Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con Manifesto
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Tue Mar 14, 2006 at 11:31:32 PM EST
Conservative writer Rod Dreher's new book, Crunchy Cons, has been receiving some positive attention in Christian Right circles by people like Russell Moore and organizations like the 700 club. Here is an interview with Dreher and here is further conversation about the book. Dreher summarizes his book in this manifesto:
We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

  1. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

  2. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

  3. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

  4. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship--especially of the natural world--is not fundamentally conservative.

  5. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

  6. Beauty is more important than efficiency.

  7. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

  8. We share Russell Kirk's conviction that "the institution most essential to conserve is the family."

  9. Politics and economics won't save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

Since we are a blog dedicated to resisting the undemocratic religious control of American political life, it is interesting to observe how a conservative Christian writer resists the economic control of a political party that is deeply connected to conservative Christian citizens.

Several of Dreher's ideas could have just as well been written by a liberal religious or secular democrat. The main point of convergence is that Dreher views the Republican party as the party of greed. What does all this mean for the future unity and strength of the Republican party? Can Republicans afford to lose their Christian Right supporters? Will the Christian Right so easily give up their chance of power and "dominion" that they have fostered through working with the Republican party?

With roughly half of those points.....

But, I'd also note that Rod Dreher's manifesto is not incompatible with Christian reconstructionist politics.

Indeed, at a personal level I find much that is laudable in the lifestyles of reconstructionist families whose blogs I've read - I too prize self-sufficiency, anti-consumerism, simplicity, frugality.... the list could go on. Now of course there are many values I don't hold in common with reconstructionist homesteaders. But I think it's very important to acknowledge such shared terrain because that cuts through the bogus narrative of "the culture war" . There are not two warring sides, and those who reject consumerism, materialism, and pop culture fall all along the political spectrum or, rather, there are multiple axes or dimension of politics. If lifestyles are inherently political ( and how could they fail to be ? ), then some on the left are bound together with those in the reconstructionist movement who have chosen to earn less, spend less, and live more ( or better ) - those who are living closer to the land, growing their own food perhaps, learning to fix, repair, and make do, and opting for a slower, less affluent life with more free time for family and more time - one might say - for life itself.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 08:41:08 AM EST

Good point Bruce about the culture war. Notice that Dreher is intentionally keeping his manifesto vague to not enter into the specifics of the usual culture war suspects of abortion and gay marriage. There is also no specific mention of the war in Iraq.

by Carlos on Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 11:43:30 AM EST

...and my reaction is this: dream on.  This guy wants to create the warm fuzzy image of a birkenstock wearing, Subaru driving eco-advocate who just happens to prefer Christ to Buddha (in a kind of ecumenical equivalency).  

That he describes a fantasy-land GOP constituency gets ignored - he should dream on - such people do not exist, other than as a PR spin.  That was my first thought - this is like the moderate window dressing that gets dragged out every four years for the conventions.

To be sure, asceticism knows few 'cultural' or political boundaries.  In and of itself, asceticism is an ecumenical 'value'.  But there's not much else here.  All of the uber-lefty intellectual elites I know also disdain pop schlock culture.  Beyond elitist asceticism, what else is in that manifesto?  There is very little dominion over the private personal lives and morality of others, nor is there much money to be made in pursuit of his manifesto - who else does he really believe

He seems to espouse a Muir-like conservation of our natural world, and the instropective intellectual reflection of Thoreau - while both of these things are solidly 'American' - they are conservative only insofar as the desire to hearken back to classical liberalism may be called 'conservative'.  The traditions, intellectual and activist, in support of this manifesto have been the property and province of the Left for decades.  The guy is just delisional - as a relative told me a long time ago, "you're a Democrat liberal - you just don't accept that yet."

by montpellier on Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 04:06:32 PM EST

I think you make some good points, montpellier, but I think there is indeed a group of people who are attracted to these ideas. It may be a small group, but they are vocal and influential. The tricky part for this group is how they are able, as a nonconformist group, to not be tempted to join the explicit racist and nationalist hard right, or tempted to join the usual liberal critique of popular culture and mass consumerism. Another way to put this is how will they critique the Christian Right? Will they join forces with Christian reconstructionists or will they create a more independent path?

by Carlos on Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 05:17:59 PM EST

The full title of Rod Dreher's book is: Crunchy Cons: 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).

There is also a new book out by David Fitch with the title: THE GREAT GIVEAWAY: RECOVERING THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH FROM ... Big Business, Parachurch Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism, and Other Modern Maladies.

Notice the similarity in style and content. Notice also that the traditional Christian Right has invested heavily in parachurch organizations. I think a growing number of evangelicals are revolting against certain overly political and manipulative elements of the Christian Right.

by Carlos on Wed Mar 15, 2006 at 06:32:55 PM EST

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