Dateline: 28 March 2009
From the very beginning of this blog (it’s been years now) I have celebrated and promoted a way of life and a way of thinking that I chose to call Christian agrarianism. For me, this way of life, deliberately pursued, is the outgrowth of my Christian-agrarian worldview. I have always defined Christian agrarianism as Christianity lived within the agrarian paradigm. I have identified this way of thinking and this return to an older way of life as a “movement” within the body of Christ.
I’ve even gone so far as to write and publish a book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, which is a paean to the Christian-agrarian way of life. As far as I know, my book is the only book that specifically acknowledges this movement and attempts to define it.
To my way of thinking, Christian agrarians are simply followers of Christ (typically referred to as Christians) who see the wisdom of living their lives and raising their families for God’s glory within the framework of a rural (agrarian) culture, as opposed to the dominant, antichrist, industrial culture.
I believe this way of life is biblically sound. That is to say, I believe this framework for living fits perfectly with God’s intentions for His people. I see biblical support for this belief (as discussed in other essays on this blog). Furthermore, I find absolutely nothing in God’s word to indicate that it is acceptable for Christians to live within the framework of, and completely dependent on, our modern industrial system.
I see this Christian-agrarian worldview validated by the virtuous fruit that is inculcated in the families and individuals that pursue this path—my own life and my own family in particular.
It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that the cultural inclination of the industrial worldview bears much different fruit: pride, greed, envy, dissatisfaction, discontent, unthankfulness, unforgiveness, rebellion, materialism, and so forth. While such fruit can also be found within the agrarian paradigm, agrarian life does not, by it’s antithetical nature, tend to support and promote such things.
Clearly, there are other kinds of agrarians besides Christian agrarians. I think I have written here before about an e-mail I once got from a man who informed me he was a Jewish-agrarian and, therefore, wasn’t much interested in my blog. Same goes for the pagan-agrarian who wrote me.
Well, okay. I suspect that most people in this world who live within the agrarian framework are some sort of pagan or heathen or non-Christian. That being the case, adding “Christian” before the word agrarian serves to clarify and explain a way of thinking or, as I’ve noted, to define a worldview. It does not, in my mind, redefine what a Christian is, or what makes a person a Christian.
There are some Christians who look for deeper meanings and understandings about, and justifications for, Christian agrarianism than I do. That is well and good. But I admit to not needing the very deep understandings to see and understand the wisdom of pursuing this way of life.
In recent days, there has been some discussion about the errors of Christian-agrarianism on the internet. Christian agrarianism is being called “extra-biblical” teaching. People are repenting of their involvement with so-called Christian agrarianism. Frankly, this leaves me dumbfounded.
In a recent essay, a sincere and concerned Christian believer wrote about the errors of Christian agrarianism and concluded that “Christian agrarianism is not Christianity and is a philosophy that some may masquerade as theology but we will see that it is simply just a doctrine of men.”
I understand this man is endeavoring to make important distinctions, but I feel compelled to bring my perspective into the discussion....
Of course Christian agrarianism is not Christianity. Christianity is Christianity, and agrarianism is agrarianism. But when you put the two together you have something remarkable and powerful. Christian-agrarianism does not change the meaning of Christianity. But it sheds a new light on how to best live one’s Christianity, and the outworking of that belief does, indeed, change one’s life. In time, that change will lead to much more widespread cultural change. It is inevitable. When you apply Christianity to agrarianism, you get an agrarianism imbued with divine purpose. When Christianity comes into contact with any kind of culture—agri or otherwise— that culture is transformed.
The idea that Christian agrarianism is “extra-biblical” is so contrary to my experience, my understanding, and my intention that it alarms me.
I'll not get into a protracted and divisive discussion about the “theology” behind why it is wise for Christians to eschew the dominant industrial-Babylonian culture and pursue the agrarian antithesis. In my mind it is obviously biblical and, beyond that, it’s just plain common sense.
But I would like to try to put this whole thing into perspective. The Christian-agrarian movement, that is to say, the trend among so many Christians to pursue a more agrarian lifestyle, is very much like the homeschooling movement.
There are people who will get in a huff if you say that homeschooling is a Christian movement, because they are Jewish homeschoolers, or Pagan homeschoolers, or some other brand of non-Christian homeschooler. But the fact is, the homeschooling movement in American was and is, primarily and fundamentally, a Christian movement.
What was the driving force behind the Christian homeschooling movement? It was the biblical-scriptural imperative that Christian parents should be responsible for the education of their children. It was the realization that government schools were doing harm to the souls of our children by teaching them things that were contrary to God’s word; that they were being indoctrinated to believe in and conform to a statist, humanistic worldview.
