Sep 9, 2015

Rod Dreher Apologizes to Kentucky "Hillbilly" For Error, Not for Calling Her a "Dingbat," "Appalachian Joan of Arc"

Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets. If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. Ps 55:11-4 
Rod Dreher, Crunchy-Con author and Christian blogger for the American Conservative Magazine, has joined the bien-pensants in their attacks on Kim Davis. Principled criticism is good (iron sharpens iron) and Dreher has well developed arguments that he can offer against Davis' stand. Dreher leads a movement called the "Benedict Option," which has many thoughtful things to say about how Christians should change their strategy and resist America's anti-Christian orthodoxy by culture-engaging "retreats" into intentional Christian communities. The reference in the term "Benedict Option" is to the mode by which Benedictine monastic communities withdrew, protected and engaged culture during another nadir in civilization.

Dreher's proposed strategy conflicts with Davis' insistence on the right of a lesser Christian magistrate (as equally ordained by God and required by God to serve Him justly) to interpose herself between the people and superior magistrates engaged in lawless action, like redefining marriage against the express rule of God. The special duty of lesser magistrates to resist, because they too are appointed by and responsible to God, is why Obadiah was right to hide the prophets from Ahab (1 King 18) and clerks in Axis-occupied territories were right not to hand over lists of Jews. (Read about the doctrine of the lesser magistrates and the Magdeburg confession, here.)

Now, Dreher may be right to pursue what he calls the "Benedict Option" and to disfavor direct resistance to U.S. marriage tyranny. I'm sympathetic to his ideas. But in recent personal attacks on Kim Davis, he has crossed the line of valid criticism and turned to ethnic epithets and personal attacks. This is more disappointing because he has real arguments to make. Dreher is now pursuing the Benedict Arnold Option and its winning him respect from the establishment.

Pausing from castigating Davis for creating bad PR for Christians, Dreher recently noted that his blog is also  supplying ammunition to George Stephanopoulos against Mike Huckabee and Huckabee's defense of Davis. Dreher must take a great deal of comfort in knowing that he has such established company in his contempt for Kim Davis and is not creating negative PR for Christians like her.

Dreher recently lost control of his personal contempt for Davis, calling her a "jailed hillbilly egotist." See his twitter below. Taken in by a poorly spelled hoax, Dreher thought he was denouncing this Davis "hillbilly" for the "arrogance" of comparing her imprisonment for conscience to the imprisonment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and asking for prayers for herself like Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.

So deceived, after beginning with a measured, "this is insane," Dreher concluded:  "This dingbat thinks she's an Appalachian Joan of Arc but she's just the ego-tripping leading lady in a Jerry Springer Passion Play."  [After I wrote this, Dreher deleted these self-condemning lines from his blog. The link is to google's cache.]

I would like Dreher to explain why it is appropriate to criticize someone in serious writing as a "hillbilly." What exactly could it add to legitimate analysis to denigrate a person as a "hillbilly" from Appalachia and associate them with the Jerry Springer show? How are these things relevant to whether she displays "arrogance" in comparing her situation to King's imprisonment? How does Dreher think that being an Appalachian hillbilly disqualifies someone from invoking the same principles of justice as King?

Eventually, Dreher was told that the letter was not written by Davis. It was a hoax. So he partially apologized: "I fell for that elaborate #KimDavis troll. I apologize to Kim Davis for criticizing her based on the false doc & media reports on it."

Dreher, however, did not apologize for the disparaging epithets that he hurled against Davis. The hoax letter did not indicate that Kim Davis was a "hillbilly" or from "Appalachia" or a suitable participant on the Jerry Springer show. He did not "base" these epithets on the hoax or media reports on it. Dreher's error in attributing a poorly spelled letter to someone he is willing to stereotype as a "hillbilly" did not cause him to use denigrating language. I don't think his mistake in believing the hoax, unless he himself views it as caused by his own prejudice against an Appalachian, requires much of an apology. Mistakes happen. Dreher needs to apologize for using language that indicates a contempt for certain classes of people.

Can we all agree that no one deserves to be ridiculed for her regional and ethnic associations? Can we all agree that referring to a woman imprisoned for her faith as a "dingbat" crosses some line? Dreher has written some lovely words about his relations with African Americans and his ability to see through their eyes. Perhaps he needs to look through Kim Davis' eyes, too.


  1. Do you think Calvin's lesser magistrate theory can spontaneously develop among a people who've forgotten their political heritage? After all, this is what separated the American revolution from the Godless revolutions of Russia and France; George Washington et al stood up in their roles as representatives of the people of America.

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