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Book Jacket

272 pages
Feb 2006
Crown Forum

Crunchy Cons

by Rod Dreher

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According to Rob Dreher, conservative Republicans--many of whom are Christians--are used to living bifurcated lives. On the one hand, we are consistent defenders of traditional values such as the centrality of the family, the right to life of the unborn, and the sanctity of marriage as between one man and one woman. On the other hand, we are wholly indifferent to the destructive effects that lassaiz-faire capitalism has on those self-same traditional values.

Dreher, a conservative journalist with the Dallas Morning News, spent his early years as a Republican blindly spouting the party line for quite some time, defending the free reign of corporate capitalism while also holding fast to traditional moral positions. Like most conservatives, he and his wife dismissed things like organic farming, environmentalism, the Slow Food movement. They regarded any suspicion towards consumerism as being the stomping grounds of left-wing hippie types. No good conservative would dabble in such things. As Dreher and his wife continued to pursue living in accord with their faith (conservative Catholicism), they began to rethink their bifurcated political commitments. In order to remain a consistent Catholic, Dreher and his wife embraced simple living, eating organic, and the cause of conservation. In his travels and journalistic work, Dreher realized that many religious Americans are doing the same. His new book, Crunchy Cons, is essentially a chronicle of this growing movement of conservatives who, he hopes, will transform the Republican Party. While the book begins with a provocative Crunchy Con manifesto, the bulk of the book includes chapters dedicated to food, religion, consumerism, education, and the environment. In these, Dreher shows how Crunchy Cons are seeking to live in ways that preserve what Russell Kirk called "the permanent things," among them faith, family, community, and a legacy of ancient truths.

The book concludes with an elegantly written chapter entitled "Waiting for Benedict," that calls for conservatives to return to the authentic traditions of conservatism and Christianity. The only hope for America, according to Dreher, is for dedicated people to "put their house in order," create small platoons along with the like-minded, and to help one another become communities of virtue. For many, Dreher warns, this will involve sacrifice, relearning traditional customs and farming practices, but the payoff will be great.

While Crunchy Cons is neither a political treatise nor a comprehensive account of the movement, it is a fascinating and convicting introduction to a whole tribe of conservatives that will make hard-line conservatives and liberals take notice. For Christians who are uncomfortable about the alliance of corporate capitalism with the church, it is a breath of fresh air. And for all those conservatives who want to out-crunchy their liberal neighbors, it may inspire you to plant that garden you've always wanted to plant. – Dan Olson, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

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)

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.