Christians in the margin because of woke ideology
As long as a story looks fresh and awake, people are willing to believe anything. Even if it is patently untrue. Fertile ground for propaganda. And even for a totalitarian society.
Rod Dreher comes across as somewhat absent-minded. His clothes look informal; his hair seems to be in a mess, and his eyes sometimes look around the world in a wandering way. But he knows what he wants.
In Christian America, he is a well-known author. He loves visiting Europe. In the last few years, he has liked to visit conservative countries like Hungary. At the end of April, he spoke at the Brussels Consideration, a group of 25 representatives of Christian education from all over Europe.
Rod Dreher (1967) is senior editor of the platform The American Conservative.
In 2017, he attracted attention with his book “The Benedict Option”, in which he defends that Christians should not so much seek influence in society but rather form mutual communities. After all, today’s society only drifts away from Christian values and is even hostile to them.
Inspired by the Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in “Live not by lies”, he calls attention to the sincerity that should characterise Christians.
Dreher is attracted to right-wing politicians in Europe, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and French politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen (niece of Marine Le Pen).
Dreher was born into the Methodist Church. He switched to the Roman Catholic Church in 1993. In 2006, he joined the Orthodox Church of America (OCA).
A minute’s walk from the European Parliament, he explains how important education is to him. The school is his hope. Just as Benedict of Nursia (480-547) offered hope.
He wrote the book “The Benedict Option”, which became a bestseller in America in 2017. “Benedict saw the Roman Empire falling apart. He then went to live in a cave for three years. There he wrote a rule that was used in monasteries for centuries. It became part of the foundation of European civilisation. Now that our culture is also falling apart, Christian schools can be the Benedict of our time.”
That Western culture is falling apart is not a question for him. Untruth is ruling today. “Barcelona hung up posters last year saying: ‘Here, women have a penis, men a vulva.’ Look, that is falsehood. People want to hear it, but it is a lie. You have to dare to contradict such lies.”
Dreher lives in the US state of Louisiana. There he has seen the Woke revolution in recent years. “Everything that doesn’t fit is swept away. That pushes Christians into the margins.”
Recently he met two Christians who work in US intelligence. “They told me that Christians in the US are now seen as a threat, just like Muslims after 9/11. The media contribute to that image by demonising Christians.”
Many ordinary Americans live on and sometimes move along. But Russians in the US are shocked by what they see around them, Dreher says. “In the Soviet Union, they had to believe things that were not true. Now they see that in the Western world. That reminds them of the totalitarian world.”
What does totalitarian mean?
“That all parts of life are politicised. You have to bow to power. In the Soviet Union, you were controlled by the police. In our societies, it is different. There you are rejected and ignored if you don’t participate. There is no tolerance for dissent.”
Dreher gives an example. “A friend of mine had a pupil in class who was non-binary. Every day she decided which gender was best. If you didn’t speak to her properly, this girl would go crazy. Society demands that you go along with that. I think we’re driving each other crazy.”
This student is no exception, says Dreher. “In a children’s programme on TV, I saw that the LGBT movement encouraged children to decide for themselves how they would be addressed: with he or she. Schools sometimes deliberately do not tell parents. In this way, they try to break the power of the family. Obviously in the name of compassion.”
As people of truth, Christians reject these ideologies. “That, of course, brings suffering. Christ does not seek admirers but followers. Disciples can suffer. But many who lost because of the truth have gained respect in return.”
Dreher is used to the noise of the world. Twenty years ago, shortly after the murder of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, he came to the Netherlands as a journalist to record the unrest.
He was used to fighting unrest with new unrest. If an issue tormented him, he would read and write intensively to get to grips with it. Until he fell into a depression and ended up with the priest of his Orthodox parish.
“Who said, ‘Rod, you have to pray for an hour every day,’” he says. Dreher knots the prayer cord from his wrist. “An hour of prayer, man, I couldn’t do that. And then repeat it over and over again: Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. If there was something I didn’t understand, I used to pick up a book or write something. But to be silent for an hour was beyond my power. I couldn’t handle that kind of rest. Now I had to. And I must say: it cured me.” Dreher knots his cord again. “I couldn’t live without that daily prayer either.”
Ideology of self-hatred
In America today, the keyword is “woke”. This word made its appearance during the presidency of Donald Trump when some black people became victims of violence by white police officers.
Nothing wrong with that, says Dreher. “As a Christian, I am all for anti-racism. But in the US, it is a new ideology of self-hatred. People of the European race are suspected. The whole Greco-Roman heritage is under suspicion. This anti-racism no longer has anything to do with the equal rights Martin Luther King fought for.”
Woke is more. “Woke means enlightened. Those who are not woke remain darkened. For woke, gay marriage is not enough, but all the political demands of the LGBT community apply.”
Woke is, therefore, a political ideology. In turn, people become afraid to say something wrong. “People no longer go to parties with strangers. Or they keep quiet.”
