Dateline: 26 March 2008
|Scott & Helen Nearing|
In my previous essay I introduced you to the classic back-to-the land book, Living The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing. And I gave you some background information (things you won’t find in the book) about the Nearings. I concluded by recommending the book even though I am not in accord with the Nearing’s non-Christian beliefs.
Truth be told, I admire Scott and Helen for their gumption, idealism, focus, and determination. They recognized the foolishness and depravity inherent in the industrialized lifestyle and decided not to participate. They didn’t just talk the talk, they walked the walk. That is admirable. If more modern-day Christians in America walked the walk instead of just talking the talk, we would be a far more effective witness for Jesus Christ. That’s my opinion.
Personally, I have endeavored to live a countercultural Christian lifestyle, especially over the last nine years. It is a way of life called Christian-agrarianism. As most of you who read this blog probably know, I even wrote my own “good life” book a couple years ago (Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian is the title).
In the beginning of my book I make it clear that I am no expert on the Christian-agrarian “good life.” I am more like a hungry beggar who has found a source of good bread, and I want to tell others all about it.
I get letters from readers of my book, and that is always a nice thing. But some people write seeking greater wisdom and depth of understanding from me about Christian-agrarianism. More than a few even want to come and visit me. I feel inadequate about answering many, if not most, of the specific questions posed to me, and I am pretty sure people would be disappointed if they visited me. I am not the eloquent and dogmatic counterculture “radical” that Scott Nearing was. I am not prepared to debate my position with any and all comers, as Scott Nearing delighted in doing when he was in his prime. I am no Christian-agrarian paragon.
I’m just a beggar who has found bread. And I’ve tasted the bread. And it is good.
I have found that when Christianity is embraced and deliberately lived within the agrarian framework, it bears good fruit. It bears better fruit than life lived within the industrialized, worldly, framework that dominates in this day and age. And I believe it bears better fruit than agrarianism blended with the Nearing’s brand of Buddhism, or any other antichrist belief system. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I believe Chirstianity is best lived within the agrarian paradigm. I think that is what God intended from the start. And good fruit is what a truly good life should be all about.
When I refer to "good fruit" I am referring (for starters) to the "fruit of the Spirit" mentioned in Galatians 5:22. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..." Qualities like that do not find fertile ground to grow and mature in the industrial world and the industrialized lifestyle, as they do within the agrarian lifestyle.
I think Michael Bunker said it well: "Agrarianism is the only proper seedbed of a Christian life and worldview. The whole Bible teaches it, and every story and parable re-affirms it."
The rightness and "goodness" of Christian agrarianism seems so plainly obvious to me. And I often wonder, how do I explain something that is obvious? How do I justify something that is obvious? I do it by simply testifying to the obvious with stories from my own life, and pertinent essays. This blog archive has plenty of such testimonies, as does my book. But I have digressed. This is supposed to be about the Nearings.
Yes, I like the Nearings for many reasons. They rejected consumerism and materialism by living very simply. They embraced the virtues of hard physical work and a wholesome diet of organic food. They grew 80-percent of their own food. They cut their own firewood. They built their home and outbuildings with their own hands using native stone. They were good neighbors, and gracious hosts to as many as 2,000 strangers who made their way to the Nearing’s homestead each year. When people showed up, Scott and Helen put them to work, and fed them, and they shared their vision of the “good life” with them. That is remarkable.
The Nearings eschewed the whole modern idea of working a regular job in order to earn a living. They chose instead to make a subsistence income by working on their land. That is what they said in their book. But in recent years, after their death, it has come to light that the couple had the luxury of inheritances to help support themselves. Does this revelation about their “good life” discredit their lifelong experiment? I think it does. But only to a degree.
The fact remains that they still lived deliberately and simply, and separate from the industrialized modern culture. Most people who are blessed with the advantage of “old money” would never choose to live as the Nearings did. It’s quite possible that their choice of lifestyle is even more remarkable knowing that they may have had the money to live far “better.”
In any event, it was my intention to tell you about Scott Nearing’s unusual food concoction called “horse chow” in this essay (it's not for horses) and, once again, I have rambled on without doing so. I will get to it next time (maybe). For now, I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from an interview that Helen Nearing gave in 1994. Scott had died eleven years earlier at 100 years of age. She was 90 years old and would die in an auto accident a year later.
The interviewer mentioned that many people are attached or addicted to “feeling part of the culture, watching big events on television, going to the popular movies. Have you ever regretted not being a part of those events—missing that shared context?”
"I have a sense of not being part of it but I haven’t missed it. The titillation that’s generated on the screen or boombox is absolutely unnecessary to me. Hell on earth for Scott and me would have been the perpetual noise of radio or television. And you get them perforce. You can do nothing about it once you turn on these machines. There these voices are, there these ideas are, there these people are. I feel no kinship with them and I gladly turn their noise off. And gladly live without the noise."
CLICK HERE to read essay #3 in this four-part "Horse Chow" series.