Crunchy Cons
And Christian Agrarians

Original Dateline: 8 March 2006
Repost Dateline: 3 August 2016

I stopped by Carmon “Prairie Muffin” Friedrich’s Blog, Buried Treasure Books, this morning and read her most recent post about Crunchy Cons.

Crunchy Cons is the name of a book written by Rod Dreher. Cons is short for conservatives. Crunchy is a reference to eating granola. Crunchy Cons are people who embrace conservative ideology, but do not fit into the dominant conservative stereotype. The book’s subtitle sheds a bit more light on what it is all about:

How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)

Since I just learned about the book this morning, I have not read it. But I did read an interview which Carmon provided a link to. The interviewer describes Dreher’s book as “a manifesto that celebrates faith, family, community and nature against the forces of greed and lust.” Hey, that sounds a lot like the subtitle found up at the head of this blog!

Though I do not necessarily agree with everything Mr. Dreher says in his interview, he and I are definitely on the same page when it comes to a lot of things. It sounds to me like Crunchy Cons and Christian agrarians have a lot in common. In fact, it would appear to me that, even though he lives in an urban setting, Rod Dreher is a Christian agrarian.

I predict that it is only a matter of time before he and his family start a garden and get a few hens for eggs.

Here are some quotes to give you a taste of where Rod Dreher and his Crunchy Cons are coming from...


“I'd say that Crunchy Conservatism is nothing new. It's a rediscovery of the kind of traditionalism espoused by Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver and others in the 1940s and 1950s. It's a conservatism that values religion, family, and culture...”


“The institution most essential to conserve is the family. Beauty is more important than efficiency. Small, local, old and particular are almost always better than big, global, new and abstract.”


“There are a lot of people out there who don't fit into left-right categories. Robert Hutchins, one of the Christian farmers I wrote about, told me that he sometimes feels that he and his family have more in common with hippy organic farmers than with Republicans living in the suburbs ... and Robert is very Republican.”


“God did give man dominion over animals, but he didn't intend for us to turn these creatures into widgets. That's what's so foul about factory farming.”


“I interviewed a woman for the book who lived with her family in Midland, Texas. She and her husband were Presbyterians, and they were church planters there, and they had eight kids, and they were home schooling, and they ate a lot of natural food, and no TV, the whole magilla, and you know she told me, "It's the weirdest thing, we're living in the most Christian, most Republican place we've ever lived, and we look around and we can't see how people's faith affects the way they live their lives at all. They're all captives to the consumer culture. They're all buying their kids the most expensive new things. She said that's not how Christians are supposed to live; that's not how conservatives are supposed to live. They've sold out to the values of the world, and think that as long as they profess to hold the beliefs of the Christian faith, that that's enough.”


“What we try to do with our kids is teach them the tools they need to spot when they're being manipulated. If parents don't see their role to be actively countercultural—not passively countercultural—then they're going to lose. We see people losing all the time, good conservative people who don't see how the messages of mass consumer marketing work against their values.”


“I think that as Christians we know that the world is filled with God's presence and everything is given to us as a gift, and perhaps that's the secret to joy—being grateful for everything and taking joy in small things, and realizing through a sacramental mentality that this is how the Lord shows himself to us, through these little things, and we should rejoice in it.”


“The point is though that if you're going to attract people to a way of life, you've got to show them not only that it honors God and our conservative convictions, but that it's joyful, it's a fun way to live. And I really do think that if you live by the principles I outline in Crunchy Cons, where you place your faith and your family at the center of everything, and you learn how to value things like food and wine, and aesthetic things, beauty as the expression of the divine, then life becomes a lot more colorful and interesting and passionate.”


“I think only religious faith has the power to resist our very powerful commercial culture.”


“...Crunchy Cons is not primarily a book about policy; yes I have a few policy changes I'd like to see. I'd like to see laws passed to make it easier for families to homeschool, for families to start small farms and small businesses, but ultimately Crunchy Conservatism is about what Vaclav Havel called anti-political politics. And what he meant was the idea that the only way to rebuild society after the horrors of communism was through individual ethical choices and collective ethical choices made every single day...”


