Out of the Ashes really is a marvelous book, and Anthony Esolen is a baller.
He tackles the same problem that Rod Dreher is addressing in The Benedict Option—which is the apostasy and resultant deterioration of a formerly Christian culture—but he does it with a lot more verve. In fact, any more verve and it would be two steps away from sass.
The subtitle is “Rebuilding American Culture,” and his prescriptions are more radical than Dreher’s (although generally not inconsistent with them). They have much more of a feel of “reloading” than “retreating.” Esolen wants to regroup and counterattack. There is no surrender here, and no wisps of the spirit of surrender.
He has chapters on recovering the school, recovering higher education, recovering masculinity, recovering femininity, recovering vocation and work, recovering play, and much more. He has the eye of an educated and exuberant aesthete, to be distinguished from the eye of an over-educated snob.
He writes as a convinced and practicing Roman Catholic, but obviously has a great deal of respect for those Protestants who actually believe things—which is to be distinguished from those watery Protestants who . . . well, who don’t. To the extent that the Catholic/Protestant divide comes up in this book, it is best summed up in my embarrassment that more Reformed thinkers don’t think as reformationally as Esolen does. Things have come to a pretty pass when a Roman Catholic writer is running Kuyperian circles around the Two Kingdoms of Escondido.
I said he is a baller. Take his discussion of the excuses that liberal Christians used to make for the early forms of the sexual revolution. Here you go:
“Liberal Christians in 1966 could proffer the poor excuse that the experiment was untried, that they did not know any better, that Jesus did not really condemn sins of the flesh, and that the times they were a-changing. Christians fifty years later do not have event that excuse. The experiment has been an unmitigated disaster. Those fences? They levees, not fences. The churches took down those levees and erected signs in their place, reading, ‘Now, above all, be nice.’ The rain has come, the river has risen, it has broken down the few untended levees remaining and buried the pretty little signs under hundreds of feet of mud, and water that once did productive work for mankind now spreads like a vast malarial marsh over what used to be fields and farms and villages, simmering and breeding vermin in the sun. Christians must repudiate the whole sexual revolution. All of it. No keepsakes, no exceptions. Remember Lot’s wife” (pp. 92-93).
This really is a book to read. Every page is convicting. Every page is bracing. Every page is encouraging. Get it. Read it. You won’t be sorry.