I’ve run into many essayists (like this one) who had the unfortunate experience of living in one of these communities. “Benedict Option” communities turn out to be just as abusive and as crazymaking as anyone reasonable would expect.
In short, Rod Dreher is a willfully ignorant charlatan. He tirelessly flogs a product that’s even more failure-prone than the usual crap we see out of right-wing Christianity.
That said, he’s absolutely hilarious in his shrill screeching about
KIDS WOMEN TODAY.
“Take This Seriously.”
Nowadays, Rod Dreher writes for various sympathetic rags like The American Conservative.
Safely hidden away from reality in his ivory tower, he tells his tribe how to feel about various social situations that are none of their business. Then, he offers them virtue-signaling non-solutions that represent the most fanciful sort of magical thinking imaginable.
That’s where we find today’s essay. He titled it dramatically:
“No Families, No Children, No Future.”
In this essay, he tells his tribe to “take this seriously.” I don’t see how anybody reasonable could, considering it’s impossible to take Rod Dreher himself seriously.
But okay, fine. What does he think everyone should take seriously?
Oh, just the usual thing that today’s conservative Christian wingnuts fret about: the end of civilization as they know (and prefer) it.
In today’s case, “civilization” involves young American women wanting to touch his peepee.
The Case of the Erroneous Conclusion.
Here’s his fret:
Some Democratic guy did a survey of young American women. About 30% of them identified as LGBT. Also, in 2009 there were more unmarried women in our country than married ones. Obviously, all of those women are single by choice. Rod Dreher considers no other explanation.
OH NOES! In Dreher-Land, that figure obviously means that 30% of childbearing-aged women did not want to touch men’s peepees!
Sound the alarms!
THE ENTIRE SYSTEM IS BREAKING DOWN!
There’ll be no more families! No more children!
NO MORE FUTURE!
And of course, Rod Dreher blames women for this perceived problem.
Making his poor reasoning and willful ignorance even more obvious, Rod Dreher refers to a study from 1947 from someone claiming that the family unit was totally breaking down. I’ll quote it, because it truly showcases Rod Dreher’s utter lack of critical thinking skills:
The only thing that seems certain is that we are again in one of those periods of family decay in which civilization is suffering internally from the lack of a basic belief in the forces which make it work.
Rod Dreher’s takeaway:
He wrote this in 1947. Zimmerman missed the Baby Boom coming, but otherwise, he was right on target.
I saw that and went REALLY? Are you sure about that, Mr. Lavender Mafia Pearl-Clutcher?
Because the Baby Boom actually completely invalidates that entire observation.
In fact, after WWII, Americans suffered through a long period of evangelical-driven moral panics and culture wars that gave evangelical leaders nearly unlimited power over American society. Using that power, they engineered a nearly unprecedented period of authoritarian control in the American upper and middle classes. And far from families becoming obsolete, the Baby Boom made them explode in both numbers and cultural power.
There’s absolutely no way to read that excerpt, knowing the history of the late 1940s and 1950s, and agree with it. Unless someone’s Rod Dreher, I guess.
The Only Valid Marriage Is King Rod’s Notion of Marriage.
Then Rod Dreher clutches his pearls and frets more about how KIDS TODAY see marriage. See, nobody’s supposed to look to marriage for any reason besides childbearing and parenting. That’s it. Also, nobody’s allowed to have children or raise them outside of a marriage.
If anybody marries for any other reason or eschews marriage entirely, they’re hurting civilization.
And if anybody bears and raises children outside of marriage, oh, y’all. They are definitely causing the breakdown of civilization itself. He writes:
We are going to have to endure a civilizational collapse before we begin the Great Relearning. I am beginning to see now why a sociologist I heard speak a few years ago said that losing awareness of the gender binary is going to mean the end of us. He meant that we will lose cultural memory of the basic fact needed to ensure the future of our civilization. We are living through the fall right now. This is why I wrote The Benedict Option.
As I mentioned, though, the Benedict Option simply doesn’t work. Right-wing Christians have no idea how to responsibly wield or distribute power. Inevitably, abusers get their hands on the unlimited power these Christians offer to their leaders. Once an abusive leader has settled into place, their groups can’t eject them or rein them in.
That’s why the communities created by these Christians tend to be hellholes of abuse and cruelty. Nobody can or should trust any right-wing Christian to wield real power over others.
The Village Elders Speak of Days Long Past.
Further, I don’t think The Big Problem Here will lead to the collapse of civilization.
I mean, Rod Dreher tries so so so hard to make the situation sound like any day now, America’s cities will be smoking ruins full of zombies.
Oh yes. And in a couple generations, wide-eyed children wearing grass skirts will be asking their wrinkled village elders what it was like to live in the glory days of See-Atte-Tell and drive horseless carriages and run thinking machines to play bright, noisy games.
(Almost every writer seems to have gone through an early phase of writing a story along those lines.)
It’s painfully obvious, though, that Rod Dreher’s view of “civilization” is painfully constrained and clouded.
I think what really bothers him is the collapse of Christianity, leading to right-wing Christians’ subsequent loss of cultural domination. You know, just like how Rome fell. Cuz that’s how it fell. Totally.
