Friday, December 30, 2011

BIG-TENT REVIVAL MEETING. I see that David Brooks has caught up with Rod Dreher. His column focuses on Dreher's rather sweet accounts of his sister's last days, the generosity of the people in his Louisiana hometown, and his decision to move back there from the Big City.

Even people who've read Dreher's nonsense over the years might find that story moving, and those regular readers of Brooks who are unacquainted with Dreher may take Brooks at his word that Dreher
is part of a communitarian conservative tradition that goes back to thinkers like Russell Kirk and Robert Nisbet. Forty years ago, Kirk led one of the two great poles of conservatism. It existed in creative tension with the other great pole, Milton Friedman’s free-market philosophy.

In recent decades, the communitarian conservatism has become less popular while the market conservatism dominates. But that doesn’t make Kirk’s insights into small towns, traditions and community any less true, as Rod Dreher so powerfully rediscovered.
And this may lead them to follow Dreher, expecting a warm, back-to-the-land, Wendell Berry sort of vibe which will restore conservatism to its rightful place in the public imagination.

Eventually they'll get to know the real Dreher -- the one who thinks a bride who shows a tattoo on her wedding day is a slut; who thinks gays, once given marriage rights, will mob and storm the churches and attack Christians (which, he explains, is why he keeps a gun in the house); who reacts to the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandals with articles like "How the cultural Left paved way for pedophilia"; who thinks Islamic extremists really have a point about how Godless we Westerners are ("I probably have, re: fundamental morals, more in common with the first 500 people I'd meet in Cairo, Damascus or Tehran than the first 500 people I'd meet in Park City, UT, during festival time"); who fills his idle moments yelling about dirty things he found on the internet; etc.

In other words, they'll find out that Dreher is a garden-variety Jesus freak with a mean streak. Some of them will be disappointed, because they wanted to believe that there really was someone out there who conformed to their homey vision of artisanal conservatism (though they wouldn't actually go out there and cultivate it themselves -- picture David Brooks sauntering into the general store in Bumfuck, asking where a man could get a manicure 'round these here parts).

But some, I imagine, will be pleased, because Jesus freaks with mean streaks are really what they think "communitarian conservatives" are. And, you know, I think they're right.  Talk all you want about Russell Kirk, but what really filled the communitarian-conservative slot Brooks is talking about was R.J. Rushdoony and Jerry Falwell. I'm not surprised that Brooks finds it necessary to push Mr. Crunchy Con as the new face of that movement. He's mild-mannered, and he likes to grow tomatoes and play with his internet toys -- he'll pour you a nice glass of Bordeaux while his wife christens your kids in the bathtub.  Who knows, it might work. People long ago learned to laugh at the ole-time string-tie preacher; only a few of us yet know how comical the new Dreher edition is.

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