“I have no illusions that I'm going to be able to change America by what I believe, but I can change my family. I can change my parish. I can change what Edmund Burke called the "little platoons" of which I am a part. And I think that's enough. That's got to be enough because that's what I have control over. And maybe other people will see by the examples we live—I'm not talking about withdrawing and becoming neo-Amish—but by making these small changes, by living a good, virtuous life every single day, we can effect a more lasting change, a change that comes from deep within.”


Okay, I’m back...

Did he say neo-Amish? That’s the first time I’ve heard that term. As a Christian agrarian, I think that withdrawing from the popular culture or, as Pastor McConnell has termed it, cultural secession to some degree is a necessary part of living a successful Christian agrarian life. And I dare say it is part of what Crunchy Cons are also doing.

Whatever the case, it looks like the fundamental beliefs of Christian agrarianism are starting to attract a larger audience and that is a good thing.


Update: 2016

Well, ten years after posting this essay, Carmon Friedrich's blog, Buried Treasure Books, is no longer on the internet. The interview I mentioned with Rod Dreher is no longer on the internet. Pastor McConnell is no longer on the internet. And I don't think the Republican Party is worth saving. But the contra mundum worldview expressed by Rod Dreher in the above quotes is still, in my opinion, right on. And Rod Dreher's last quote pretty much sums up the question of "What can we do?" in the midst of the slow collapse of American civilization.


RuralLegend said...

Rod Dreher's primary writing now is around what he's calling the Benedict Option -- which is, in the terms you quote, essentially cultural secession. That is, like St. Benedict in the dark ages, how can we preserve the faith (and beauty and goodness and the family) in the midst of the present and coming darkness. Here are a couple starter links:

Herrick Kimball said...

Very good! I'm looking forward to reading those articles.

Would you happen to know if my prediction came true? Did the Dreher family start a garden and get a few hens for eggs? Perhaps the answer is in the links.

Here are hot links to the articles you recommend...

Christian and Countercultural
Benedict Option FAQ

Chad Meadows said...

I only looked here because I had remembered you found a blog from Eleutheros on the web archive.
Try this link for the Buried Treasure books review:

Try this link for the interview with the author:

Herrick Kimball said...

Wow. That is some EXCELLENT sleuthing on your part. Seeing Carmon's blog again is a real blast from the past (as the saying goes). She edited my "Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian" book for me. And she did a great job.

Dan Grubbs said...

Though I see the attraction of the BenOp movement, I'm not sold that we should remove ourselves from society altogether. The Holy Spirit is in us and therefore we need to be in the world. We need to be influencers on an unbelieving audience who is starving for meaning in their lives. The trick is to not be of the world.

We all spout that last phrase, but true understanding of this is based on our own individual experience and calling. I believe we are to be a people who adhere to Acts 1:8, but we are not to be changed or enticed by the world we are in and trying to impact for Christ.

I confess that I am very tempted to just withdraw and live in a small sphere of influence with other brothers and sisters in Christ. To be able to abandon the darkness and tribulation of this modern world would be excellent. To be concerned only with the rhythms of a life focused on God and farm in my own utopia draws me hard. Romanticism aside, I also know I'm called to teach the word of God and to labor with the Holy Spirit to bring in the bountiful harvest. To do that, I have to interact with those who are in the world.

Would it be wonderful to be able to -- in monastic devotion -- spend hours each day in koinonia with God and then work in the gardens and pastures with God's creation? I long for this. But, I also know as a believer I have been commissioned to proclaim the gospel and disciple others.

Herrick Kimball said...


Thanks for the comment. I assume you read the two articles. I plan to read them this evening. For now, while working in my shop, I listened to Rod Dreher explain the Benedict Option on a YouTube video. Fact is, I listened to it twice.

I don't think Dreher is taking about utopia, It appears that he is seeing that we are in the twilight before a new dark age. The modern church has compromised with all facets of modern culture. Evangelical christianity has some serious issues. Apostasy is growing. Authentic Christianity is in decline. Dreher is talking about preserving authentic Christian community in order to rebuild civilization at a later date. At least that's how I'm interpreting it.

