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Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher

Saturday, 24 June 2006

Non-Fiction: Hardback from Crown Forum. Published in 2006. 247 pages. On loan from the Kent District Library.

I first saw this book referred to on the GetReligion blog back in February. Since there was a VW van on the cover, and the title refers to both Birkenstocks and homeschooling, I thought I’d give it a read. I put it on hold at the library and waited months for it to arrive. Then, in part because of my fuzzy brain problem, and in part because I just couldn’t get myself interested, the book sat in the middle of a pile of books on the floor until yesterday. It’s due back at the library on Monday, with no renewals remaining, so I picked it up and decided to just give read it without trying too hard to retain it. My mindset was, if I got to the end and couldn’t remember anything, so be it. Either I’m coming out of the fog, or this isn’t a difficult book to read. (I’m guessing it’s choice two. We’ll see when I get back to Simply Christian which is also due Monday.) But, once I started I wondered why I had been so hesitant to go ahead and read it. I have to say that while I don’t think I’m a completely “crunchy con”, he said much in this book that resonated with me. At the bottom of it seems to be a call to live a life based on timeless principles rather than just being swept along with the culture. I like that.

Publisher’s summary:
When a National Review colleague teased writer Rod Dreher one day about his visit to the local food co-op to pick up a week’s supply of organic vegetables (“Ewww, that’s so lefty”), he started thinking about the ways he and his conservative family lived that put them outside the bounds of conventional Republican politics. Shortly thereafter Dreher wrote an essay about “crunchy cons,” people whose “Small Is Beautiful” style of conservative politics often put them at odds with GOP orthodoxy, and sometimes even in the same camp as lefties outside the Democratic mainstream. The response to the article was impassioned: Dreher was deluged by e-mails from conservatives across America—everyone from a pro-life vegetarian Buddhist Republican to an NRA staffer with a passion for organic gardening—who responded to say, “Hey, me too!”

In Crunchy Cons, Dreher reports on the amazing depth and scope of this phenomenon, which is redefining the taxonomy of America’s political and cultural landscape. At a time when the Republican party, and the conservative movement in general, is bitterly divided over what it means to be a conservative, Dreher introduces us to people who are pioneering a way back to the future by reclaiming what’s best in conservatism—people who believe that being a truly committed conservative today means protecting the environment, standing against the depredations of big business, returning to traditional religion, and living out conservative godfather Russell Kirk’s teaching that the family is the institution most necessary to preserve.

In these pages we meet crunchy cons from all over America: a Texas clan of evangelical Christian free-range livestock farmers, the policy director of Republicans for Environmental Protection, homeschooling moms in New York City, an Orthodox Jew who helped start a kosher organic farm in the Berkshires, and an ex-sixties hippie from Alabama who became a devout Catholic without losing his antiestablishment sensibilities.

Crunchy Cons is both a useful primer to living the crunchy con way and a passionate affirmation of those things that give our lives weight and measure. In chapters dedicated to food, religion, consumerism, education, and the environment, Dreher shows how to live in a way that preserves what Kirk called “the permanent things,” among them faith, family, community, and a legacy of ancient truths. This, says Dreher, is the kind of roots conservatism that more and more Americans want to practice. And in Crunchy Cons, he lets them know how far they are from being alone.

Online book shopping:
Powell’s: Crunchy Cons
amazon.co.uk: Crunchy Cons
amazon.com: Crunchy Cons
Audible.com: not currently available as audio

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Categories: Non-Fiction
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