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[A quick note about this episode - we have fixed an error that caused some listeners to hear overlapping audio in the first portion of the show. Thank you for your understanding, and we're sorry for the issue]

In 2017, Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option, a book arguing that America has grown so hostile to Orthodox Christian practice and morals that believers need to retreat into sealed communities to wait out the cultural storm. It’s a window into a mindset that is increasingly powerful in politics but befuddling to those who don’t share its premise: How have so many white Christians come to feel like America’s most persecuted class?

Dreher writes about the monastics, but he lives the engaged life. He’s a senior editor at the American Conservative, where he writes a popular blog confronting American politics and culture from an Orthodox Christian perspective. I asked him on the show to try to see the world through his eyes and better understand some of the debates splitting the country.

How can a country so suffused in Christian culture seem so hostile to Christians? Why does the Christian right focus so much on sexuality rather than poverty, lust rather than greed? How can a religion built around such radical openness to strangers embrace Trump’s approach to borders and migrants? What is the line between protecting religious liberty and accepting widespread discrimination? And do blogs like Dreher’s, which trawl the culture for the stories meant to make Christians feel persecuted and appalled, just drive a deeper wedge into our politics?

Dreher is thoughtful, eloquent, and open, and this is a conversation that left us both questioning some premises. A lot of the points we differ on can’t be settled by debate, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for understanding.

Book recommendations:

The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Laurus by Eugene Vodolazkin

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