Dante

Concerning that drive-by Washington Post story about Rod Dreher and 'The Benedict Option'

Concerning that drive-by Washington Post story about Rod Dreher and 'The Benedict Option'

If you care about issues of religious faith and public life, then you probably know that there has been a tsunami of writing in the past year (here's a current Google News search) about Rod Dreher and his bestseller "The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation."

As you would expect, there has been way more argument and commentary than news coverage focusing on what Dreher is saying and why he is saying it. That's the age we live in. Opinion is cheap and quick. Information is expensive and takes time.

During this media storm, I have come up with a quick test to determine whether I think a critic or journalist has read Dreher's book: Does the review-story-essay discuss Vaclav Havel? Why is that so important? Read the book and find out. Hint: It has something to do with the mantra among some critics that Rod wants orthodox believers in ancient faiths to flee to the hills, abandoning cities, public life, core institutions and culture.

I have avoiding writing about all of this at GetReligion for a simple reason: It's hard to critique coverage of someone who has been a good friend for more than two decades. I mean, I know Rod's strengths and weaknesses and, trust me, he knows mine. We share many friends and I was one of his online associates who watched the Benedict Option material develop through the years.

So why discuss the new Washington Post Style section piece? That's the one with this rather snarky headline: "Rod Dreher is the combative, oversharing blogger who speaks for today’s beleaguered Christians." Well, I have two reasons.

First, while this article passes the Vaclav Havel test (barely), there is little evidence that reporter Karen Heller has read "The Benedict Option" or is interested in its thesis. Instead, this feature is kind of a new old New Journalism thing about her personal reaction to Dreher. There are glimpses of Rod in this piece, but they are edited and warped to fit her view of the man.

Second, you can get a look behind the curtain on this journalism process because another writer -- Frederica Mathewes-Green -- has posted reactions to how her views of Rod were handled in the Post piece.

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Yes, colleges are going crazy: But there may be newsy debates at those God schools, too

Yes, colleges are going crazy: But there may be newsy debates at those God schools, too

Hello reporters and editors. Let's talk for a moment about stories linked to higher education.

Students and parents who are part of traditional religious traditions -- especially Catholics -- hang on. I'll be back to you shortly.

So, journalists, are there any colleges or universities near you? Are there any interesting stories at the moment out there in higher education circles? I mean, other than the state-school chaos at places like Evergreen College and the progressive private-school world of Middlebury College.

Obviously, there are all kinds of First Amendment issues hitting the fan.

But, journalists, stop and think for a moment. Are there any RELIGIOUS colleges and universities near your newsrooms? In my experience (oh, 25 years or so teaching in Christian higher education), when things start going crazy on campuses from coast to coast, many students and their parents -- especially religious folks -- start considering alternatives.

But are there any interesting stories to write about on those campuses, events that are rippling out from the wilder world of secular higher education? Yes, think Wheaton College. Yes, think Gordon College. Or think about the whirlwind of events, this past year, that surrounded the famous literature professor Anthony Esolen at Providence College.

This brings us to this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), which grew out of an "On Religion" interview I did with Esolen about his departure (after 27 years and a tenure nod) from Providence after students accused him of every progressive academic sin in the book. Click here for an essay offering Esolen's take on what happened: "Why I Left Providence College for Thomas More." Here is my short summary, drawn from the column:

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