My Struggle
To Define “Christian Agrarian”

Dateline: 5 May 2006

First, I’d like to thank fellow agrarian bloggers, Mary Susan Bradshaw, Russ Nellis, and John Mesko for their blog-endorsement of my newest book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. I have also been getting some private e-mail feedback and it is a real blessing to hear that people out there are appreciating what the book says.

Anyone who has written a book knows it is a very lonely endeavor. You plug away at it for months and you read and reread it a zillion times and you start wondering to yourself why you are doing it and if anyone will actually buy it, and if they do, will they like it? Then you publish it, and let folks know about it, and you hold your breath.

So the feedback makes me breath a little easier. And I was delighted to get an e-mail request yesterday for a review copy of the book from Lehman’s. I planned to send a copy to Lehman's but they contacted me first. Wow! How did that happen?

Russ Nellis posted at his blog that he was pleased to see that I defined agrarian in the Foreword of my book. And Christina Fuller is blogging her thoughts about what a Christian agrarian is (click here). With those things in mind, I’d like to relate a story about how I came to define what a Christian agrarian is in my book...

Back when I was trying to figure out exactly what an agrarian was, I happened to read a blog post from R.C. Sproul, Jr. in which he said something about agrarianism. I sent him an e-mail letter asking if he could give me a definition of what an agrarian is. He wrote back that it is not an easy word to define and that I should read the book, I’ll Take My Stand. I got a copy, read it, and enjoyed it, but I did not come away from the reading with a nice compact definition of what it meant to be an agrarian. I continued my quest for a definition for several more months.

At one point, not finding a concise definition, I figured I’d write one and post it to this blog. But as I tried to do so, I became discouraged witht he task. I knew what it meant to be an agrarian. I knew I was one. I knew one when I saw one. But I could not adequately sum up in words what one was.

So when I wrote my book I decided that I should not define the word. Instead, I explained that it was not an easy word to define and I said that every reader would have to define it for himself or herself.

As the book was nearing completion, I wanted to get a couple of endorsement quotes for the back cover. Rick Saenz gave me permission to use a quote of his about my writing that he made at his website. If I wanted, he said he would write something specifically for the book. That was very nice of him.

A notable Christian man who lives an agrarian lifestyle (and who I am not going to name) agreed to review the book with the intention of giving it an endorsement quote. I sent the manuscript to him. He responded with a brief e-mail saying that he would not endorse the book because I had not defined what an agrarian was. The reviewer said he appreciated what I was doing but if I was one of his students I would would get an F for the class because I did not define what I was talking about.

It was disappointing to have the book so curtly rejected on those grounds, but God was working through this man. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, he was right. I needed to define, at least to some degree, what a Christian agrarian was. But I did not come to that conclusion right away. First I justified my position, then I appealed to Rick Sanez for his opinion.

I had sent a review copy of the book to Rick too and, after an endorsement was refused by the unnamed man, I explained the situation to Rick and asked for his honest assessment of the Foreword. He very kindly responded that he felt the Foreword I had written was good enough and that it would work fine. But he made it clear that it would be better if I did define Christian agrarianism. If I had the time to rewrite it, he suggested that I do so. And Rick suggested that I read The New Agrarian Mind to help me define my terms. I had read the book, but went right to the bookcase and reread portions of it with my new objective in mind.

Rick also explained to me that my book had the flavor of a Christian-agrarian apologetic. That was difficult to take at first, because I never intended it to be such. But I eventually changed my thinking on that point too and, in the Foreword, I tell the reader that “my writings are a personal testament and a gentle apologetic.”

The point of all this is... I went from reluctance about defining and defending Christian agrarianism to fully embracing the ideal— and when I was done, I felt good about it.

Rick read my revised Foreword and said it was much better. I did not send the revision to the other reviewer because it was clear to me that he had other, unspoken, reservations about endorsing the book. And with time constraints being what they were, I did not attempt to get another endorsement for the back cover.

That’s the story of how I happened to define agrarian and, more importantly, Christian agrarian, in my book— at least to some degree. I got it down to about two pages.

I also make the point in the Foreword of the book that Christian agrarianism is not a special revelation, but it is a special conviction. I said that because I think a lot of people, when they hear the term, “Christian agrarian,” think it is something brand new and, maybe even unscriptural or, worse yet, a cult. I think my book makes it clear that Christian agrarianism is not brand new, it is not unscriptural, and it surely is not a cult. And in the Afterword of the book I sum everything up with these words:

“In the final analysis, agrarianism apart from Christianity amounts to nothing special. But when individual lives that have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ are imbued with the agrarian conviction, a fresh understanding and renewed sense of purpose emerges.”

After reading all this, perhaps you are left wondering. “What exactly is a Christian Agrarian anyway?

For the answer, I suggest you start with (Christina's blog), then get my book, and I recommend the first two articles at this link.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kimball,

I have THOROUGHLY enjoyed "Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian" it is wonderful!

Thanks for such insightful, uplifting writing!

Lisa Barthuly