He is just so limited that he can’t even imagine any other meaning for the word “civilization.” He’s never even heard of the many flourishing civilizations that do/did not suffer under totalitarian Christian control — or else ignores them through antiprocess.
DO THIS RIGHT NOW, EVERYONE! OR CIVILIZATION GETS IT IN THE SHORTS!
Finally, we come to Rod Dreher’s call to action — his non-solution to The Big Problem Here of non-cishet women not wanting his babies — er, men’s babies. Yeah. Men’s. Not his, particularly. Men’s in general. That’s it. He writes:
Thirty percent of women aged 25 and under have no interest in sex with men. If that does not alarm you as a religious traditionalist or conservative, then you might actually be dead. We absolutely must form right now — not tomorrow, right now — communities that socialize our children into the goodness of marriage and family.
Of course, y’all. The Benedict Option is, by total wild coincidence, the way out of all this mess. Buy his books! Do what he says! Everything’ll be fine then!
Rod Dreher promises that Benedict Option communities will churn out lots of right-wing Christians who will resurrect civilization as he knows (and prefers) it. These communities will definitely breed girl-children who will become young women who’ll totally not be LGBT at all. Those well-indoctrinated young women will then marry and make babies with right-wing Christian men.
However, the only people who can “socialize our children” into acceptance of his flavor of abuse are people who already accept it, or who can be recruited to do so. Fewer and fewer of those Christians remain these days, with fewer every new generation.
And, too, even these few families fail to consistently produce lifelong authoritarian right-wing Christians. It turns out that when they get older, children do very often depart from it. In that essay link from the woman who bought into Dreher’s ideas (relink), she hints that one of her children left her religion — and she tells us that these abuse-prone communities often backfire that way.
Narcissist Logic: Even When He’s Wrong, He’s Right.
Many of you will already have noticed the dealbreaking flaw in Rod Dreher’s reasoning.
Indeed, “a number of readers” pointed out to him that the Democratic study in question does not actually mean that 30% of young American women don’t want hetero sex and babies. He was so wrong that he had to write an update to his post. There, he insisted that even though he was wrong, he’s still right.
His classic narcissist’s reasoning: Fine, so many of those 30% might be bisexual. I’m still right! What man would ever want a bisexual wife? These women might as well be pure gay! So my reasoning stands! Neener!
It’s also like he just has no idea that plenty of LGBT women have children and get married. According to this 2017 report from the Census people, there are half a million same-sex marriages, with 200k children growing up in those families. And that’s just the LGBT people in same-sex marriages.
No, LGBT women are certainly getting married and having kids.
They just aren’t doing any of that with men like him, that’s all.
And the only tool he has to deal with this grand problem he’s identified, the pixie dust that powers the Benedict Option itself, doesn’t actually work to change this situation.
Coercion: Without It, Broken Systems Die on the Vine.
Like authoritarians everywhere, Rod Dreher has only one tool in his toolbox: coercion.
He sees this as the answer to any question or social problem at all. Got a problem? Give Christians like him more coercive power over others! Yes! That’ll totally work!
Oh yes, he looks back with longing at the Good Ole Days (which appear to have been in the 1930s and early 1940s, in Dreher-Land) when his tribe had nearly unlimited power over American society. Gosh, it was so great then — for men exactly like him! To get back those days, all he needs is a return of what he mistakenly imagines was unlimited power for men exactly like him! And then everything will be great again! You’ll see!
He’s not proposing that the men of his tribe do anything to appeal to greater numbers of young American women as mates, so maybe those women want to marry them and make babies with them. Oh no! That’d be just awful!
Instead, he wants to find a way to force young women into relationships with the men of his tribe. To do that, he seeks to eliminate all other possible options for them except the one he happens to like best.
Hey, it ain’t his rights on the chopping block. He doesn’t care about the rights he’s destroying if they aren’t his own. It’s for the greater good, so it’s okay. For him.
Obligatory “Hot Fuzz” scene.
Noble Lords and Rulers, They Ain’t.
It’s sickening, absolutely repulsive. But Rod Dreher tries his best to make his proposal sound like some noble endeavor and not the disenfranchisement and brutal subjugation of half the human race.
Luckily, he and his pals won’t be getting that power — and if his abusive planned communities ever do become popular, they will eventually collapse in on themselves, just like Catholicism has begun to do in the wake of its own widespread scandals.
In that unlikely case, give it a decade, tops, and nobody will hear “Benedict Option” without their minds flashing back to all the abuse stories they’ve heard coming out of those groups — just like nobody’s ever surprised nowadays when a right-wing Christian leader turns out to be a complete hypocrite.
But it’s far more likely that “Benedict Option” communities will continue to remain an extreme-fringe thing. Not even evangelicals like the company of their toxic, power-obsessed, nauseatingly-uptight communities — they almost never socialize with each other outside of church itself. No, they won’t ever be overly tempted to make whole communities with each other.
In his dreams, though, Rod Dreher is free indeed.
And so is his tribe.
NEXT UP: Whew! That was a lot of groundwork. Thank you for journeying through it with me. With all of this stuff in mind, we’ll now look to the dilemma evangelical women face as they hunt for husbands. See you tomorrow!
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