This threatens people’s freedoms. Freedom of the press, but also academic freedom, Dreher knows. “I spoke with a professor at a Roman Catholic university. It turns out that you cannot just teach there what the church teaches about marriage, family and sexuality. You have no chance as soon as you get the slightest accusation that you are racist or transphobic. I find that totalitarian.”
How does racism relate to homophobia?
“Homophobia is the new racism. If you live by the Bible and the church’s tradition, you cannot go along with the LGBT lifestyle. But to woke people, you are just as bad as a racist. And woke has the power.”
Companies are even firing people who are not enlightened, Dreher says. “Workers have little protection in the US. It doesn’t cost companies anything, of course. They just want to show that they are okay. They hang out the rainbow flag to do whatever else they want. In the name of the victim, you can do a lot. Christians, meanwhile, are the victims of this.”
Woke is also a reaction to existing injustice. Can you understand it in that way?
“That would be possible if woke people were really disadvantaged. According to the woke narrative, the black lesbian professor at Harvard is oppressed by a white man living in a caravan. In reality, she is no victim but a privileged person. She lives among the elite and not in the real world. Woke comes from the elite, not from below. Not from the state but from powerful circles. Although even federal organisations like the CIA and FBI are now openly woke in their job advertisements.”
America is famous for its strong rule of law. Can the law protect you?
Dreher shakes his head decidedly. “Sexual orientation is the same as race before the law today. A few years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that transgender is a protected class in employment. By objecting to the LGBT practice, you put yourself in the same category as the Ku Klux Klan.
Besides, how can judges protect me if they do not know what Christianity stands for? In elite schools where lawyers are trained, there are no open Christians. Religion is both a normal and important part of life. But the legal elites know nothing about it. The image they have comes from the media, that religion is an excuse for bigotry.”
Dreher refers to “When Harry became Sally”. “The author of that is the brilliant Roman Catholic, Ryan T. Anderson. That is also a good book about the trans movement. But one day, Anderson discovered that Amazon no longer wanted to sell it. Since Amazon serves 75 per cent of the American market, no publisher will bring out a book that Amazon won’t sell. This is how a liberal democracy turns toward totalitarianism. Well, that’s woke.”
Dreher believes that people who have lived under communism understand these things much better. The weakness of American Christians is that they have never been a minority. “European Christians have been used to forming a counterculture for generations. There used to be no contradiction between a good American and a faithful Christian. That is different now. They must therefore develop the courage to speak out in opposition.”
Another weakness of Christians in the US is that they are “totally politicised”. “They always hope for a good, right-wing president. He has to fix everything. They don’t realise that the nature of the crisis is not political but cultural and spiritual.”
Dreher no longer expects anything from the state institutions, such as the constitutional state. “Come on; the state sees me as an enemy. How can I have any confidence in it?”
But if the law does not protect you, does your country still belong to Western civilisation?
“Well, barbarians are destroying our society. One would say that it is barbaric for a surgeon to cut off someone’s penis and breasts without medical necessity just because a minor of 15 years old feels that way. That is not enlightened; it is monstrous. It reminds me of Mengele. But President Biden encourages it.”
You are a member of the Orthodox Church in America, a planting of the Russian church. How does that feel, now that this church in Russia supports the war in Ukraine?
“That is, of course, very painful. The links are close. It was only in the 1970s that our church became independent. Fortunately, our patriarch has condemned the war. The same is true of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, it is a scandal.
When I converted to the Orthodox Church in 2006, I experienced the mysticism and spirituality there as a gift from God. But I have to face the truth that Orthodoxy in Russia is part of the war machine.”
How do you explain this support?
“In Russia, the relationship between church and state is very close. The Kremlin does a lot of church building. And there is no such thing as free money. So Patriarch Kirill looks like an employee of the state.
In the rest of the world, there is now a demonic hatred of everything Russian. More so than during the Cold War, in which I grew up. The spirituality of the Russian church helped me a lot to get closer to Christ. Now all that is condemned. I find that fanatical. It is like wokeness. Everything that doesn’t suit us, we want to be able to wipe away.”
In America, you are a well-known Christian writer. A few weeks ago, you announced that you are getting a divorce. What consequences might that have?
“That’s a good question. It was a difficult message to share. I once made a promise before God to marry this woman. Besides, I have a reputation as a Christian author. Many people value what I write about marriage and family values. And when they hear that we are splitting up after nine difficult years, it can discourage people. Fortunately, not one of us has ever been unfaithful.
Recently, I was in Romania in an Orthodox monastery. I made a vow to God there that I would spend the rest of my life in this marriage and deny myself everything. But afterwards, I knew that my wife was sitting with her lawyer talking about our divorce at the same time. The next week, she informed me by email. Never before, this word was mentioned between us.
Of course, the whole divorce is humiliating for me. It is also a shock for the children. By the way, I receive many compassionate emails from people who say they will pray for me. I hope that this experience will make me more compassionate towards people because often I was too judgmental.
From Romania, I went to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter. In the Church of the Sepulchre, I prayed. Then God came over. I felt such incredible peace. I could even pray for my wife. So, I go on trusting in Him. Without thinking about the consequences.”
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