Crunchy Cons
And Christian Agrarians

Dateline: 8 March 2006

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 This 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.

I recommend that you read the interview. But if you don’t have time, 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.”


“We live in downtown Dallas, but we get our meat from Christian farmers who live out in the countryside, who raise their livestock without antibiotics, ranging freely, because they believe that's what God would have them do. We love their food, and we love the fact that our dollars are supporting these large, home-schooling Christian farm families.”


“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.


Doug said...

Thanks for the interesting post Herrick,

As a long time paid up member of the local hippy/left wing/tiedie and birkenstock/local organic coop, I always feel a little funny when I pull my my membership card out of the slot it shares with my NRA card.....

Doug Peterson

Hexdek16 said...

Thank you Herrick, the book is quite an enjoyable read ~ my wife and I are trading off on reading time & time to discuss the topics and points of the chapters and stories.

It has a relevant them to it as we have some good friends who are Christian Hard-line Republicans of the neo-con variety; they have been having trouble “figuring us out” as we espouse the same or similar values but tend not to ‘view’ things from the same vantage point.

Much of what I’ve read to date, in a sense, reconfirms some of my original premise(s) of not only what we believe but why we believe it, even if it seems to ‘go against the grain’ of modern political ideologies advocated by mass media manipulation.

“A rather engaging gem, some times with rough edges, but a worthy read………..”

Gary Maske said...

Crunchy cons? What's the matter with being a Christian?

The biggest non-conformists in the world are not hippies with long hair, smoking marijuana, growing organic vegetables. They are Christians living for the Lord. There just aren't very many of them.

Most people who call themselves Christians are unsaved. Of the proportion of Christians who are truly born again, most are worldly, meaning conformed to the world.

Most of the believers I know are trying to tweak the world system and "Christianize" it. Can't be done. We're supposed to come out from the world system spiritually, and be separate. Instead of engaging in modern, urban, anti-family, mammon-seeking lifestyle, we are supposed to raise up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and actually continue to be a family after our kids turn 18.

I dislike Mr. Dreher's glibness. "Hip homeschooling mamas?" My wife is a homeschooling mother, and she is not hip.

No, I do not fit the "dominant conservative stereotype." I don't fit Mr. Dreher's stereotype, either.

If Christians want to become different, they will need to read the Bible rather than men's treatises.