When People Jump From Church to Church/You Know The Conversion Don’t Amount to Much

by Belle Waring on January 13, 2007

Rod Dreher has converted to Catholicism, then to Orthodoxy, and now to hippie. This is a strange personality type. Nonetheless, well done for the moment, Rod. I’ve always thought that if I were going to bother converting to a religion I’d just go on and be clasped to the bosom of the holy mother Russian church. Why mess around, you know?

Perhaps uncharitable shorter Rod Dreher: “You know, although I’d listened to the Black Sabbath song ‘War Pigs‘ many times before, I felt now as if only now I were hearing it for the first time.”

(With charity towards all, I advise readers to go out and listen to some Sister Rosetta Tharpe. If you’ve never heard her music, it will blow your mind.)



John Emerson 01.13.07 at 8:54 pm

I knew that the granola would eventually take effect.

Rasta Rod would good in dreads. But I have no photoshop skills. He also doesn’t have the stony look down,.


MQ 01.13.07 at 10:03 pm

Good recommendation. Dylan’s been pushing her lately too. The culture that produced this was healthier than ours is:


Just click it.


Ken Houghton 01.13.07 at 11:13 pm

It was an early sign that the war supporters were fading that “War Pigs” went back into rotation on Classic Rock radio stations ca. mid-2004.

And has been near heavy rotation since late 2005.


bad Jim 01.14.07 at 4:07 am

In the last few years there have been many times that made me proud of my hippie heritage. There were also outright anachronisms, nearly flashbacks, like lining a highway in a peace vigil and hearing a chick in a passing pickup call us communists.

As one who grew up under the (occasionally acute) threat of nuclear war, I find it hard to understand how anyone in the West could feel existentially threatened by terrorists, or consider Islamic hegemony a serious prospect. But then, I don’t fear the U.N., either. Perhaps I’m smoking the wrong stuff.

One thing I learned during Nixon’s terms is that the maxim “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence” is rather undependable. Evidence of incompetence does not imply absence of malice.


oneoffmanmental 01.14.07 at 6:51 am

I jumped from liberal Islam, to extremism to atheist humanism in the spate of 3 years.

Bet no one can beat that!


derek 01.14.07 at 7:12 am

Why Russian, for goodness sake? Wouldn’t it be Greek, the language the Gospels were written in?

Of course, you could do a lot to defuse the the War on Christmas by joining one of those Eastern churches that celebrate the Lord’s birthday on 6 Jan, or even 18 Jan!


chris y 01.14.07 at 8:20 am

I’ve always liked the fact that the rock guitar solo was invented by a black woman, in about 1941 too.


John Emerson 01.14.07 at 8:46 am

The Syrian Orthodox conduct their services in Syria/Aramaic, the actual language of Jesus, and this church is untouched by the detestable Chalcedonian heresy forced on Christianity by the evil Emperor Marcian and his secret ally, Attila the Hun.


Matt Weiner 01.14.07 at 9:47 am

The culture that produced this was healthier than ours is

I like Sister Rosetta Tharpe too, but this is not an accurate thing to say about the pre-WWII Southern U.S.


Russell Arben Fox 01.14.07 at 9:51 am

For what it’s worth Belle, reading through Rod Dreher’s writings (plentifully available here) makes it pretty clear that his rediscovery of what the hippies had right is pretty much inseparable from his embrace of a distinctly anti-modern Christianity. It’s a weird combination, but in some important ways a compelling one, at least to myself.

I’d write more, but I have to go to church now.


Matt 01.14.07 at 10:11 am

Still, while I’m happy to see Dreher turing, in some way, to the side of good you still have to worry when _Jonah Goldberg_ can complaine (fairly, I think) about your being “anti-intelectual”. It would make sense for such a person to go to Russian Orthodoxy since that’s a pretty reason-hating group of people, sort of like Catholicism with all the good parts of it taken out. (Universities, helping the poor, hospitals, seeking social justice, etc.)


Carlos 01.14.07 at 2:55 pm

It would make sense for such a person to go to Russian Orthodoxy since that’s a pretty reason-hating group of people, sort of like Catholicism with all the good parts of it taken out. (Universities, helping the poor, hospitals, seeking social justice, etc.)

Heh. Indeed.

[googling] is Eben his dad? interesting!


Brother Bliss 01.14.07 at 6:00 pm

I am the rock from which J.R. “Bob” Dobbs will build his empire on earth and pull the wool over the eyes of all…


MQ 01.14.07 at 10:50 pm

“I like Sister Rosetta Tharpe too, but this is not an accurate thing to say about the pre-WWII Southern U.S.”

Unfortunately, I think it might be. We have become much more publicly accepting of the darker elements in ourselves and much less idealistic since then. There were many things wrong, but we were more ashamed when they were exposed. The U.S. in 1940 was poised for the greatest expansion in economic opportunity and civil rights the nation had ever seen.


belle waring 01.14.07 at 10:57 pm

I wish that someone would put out a version of sister rosetta tharpe with the vocal track taken out. her voice is really booming in the way peculiar to a lifelong live performer and the guitar track is comparatively quiet, but she rocks that guitar so hard I wish I could hear it better just to study its awesomeness.

the syrian church sounds good. probably a lot of good beards.


