Until our Symposium on Jan. 14-16, we'll be introducing you to each of our plenary lecturers. In addition to general information about them, short video clips by them, and quotes, we've also asked them several questions about our symposium theme and a couple questions about their personal interests.
Let us introduce you to our friend Rod Dreher.
Born in Baton Rouge, Lousiana and raised in the small town of St Francisville, Dreher holds a B.A. in journalism from Louisiana State University. Raised a Methodist, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1993. But after covering the Roman Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal, Dreher began questioning his Catholicism in 2002 and eventually converted to Orthodoxy in 2006.
Dreher has written about religion, politics, film and culture in National Review, The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, Touchstone, Men’s Health, and the Los Angeles Times. He was a film reviewer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and chief film critic for The New York Post. His commentaries have been broadcast on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and he has appeared on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Court TV and other television networks.
In 2006 he published a book on what he calls “granola conservatism”: Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party). In 2013, he published The Little Way of Ruthie Leming about his childhood in Louisiana and his sister's battle with cancer. And in 2015, after Dante’s Divine Comedy led him through a mid-life crisis, he published How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem.
Dreher is probably most known for what he calls the “Benedict Option”, named after St. Benedict of Nursia. Based on a phrase in the conclusion of Alisdair MacIntyr’s After Virtue, Dreher calls Christians to live in intentional communities. He writes frequently on it in his blog for The American Conservative and is currently writing a book on the subject.
We're delighted to have Rod Dreher sharing a "view from the newsroom" in his lecture "The Benedict Option: Resistance, Resilience & Resurrection in a Post-Christian Age".
And he'll be presenting a breakout session on "Laurus & Benedict: The Novel as Guide to Living in a New Middle Age."
Check out this video to learn why Rod Dreher thinks you need to put down roots and stay in one place:
Interview with Rod Dreher
1. How do you define “sacrament”?
Broadly speaking, a sacrament (as distinct from The Sacraments) is an action or a thing through which the grace of God is mediated to humanity.
2. How would you explain our sub-theme, “The World as Gift”, i.e. how is the world a gift?
A gift is a sacrament of gratuitous love, and must be received as such.
3. What is your favorite food and drink?
Briny Atlantic oysters on the half-shell and bone-dry Chablis.
4. What is your favorite novel and why?
"A Confederacy of Dunces," because it is the funniest thing ever written in English by someone other than P.G. Wodehouse, and because there is, alas, a lot of Ignatius J. Reilly in me.
5. Who is your favorite musician and why?
Two of them: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, because of the ragged humanity of "Exile on Main Street"
6. Do you have any hobbies, or what kind of things do you do in your free time?
I cook. That's it. I cook. Nothing makes me happier than feasting, especially when I have turned raw ingredients into something that delights others. Plus, I never know when I've written something worthwhile, but I always know at once whether or not what I cooked is any good.
Quotes from Rod Dreher
The country is not ours anymore. This is not our culture anymore. Maybe it never was our real home, but we have got to prepare ourselves and our families and our churches through intentional living, through disciplined living, and through an awareness of the cultural moment to deal with perhaps even persecution.
I'm trying to tell Christians it's not enough to be a knight. You have to be a gardener, too. I've talked to Christian leaders in different colleges, Catholic and Protestant, and they are seeing an entire generation of young people who don't know their faith. Even if they've been through church groups, it's always been this sort of Jesus-is-my-boyfriend, youth pastor kind of stuff that's about a quarter-inch deep. They don't have the strong sense of the faith, not only in terms of what they know, but in terms of the way they live, their habits. They don't have a strong enough sense of the faith to withstand the power of this culture, and you're starting to see it, especially in the same-sex marriage thing.
We have to stay involved in the outside world, but let's also do a strategic retreat. That's not, "head for the hills." That's doing things like turning off the television. Back away from the culture. As Christians, we have to tell ourselves, the church has to tell ourselves, our own story and shore up our own group, our own sense of ourselves right now because the culture is so overwhelming. Only then can we go out into the world and be a light to the world as we're called to be.
We have lost a common moral sense and with it the kind of moral vocabulary with which to articulate political principles. We are no longer citizens but consumers.
I am convinced that conservatives have placed far too much stock in political action and far too little in the work of culture.
A conservatism that does not recognize the need for restraint, for limits, and for humility is neither helpful to individuals and society nor, ultimately, conservative. This is particularly true with respect to the natural world.
The ideal polity will favor small-scale economics—small farmers, small manufacturers, small merchants—because that is the kind of society in which people are most likely to develop in wisdom, virtue, and happiness.
We have disordered politics because we have disorderd souls—we should strive within the limits of our particular situations to construct new forms of community to repair and redeem the moral imagination distorted by modern life. We should begin to think of our homes as domestic monasteries and to cultivate thoughtfulness and purposefulness in the way we go about our daily lives. Withdrawing consciously from practices that cloud our minds and alienate us from essential wisdom is the first step toward healing. In this sense, turning off the television is a giant step toward healthy political reform.
What I propose is that we not wait for politicians to save us but rather that we get busy now forming intentional communities and supporting localism, communal self-reliance, the common good, and a small-is-beautiful ethic.
Culture is more important than politics, and neither America's wealth nor our liberties will long survive a culture that no longer lives by what Russell Kirk identified as "the Permanent Things"—those eternal moral norms necessary to civilized life, and which are taught by all the world's great wisdom traditions.
We share Kirk's conviction that "the best way to rear up a new generation of friends of the Permanent Things is to beget children, and to read to them o' evenings, and teach them what is worthy of praise: the wise parent is the conservator of ancient truths. . . . The institution most essential to conserve is the family."
Politics and economics will not save us. If we are to be saved at all, it will be through living faithfully by the Permanent Things, preserving these ancient truths in the choices we make in everyday life. In this sense, to conserve is to create anew.
Appreciation of aesthetic quality—that is, beauty—is not a luxury, but key to the good life.