This video gets good a couple of minutes into it. It resonated with me. I think Dreher is pretty much right on. He's apparently Catholic. I'm not. But he is on to something important, in my opinion.

Watch Here: Rod Dreher: The Benedict Option

RuralLegend said...

The Drehers did move back to Rod's hometown in rural Louisiana -- and indeed keep chickens! At present, however, their church-plant lost its pastor and they're moving back to the city to keep their family in faithful, supportive community.

Dan Grubbs said...

Great comments, Herrick. I do think that Dreher is on to something. I just wouldn't go about it the way he would. I feel he is too much influenced by the Roman church. However, I do agree that believers need to be prepared for the challenges of the future.

Here's my thinking on the topic. The early churches Paul wrote to were not in physical proximity, but they did have community. This community among believers we can enjoy exactly the same way today as the first-century believers did because our unity is based on the Holy Spirit. Scripture teaches us of the unity of the Spirit and how necessary it is to living a life of sanctification. I don't believe we are collectively to "hunker down" and "wait out the storm", we are to be at work as the storm builds and even when it hits. I do see Dreher saying this in some ways. But, to retreat is where I diverge from Dreher. As the Bible teaches us that our unity is in the Holy Spirit, so I believe is our community.

Now, where I really depart from those similar to Dreher who want to consider a more monastic- or communal-like existence is their dependence on religion and religious practice. I believe it's our human behavior to begin to see these practices as more than just ways to focus our attention on God, but become our actual faith. Man have shown over and over that we end up placing faith in our practices and rituals and rites and cling to them when there is only one real Place upon which to fix our faith -- Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised from the dead.

I won't say that some people are not called to retreat. There are people whom the Holy Spirit has called to withdraw from society to some degree or another. I believe I have been called to a more agrarian lifestyle for a host of reasons. But, in my efforts to reduce my dependence on a secular system, I'm also very conscious of the fact that in order for Dan Grubbs to be obedient to Act 1:8, I need to exist in that secular place and not put a basket of whatever light I shine. However, I am not convinced that we are collectively called to withdraw.

Just my dos centavos!

Love the discussion. Thanks for bringing it to light, Herrick.

Herrick Kimball said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comment. The whole conversation Dreher has initiated is powerfully thought provoking. And that's always good.

It comes at a time in my life when I am feeling like I need to invest more in my local community and church relationships, and much less on writing this blog. Thus, the reposts. I'm pleased (and surprised) that they can still initiate dialogue ten years later. :-)

Heartshome said...

I've loved this book since it came out. When people ask me what party I subscribe to I always tell them I'm a Crunchy Con. It usually starts an interesting conversation. Rob is now working on a book about The Benedict Option. This may not appeal to you if you're not Catholic or Orthodox, but it's worth reading about as a fascinating idea. Check it out on Google.

Subject of King Jesus said...

Herrick, I've enjoyed your blog, and will miss your updates. I was moved to write by the previous discussion on the Benedict Option, and by your comment that:

"I don't think the Republican party is worth saving."

I would heartily agree with you, but would hasten to suggest that their is a silver lining to the current political chaos, where many sincere Christians are seriously contemplating voting a casino owner into the highest office in the land. The upside is that it is causing Christians to rethink the way that they engage in, and try to participate in, the political scene.

The Benedict Option seems to be a step in the right direction toward recapturing the historical Christian approach to community and cultural engagement. Its what many Christians refer to as the "Two Kingdom Principal". Unfortunately, this principal has been watered down by the spiritual forebearers of Western Protestantism, because they [the Reformers] were still entangled in, and intent on maintaining, a the Constantinian union between church and state. (For more on the historical context of this subject, David Bercot's book "The Kingdom That Turned the World Upside Down" is highly challenging and thought provoking.)

American Christianity is on the tipping point. We can either completely succumb to the corrupt culture, or we can rediscover the radical teachings of Jesus. May it be the latter!