People interested in Christianity, American politics, and the culture wars may have run across the name of Rod Dreher. He’s a rather prolific writer and journalist who maintains a regular blog with the magazine The American Conservative. Some years ago Dreher wrote The Benedict Option in which he tries to think about strategies Christians in America can adopt to live in an increasingly secular society. The book was decent, if not great. It at least had the virtue of reflecting what appeared to be serious effort.
Dreher’s next book, Live Not By Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, was much more strident than The Benedict Option and a clear step down in quality. Dreher claims America is degenerating into “soft totalitarianism” where Christians are unable to practice their faith openly. He purports to share lessons he’s learned from East European dissidents under communism about how to survive under America’s “soft totalitarianism.” I discussed the book with several guests on my podcast when it first came out, for anyone who’s interested.
The book makes clear that Dreher knows next to nothing about Eastern Europe – but he keeps writing about the region as if he were an expert. This bad habit recently got him into a little bit of trouble in Hungary, where Dreher was moved to extol the virtues of Viktor Orbán’s so-called Christian nationalism.
The story was reported in The Bulwark. Dreher responded rather nastily. Next I jumped in and responded to Dreher. Here are the first lines of what I wrote:
Report the news, don’t become the news” may be a sound principle of journalistic practice, but as Rod Dreher has discovered, it’s not an easy principle to adhere to in Hungary, especially for a journalist who embarrasses Viktor Orbán. Not that Dreher would ever do such a thing—at least not on purpose. He admires Orbán; his esteem for the man is apparently so great that he decided to move to Hungary to work at a think tank financed by Orbán’s government.
You can read the rest here.
Thank you for this article. Dreher’s claim that America is drifting into “soft totalitarianism” is ridiculous. Speaking as a pastor, there is no doubt that there is complete freedom of religion in the U.S. The true drift towards soft totalitarianism (and not always that soft) is in Hungary, where Orban’s continued movement toward the right is alarming. As a Christian, I’m disturbed at how Orban and his ilk (as well as many in the US) are promoting Christian Nationalism, which is an obscene distortion of Christianity’s true message.
As for Hungary leaving the EU, I’m torn. Orban’s Fidesz party doesn’t deserve the benefits of EU membership, and I’m glad some are being withheld. But if Hungary does leave the EU, it may lose even more of Western democratic values. since it can’t be held accountable any longer.