Rod Dreher: Serious Christian Thinker and Homophobe

Rod DreherEzra Klein’s most recent interview sounded really interesting, “Rod Dreher on America’s post-Christian culture war.” Dreher is a writer for The American Conservative — a journal I have a fairly high opinion of. And at first, I was onboard for what he had to say. Dreher talked about something that’s important to me: that most religious people are facile and don’t take their beliefs seriously. But then he talked about his own political beliefs and they were not impressive.

Rod Dreher Cares About Poverty — Sometimes

Klein asked Dreher the classic question: why the focus on sexual matters and so little on, say, poverty. As Klein noted, sexual matters don’t hurt anyone but poverty does. Dreher went on to explain why sex was so important to people like him who think it is a good idea to base their morality on an ancient religious text and tradition. But before he got to that, he said that he felt that Christians should talk more about poverty.

But the question is not why that amorphous group of facile Christians focus on sexual matters; it is why the Very Serious Christian Rod Dreher does. Because looking at his writing he doesn’t seem that concerned about starving children. Like unserious Christians, he is most concerned about the brave martyrs forced to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.

Rod Dreher Persecuted by LGBT ActivistsSaint Sebastian! You knew nothing of pain! American Christians might someday not be able to fire employees for being gay!

It’s Not Homophobia — It’s Religion!

Ezra Klein pushed Dreher many times on why his homophobia is okay when racism is not. (He didn’t put it in such a coarse way, of course.) Dreher has a theological argument for why there is a difference. But I don’t see how it matters.

If things were switched and now homophobia were something no respectable person would admit to but racism were, a racist Christian could now make a theological argument for why homophobia was un-Christian but racism was not.

Rod Dreher’s argument comes down to this: because he has a Biblical rationalization for his beliefs they aren’t bigotry; they are just his faith. I don’t see how this helps him. Racists have reasons for their beliefs too. That’s what all the conservative obsession with IQ tests is about.

Rod Dreher: Alarmist

He’s also an alarmist. Ezra Klein explicitly stayed away from this because he didn’t want to have a debate and wanted to share Dreher’s thoughts that were worth listening to. I’m not sure any of them are. Dreher really isn’t a serious thinker.

Here is some of the “evidence” that Rod Dreher presented for how the secular society is destroying Christians and why he writes so much about religious liberty (and by extension, so little about child poverty):

“We’re being made to care!” That’s Erick Erickson’s line. You can’t ignore it when the freedom of your religious school is put at risk by lawsuits by the advance of gay rights… I’ll tell you a story here. A pastor here in Baton Rouge here where I live, which is pretty much deep Trumplandia, came to me and said that a woman came to him and his congregation and said, “I need your help here. My middle-school daughter has come home and said that she thinks she’s a boy. And I went to the [public school guidance counselor] and asked what was going on with my daughter and she told me quite firmly, ‘You had better accept your son how he is.'” This is a huge thing.

There are a couple of things worth noting here. First, the guy is quoting Erick Erickson. I’m surprised that any thoughtful person would associate with Erickson. While it is true that Erickson was once a never-Trumper, like most he eventually supported Trump (after seeing that Trump was just a typical bigot-Republican and thus of no threat to the status quo).

God Wants Anecdotal Evidence

The main thing to notice is that this is a three-level story. Are we really to believe that the counselor said “quite firmly” given it came through two men who would just assume it? Plus, this woman wasn’t even a member of this church! (What are the odds that she has a religious reason for her concern?) Is she credible? She might just be some crazy person.

It sounds like the kind of case that the church would have made a big deal about had the woman been credible. Yet I haven’t found any news stories about it.

I would think that anyone who really thought that Christians were being oppressed would look for actual data. But of course, Rod Dreher doesn’t look for actual evidence. He don’t need no stinking evidence. He feels that Christians are being oppressed and those are the only (Ben Shapiro-approved) facts he needs!

9 thoughts on “Rod Dreher: Serious Christian Thinker and Homophobe

  1. What gets me, in this guy’s case, is the same thing that gets me with all cultural conservatives; the belief that liberals are out to ban their thoughts.

    As a liberal my entire adult life, I can honestly say I’ve never met a liberal who wishes to ban conservatives from disliking blacks, gays, women, immigrants, or people who own a pair of shoes. I’ll try to convince them these prejudices are irrational, since I think they are, but my political agenda is simply to stop legal injustice. Beyond that, what prejudices you have in your head are your business, as are mine.