Was there biblical foundation for Christians to revive and pursue this almost-lost way of life and culture called homeschooling? You betcha! Was there deep theological and doctrinal foundation for homeschooling? I suspect so, but most Christians just saw the obvious rightness of it and acted accordingly. They brought their Christianity into the established culture of education and transformed it. Their Christianity did not change, but the outworking of their Christianity certainly did change, and the impact of this new Christian homeschooling movement has been profound.
By the way, years ago, if homeschooling was actually common in America among nonbelievers (like agrarian life is now common among many unbelievers ) and Christians moved into the realm, I’ll bet they would have called it the Christian homeschooling movement. They certainly would not have called it Christianity, and they wouldn’t have called it just homeschooling.
Now, is homeschooling per se mentioned in the Bible? No. Did Jesus Christ or the apostles speak about or reaffirm homeschooling in the Bible? No. Why would they? Home education was naturally understood as the proper path then, as it is by so many Christians today. It is the natural consequence of a biblical worldview in action.
But, do all Christians choose to homeschool their children? Clearly not. Are their differences of opinion about homeschooling between those Christians who homeschool and those who do not? Absolutely. Are those Christians who choose not to homeschool their children any less Christians than those who do? I, for one, don’t think so. But I’m sure there are some who do think that.
I think Christians who don’t homeschool their children are making a mistake. I think they are missing out on something very special and important—something that will enrich the lives of their children and advance the kingdom of Jesus Christ, here and now, and unto the generations. But there are plenty of other Christians who don’t see it that way. That is between them and God. I’m not going to condemn Christians who don’t homeschool their kids. What purpose would that serve? There are more important things to be concerned with.
I feel the same way about Christian agrarianism.
The Christian agrarian movement now has its proponents and its detractors. It has its casual adherents, its passionate adherents, and it’s dogmatic adherents. It has its wannabes and its compromisers. It’s a grand mix of ideas and opinions. Some define Christian-agrarianism different than others. Some are dubious of movements of any kind. Some are suspicious of that term, Christian agrarian.
But more than a few Christians are drawn to this way of life, because they see it as a proper way, just as many see homeschooling as a proper way of life. It fits perfectly with their biblically-informed worldview.
Many of these people don’t know that the way they have chosen to live and the strong convictions they have about it has this name: Christian-agrariansim, and when they find out there is a name for it, they are surprised and pleased. Giving the movement a name helps to define it as something that’s happening, that it is something important, that is something to learn about and understand and consider more fully.
How was the homeschool movement advanced? It was advanced one family at a time. It was advanced by people who, by the grace of God, saw the value and importance of it, and then acted on their convictions. Then, others, looking on and understanding the reasons for the movement, saw that this thing could be done. They saw that it bore godly fruit in the families who pursued this countercultural calling. Homeschool families were a testimony to the wisdom of homeschooling.
The culture-changing ramifications of this wholesome, affirming, God-honoring way of life (Christian agrarianism) are happening, slowly and surely, according to God’s plans, here and now, and generations to come will be affected.
Christian homeschooling was a simple but profound grassroots movement that happened from the bottom up, not the top down. It was brought about by God working in the lives of common folks who were yielded to His direction. We are seeing this in the Christian-agrarian movement.
Do all Christian families who homeschooll their children derive the blessings and benefit from it that others do? No. There are always exceptions to the rule. But the rule is not defined by exceptions. I know a homeschooling family that lived right next to the government school. They were not the best example of a homeschooling family. People in town, looking on this example, judged homeschooling harshly and offered up this family as an example to support their conclusion that homeschooling was not a good thing. What a shame.
Here, in closing, is a final analogy: I see all that Christian-agrarianism offers as a beautiful bouquet of flowers that is held out. Some people will, upon seeing it, comprehend the beauty, accept it, cherish it, and thank God for the grace and mercy found in such a gift. Some will shy away because they have never seen flowers like that; they are suspicious. Some will take the flowers but, upon closer inspection, may notice one or two flowers that are infected with bugs, and here is where the person who has accepted the bouquet has a choice. They can simply remove and discard the one or two offending flowers, putting them out of their mind, and enjoy the rest of the bouquet, or they can toss the whole bouquet in the trash, resolving to never again have such flowers, and to warn everyone they can that those flowers were all rotten.
Christian-agrarianism is not extra-biblical unless you make it extra-biblical. It is not a false religion unless you make it a false religion. It is not a cult unless you make it a cult. Exercise discernment and wisdom in all things. But do not throw the beautiful bouquet away just because a few of the flowers are bad.