Rod Dreher still has a job

I know, it’s hard to believe but he does. He’s got a strange little niche as the “crunchy con”, a granola-eating Catholic conservative, and seems to get writing gigs all over the place. Given recent and ongoing historical revelations, just the word “Catholic” gives me heebie-jeebies, but I guess I’m alone in that, given that some people think “Jesuitical” is a compliment and that the Supreme Court seems to have been packed with practitioners of that bizarre faith.

But anyway, back to Rod Dreher. I actively avoid reading anything by the guy, which means that I only see the most outrageous excerpts that have already spread far and wide, so I admit to some sampling bias here. But how in the name of all that is holy and unholy did the opening paragraph of a recent essay pass by an editor?

I have never given circumcision a single thought, other than to consent to my sons’ circumcision. Europeans think its weird for American Gentiles to be circumcised, and I think they’re right … but I remember the one kid we had in my elementary school class, a black boy who had been born at home, and who was not circumcised. All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that. The kid didn’t know why his penis was so strange looking, and neither did we. Third grade, man.

That is amazing. The first sentence is the car driving through the fence railing and over the cliff, the second sentence is the bone-crushing crunch as it hits a boulder on the way down, and the third is when the vehicle bursts into flame and explodes. It’s like a 70s detective show.

The overall message of the essay is one I agree with, that routine circumcision is a bad practice, but how he gets there is weirdly traumatic.

The first bit is expected and routine — of course Rod Dreher never gave it a moment’s thought when he agreed to let doctors do unnecessary surgery on his children’s penises. He put far more thought into the arguments of anti-vaxxers when he decided to ignore his doctors and space out his children’s vaccination schedule, but hacking off bits of a baby’s flesh? Sure, everyone else is doing it, let’s go along.

But then, the presentiment of doom comes along when he introduces the subject of his reminiscence…a black boy. His skin color is totally irrelevant to his point, but it does prime the explosives nicely for that moment when he sets off primitive root wiener, which was monstrous. Yikes. Hey, editor at the American Conservative: you’ve got an essay about the perils of circumcision, and you could have honed it easily by snipping out “black” and removing the whole racist diversion into the black child’s monstrous, primitive penis but did you? No, you did not. You may not have even noticed.

Dreher was a late convert to Catholicism (he has since left the church, after Pope Benedict retired, because he was concerned at how it has lost “rigor” since Vatican II in 1959 — he’s a very strange man) so his religious upbringing doesn’t quite explain his bizarre childhood behavior. All the boys in his elementary school would gather around the urinal to stare at a penis? I don’t believe it. I don’t recall ever seeing any other child’s penis in elementary school, let alone retaining it as a vivid memory later in life. In my schooling, the children wore pants, and using the urinal wasn’t an invitation to a communal gawping session. But then, maybe schools were different in Lousiana, where he grew up. Y’all wear pants down South, right?

I don’t think you can blame it on “Third grade, man.” In my third grade experience, I was obsessed with dinosaurs, not black boys’ penises.


  1. John Morales says

    Dreher was a late convert to Catholicism (he has since left the church, after Pope Benedict retired, because he was concerned at how it has lost “rigor” since Vatican II in 1959 — he’s a very strange man)

    I see what you did there.

    (Not sufficiently rigid)

    When I was a little boy, in Spain in the early 1960s, circumcision was not a thing.
    There was one boy who had just had one, and I remember wincing at his mutilation and expressing my sympathy.
    I vaguely remember it was because of phimosis, but perhaps I’m confabulating.

    Anyway, it’s most definitely not a Catholic thing.

    (Obs, I’m intact)

  2. lumipuna says

    Did he have some point in bringing up that school story, or was it just something he wanted to share on tangent?

  3. raven says

    he’s (Rob Dreher) a very strange man)

    He is that.
    He is also a garden variety, boring fundie xian* hater.
    He hates everyone but white male fundies; gays, trans, liberals, progressives, other xians, nonwhites, women, immigrants, etc.. He is an out and loud racist.
    His big thing is defending the status quo of 1910 or so.

    *Technically, he is now Eastern Orthodox.
    Because the Catholic church didn’t hate enough for his warped mind.

  4. raven says

    A few examples of Dreher’s hates.

    rationalwiki: Dreher calls African people “barbarians” but insists that isn’t racist because it is a “perfectly just” description.[3]
    wikipedia: Dreher is a critic of large-scale immigration to the United States and Europe; he has defended the concept of Western civilization and condemned identity politics associated with race.

    He is an open racist.

    rationalwiki: Dreher believes that Christians must be granted the right to discriminate against LGBT people whenever their religion demands it. He is author of the book The Benedict Option, arguing anti-LGBT Christians should withdraw into cult-like isolation modelled on a medieval Benedictine monastery, where they are free to indoctrinate their children in peace.[6]

    His big thing for many years was hating gay people. He also hates women unless they conform to 15th century Catholic stereotypes. We all wish the fundie haters would all withdraw from society too. These kooks never walk their talk.

    Dreher has never had an original thought in his life. He is just a routine bundle of fundie xian hates from Louisiana running on automatic pilot.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe Dreher should join the Australian breakaway sect of catholicism created by Mel Gibson’s father (who thought the Vatican became outright commie after 1962).
    Rob and Mel could sit in the Outback, drink beer and complain about the Jews.

  6. PaulBC says

    The overall message of the essay is one I agree with, that routine circumcision is a bad practice, but how he gets there is weirdly traumatic.

    Really? From the excerpt I’d have guessed that his point was parents ought to agree, lest other 3rd graders stare at their kid’s weiner.

    I also found it telling (as you note) that he never gave any thought except immediately giving his “informed” consent when asked. Uh, what? I thought about the strange practice of American routine circumcision over the years long before I became a parent, and am happy I had the confidence to say “No, it sounds totally unnecessary.”

    And yeah, the RC church is weird and has an appalling record of sexual abuse. A lot of us get born into it (the religion and not necessarily the abuse). I’m not a believer, but I can understand why other people may choose to stay in their birth religion, whatever it is. (A trivial point and not one I wish to discuss.)

  7. adstuart says

    When your child is born in America, is it like an opt out type of thing for male circumcision? It was never mentioned here in New Zealand when my kids were born and didn’t even cross my mind to ask the doctors about it. From my very anecdotal evidence, circumcision in my generation (1982+) is very rare here.

  8. wzrd1 says

    @adstuart, it’s offered to parents right after birth, usually claiming a mythical sanitary issue prevention. Apparently, routine cleaning shmegma is a complete mystery to US physicians.
    Of course, heroin is utterly uncontrollable for US physicians, while UK physicians use it to control post-operative pain after major surgery and routine cleaning of an unmutilated penis is equally well understood.
    Bu then, we were late adopters to germ theory and Koch’s postulates… During the 1918 pandemic, physicians were recalled to treat influenza patients and they promptly dutifully bled them into the grave.