    I have an irrational prejudice against anybody who doesn’t love “Star Trek IV,” although it’s assuredly the case that some perfectly decent people don’t love it. They are dead damn wrong, but I wouldn’t support laws banning them from marrying.

    • It’s the same problem as the War on Christmas. They don’t want to be tolerated. They insist that we think they are right. That’s what they really think but they won’t admit it.

      Star Trek films ranked (as I used to see them; I really need to revisit them all — esp V):


      I liked them all. Khan is by far the best, however. As you can see, I put the 3 dramas ahead of the 3 comedies. And the first one doesn’t seem much like a “Star Trek” film, but it’s really good regardless. But maybe I’ll watch V again and argue that it is the best. It’s the only one I don’t own.

      • I would put I ahead of VI. Having Savak turn traitor in that film would have been far more interesting than introducing a new character. IRRC Kirstie Alley’s agent bungled her returning to III by asking for way more money than any of the principal actors were getting. He probably assumed it was like Star Wars. Paramount was extremely cheap with those movies. The replacement actress wasn’t really trying to do the same role, or was directed to play it that way. And it just wasn’t the same. And Alley is a Scientology loon anyway. VI also feels like the characters know they are in a Star Trek movie. We also learned that you can modify the guidance system of an antimatter warhead with an ISA card and a drum of toner. Actually, those weren’t such bad choices. I only spotted it a few years ago. Christopher Plummer as a bald Klingon with a metal eye patch screwed to his skull is a wonderful choice. Scenery was chewed with abandon. I wonder if he liked making it. He is known for trashing Sound of Music and wondering why anybody liked it. I agree with the rest of your list.
        I really enjoyed IV when it was new, but it doesn’t hold up as well for me. The loopy bit with the heads when they are time travelling sticks out. The Slingshot Around The Sun bit was even in the TV show so that treatment of what should be a well understood, if dangerous, procedure was odd. The score in the part where they are flying to save the whales sounds like it’s from a ’70’s TV show, and it pulls me out of the moment. The main title score is fine. It was a fall release and the bell accents remind you of Christmas music. No doubt intended. The story and the dialogue are well written. They give all the characters something to do, except maybe Uhura. Although you recently wrote something about how ridiculous Scotty pounding on a Mac keyboard was. The carrier they show is actually the Nimitz, and not the Enterprise. Big E was still in service and was probably not available for the shooting schedule. But plenty of people noticed because Enterprise had a distinctive block shaped command island like no other carrier. But they did film part of the “stealing neutrons” or whatever it was called in a reactor space. Monica tells me that’s what the big red stripe on the wall means.

        • You are such a nerd! Luckily, this is a safe space!

          Depending on the time, I can put I ahead of VI too. And truthfully, I feel bad putting III and IV so far down. But the truth is, I like them all. I like the original Star Trek a whole lot — more than when I was younger.

          I think II and VI show what happens when you have a creative director. Leonard Nimoy was fine as director. But Nicholas Meyer is an artist. If I recall right, he had never seen the series when he was hired to direct II. He also wrote and directed the exceptional Time After Time. Mostly, he’s a writer. But he has a great visual sense.

          I think the problem with Saavik in III is the writing. In II, the character had far more subtlety. In III she came off more as a standard mother character. Robin Curtis is a fine actor and does as well as anyone, I think.

          You speak for me regarding IV. I loved it at the time. I still think it is good. But it’s a flat-out comedy. And comedies don’t usually age that well. What really bugs me about that scene you mentioned is the cop-out, “How do we know he didn’t invent the thing?” That’s the “if it’s possible it must be true” approach. But it’s a lot of fun. Catherine Hicks was great in it. She would go on to star in Child’s Play, a wonderfully fun film.

        • @ Lawrence (or either of you, really) — I have personal reasons for loving IV, and here they are.

          My father was/is an insane fundamentalist, and somehow got it into his head that “Star Trek” was corrupting my morals. Not the fact that Kirk had sex with green women! No, that the show never mentions “God.”

          He didn’t like me seeing “II,” was pissed off a neighbor took me to “III,” and absolutely forbade me to see “IV.”

          But I had to! Was Spock going to be OK?

          It was the first time I consciously disobeyed (besides kid stuff, refusing to eat my peas or whatever).

          As anybody who’s escaped fundamentalism can tell you, the first step out the door is the hardest. I was absolutely terrified. I was positively sure the movie would be full of anti-Christian messages, and seeing it would send me straight to Hell.

