I May Have Found a Home

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I picked up Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons this weekend and after reading the manifesto, decided that I may have found a home. There were several points that helped inspire this feeling.

From the foreward:

from Crunchy Cons
Rod Dreher

In late summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. As the people of New Orleans waited for help from a bumbling government bureaucracy incapable of handling mass catastrophe, the city descended into anarchy and chaos. Just weeks later, another hurricane, Rita, annihilated much of coastal southwestern Louisiana. There, however, the small-town and rural Cajun people of southwestern Louisiana instantly pulled together. The difference? In Cajun country, the ties of family and community were much stronger than in New Orleans. This point is central to Crunchy Cons: For the sake of communal self-sufficiency, we must recommit ourselves to building up family and social networks. Right ow, joining the volunteer fire department or a local farmers' co-op might be more authentically conservative than joining the Republican Party (not that there's anything worng with that!).

Now, if what is stated is true, and even if we leaven it with the fact that a small town is not the same kind of entity or scale of entity as a big city, it speaks of the kind of society and community I would like to live in. I always thought a Catholic community modeled on Amish and Mennonite models would be one of the most perfect places imaginable. (But then I pause to recall the lessons of Animal Farm and I hesitate.)

But this statement is fundamental to my entire political philosophy:

But we are not liberals. For one thing, we don't share the liberal faith in the ultimate goodness and perfectibility of mankind. Because we believe in evil and the duty of good men and women to confront it with violence if necessary, we are not pacifists. We don't believe that morality is relative, and that each generation is free to find its own truths, and to adopt a moral code that suits its desires. We object to the idea that there's nothing wrong with our country that a new tax or government program can't fix.

We don't believe it's the government's job to guarantee social equality, only equality before the law and, within reason, equality of opportunity.

I'll have to see how the rest of the book bears out, but the manifesto and these passages, only a few pages apart speak to me in the deepest labyrinths of my thought. Obviously, I probably won't agree with every point Mr. Dreher has to make, but perhaps there is enough contiguity for me to able to identify with a group.

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One thing that comes to mind here is that the early Christians, at least, did not teach that men had equality before the law. Slaves remained slaves. But they had equality before God. Therefore, they had equality *within the Christian community*, but not without it. There is nothing wrong with equality before the law as it is expressed in a secular society; but it doesn't go far enough in the direction of equality before God, I would think, to satisfy you. The legality of abortion being, perhaps, the prime example. Therefore, perhaps the Amish or Mennonite model would be worth the risks involved. (Have the Amish and Mennonite communities come to resemble the Animal Farm?)

I always thought a Catholic community modeled on Amish and Mennonite models would be one of the most perfect places imaginable.

Even than you and me meeting in person,
I think that my wife and you would really get along. (We buy milk from an Amish farmer, and she has expressed this exact sentiment many times).

Dear Ron,

I assumed equality before God as a subtext for the whole premise of the book, but that may simply be my bias intruding on the work.

As to the state of Amish and Mennonite communities: I live outside of them and gaze inward with a longing, romanticized image of what they are--so I don't stand in a place to know whether Animal Farm has occurred there. It certainly appear not, but I really don't know. In addition, if I remember correctly there is a "steam-valve" or release mechanism employed by such communities which allow children to remain within the tradition or forge a new way outside of the community--this release valve may, in some ways, help alleviate the problem. However, again, I don't know the workings from the inside. What I do know is that what I see as an outsider I do admire.



if I remember correctly there is a "steam-valve" or release mechanism employed by such communities which allow children to remain within the tradition or forge a new way outside of the community

I've long been smitten by the Amish/Mennonites but had some of that romantic gloss rubbed off after reading "Crossing Over" by Ruth Irene Garrett. It looks better from the outside. Very Trad-ish. As much as I respect some of those Trad types among St. Blog's, I think I'd have trouble living in one of their communities.

Give me the "Here Comes Everybody" aspect of Catholicism over the self-selection of the Amish any day (and they do self-select, as mentioned in the quote at the beginning of this comment).

One of the major consequences of the massive push for social justice which has occured in recent years has been that Catholics of any strain (obedient or not / orthodox or not, etc.) have not hesitated to become politically involved and push their ideals. While in many ways, this is good to counteract modern ideas of relativism, individualism, and offspring such as abortion, one of the consequences has been to other Catholic philosophical ideas such as subsidiarity - the idea that one should never assign to a higher authority that action which may be accomplished by a lower. I say "consequences," because in their haste to ensure that all people are fed, clothed, housed, and educated (laudable goals, surely), Catholics have also neglected the more difficult goals of basic community building, and instead sought massive legislative solutions, usually at a national or international level, and in the process, sometimes failed in losing touch with the communities they sought to help.

Obviously, this is a complicated doctrine, which resembles federalism in certain aspects. With that said, one of the reasons for the importance of this doctrine is that removing functions from local communities tends to weaken some of the reasons for their existence, hence contributing to individualism and lack of moral foundations. Although not in precisely this language, Christopher Lasch (deceased) and his daughter, Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, historians, have done extensive studies on the collapse of the community life in American Society.

The Church is not without Her proponents of this idea, though they have now been shouted down or ignored, as appears the fate of many pre-Vatican II thinkers. I think particularly of the encyclical Quadregismo Anno of Pope Pius XI, who succinctly stated that:

"The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them: directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands."

And Pope John Paul II restated this in his encyclical Centesimus annus, saying:

[A] community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.

Worthwhile considering, I think.


Dear Mr. Riddle,

I had thought I had found a home when the whole Granola/Crunchy Con phenomenon took off. I admit to never having read the book, but I have kept up with the reviews and Mr. Dreher's blog. He certainly has a lot of good to say, but at the end of the day, it seems a Crunchy Con is just a Neocon, if you don't mind that generalization, with good taste.

I think I may have found my home with fellow Upstate New Yorker Bill Kauffman's Reactionary Radicals. When a self-styled Reactionary credits Dorothy Day and Henry David Thoreau, I can't help but take notice.

Joshua Snyder

Dear Mr. Watson,

Thank you. You make some interesting points to consider, points that I believe might fit within the framework Mr. Dreher attempts to draw.

Dear Mr. Snyder,

Given my affinity for much that you have to say on your blog, I will have to take a look at the site you recommend and get back to you. Thank you so much for the reference.



Within the context of a community that is voluntarily separated from society-at-large, individuals in need can receive the help they need with little-to-no loss of dignity; such help would be a matter of course. In the greater society, that is not homogenized in this way, individuals in need of help would rather have it come, I think, from the impersonal state, of which they remain a member, than from some NGO, some set of identifiable strangers to whom they become both indebted and subordinate with concommitant loss of dignity. We are a nation that values the "rugged individualism" that receiving charity destroys. Better to receive an "entitlement" from the the impersonal state. For good or ill, I don't know that the U.S. of A. has ever been particularly friendly to the concept of community.

Dear Ron,

Thank you. I think you make a really good point in your comment and I know there is a lot of truth to it. It would be easier to go to an anonymous face and get food stamps rather than face your neighbor and ask for food. I think that's true of many of us and may be part of the fall-out from the supposed "rugged individualism" that is the primary character of the nation.

Thanks for the comment.



I always thought a Catholic community modeled on Amish and Mennonite models would be one of the most perfect places imaginable.

I suspect the only real drawback to living in a community like that today is that everyone in it would be barmy. The attempts at Catholic Amish communities I've read about have all failed, because almost no one was barmy enough to stick it out for very long.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 21, 2006 9:33 AM.

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