Tips From Esolen’s Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture


The embattled and shockingly non-respected Anthony Esolen (the filled-diaper crowd are flinging contents of same at him) has a new book arriving early next year: Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture . Looks to be a book we’ll all be talking about.

From what information we have, it looks like his idea is the Fighter’s Plan, the opposite of the so-called Benedict option. Best three-word description of the latter is duck and cover. Best one-word is hide. Problem is, there’s nowhere left to run to, no place the eyes of the State can’t see. Better, then, to stand and fight

Below are highlights of the Plan from the Introduction. Discuss.

Let’s get straight to the point. We no longer live in a culturally Christian state. We do not live in a robust pagan state, such as Rome was during the Pax Romana. We live in a sickly sub-pagan state, or metastate, a monstrous thing, all-meddlesome, all-ambitious. The natural virtues are scorned…A man who fathers six children upon three women and now wants to turn himself into a “woman” attracted to other women—he is praised for his courage. Justice means that a handful of narrowly educated and egotistical judges get to overturn human culture and biology, at their caprice.

Build new schools, reform old schools, and abandon irreformable ones.

Are your children attending the sub-pagan schools? Get them the hell out of there. What are you waiting for? It’s not as if the sub-pagan schools actually teach children English grammar and give them facility with numbers and make them familiar with the lands and rivers and seas of our world, let alone introduce them to the great works of western civilization. If your children are in the sub-pagan schools, it will require almost a miracle of God to keep them from becoming sub-pagan themselves. They too will learn to worship the three-poisoned god of our times, self, sex, State…

Restore your parish church and bring reverence back to the liturgy.

…Bring art back in…Are you using hymnals filled with bad poetry expressing hippy-dippy theology to treacly or unsingable tunes? Why?…

Acquaint yourself with the proper use of the zipper.

No pretending here. We’ve all been scorched by the sexual revolution…We have to tell ourselves and our children the truth. There is no way to make it sound nice. “We are Christians, they are not. How God judges them is not ours to know. Our first task is to follow God’s law ourselves, before we can witness to them. We do not fornicate. We do not divorce. We do not engage in sodomy. We do not use porn. We do not flood women’s bodies with synthetic and carcinogenic hormones. We do not care for obscenities in film. We do believe in marriage according to the evident design of God, imprinted upon our bodies male and female. We encourage boys to be boys and girls to be girls.”…

Be social.

…The official organs of public opinion hate us, and would like nothing better than to have us hang about empty churches like bats in a cave. Let them have more obvious opportunities for their hatred—or their embarrassment, perhaps their conversion…

Read good books.

Our Lord has granted us one of the most precious blessings in war. Our enemies are ignorant. They are clever—they have brains, as all human beings do. But imagine a rickety fence against a cannon: that’s our contemporary journalist against Chesterton…Put on the full panoply of God. Those arms may well include the weapons of natural law and natural wisdom that our sub-pagan neighbors have never mastered: Cicero, Aristotle, Plato, Confucius…

Recover the human things.

…We’ve all lost a great deal of what once made up whatever sweetness that human life had to offer. People used to dress becomingly, play cards, talk to others, take long walks, sing songs, play ball, grow peas and beans, strum on the guitar, drop in on friends, and have friends to drop in on…The world, besides being quite mad, is now an unspeakably drab, tawdry, and lonely place. Build outposts of normality…

Pray like the pilgrim you are.

…If you pray for ten minutes a day, pray for fifteen…

Whatever you do, do it as if everything depends on just that.

It does, after all…The next person you greet may be on the verge of sainthood or damnation. Every moral choice we make repeats the drama of Eden. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something. Begin.

Update Coincidentally today, Esolen on Love, Liberal Education, and the Secret of Human Identity.


  1. Michael Dowd

    Thanks William. I just ordered the book. As the next step a network of like thinking individuals needs to be created.

    Perhaps you could comment on how we might go about knitting such a network to create a cyber relay team to spread the word and take appropriate actions.
    Money could be raised like Trump did it, one dollar at a time.

    Hopefully, your subscribers will have some thoughts on a roll-out plan.

  2. As a chronicler and connosieur of the origin, strategy, tactics and beliefs of the Politically Correct Progressive destructors of Normal-American culture ( ) , interviewers and readers nearly always ask: Ok, you’ve cleary explained how we got to where we are now. So what can we do?

    My response is usually: Wish I could tell you. But I can’t. You now understand the opponents of Normal-America. Armed with that knowledge, you now must create strategy and tactics to accompany the beliefs of Normal-America, and to accompany the plan to recover Normal-America.

    While Esolen appears to have a solid plan to promulgate Normal-American culture, for Normals, the review above does not mention a plan to deal with the cancerous influencers burrowed into the transmission belts of our culture (although I have not yet read the book, so maybe he does deal with this) .

    Applying the prescriptions described in Matt’s review to our personal and community lives is a solid first step. But it’s sort of like putting sunscreen on a metastasizing skin cancer.

    The fundamental cultural rot will not go away without some sort of action to destroy the root viral infection.

    What action?, you ask. Again, it’s up to you, armed with the knowledge of our opponents and their tactics of destruction.