          Then the movie started. It had a message of sympathy for the Challenger astronauts who died. I started tearing up.

          Followed by the “Trek” theme, which segued into that wonderful opening-credit music, and tears became outright sobbing. It was going to be OK. I’m crying now just typing that.

          Looking back on it, it is a silly movie (and it’s, essentially, “Time After Time 2.”) But it will always be special to me.

  2. Hmm, I guess I’m here for the wrong reason. I love Star Trek but I though the main theme was about Dreher’s ideas and discussions.

    I appreciate your criticism of Dreher’s work but…I think you missed the mark when you brought in the homophobia. He takes great pains to point out that he is critical and responding to ideas and behaviors. Specifically, he correctly notes the category error (logic) when people confuse homosexual activity (a behavior) with race (an indelible trait). The two should not be used in the same sentence. The fight against racism is clear, humans are humans and no one behaves Black or Hispanic aside from minor cultural expression. A Black man does not recognize his blackness and act out his blackness because it is perceived as his “right”. He does not fight to support black behavior. Instead, he fights to be recognized as being equal in the eyes of the law and man to anyone else. This is not the same when one considers same sex activity. It may be argued (but very weakly) that a gay man or woman is born that way and that it is indelible but this would be the attraction, not the activity. Attraction or desire, universally human as they may be are not sufficient to proclaim a right. People will use power, force or violence to fulfil their attraction to money, goods or force of will. It is inherent in the human condition, yet this is not considered a right, in fact, laws attempt to restrict this kind of behavior and reward behavior that is caring such as working to alleviate poverty. This is his main point and a point that appears you have missed. His concern over bad logic and thinking over moral and social issues is disenfranchising reality from the public sphere and all sides will ultimately lose especially those who are working towards fixing problems that are far more important than sexuality.

    • Yes, we do sometimes get off-topic in the comments!

      I’m not providing a deep critique of Dreher. I just heard the interview and reacted (along with some minor research while writing the article). The big problem is to think homosexuality is simply a behavior. If only that were so! Identity (eg, race) is a social construct. And in our society, homosexuality is indeed an identity.

      But I’m not really interested in the details of the argument. Dreher is clearly just an apologist for his anti-homosexual political beliefs. In the long-term, that will be as clear as it is for the people who once created intellectual and biblical defenses of slavery.

  3. Rod Dreher is a fascinating case. There’s been a lot of chatter on Reddit about him. He’s currently going through a divorce from his wife and he’s mentioned moving to Budapest. Also, he apparently had a lot of friendly interaction (if not more) with gay people (gay men, specifically) in his youth. So, the shadow of he “doth protest too much” hangs over old Rod.

    What has always struck me about him, beyond his fathomless narcissism and his my-hair-is-on-fire alarmism (not to mention those anonymous emails he quotes which all sound suspiciously alike and all have to have the pertinent identifying details omitted, because of course they do) is that Rod apparently has a deep and never satisfied need to be “special”. This is manifest in his oft-repeated tale of rejection by his family when he prepared vichyssoise which none of them would taste. I mean, he couldn’t have just whipped up Brunswick Stew of something familiar? No, Rod had to be “special”. He had to be esoteric and urbane and when his family reacted with less enthusiasm, he went into full martyr mode. This is also evident in his whole process of finding the right religion. Mainstream Methodism wasn’t “special” enough. Roman Catholicism was better, until he was mortally wounded (he says) by the Priest Abuse scandal. Or maybe not. I think he found Catholicism too mundane. Orthodoxy! That’s the ticket. It’s rare in American, it’s obscure, it’s…wait for it… “special”! It’s like shopping at Whole Foods when everyone else is packing into Kroger’s! He even managed to get an Orthodox mission church up and running in rural Louisiana. Then he abandoned it and the past0r he had lauded so much (who apparently had a handicapped child to support to boot). He never mentioned the man again in his writings. And after all his puffing about moving back to Louisiana to “return to his roots” and find those heart-of-gold rural Americans he’s always yammering about, he’s now going to abandon the state, his children and his elderly mother to wing off to live in the shadow of his latest man crush, Hungarian dictator Victor Orban. Rod is a real piece of work. Most people I know have never heard of him, never read his books, but I find checking in with him to be like watching a fascinating, slow moving train wreck.

    • Very interesting. Thanks! Although looking back, I think I was a bit mean contrasting his image with St Sebastian’s. But it is true that most modern Christians in America really want to take on the mantle of martyrs without having to actually suffer.

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