Rod Dreher does not leave indifferent. In his two books -The Benedictine option y Living without liesboth published in Spain by Ediciones Encuentro-, the American journalist and writer warns of the danger of totalitarianism. woke and the collapse of Christian civilization. In the interview he gave to The Ostrich Effect an initiative of the Catholic Association of Propagandists -, the editor-in-chief of the magazine The American Conservative addresses issues such as the dictatorship softThe resistance of the martyrs or the cultural battle.
At Living without lies stresses that our times resemble the times before the Soviet Union. Isn't that a bit of an exaggeration?
- It seemed that way to me, too, six or seven years ago, when I had the idea of writing this book. I came into contact then with people who had emigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union, escaping from communism, and they said that the things they were seeing in the West reminded them of what they had left behind. It seemed exaggerated, but the more I talked to them, the more I became convinced that they were seeing things that escaped me.
What were they watching?
- The birth of a system in which you cannot disagree with ideology woke dominant. I see it in my country, and also in Spain, in a way: if you don't agree with gender ideology or critical race theory, you can be cancelled. You can lose your job, your friends or your status. There is no discussion possible, you must accept this ideology to be part of society... and that is totalitarian. Hence the link to Soviet communism.
Do you not consider freedom of expression?
- On paper, yes, it is guaranteed by our Constitution... but in practice a totalitarian mentality is spreading over all aspects of American life; everything becomes ideological. It is not only a control from the State: the big corporations have become woke and are leading much of the process, but also the media, universities, sports... even the military.
In his book he points out that this is not "hard" totalitarianism, but "soft" totalitarianism, soft. Does that make it harder to resist?
- Yes, it is. In the past, communist totalitarianism was like the one described by George Orwell at 1984, but today's is more like Aldous Huxley y Brave New World. We surrender our freedoms in exchange for comfort, entertainment and the assurance that we won't have to face anything that inconveniences us. James Poulos calls it the "pink police state," a therapeutic totalitarianism in which we hate the idea of freedom because it involves taking responsibility for our actions, so we surrender to the authorities.
In the Huxley novel he cites, the system is described as a "Christianity without tears."
- That's right, and this is the challenge before us. Many people, especially young people, are so terrified at the prospect of discomfort that they are willing to accept anything as long as they are assured that the world will be a safe space... but that is not the reality.
In this context, are we Christians called to fight the cultural battle?
- America has been engaged in a culture battle since I was born, and I believe it is spreading to the West. It's not a war I'm excited about, but it's one that has come to us and one that - as Christians - we can't ignore. We want peace, but the left woke has become so intolerant and militant that we must rise up to defend our beliefs, insisting that they be respected.
You point out that there is something religious about this ideology, in what sense?
- In the event that the movement woke is a substitute for religion for people who do not believe in God. It happened with the Bolshevik movement during the Russian Revolution, which turned political beliefs into a pseudo-religion to fill the God-shaped hole in the soul. It happened then and it is happening now: those who adhere to this ideology believe that they get a sense of life, a purpose and a sense of solidarity. And there is another element.
- That you can't argue with them. In a normal political environment, you can have a dispute, a radical discussion about principles... but not with the woke. They insist on their beliefs dogmatically; they are as much so as the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition or the religious police in Saudi Arabia.
Let us now talk about proposals for action. He wrote The Benedictine option, which many misinterpret as an invitation to escape the conflict.
- Yes, this has been the most common misunderstanding of this book, and it often comes from people who haven't read it. They think I'm saying "Let's run for the hills and hide!", but I'm not. It is not possible to escape what is going on around us. My point is that if we are going to face the challenges of this post-Christian world as faithful Christians, we must come together, form stronger communities and study and practice our faith more. We must understand our faith in order to show the world Jesus Christ as He really is. We must be prepared to suffer for defending the truths of the faith; otherwise, we will be assimilated by the world.
Do we need to remember the testimony of the martyrs?
- That is one of the most important things we Christians can do. We have cases in the past, but also modern examples. Certainly, there are the martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, or the story of Bl. Franz Jägerstätterthe Austrian farmer murdered for refusing to swear allegiance to Hitler. His entire village was Catholic, but only Franz and his family stood firm: we must ask ourselves how he prepared himself to suffer. If not, we will not survive as Christians.
What role do Christian communities play in this preparation for suffering?
Hannah ArendtThe great political philosopher of the 20th century found that both pre-Nazi Germany and pre-Communist Russia were societies with massive feelings of loneliness and atomization. It is one of the key aspects of totalitarianism, which provides an answer to these longings. So we must strive to create community, because it is no longer going to come naturally...but community is the only way to know who we are and what our responsibilities are to each other and to God. Now is the time to prepare: we have no time to lose.
Photos: Guadalupe Belmonte