Why I Read Rod Dreher (Despite it All)

I rarely retweet an article from First Things without criticizing it in some way. But yesterday I had to pass along this piece by Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft: “The Politics of Architecture.”

In it, Kreeft writes about an unlikely harmony he found with a “radical” colleague he calls Dick, a harmony that even aligned the two against colleagues of theirs with whom they had more in common, politically:

In the ensuing ten minutes Dick and I discovered that we both loved bluegrass, madrigals, the Beatles, Peter, Paul, and Mary, fires, storms, caves, waves, mountains, Victorian houses, Martha’s Vineyard, England, Provincetown, San Francisco, and Seattle. (Why, by the way, do those with the worst moral tastes so often have the best aesthetic tastes? Why is Sodom such a pretty city? Why do the nicest people live in Iowa?)

It became obvious to all four of us that there was some sort of a serious spiritual division between “us” and “them”: with the radical and the traditionalist on the one side, and the liberal and the conservative on the other. It was more than a set of aesthetic preferences. It soon became clear that it unexpectedly flowed over into social and political issues. Dick and I discovered that we shared a preference for “small is beautiful” populism, a suspicion of bigness whether in government or business, a lack of interest in economics, a dislike of suburbs, a love of nature, and a concern for conserving the environment. (I’ve never understood why “conservatives” aren’t in the front rank of conservationism.) We didn’t get into moral and religious issues, but I suspect that even there we would have found a psychological kinship beneath our philosophical differences.

Kreeft suggests there’s something “less important than religion but possibly more important than politics,” that might someday “produce earthquakes that will change the current map of the political landscape.”

You may have noticed that Rod Dreher has been getting on my nerves lately. Sometimes I wonder why I even read him, but Kreeft’s post answers that question. As wrong as I think he is (on big stuff!), I also have a weird sense that that on some level he gets it. For example, his book on his sister, The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingisn’t just good–it’s an important book, a book that, to be personal for a minute, I came back to last week in the days surrounding my grandmother’s funeral.

And that’s true of a lot of the writers I respond to here at Letters to the Catholic Right. What I’m can’t figure out is how to work build on that shared something and get down the business of producing those earthquakes.

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