Rod Dreher and the Self-Pity Grift of Conservative American Christianity

Here’s an excerpt from a recent review in The Christian Century of his book LIVE NOT BY LIES:

“Talking about Christians in Soviet Eastern Europe offers Dreher and his audience both a villain that is ideologically other (namely, communist) and a protagonist who is ethno-culturally self (European and Christian). The story of Christianity under racial apartheid in America, democratic retraction in contemporary Europe, or criminal and failed states in Latin America would require Dreher and his readers to face the possibility of identifying with the persecutor or being estranged from the persecuted.

There was a time, even as recently as that anguished reaction to the EJI report on lynching, when Dreher demonstrated the ability to see his own cultural identity as entwined with and complicit in grave evils. Now he invokes “redlining” in reference not to the actual American practice that created housing segregation and massive wealth inequality but to a future possibility that right-wing influencers may not be able to bank at JPMorgan. He describes the hardy Christian resistance cells under communism as “sanctuary cities” at a time when literal sanctuary cities—meant to keep immigrant families intact and limit the power of the federal government to invade and destroy lives—are being dismantled. He devotes a chapter to “Standing in Solidarity” while writing on his blog that George Floyd was a victim of his own refusal to obey police and Breonna Taylor would have been just fine if she’d internalized good values like Dreher’s father had.”

The bad news is that Dreher’s book is, predictably, a NY Times bestseller, because there is nothing the conservative cult of self-pitying narcissism loves better than posing in the mirror and admiring its own courage in the face of imaginary overwhelming odds.

The good news is that Christians who write reviews like this still exist and see the phony, grifting BS. As the reviewer summed up the Game: “For all his avowed devotion to Christianity, it’s clear that Dreher would rather be the lone Christian in a neighborhood of atheists who put up Christmas trees for cultural reasons than the only White person in a neighborhood of Senegalese Christians.”

Dreher has made an entire cottage industry of telling butthurt white conservative Christians without a worry in the world that their imaginary persecution is the Center of All of Time and Space, all while turning a blind eye to their victims and sucking attention away from actual persecuted Christians in brown skins across the world. It is a massive narcissistic grift, as all of the American conservative project now is. Nothing but ME ME ME as far as the eye can see.


16 Responses

  1. I stopped reading Dreher a couple years ago, after he wrote a column praising Viktor Orban for his excellent leadership of Hungary. He’s promoting traditional Christianity! He’s holding the line against advancing gay rights! Dreher, to his credit, actually acknowledged that Orban is also dismantling Hungary’s democratic institutions and establishing himself as a life-long ruler, but Dreher regards that as a small price to pay for Orban’s fine Christian witness.
    So, no, I don’t know or care what Dreher is saying about things today. But I’m not surprised to see his book becoming a best-seller, since Dreher’s popularity is of a piece with Trump’s popularity.

    1. Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option seems to mean that we withdraw from ”secular” culture with the notable exception of one particular culture, the one represented by ONE party in ONE country (the one you can find on the map below Canada). That one we owe our allegiance.


      For narrow minded nationlism, Eastern orthdoxy is a great choice though. Catholicism not so much though. Lots of third world riff raff with mitres …

      1. I found his BO fascinating. St Benedict and his spiritual daughters and sons left the world because they recognized they were sinners in need of a purifying wilderness. Modern BO’ers strike me as perfectly faithful Christians thinking they can distance themselves from sin. Many of them see themselves as already pure. So, what’s the point? Just another country club.

  2. Dreher got his knickers in a wad a few years back over what he called a “Third World Eucharist” conducted by an indigenous pastor. He confuses being Christian with being Western, which is quite weird for an Orthodox. But then again he’s always struck me as less Orthodox and more just Not-Catholic for quite a while. He won’t shut up about the Roman Church and now corrupt and awful it allegedly is even though he hasn’t been in communion with you for nearly two decades now.

