Rod Dreher: “If we Christians are not prepared to suffer, we shall disappear altogether”.

The editor-in-chief of the magazine The American Conservative gives his views on the present woke dictatorship, the courage of the martyrs and the cultural battle.

Guillermo Altarriba·12 de septiembre de 2022·Tiempo de lectura: 4 minutos
rod dreher

Original Text of the article in Spanish here

Text of the article in German here

Rod Dreher leaves no-one indifferent. In his two books – The Benedict Option and Live not by lies, the American journalist and writer warns of the woke totalitarianism and the collapse of Christian civilization. In his interview with El Efecto Avestruz (The Ostrich Effect), an initiative of the Asociacion Catolica de Propagandistas, the editor-in-chief of The American Conservative discusses topics such as the woke dictatorship, the courage of the martyrs and the culture war.

 In Live not by lies you emphasise that our times are very like the run-up to the Soviet Union. Isn’t this an exaggeration?

 I would have thought the same six or seven years ago when I thought of writing this book. Then I happened to meet people who had emigrated to the United States to escape from communism, and they said that what they were witnessing in the West reminded them of what they had left behind them. I thought it an exaggeration, but the more I spoke with them the more I was convinced that they saw things around them that I wasn’t seeing.

What were they seeing?

 The beginnings of a system in which you are not allowed to disagree with the dominant woke ideology. I see it in my own country, and in Spain to some extent. If you don’t agree with gender ideology, critical race theory, you can be “erased”. You can lose your job, your friends and your social status. There is no discussion. You have to accept this ideology to be part of society… and this is totalitarianism. Hence the connection with Soviet communism.

Don’t you think there is freedom of expression?

On paper, yes; it is guaranteed by our Constitution…but in practice a totalitarian mentality on all aspects of life in North America is becoming widespread. Everything is becoming ideological. It is not only a matter of state control: even the big corporations have become woke and are spearheading a large part of the process, as well as the media, the universities, the world of sports…even the armed forces.

 In your book you point out that it is not a harsh totalitarianism, but a soft kind. Doesn’t this make it more difficult to fight it?

 Precisely. In the past it was Communist totalitarianism as described by George Orwell in 1984. But nowadays it is more like that of Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. We hand over our freedoms in exchange for comfort, entertainment, secure in the knowledge that we shall not have to put up with anything that causes us any inconvenience. James Poulson calls it “the pink police state”, a therapeutic totalitarianism in which we loathe the idea of freedom because it means we have to be responsible for  our actions, and so we hand ourselves to the authorities.

 In his novel, Huxley describes the system as a “Christianity without tears”.

That’s exactly it. And this is the challenge we have to face. Many people, especially young people, are so terrified at the prospect of any kind of inconvenience that they are ready to accept anything provided the world offers them a safe space. But this is not how real life is.

 And so, we Christians are called upon to wage a culture war?

The United States has been involved in a culture war since I was born, and I think it is spreading throughout the West. It’s not a war I am excited about, but it has come to us and as Christians we cannot turn our backs on it. We want peace but the woke left has become so militant and intolerant that we must stand up and defend our beliefs and insist that they give us the respect we deserve.

 You say that this ideology has something religious about it. In what way?

The woke movement is a substitute for religion for people who don’t believe in God. The same happened during the Russian Revolution which converted political beliefs into a pseudo-religion to fill the vacuum for God in the souls of the people. This happened then and is happening now. Those who support this ideology believe that it gives meaning to their lives, a purpose and a sensation of solidarity. And there is something else.


That you cannot discuss things with them. In a normal political setting, you can have a debate, a deep discussion about principles, but not with woke people. They insist on their beliefs in such a doctrinaire manner, as if they were the Grand Inquisitor in the Spanish Inquisition or the religious police in Saudi Arabia.

Let us speak now about what we should do. You wrote The Benedict Option, which many misinterpreted as an invitation to run away from the conflict.

 Yes, this was the most common misunderstanding, and it often came from people who haven’t read the book. They think I was saying “Let’s flee to the hills and hide ourselves!” No. It’s not possible to escape what is happening all around us. What I am really saying is if we confront the challenges of this post-Christian world as Christian faithful, we must do so united, form stronger communities and study and practice our faith better. We must understand our faith to show the world how Jesus Christ really is. We must be prepared to suffer to defend the truths of our faith; otherwise, we shall be absorbed by the world.

Shouldn’t we remember the witness of the martyrs?

 This is one of the most important things we Christians can do. There are many such cases from the past, but many modern examples too. Of course, there are the martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, or the story of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, the Austrian farmer who was executed for refusing to swear loyalty to Hitler. Everyone in his village was Catholic but only Franz and his family remained steadfast: we must ask ourselves how he prepared himself to suffer. Otherwise, we shall not survive in our Christian faith.

 What part do Christian communities play in preparing themselves for this suffering?Hannah Arendt, the great philosopher of the last century, concluded that both pre-Nazi Germany and Russia before Communism were societies with countless lonely and isolated people. This is one of the key facets of totalitarianism, that it provides a solution for these human yearnings. Hence, we must make the effort to create community because it won’t happen on its own…the community is the only way to discover who we are and what our responsibilities are towards other people and towards God. Now is the moment to get ready: there’s no time to lose.

El autorGuillermo Altarriba
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