Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Eggs Benedict Option

Wendy Goodfriend's Springtime Eggs Benedict with Asparagus, Ham, and Quick Lemony Hollandaise Sauce on Meyer Lemon–Rosemary Toast, via KQED San Francisco. I've used this gag before and I'm sure I'm not the only one but what the hell.
Shorter former New York Times columnist David Brooks, "The Benedict Option", March 14 2017:
The most important religious book of the decade is The Benedict Option by my friend Rod Dreher, which argues that we are entering a new Dark Age, as the struggle over gay rights drives Christian merchants out of business, threatens the tax exemptions and accreditations of Christian schools and colleges, and threatens to blacklist Orthodox Christians and Jews from many professions and corporations. The L.G.B.T. armies have won the culture war, and the only option for the faithful is to follow the example of St. Benedict of Nursia, who organized monastic communities around Europe as the Roman Empire collapsed in the sixth century, and withdraw from the wider society into scattered settlements in which the fires of doctrinal purity can continue to burn. But that's only because he hates the gay, unlike me. I think we should adopt Orthodox Pluralism, in which each of us surrenders to some orthodoxy that will overthrow the obsessions of the self and put one's life in contact with a transcendent ideal, while staying friendly with those who disagree with us.
I guess that's why it's the most important religious book of the decade even though the decade has almost four years to go and even though, as Brooks makes clear, it presents an absurdly false view of the current state of the world, pushes a preposterous proposal that the author obviously has no intention of carrying out, and is based on the stoking of irrational fears of our fellow human beings to arouse hatred and paranoia. It's really important because it enables Brooks to display what a wonderful person he is, with his tolerant magnanimity, being infinitely superior to Dreher but loving and respecting him all the same.

And because it's being released today (The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, $18.33 from Amazon, $12.99 on Kindle), and what's friendship if you can't take time out of your busy schedule to pimp a friend's new book, however crazed it may be?

The same goes for some of Rod's other "leftist" friends. Russell Arben Fox got his review out ("I have three points to make about this book. The first is that it’s really pretty great. Some chapters are better than others...") a good week ago, and Damon Linker's ("may be the most important statement of its kind since Richard John Neuhaus’ The Naked Public Square, the 1984 book that Dreher’s implicitly seeks to supplant") appeared in The Week yesterday, as Dreher himself cheerfully informs us in a blog post on the neo-Benedictine's heavy media schedule and widespread acclaim. I also have to say it's hard for me to see where Dreher is getting this sense of being persecuted.

I kind of agree with the Brooksian position that there are a lot of different ways to seek transcendence and we ought to do our best to respect them all along with those who don't feel the need to seek it, if there are any of those, but I also have to say I don't think I really need to make an effort to be friends with those who think my other friends are dirty, poisonous, and hell-bound—I know a lot of deeply religious people who aren't like that at all, and it's not necessary. If anybody won a war in the growing insistence that LGTBQ people should have the same basic human and civil rights as others, it's everybody that won, including Dreher as far as that goes.

And then by all means let Dreher take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and go live in a single-sex dormitory where he has to wake up at three in the morning for the first prayers and work in the fields all day, but he's very much in the sinful world as he is (he can occasionally write really well about food, and if he'd stick to that I think I could almost forgive him for being such a nasty person, the way I forgive T.S. Eliot or somebody like that—I mean to read him, not to hang out with him), and I don't see any reason why I should take any of this posturing seriously, or stop speculating that so much protest must be masking some shameful secret of his own.

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