Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Benedict Option: Chapter 8 (Preparing for Hard Labor)

You know what I haven't heard about in a while? Gay wedding cakes. And gay floral arrangements, and gay photographs. It's probably just because I haven't been paying much attention to the catacombs of theocon thought - they're surely still howling at the moon over the injustice. But that's kind of my point. Time was, you'd hear about those religious liberty rending homos from all corners of the conservative movement, even the "intellectual" ones who treat theocons like that annoying acquaintance they can't quite shake. It's receded from public view, though, sunk somewhere beneath fifteen layers of fresher, more odiferous bullshit. I'd also like to think that the greater injustices brought to light by BLM and similar movements have taken the sting out of the horror of having to work with the gays ("My teenage son was shot to death by the police just because he was close to a place where someone reported a crime." "Yeah! And I had to make a cake for lesbos!").

Rod Dreher, being a fan of the classics, is different. Terror over the LGBT menace is the main animating force behind this little idea of his, and while there are a great many aspects of modern life that disturb him (including some genuinely surprising ones, although we'll get to those I'm sure), the growing acceptance of sexual minorities is clearly paramount. Chapter 7 was almost entirely about this particular anxiety, and it figures strongly into this chapter as well. Some samples:
As the LGBT agenda advances, broad interpretations of antidiscrimination laws are going to push traditional Christians increasingly out of the marketplace, and the corporate world will become hostile toward Christian bigots, considering them a danger to the working environment...
...One Christian professor on a secular university's science faculty declined to answer a question I had about the biology of homosexuality, out of fear that anything he said, no matter how innocuous and fact-based, could get him brought up on charges within his university , as well as attacked by social media mobs...
...[A]n LGBT activist group called Campus Pride has put more than one hundred Christian colleges on a "shame list" and called on business and industry not to hire their graduates...[Brushing up against "Bearing false witness" there, Rod - Ed.] 
But my personal favorite:
In past eras, religious minorities found themselves locked out of certain professions. In medieval times, for example, anti-Semitic bigotry in Europe prevented Jews from participating in many trades and professions...Similarly, orthodox Christians in the emerging era will need to adapt to an era of hostility.
Hey, I'm not saying we're persecuted, but we're basically Jews in 11th century Europe. Just another reminder that, for all the 800-level philosophy exegesis, Dreher is a wingnut at heart and no more averse to histrionics and hyperbole.

But enough about the rampaging Rainbow Horde, let's talk about work. Dreher opens with an important anecdote, one bearing a particular element that is fast becoming a cliche among the David Brooks sensible-center-right chattering class:
Growing up in Texas, Brother Frances Devoren assumed he was going to be a man who labored primarily with his mind...
...Today, at forty-three, Brother Francis has a new respect for physical labor, thanks to the hard work he has to do at the monastery...
I obviously cut a lot out of that, but you get the gist, and you've no doubt heard sermonizing from someone about those selfish Kids These Days and how they'd benefit from Honest Hard Work. Senator Ben Sasse is a recent entrant into this field, pitching his KTD-bashing book with a lovely editorial about how he made his daughter work at a cattle ranch for a few weeks as a "formative experience" which will help her maintain objectivity as her father greases the skids for her the rest of her life. A related phenomenon comes at the other end of life when rich twits, fearing that they've become detached from True Masculinity, buy their way into some agricultural operation so that they can work there for a few hours a week and call themselves "real farmers."

As it happens, I am an agricultural laborer, and not by choice - I've been rejected by every other job I applied for in a 50-mile radius. Guess what? "Mind labor" is better than physical labor. It's not even close. That's not a judgment call against people who actually do this shit, to whom I'm infinitely grateful (undocumented immigrants included - you guys are the best). It's strictly about the nature of the work. All this job taught me is that I should do everything possible to avoid having to do it, a lesson that everyone else has figured out as I'm one of the few otherwise unemployed people who voluntarily does this shit.

Really, it's downright fascinating...when you think you're only doing it for a few months. It's the difference between eating Ramen every day while you're in grad school and eating Ramen every day your whole life because you're broke. Only one makes for a fun anecdote, the other is just awful.

...Sorry, what were we talking about? Rod who? Oh, right. My point in this is that Dreher isn't just screaming in terror, he's also has advice on how others can avoid a grim fate at the lavender talons of the gay menace. It doesn't involve manual labor, though - Dreher certainly isn't going to sink that far, especially where his own kids are concerned - but he does offer some alternatives, like starting your own media company or moving to Elk County, Pennsylvania. But what about people who have neither the means nor the desire for such dramatic changes? Dreher actually isn't too confident in his own advice here, so he wraps up the chapter with a warning:
Given how much Americans have come to rely on middle-class comfort, freed om and stability, Christians will be sorely tempted to say or do anything asked of us to hold on to what we have. That is the way of spiritual death...We will be able to choose courageously and correctly in the moment of trail only if we have prepared ourselves in every possible way.
I'm sorry, I was briefly distracted by a twinge in my upper back, one I assume I received while tightening hundreds of cross-arm bolts with a manual ratchet (and, for a while, my bare fingers) for probably less money than you got to write these three sentences. You were saying something about your trials?

So as with The Road to Character, The Benedict Option is clearly written for people of a higher class than me, but it's not like I grew up in poverty or anything. What Dreher is writing shouldn't be this alien to me. All I can do is wonder how Dreher became so affluent when he so willfully utters those Unspeakable Thoughts, or where I can find all of these wealthy Christians cast into peonage for incurring the wrath of their new gay overlords.

Beyond Dreher's continued depiction of the LGBT community as a cabal of oppressors lies the other problem, which is that Dreher wants me to feel sorry for some hypothetical future group of economically injured true believers when all around me are people suffering right now. I'm not the only middle-class kid who ended up hustling low-end jobs to make ends meet - the best I can say about the people I know is that they aren't downwardly mobile yet, and I'm sure that many of you can say the same. I'll weep for the Drehers when I spot one of their kids tarring a roof in the blistering summer heat - that's one time that I really could understand their pain, and understand it well enough to know that the queers likely weren't responsible.

And having finally ended this extremely angry post, I am somewhat less than pleased to announce an extremely nauseating post to come, as the next chapter is about sex. I'm terribly sorry, but then again you guys don't have to actually read it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for reading this execrable book so we don't have to.