Sunday, May 14, 2017

If There Were An Award For Such A Thing

In the category of "Most Dangerous Theological Nonsense In A Single News Story", we have a very solid contender with this story that was plastered all over Facebook yesterday: "Pope Francis makes two children saints who saw Virgin Mary 100 years ago".

The title alone is nonsense. Mary doesn't appear as an apparition in visions and if she did she wouldn't be the "Virgin" Mary as she clearly is shown in in the Bible to have had children after the birth of Jesus. Jorge Bergoglio, aka "Pope Francis", doesn't have the power or authority to declare anyone a saint. The Bible again is clear on this, all Christians are referred to as saints. You become a saint when you are born again, not when a neo-Marxist religious leader declares you are based on a phony vision.

The story itself is enough to make me actually nauseous. Not in a hyperbolic sense but in a literal sense because of the spiritual deadness that accompanies this story that so many people seem to think is just wonderful.

FATIMA, Portugal – Pope Francis added two Portuguese shepherd children to the roster of Catholic saints Saturday, honoring young siblings whose reported visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago turned the Portuguese farm town of Fatima into one of the world's most important Catholic shrines.

Francis proclaimed Francisco and Jacinta Marto saints at the start of Mass marking the centenary of their visions. A half-million people watched in the vast square in front of the shrine's basilica, the Vatican said, citing Portuguese authorities. Many had spent days at Fatima in quiet prayer, reciting rosaries before a statue of the Madonna. They clapped as soon as Francis read the proclamation aloud.

How many people bowed before a statue, a graven image, rubbing beads and repeating rote prayers to a human being? The Mary of Scripture would be horrified to see people showing such slavish devotion to her instead of her Son. For the Scripturally literate Christian the very idea of this is heart-breaking and tragic but unfortunately far from unexpected. Humans have long turn to idols in place of the true living God.

"It is amazing, it is like an answer to prayer because I felt that always they would be canonized," said Agnes Walsh from Killarney, Ireland. She said she prayed to Francisco Marto for 20 years, hoping her four daughters would meet "nice boys like Francisco." ''The four of them have met boys that are just beautiful I couldn't ask for better, so he has answered all my prayers," she said.

Praying to a dead shepherd boy, who may or may not have even been a Christian in the first place, a boy who died almost a century ago and thinking that he somehow has the power to grant prayer petitions? This boy, Francisco Marto, was 9 when he allegedly had "visions" and died when he was 11. Then I came across this and even I was stunned by the paganism on display (emphasis mine)

Before the Mass, Francis prayed at the tombs of each of the Fatima visionaries. The Marto siblings died two years after the visions during Europe's Spanish flu pandemic. Lucia is on track for possible beatification, but her process couldn't start until after her 2005 death. 

At the end of the Mass, Francis was to offer a special greeting to the many faithful who flock to Fatima in hopes of healing. Many toss wax body parts — hands, hearts, livers and limbs — into a giant fire pit at the shrine as an offering.

Bringing a wax body part, presumably from a limb or organ you want healed, and throwing it into a fire while praying to Mary?! It is little wonder that so many Haitians are comfortable blending Voodoo and Catholicism because that is not really much different from sticking needles into a voodoo doll to hurt your enemies. Practices like this are right in line with things like transubstantiation, the practice of relics where people venerate body parts, items and even vials of preserved human blood and other pagan practices that go under the guise of "Christianity"

The parents of the boy who was allegedly miraculously healed, thus giving the seal of approval on the elevation of a"saint", said something similarly awful.

"We thank God for Lucas' cure and we know in all faith from our heart that this miracle was obtained with the help of the little shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta," Baptista told reporters earlier as the family broke their silence to reveal details of the case.

So we thank God for our son's healing but the miracle required the "help" of two deceased shephard children. I guess God can't do it alone and I guess Jesus is not a sufficient mediator, you need sub-mediators. That just does violence to everything we read in the New Testament.

I don't know what, if anything, these kids saw or didn't see other than being certain that they didn't see "the Virgin Mary". Satan was able to show visions even to the Christ (Luke 4:5) so simply claiming to have seen a vision doesn't carry much weight with me and especially having been formerly deceived by the successors to a charlatan who claimed to see visions which also contradicted or added to Scripture.