    1. Dreher like to journey around Europe, no doubt enjoyable trips where he combines sipping wine on a Paris terrace, cozying up to Polish and Hungarian semi-autocrats, and visiting Orthodox Churches. Like you said … weird combination of European elements that have often clashed and still do.

      1. Like so many Americans who visit Europe as privileged tourists, he has some seriously rose colored glasses when it comes to that continent. He will dine on artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and strong ales at some Brussels cafe, but he never (say) ventures into an impoverished banlieue or talk to Somali migrants in Sweden,

        Usually you see progressives fall for ridiculous levels of Europhilia after visiting all the nice bits of those countries and assuming the entire nation must be like that, but you do on occasion see it among paleo conservatives and Dreher fits the bill.

        Not that America is perfect—far from it— but I DO think we do a far better job integrating migrants and (especially) their children into our society, heck they even pick up our bad traits readily.

      2. @ Benjamin,

        You are right. When it comes to migration, both with respect to integration and the willingness to accept them, the USA is doing a much better job than we here in Europe.

        Continental Western Europe (which is, so to speak, my neck of the woods) specifically, is not easy to understand for America

      3. @ Benjamin

        (hit ENTER there by acident) ….to understand by Americans who don’t take the time to study it in details. Take Northern Belgium for instance, also called Flanders. It is where I live, and look at its attitudes:

        – economy and fiscality: center to center right
        – gay marriage and other social issues : hardcore liberal
        – migration : center right to extreme right, and hardening
        – healthcare and social safety nets: center to center left
        – Vaccines: pro, no party is even remotely anti

        I’d say these are the attitudes of one big suburban area, which practices internal tolerance and solidarity, but tries to shield itself from the oustide, including the banlieus in its own midst.

  3. @Artevelde

    OTOH, I’ve read multiple places that France is actually more anti-vaxx than the United Staets. Hence Macron’s draconian vaccine mandate.

    In the USA I think we’ll end up with mandates, too, but it’ll be most ad-hoc and piecemeal, and via employers/schools, whether public or private.

    1. Remember that the COVID vaccines still have only emergency approval from the FDA. Full approval will probably happen in the fall. And then, the very next day, you will see a huge number of private employers – and every single large (like Fortune 100) employer – require vaccination among their employees. Employers have the right to do this, and many have already been requiring vaccination for smallpox and other diseases for years. So I’m pretty sure this large anti-vax movement will be short-lived. Pockets of resistance will persist, but the vast majority of Americans will be vaccinated within a few months.

      1. You’re right–I think, God willing, COVID is in its last throes in this country. And even with the spike in cases, you’re not seeing near as many serious hospitalizations and deaths–the much-vaunted breakthrough infections of the vaccinated seem to be by and large very mild cases, if people notice them at all. I know someone who had to get tested to fly to the UK, she’s vaxxed, and……turned out she was positive, but she did not feel sick at all and would’ve never realized it had she not been tested. You see this in other heavily vaxxed countries that have had case spikes like Israel and the UK. Case counts aren’t the best metric anymroe.

        What I really worry about now is the developing world.

    2. You’re right about France, yes. I’m not sure whether it’s *more* anti-vaxx than the USA, but it definitely has a large ond vocal anti-vaxx movement. France is a bit of an outlier in the EU though, in this respect.

      According to the Belgian press and vaccine trackers, the two main elements that make eligible adults more likely to be not vaccinated are

      – poverty

      – Speaking French as a mother tongue (which in Belgium means living in Wallonia or Brussels and thus being exposed to a lot of French foreign media)

    3. @ Benjamin

      Yes, France is a bit of an outlier in the EU when it comes to this. Belgian vaccination numbers indicate that speaking French as a mother tongue (which means living in Wallonia or Brussels) is one of the determining factors in not taking the jab, even when eligible.

      In most European countries the curve of those getting vaccinated is now flattening as well, though at a higher percentage than in the US. It’s way to soon to draw real conclusions from that though. Let’s not forget that the USA, while perhaps not being the best at managing the outbreak, was very fast in developing vaccines and getting them out. Much faster than Europe (with the exception of the UK)

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