John Emerson 01.15.07 at 12:00 am

The U.S. in 1940 was poised for the greatest expansion in …. civil rights the nation had ever seen.

Well, duh.


Doug 01.15.07 at 4:19 am

Thanks, Belle, for the natural facts.

That’s all. Well, well, well, well, that’s all.


roy Belmont 01.15.07 at 8:30 am

“I looked down
the road
and I wondered
and I wondered
and I wondered
I looked down
the road
and I wondered
just to see how far that I was from God”

What “we” is it that can compare its life now to what its life was like pre-1940?
What thing is that?
I’m gettin old but I wasn’t born then.
Is it some general air that was received then, that we know about, that got worse, and now is bad?
Some of us are worse off, some better, and thinking in these general terms, as if what we are is an average of all of us at any given moment, may be one of the main drivers of that erosive phenomenon.
Individuality has definitely declined on all fronts. You know?
Sometimes I ride my bike into town with that particular Rosetta Tharpe piece on constant repeat, other times with the Pogues’ If I Should Fall From Grace With God.
Of course at one point I had to recognize the thread in the subject matter, but I chose them as music and the way they speak to me, which is far and away from the literal.
Rosetta and Christopher Smart and William Blake and a whole army of valiant individuals, including that toothless gin-sot McGowan, still testifying, thanks to the wonders of print and text and libraries and the internet and portable recorded music technology.
But testifying to what?
Something that we are, I think. Something that we are that we need to preserve even when we can’t delineate it and define it into reproducible code. Especially at a moment like this, when it’s so easily dissolved by cynical reason.
So yeah, Rosetta Sharpe.
And check out Inez Andrews, with the Caravans, singing (Hold To) God’s Unchanging Hand – Jan 3, 1961.
Or in that Eastern mode – The Sirin Vocal Ensemble, a Russian sacred music group, The Sinful Soul Laments.


Gene O'Grady 01.15.07 at 3:56 pm

I think the original post and some of the comments are unfair to Dreher, who is fact an interesting person and tries to be an honest person, however much I disagree with his politics and find some of his personal attitudes distasteful — in particular his ethnocentrism.

I’m still a Roman Catholic, but I have the advantage on Dreher of having been one since birth. Reading Dreher’s accounts of what moved him to the orthodox, I’m struck by the naivete of his trust of Cardinal Law and the related sense of betrayal when he found out just what a scum Law seems to be. I think any cradle Catholic of whatever ideological persuasion would have seen Law as the kind of guy that just raises one red flag after another, and I don’t think Dreher was equipped to do that. This isn’t ideological — the “liberal” Roger Mahony raises the same red flags for me, and the “conservative” John O’Connor didn’t. When Law left Boston, I was rather amazed that the papers (we can’t, of course, assume their objectivity) printed rather impressive tributes from Orthodox, Episcopal, and Jewish spokespeople and didn’t seem to find a Catholic with a good word for him.

As to the Russian Orthodox, I’m not sure that the memory of notes to translations of 19th century novels is really a good way to judge that faith tradition. While I personally had a very bad impression of the at least Greek Orthodoxy based on the attitudes of my contemporaries who had grown up in that church, I do note that both Benedict XVI and Rowan Williams, both of whom are massively learned and neither of whom can fairly be called anti-intellectual, have praised the theological work of the Russian Orthodox in the 20th century. And the one time I actually visited a Russian Orthodox church I found the people there both exotic and welcoming in an appealing way — although it was a little unnerving eating lunch with a portrait of the Tsar looking at me.


Matt 01.15.07 at 4:28 pm

My experience w/ the Russian Orthodox Church is all from inside of Russia. There the services are 4 hours long and there are not seats. (There used to be for the nobility but everyone else had to/must stand.) The services are in old church slavonic, a language completely unintelligible to modern Russian speakers. It’s not actually thought to be important that they understand, though, because it’s not about understanding- it’s all about _feeling_. Maybe that’s fine, for those who go in for such things, but it’s also deeply anti-intellectual. The church generally supports anti-intellectualism in Russia as well, trying hard to bring back the mysticism of the past. This is mixed up w/ a pretty strong sense of xenophobia also strongly supported by the church. Finally the church there clearly hopes for a return to authoritarianism as it’s deeply opposed to liberalism. The Russian orthodox church in the US is a bit different, since some of it is the descendent of the group that broke away during the revolution, but this is being fought hard by the ‘real’ Orthodox church. They do have some very beautiful churches, though, and the icons are nice, and the singing/chanting and bells are great. Too bad about the rest of it, though. It really is a great place for someone who finds the Catholic church to be too liberal.


The Fool 01.16.07 at 2:22 pm

Dude: the Sister Rosetta Tharpe recommendation is a good one. By chance, I’ve been digitizing my CD collection all weekend and just happened to listen to a bunch of Sister Rosetta Tharpe yesterday from a Gospel collection I was ripping. She was awesome. So was early Mahalia Jackson.

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