Exodus 20:4-5
Like the bogus "visions" reported by the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, I have no idea if these "visions" were the result of childhood imagination or mental/physical illness or were in fact visions of a demonic sort. The manner of their story does sound a lot like Joseph Smith's fanciful tale and even though they stuck to their story that proves nothing as Joseph Smith, David Koresh and other false teachers like Jim Jones stuck to their stories even when it meant their death. I am sure that both Smith and Reading the "revelations" of the "The Secrets of Fatima" they allegedly received even reads a lot to my eyes like the writings of Smith. I am not trying to create direct correlation between cultists like Smith, Koresh and Jones and these kids, just pointing out that claims of kooky visions are pretty common. The three "visions" themselves are an interesting story,

Lucia Santos recorded a vision of "hell" in the first vision which was revealed only in 1941 which seems odd to me, as was the second "vision", one which "predicted" that the first World War would end but if men were still offending God a worse one would "break out during the Pontificate of Pope Pius XI". It turns out that this very specific "revelation" was right! World War One did end and a new World War broke out when "Pope Pius XI" was in charge from 1922-1939. I am certainly not suspicious at all that these details were revealed in 1941, years after the first World War ended and the second began. In fact if I were a more suspicious sort I might think it was oddly convenient that she disclosed these specific details only after the details were known. If I were able to prophesy about events that have already come to pass, my prophetic batting average would be 1.000. The third vision is a rambling "vision" of a "Pope" where he is described as:

"...the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God."

First, people don't "make their way to God" because of the blood of Roman clergy being sprinkled on them by angels, the only way people are reconciled to God is by the blood of Jesus Christ. His blood is sufficient. Second, the Vatican in the summer of 2000 announced it would "reveal" the "third vision" which is when the details were revealed to the world. In the announcement letter posted on the official Vatican website, "Cardinal" Angelo Sodano strongly implies that the vision is about the attempted assassination of Karol Józef Wojtyła, aka Pope John Paul II, which coincidentally already had happened. Wojtyla apparently agreed:

After the assassination attempt of 13 May 1981, it appeared evident to His Holiness that it was "a motherly hand which guided the bullet’s path", enabling the "dying Pope" to halt "at the threshold of death" (Pope John Paul II. Meditation with the Italian Bishops from the Policlinico Gemelli, Insegnamenti, vol XVII/1, 1994, p. 1061). On the occasion of a visit to Rome by the then Bishop of Leiria-Fatima, the Pope decided to give him the bullet which had remained in the jeep after the assassination attempt, so that it might be kept in the Shrine. At the behest of the Bishop, the bullet was later set in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

Placing a bullet in the crown of a statue. That is just more, plain old simple primitive paganism. There are obvious issues with assigning this as a prophesy about an attempted assassination. First the "vision" speaks of "a group of soldiers". The would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca, was alone and not a soldier. He didn't kill Wojtyla, he just wounded him whereas the "prophecy" claimed "he was killed". No other "Bishops, Priests, men and women religious..." etc. were killed although a few by-standers were hit by bullets. The would-be assassin used a pistol, not arrows. Vatican City where he was shot is not a "mountain", it sits at the highest point at 250' above sea-level. But other than that the "prophecy" was spot on! One would think that a prophecy that was revealed 19 years after an event would do a better job of predicting the event but this one seems more likely to be a fanciful "vision" that was forcibly interpreted by a "Cardinal" as applying to a historical event to give it credence. Apparently the "Pope Emeritus" Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict VXI, remarked at the time that "No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled". Ratzinger is probably my favorite recent "Pope" even though he is a heretic.

Modern Roman Catholicism as it is practiced in America is by and large a mostly innocuous, if damnably false, religion but the Catholicism of years past is a swamp of pagan mysticism dressed up in pseudo-Christian lingo. When all you know is St. John's Catholic Church down on the corner with parishioners that are neighbors, friends and family, holding carnivals and hosting weddings, it can seem like Rome is a little confusing and weird but otherwise is generally harmless. It is not.