    A thick layer of sunscreen will not excise the cancer eating away at our core.

  3. Ken

    Esolen, as a self-asserted “Christian” that wants [so-called] “Christian” values in the forefront, is scapegoating the failures of “Christians” themselves and making it appear the problem is elsewhere in society (which is only partly true).

    The very first topic to address is define what proper “Christian” values, or whatever, are and then focus on identifying & rooting out the heretics. So much, perhaps a sizable majority, of so-called “Christianity” in the U.S. is heretical. About that there isn’t much, but “Bad Religion, How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” by Ross Douthat, isn’t so bad.


    Example (one of thousands): Episcopal denominations have split over the ability to tolerate, or not, gay clergy/marraige/etc. One side must be wrong. And so it goes within & across denominations over a myriad of issues, large & small.

    Until that problem of “Christian” heretical diversity is addressed & resolved, the rest of society is going to continue on its present course unimpeded by true Christian influence.

    Also consider a couple of benchmarks that hi-lite the truth about social behavior historically:

    Back in the 1920 (pre-Great Depression) was a doctor that compared blood test results, parents vs babies born and found [what would now be considered unethical study results] roughly 20 percent of the children could not possibly be sired by the marital father.

    During the Civil War the U.S. mint began including the phrase, “In God We Trust,” on coinage — without legal authority, and to considerable public controversy. Mark Twain made the observation:

    “It is the choicest compliment that has ever been paid us, and the most gratifying to our feelings. It is simple, direct, gracefully phrased; it always sounds well—In God We Trust. I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true. And in a measure it is true—half the nation trusts in Him.”

    It took to 1956 for the motto to become officially legal. Twain’s quotes’ popularity has stuck because most of us recognize the truth in his observation — most, or half-ish, of society only maintained/s a facade of such faith while practicing something quite different.

    So many people assert “Christian” values…but what that means, today, in actual practice is anybody’s guess — less so now given the mutually incompatible doctrines espoused by so many “Christian” churches.

    One can say it is getting too late to “duck and cover” or “hide” … but the problem Esolen asserts is largely [not entirely] a mirage: The Left is bringing into the open–as normal–behaviors that have been occurring all along for generations “behind closed doors.” Much of the real issue isn’t that society is changing so much as a pretentious “Christian” majority is being forced to confront social realities it tried for so long to ignore and/or pretend didn’t really exist. (Esolen seems to bemoan that we aren’t seeing the Wizard of Oz as the contrived apparition he never really was for the guy behind the curtain he really was/is)

    One suspects that Esolen’s (and those so willing to pounce on his particular message) real fear is that a “sub-pagan” society will overwhelm contemporary
    “Christianity.” Such a fear is valid. Christianity, in its original true form, not only weather a pagan Roman society but eventually won it over — so such social changes today ought not really pose any substantial threat. However….now, given modern “Christianity’s” largely fractured & heretical status, it is ill-equipped to persist under such open confrontation.

    Whatever the non-heretical “Christian” values are that society ought adopt…won’t happen until the heresies are exposed. And then dealt with.

  4. David Smith

    Thanks, William – I, too, have ordered the book. I’m not one to “shelter in place” while the store is getting shot to hell (literally!) when I have any way to fight back.

    May I, however, offer a bit of caution about any immediate effort to create a structure and raise money. We’ve seen all to clearly what happened to the Tea Party. The forces of evil are very good at the co-opting game.

  5. Michael Dowd

    Good stuff Ken. I am not so sure that Christianity “won over” pagan society as much as defined and ostracized what being a pagan was. Today Christianity generally refuses to define sin and thus can’t condemn it. This could not be better illustrated than with our dear Pope Francis trying to redefine adultery in his letter Amoris Laetitia. In our modern age, wonder of wonders, sin is being redefined as normal by our Christian leaders. We have come to a not so pretty pass.

  6. JH

    Sounds more like we live in a sickly sub-Christian state, instead. Right? Otherwise, why bother rebuilding Christian culture?

    What is a sub-pagan school exactly? The arrogance of Christians! I know, back home, 95% of the schools are sub-pagan, and therefore, back home, kids learn how to worship the three-poisoned god of our times, self, sex, State…

    Acquaint yourself with the proper use of the zipper.

    Who knows how to properly use the zipper? A man who fathers six children upon three women? I bet he does, otherwise he would have hard time to fathers six children upon three women.

  7. Ye Olde Statistician

    What is a sub-pagan school exactly?

    I would imagine it is one that has thrown off transcendental religion but does not measure up to the staunch pagan virtues of, say, Republican Rome. (Recollect that things like the cardinal virtues have their roots in pagan thought, and that the Stoics did not think well of the Epicureans, nor the Epicureans well of the Hedonists.)

  8. Peter

    Very good article, Mr. Briggs–great advice, except that you left out the study and reading of scriptures as a counter against neo-paganism. The words of Jesus and the testimony of the apostles are far superior to Plato, Aristotle and Confucius.

  9. AlmostFrozen

    Wow! I added this to my Amazon wish list mere days before your post. Er – something about “great minds” *cough, cough.* Great post, thanks!

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