Thursday, August 24, 2006

Off the Shelf: Crunchy Cons

I know that a book, film, or cultural phenomenon is big when it starts coming to me from different directions. I knew that the DaVinci Code was big very early when I had people in my church who were early adopters started asking me about it. The Napoleon Dynamite phenomenon came on my radar when I had both 20 year olds and 70 year olds telling me about it.

The same is true with Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons. I've had folks from all across the political spectrum mention it to me, so I had to pick it up. I'm glad I did -- Dreher's call for sanity and self-moderation within the conservative movement is a much needed counterbalance to the shrill chorus of pundits that dominate the airwaves. Dreher's basic thesis is that there are a whole lot of Conservatives who live lifestyles that are more associated in the popular imagination with liberalism: eating organic food, opting for smaller urban houses, homeschooling, participating in the slow food movement, advocating for environmental concerns. And yet these people also hold true to core conservative principles: limited government, healthy suspicion of human nature, emphasizing individual liberty and responsibility.

Dreher writes this book as a corrective to what he sees as an unhealthy obsession with greed and a worship of efficiency and the blind force of the markets. This is a book that should be devoured by strategists of both the Democratic and Republican parties -- for it reveals a vast grassroots outside the beltway of Washington who care less about the chess game that is DC politics and more about the living of a truly conservative lifestyle.

To that end, I'll be bloggint through this book on and off over the next several posts. It's a fascinating read -- I believe that many of the concepts are very helpful for navigating the crisis implied by The Fourth Turning (see the previous series on that fine book). To whet your appetite -- here is Dreher's Manifesto for Crunchy Cons:

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the contemporary conservative mainstream. We like it here; the view is better, for we can see things that matter more clearly.

2. We believe that modern conservatism has become too focused on material conditions, and insufficiently concerned with the character of society. The point of life is not to become a more satisfied shopper.

3. We affirm the superiority of the free market as an economic organizing principle, but believe the economy must be made to serve humanity’s best interests, not the other way around. Big business deserves just as much skepticism as big government.

4. We believe that culture is more important than politics, and that neither America’s wealth nor our liberties will long survive a culture that no longer lives by what Russell Kirk identified as ‘the Permanent Things’ – those eternal moral norms necessary to civilized life, and which are taught by all the world’s great wisdom traditions.

5. A conservatism that does not recognize the need for restraint, for limits, and for humility is neither helpful to individuals and society nor, ultimately, conservative. This is particularly true with respect to the natural world.

6. A good rule of thumb: Small and Local and Old and Particular are to be preferred over Big and Global and New and Abstract.

7. Appreciation of aesthetic quality – that is, beauty – is not a luxury, but a key to the good life.

8. The cacophony of contemporary popular culture makes it hard to discern the call of truth and wisdom. There is no area in which practicing asceticism is more important.

9. We share Kirk’s conviction that ‘the best way to rear up a new generation of friends of the Permanent Things is to beget children, and read to them o’ evenings, and teach them what is worthy of praise: the wise parent is the conservator of ancient truths…. The institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

10. Politics and economics will not save us. If we are to be saved at all, it will be through living faithfully by the Permanent Things, preserving these ancient truths in the choices we make in everyday life. In this sense, to conserve is to create anew.

Looking forward to exploring this book with you.

Soli Deo Gloria

Supplemental Resources:
Rod Dreher's Cruncy Con Blog