My point here is not to "bash Catholics", many of which are family and friends, and my intent is not to score cheap laughs over the silly practices of Roman Catholics. I don't find them funny at all just as I don't find them innocent. They are deeply troubling, and I believe they need to be publicized, exposed and refuted because they are a barrier to people, many of whom are honestly seeking Christ but are instead being lured further and further away by false teachers and heresy that claims to be authentic Christianity based on having been around for a long time. Both Roman Catholicism and, from what I have seen, the "Orthodox" religion rely on mysticism, ignorance, co-opted paganism and claims that it is all OK because they make grandiose declarations of authority and have a reliance on their continued existence with tenuous and easily disprovable claims to an unbroken line of ecclesiastical succession. When people are rubbing beads and praying to statues or throwing wax body parts into a fire in the hopes of being healed, that is many things but it is not Christianity as described and practiced in the Scriptures. Those are just the most extreme examples seen in stories like the one I quoted above but the daily practices and rhythms of Roman religious life are just as troubling and dangerous. Claims of possessing the power and authority to transform a wafer into the body of our Lord and to present Him for sacrifice repeatedly on an altar is even worse than tossing wax body parts into a fire.

Despite the temptation to look the other way in the hopes of gaining allies in the struggle against secularism, the church must do the opposite and be more diligent than ever. We cannot pretend to share a faith with people who pray to statues and claim visions of apparitions and who claim to sacrifice Chris anew. Either the work of Christ on the cross was sufficient or it is not. Either Christ alone is the mediator between man and God or He is not. Either the Bible is correct about all Christians being saints or the Bible is wrong and Rome is right. These are not questions with gray areas or space for nuance. These are days when the church is being tried and tested and already too many have turned back from the way of the Cross. Keep your eyes open and on the Christ. Far too many wolves and false teachers are around for us to relax our diligence and chief among those wolves for 1700 years has been the man sitting on the seat of "Saint" Peter.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Speaking Of Fake Hate Crimes

Another story of fake hate crimes, this one a convergence of two of my favorite topics, bogus "hate crimes" and the state of the university system. This one occurred at tiny St. Olaf College in Minnesota. I had never heard of it before but it was all over the news because of reports of "hate crimes" on campus. At the time the reports came out, I instinctively figured it was bogus, in part because so many of these claims are bogus but also because it just seemed so clumsy and ridiculous. A type-written note on a full sheet of paper stuck under a windshield? Yeah, that is how modern "White supremacists" and the alt-right operate, they never use that new fangled internet or anything.

As soon as the "hate crimes" came out, so did the protests which coincidently included a whole list of demands to the administration of St. Olaf, demands that they of course acquiesced to. You can read the demands at the very comprehensive web page the protesters put up, A Collective For Change On The Hill. It is pretty boilerplate SJW nonsense: "Our mission is to hold the administration and students of St. Olaf College accountable for the institutionalized racism that is embedded within the structures of this campus." Holding them accountable is code for "making them give us stuff we want". Here is a sampling, as a side note the word "demand" appears 54 times in their manifesto:
A. We demand the removal of Arne Christenson from the Advisory Board of The Institute for Freedom & Community. Given Mr. Christenson’s political views and values as a Christian Zionist, St. Olaf College risks his influence upon the speakers brought to the school, the educational offerings, faculty development workshops, and scholarships sanctioned by the Institute through financial means.
Mr. Arneson's crime is that he is a Christian, a White guy and supports Israel a little too much. So he must be removed!
A. We demand that the College composes and commits to a strategic 10-year plan by the end of the Fall of 2017, that will recruit, train, and retain, new hires to increase the percentage of Indigenous, Black/African-American, Latinx-American, Asian-American, Multiracial, Queer, Female, and international faculty and staff members that adequately represent the student body, especially considering the rising population of black and brown students both domestic and international at this institution.
St. Olaf is allegedly a school in the "Lutheran tradition" with tuition north of $44,000 grand a year. Clearly what every Lutheran school needs is more "Queer" faculty and staff.
A. We demand that St. Olaf College hire persons of color as a counselor and nutritionists for the Boe House Counseling Center, and health professional for the Health Center immediately for the wellbeing and mental health of marginalized students. This counselor will be hired additional to the current staff. We demand a plan for the hiring process to be established by Fall 2017, as part of Article II, Section A.
How can "persons of color" be expected to learn without PoC as nutritionists?! There are lots of other similarly silly demands, many of which are nothing more than demands for more scholarships for only students with the right skin color or sexual preferences and more diversity hires based on the same "qualifications". One was a little more troubling:
A. We demand that if a student is requesting to be reassigned a new roommate due to discrimination against their race, religion, gender and sexuality, such requests must be dealt with and responded to immediately. The perpetrator must then be removed from the room/house to not inconvenience the victim further.
So if you don't like your White, Christian and/or sexually normal room-mate, they are to be removed "immediately" to avoid "inconvenience" to the "victim". This is similar to the presumption of guilt we see in the campus "sexual assault" system.

Of course the "hate crime" was shown to be a hoax, the fake hate crime somewhat surprisingly making the pages of the Washington Post, A racist note sparked protests at a Minnesota college. The school now says the message was fake.
In an email sent to the campus community Wednesday, St. Olaf College President David R. Anderson revealed that investigators “confronted a person of interest” and confirmed that the threatening note was “not a genuine threat.”...Anderson went on to say that federal privacy laws prohibit the college from disclosing the identity of the note’s author.
You can absolutely be sure that if they had found a White student that they believed was responsible, they would have identified them. From what I can gather, nothing is going to be done from a disciplinary standpoint nor from a legal one. I also am pretty sure that the ridiculous demands cooked up by the "protestors" will still be met. I found it interesting that these demands were based at least in part on the demands from another Lutheran school, which if nothing else gives the impression that these boilerplate demands coupled with the apparent lack of consequences for the perpetrator of this hoax is part of an intentional process to use false charges to push through ever more extreme measures that benefit only a small number of radical activists.

I (only partly joking) posed this question on Facebook: "Is it too late to burn the entire public education system from kindergarten to the post-graduate university level to the ground, salt the earth and start all over?" Our educational system is irreparably broken. We have too many kids going to college that have no business being there, getting too many meaningless degrees that water down the value a college degree should carry and far too often not even getting a degree at all; our educational system from top to bottom is bloated and far too expensive, leaving communities with huge bills for K-12 and getting marginal returns, and college students left with a trillion dollars in student loan debt; and worst of all these "educational" institutions have devolved into very expensive re-education camps pushing the worst sorts of radical nonsense, sexual perversion and ironically discouraging any sort of critical thinking. Still we hear over and over again that we need to "invest" in education but we are absolutely not allowed to critique  the results we get. No matter how much we spend, we need to spend more. The beneficiaries of this mindset are the activists and the educational establishment who get cushy, high paid jobs (not talking about the run of the mill public school teacher here, heaven forbid we even appear to criticize them). The victims are the kids, kids who get a mediocre education, who are inundated with harmful nonsense in place of actual learning and who get to foot the bill of the debt they personally will incur and that is incurred on their behalf in our national debt. Of course society as a whole is also victimized by being forced to pay for this garbage with the threat that not agreeing to participate is to shut the door on any chance for a prosperous life for your kids.

The bogus "hate crime" incident at St. Olaf is just the latest peek behind the curtain of the educational establishment, a world many adults see little of but are told that they are duty bound to put their children into and to of course pay whatever is demanded of them. Under the cover of "it's for the good of the children" we have collectively allowed a small group of radicals to fleece this nation for decades without check and without much scrutiny. A fraternity at The University of Chicago was called racist because of an ironic construction themed party that sort of and intentionally coincided with Cinco de Mayo. We even have kids being suspended from school for "liking", on their own computer, on their own time, off school grounds, a social media post deemed "racist". I am glad that people are starting to wake up but a lot more of us need to wake up and soon because we cannot afford what it costs to feed the education beast and our society cannot afford another generation of kids who come out on the other end intellectually disfigured.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Hate Crime Hoaxes And A Post-Truth Society

I noted last week on Facebook yet another fake hate crime, a hoax committed by a person irrationally terrified of a Trump presidency or perhaps just mad that Hillary didn't win. If you recall, the media was awash in stories of "hate crimes" following the election and in typical hostile opposition media fashion they dutifully reported on each and every one as if it were of course a real story. The media assumed these were accurate stories because they also bought into the narrative that Trump won because of Russian meddling, the alt-right, the KKK, misogyny, the FBI, something other than their preferred candidate being a terrible human being who ran a terrible campaign so given that they anticipated "hate crimes" would follow Trump's election it only made sense that what they were expecting anyway happened and would be accepted without hesitation or investigation.

You can be forgiven for missing one story of a swastika, "Heil Trump" and "fag church" being spray painted on an Episcopal church in Indiana. I don't really remember it even though it happened in my state because the deluge of (now proven fake) news stories was so overwhelming. Shockingly, SHOCKINGLY I say!, it turns out to be a fake story yet again, with the added twist that the homosexual church organist who reported the vandalism was the actual perpetrator. Stunning, I know. Once I recovered from swooning in shock, I wrote this on Facebook:
Remember all of those hates crimes that followed Trump's win by energized hate groups? Yeah, it turns out that over and over those were actually committed by people trying to make it *seem* like Trump supporters were actually the deplorable people Hillary claimed they were. In this case a homosexual "church" organist spray painted the church he attended and was employed by with "Heil Trump" and "Fag Church" and then called the lady "pastor" to report the hate crime. Months of investigation, who knows how much money in expenses, a community in fear that turned out yet again to be false.
Basically he was irrationally afraid because the most pro-gay person ever elected won and he didn't think other people were sufficiently afraid so he faked a crime to try to make them properly afraid of something that was false in the first place. This being Bloomington, In, home of IU, he got slapped with a misdemeanor. As a bonus you can read what the lady "bishop" said about the whole fiasco, it is about as nonsensical and theologically illiterate as you might expect from a woman who styles herself a Bishop.
Oh, and one more thing.... "
“The Brown County Prosecutor’s Office believes that, although this incident targeted one of our county’s churches and thrust our community in a negative light on a national stage, this was not a hate crime,” Adams said in a press release." 
I disagree. A crime based on hate WAS committed, a crime against law abiding American citizens who voted for Trump who were slandered by this man. He ought to issue an apology to President Trump directly and to the people of his community, state and nation for his false and slanderous hate crime against people he disagreed with politically.
So why did we see all of this going on? What in the world is wrong with people that it seemed like a rational act to scratch themselves with a safety pin and blame Trump supporters or set fire to their own church like the pre-election event in Mississippi or to claim that they were being threatened with being set on fire for wearing a hijab or spray painting clumsy "hate speech" on their own church where they were employed? We were warned (by the Hillary sold out media) that if Clinton won there would be violent incidents from the "right-wing" but the opposite ended up to be true and the people committing the acts were Leftists, not radical right-wing extremists.

Partly it is because the entire Clinton campaign was run on fear. This was a charge made about Trump's campaign but the real fear mongering came from Clinton. If you vote for Trump all of these terrible things will happen! I can't ever remember a campaign where the basic appeal from one side was "I am not that guy". When Trump won, it was necessary for people to see these things come to light I guess. There is a bigger issue though, a bigger issue that impacts all of us and it extends far beyond politics.

We live in a post-truth society, one where we have moved past the point of thinking that ultimate truth is unknowable to one where there is no such thing as truth in the first place. Truth as something to be pursued has been replaced by The Narrative© and The Narrative© is all that matters. If the narrative is that a win by Trump will embolden the White supremacists and neo-Nazis and xenophobic anti-immigrant hordes, then by golly that is what is going to happen. If it doesn't happen naturally, we will just help it along because the spice must flow The Narrative© must advance. Even in the aftermath of seeing that this was just another false flag bogus hate crime, the Left still can't help itself but still trying to spin the story. Look at the statement from the "Bishop" of the Indianapolis diocese, The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows:
“Many people in our country, particularly members of sexual, religious and racial minorities, have well-founded reasons to be fearful in these difficult times, but this terrible situation illustrates why we must resist the temptation to play to those fears,” she said.
Notice that she has to slip in that homosexuals have every right to be afraid in these "difficult times". The reality is that the only reason they have anything to fear is that they have been fed a steady diet of fake "hate crimes" from the very people who keep telling them to be afraid. You aren't afraid enough and I think you should be afraid in spite of the lack of any evidence so I will make up some reasons for you to be afraid. For your own good, of course. The media, leftist political groups, even many "progressive" pseudo-Christian religious groups, are perfectly happy and feel completely justified in pushing their agenda, regardless if the facts support their claims. Peaceful attendees at Trump events were attacked by radical leftists again and again, the media was silent. Peaceful attendees at talks on university campuses by speakers from Milo to Charles Murray were attacked and the media spins it as "clashes" between Trump supporters and "protesters". The only "clashes" were one-sided attacks where typically (and this is verifiable even through the hostile media) a Trump supporter or someone else on the Right was attacked without provocation, usually an unarmed individual attacked by multiple armed assailants. When the Right finally organized and fought back, with pretty disastrous results for the ironically named "antifa" the media spin still made it look like skinheads were just beating up innocent beatniks playing their drums and smoking weed.

What we are seeing across the Western world and particularly here in America is a backlash against the carefully controlled "media" that has told Americans not just what to think but what topics they were allowed to think about for much of my life. The mainstream media is losing influence quickly, far more quickly than I believe even they realize as they largely measure their influence on outdated metrics like subscription numbers and ad revenue. Younger people on the Left moved to the late night "comedian" "news" like Jon Stewart, Colbert and Maher as well as far-left webzines like Vox and the HuffPo. While many older people on the Right rely a lot on Fox News, at least for now, and talk radio, younger people on the Right are more likely to use Twitter and Youtube to get information and form opinions.

The elite in this country keep telling us that truth is subjective and now they are reaping what they have sown. They scream that they are the only "true news" and that other sources, which are invariably conservative/right-wing in orientation, are often "fake news". The same people who complain about Breitbart being biased seem to have no issue with Huffington Post. The elites have created a counter-narrative to the admittedly sometimes not well thought out narrative of a "Judeo-Christian" moral narrative that proposes that there is no truth at all. It has worked a little too well because now we have an environment where nothing is true and where people feel justified, over and over again, to stage a fake hate crime to push The Narrative© and it turns out a lot of people will at least tacitly defend them because even though it was a lie, it could have happened, based on a rather warped understanding of the situation in America. When someone spray paints his own church with graffiti which leads to a lot of fear, a public outpouring of support and costs the tax-payers untold amounts of money and manhours (oops, that is patriarchal!) of police investigations that could have been spent on real crimes and still the "Bishop" feels the need to slip in an excuse for an outrageous act, it tells you where we are as a country.

The church, by which I mean the actual church which precludes people like "The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows", needs to stand for the objective truth of Scripture. I am pretty confident that many people don't like the wishy-washy, nothing is true, only The Narrative© matters nonsense. They are looking for an unapologetic stance for truth in matters of faith as well as in other areas. Not everyone of course and many people don't even realize what they are missing thanks to 17 years in the indoctrination centers/re-education camps we call our educational system. Still, the church must not yield to the temptation to reject absolute, objective truth because when we do, when we bend to the prevailing winds of the culture, we no longer have anything to say to the world.

We have the truth. Others may disagree that it is true but they should never, ever be confused or uncertain that we declare it to be truth, without compromise or apology. If nothing is true then of course nothing is false. Christians know that the reality is quite different. Jesus Christ is truth incarnate and the truth of Christ will set you free. That is still the message our world needs to hear.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Book Review: The Benedict Option

"The Benedict Option, is already the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade." David Brooks, The New York Times

Thus claims one reviewer, one who admittedly is not exactly my idea of an authority on what would constitute an important religious book, although I will concede that it is widely discussed. In spite of praise from Brooks and others including people as disparate as Gabe Lyons, Carl Trueman and Charles Chaput, the "Archbishop" of Philadelphia, I have to disagree. As a virtually every-day reader of Rod Dreher's primary media outlet, The American Conservative (TAC), I have had his new book, The Benedict Option (BenOp), on my radar for the better part of the year. As a reader of TAC it has been hard not to as much of 2016 featured endless previews of the BenOp and virtually every essay Dreher published somehow made reference to the Benedict Option, no matter how strained the connection. In spite of this, I still planned on reading the BenOp as soon as I could get it from the library as it touches on a topic I have been very interested in for a long time, namely how does the church respond to a changed world post-Christendom America style, and also because a lot of people are reading it and talking about it. So as soon as it showed up at our library I got my copy and dug in.

Admittedly I did so as a "hostile reviewer". Based on what I had read from Dreher already, and if I am honest out of more than a little irritation at his endless promoting of the book followed by angry denunciations of anyone who didn't respond to it positively after it came out, I was expecting to have a lot I would disagree with. I was not wrong on that count. What I also found that I was not expecting was that in spite of the hype, The BenOp was just not a very good book. I have read well written books that I disagreed with before but the BenOp was not just full of assertions I disagreed with but it was just not terribly interesting. As I wrote previously: "Far from a manifesto for the way forward, the Benedict Option has all the signs of being a flash in the pan that sells well for a month thanks to the endless hype and then fades rapidly into obscurity. Dreher has a medievalist fetish that puts Renaissance fair attendees and jousting LARPers to shame and it just doesn't translate well into our contemporary culture and he seems pretty oblivious to other, more pertinent examples from church history that point more faithfully to the way forward.". Apart from just being a generally forgettable book, the BenOp has a number of serious flaws.

Dreher puts his book forth as the way forward for Christians. The subtitle of the book right on the cover proclaims: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. The problem with this assertion is that what is missing most blatantly from The BenOp is the Gospel. The BenOp doesn't start and stop with the most important thing, the Gospel itself, and it doesn't seem from my reading of Dreher that he has any understanding of the Gospel at all, which isn't surprising since he is an Eastern Orthodox convert from Roman Catholicism. Rather than focusing on the Gospel as the cornerstone of living for the Kingdom, the BenOp instead it focuses on religion, ritual, tradition, and "Christian culture" with Dreher never seeming to connect the dots and see that those things traditionally are not the solution, they are one of the root causes of the problem.

Dreher also is entirely dependent on a very shaky premise, that of continued religious liberty in America to provide legal cover for religious folks to practice the Benedict Option in the first place. On page 84, Dreher writes: "Religious liberty is critically important to the Benedict Option. Without a robust and successful defense of First Amendment protections, Christians will not be able to build the communal institutions that are vital to maintaining our identity and values.". So Dreher proposes one the one hand what amounts to a withdrawal from political advocacy (a characterization he would angrily reject but what so many readers keep coming away from the BenOp with) but on the other admits that without robust religious liberty the BenOp won't work. The future is somewhat murky but there is one thing that is certain, religious liberty protections in this country are going to get weaker, not stronger in the future, and any strategy that fails to recognize this reality is deeply flawed at the outset. Anyone who thinks that the militant progressive secularists are going to just leave us alone if we promise to retreat into our communes is naive.

The third major flaw in the BenOp is Dreher's advocacy of what amounts to a one-sided ecumenism. Dreher has admitted in essays for TAC that he doesn't really understand evangelicalism and his commentary on various Protestant issues makes this amply clear. That doesn't stop him from presuming to declare for Evangelical Christians and other Protestants that the monastic rules from a 6th century monk are the only way to survive the future. Of course he also lists the Protestant Reformation as being on par with the 1960's Sexual Revolution for the most harmful events in Western history (pg. 23) so he clearly doesn't think much of Protestantism. I understand that, he is Eastern Orthodox after all but his prescriptions for the church seem to include lots of "smells and bells" in the form of liturgies, rituals, etc. He even at one point suggests that "beauty and goodness" are our best evangelistic tools (pg. 117), in echoes of the apocryphal "Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words" nonsense attributed to Francis of Assisi. When you don't understand the Gospel I guess relying on "beauty and goodness" is your only resort.

In general, the Benedict Option is theologically confused and flaccid. Coming from the Eastern Orthodox tradition as Dreher does that is to be expected but someone who sees himself as a sort of post-Christendom Moses should take the time to flesh out the theological underpinnings and ramifications of what he is suggesting. I can't say I am surprised by the shallow theology, Dreher has in the past stated that he is not sure of the answer to the question of whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians and has never given it any thought and more recently described a Muslim reader as his brother apparently based on the Muslim reader agreeing with the Benedict Option. In other essays and several times in his book Dreher praises the "community" found in the mormon cult, including the "home teacher" program where each adult man is assigned to other adult men to check up on them regularly (pg. 135). As someone who came out of mormonism I can say without hesitation that their "community" is rigidly enforced and based on cultic control practices and is not something we ought to be emulating. To summarize, Dreher thinks that the Protestant Reformation was a disaster on par with the Sexual Revolution but he adores mormonism and feels a brotherly kinship with Muslims.

In closing, the Benedict Option is a generally uninteresting book based on a flawed premise and with more red flags that a May Day parade in Paris. Christians should be looking to the future and preparing for what that will bring but this is the wrong path. Instead of looking to a 6th century monk, we ought to be looking at the 16th century Anabaptists who thrived amid persecution. Many historic Anabaptist groups already practice intentional, close communities like the Amish, the Hutterites, the Bruderhof and others. They don't warrant a mention in the Benedict Option but mormons do. That kind of tells you why this is precisely the wrong path for the church. Many of us have been having these conversations long before the Benedict Option came on the scene and part of having a discerning mind about these questions is to be able to examine and when necessary reject flawed pathways. The Benedict Option is one of those paths that Christians need to reject.

(See also:  The Benedict Option And The Future Of The Church: We Should Look Back But Where And When Is The Real Question and The Anabaptist Option > The Benedict Option for starters)