Rod Dreher

First Things’ David Mills comments on the failed Radical Homemaker essay that we talked about here the other day. Excerpt:

Living something like the life Hayes describes has its attractions, in theory, at least for someone brought up as I was, but in practice we have other, more pressing and enjoyable, things to do. We just last night bought a trampoline at a big box store, because where else are you going to find one at a price you can afford? and it’s a great thing for our youngest, and no we’re not going to tell him to start jogging because we refuse to buy a trampoline at the big box store.
And there is a reason for the size and diversity of modern economies, which provide real gains in human happiness, and these should not be denied. Even the Radical Homemaker will someday find himself needing advanced medical care a Radical Homemaker never would have developed.
At best, we’re Mensheviks rather than Bolsheviks. I suspect that’s true of most First Things Crunchy Con types.

That’s certainly true of les Drehers. Yesterday I went to Lowe’s to buy a small barbecue grill so we could enjoy chicken, steaks and hamburgers this summer. Our big old Weber didn’t make the trip from Dallas. I’d first checked out the kitchen supply store in our neighborhood, hoping to buy local, from a small business owner … but the only kinds of mini-grills they had were the super-fancy kind that cost, get this, almost $300! Yesterday I bought a tiny Weber Smoky Joe at the big-box store for $29. No big whoop. Like David with the trampoline, I’m not going to deny my family grilled meat so I can avoid the big box stores. And sometimes, we make Costco runs to stock up on toilet paper and stuff, and don’t feel guilty about it, either. (Incidentally, the Menshevik-vs.-Bolshevik distinction is about radicalism vs. gradualism.)
You may be saying: “Ah-ha, hypocrites!” I suppose there is danger of that. But there is also danger in making one’s ideals into hard doctrines. There’s a risk that you place perfection on a pedestal that you can never reach, and you spend your time hating yourself for not fulfilling your ideal. The risk in that is that you give up completely, convinced that the crunchy-con-homemaker idealism is unachievable nonsense. I believe the caution against this is, “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.” Another way to put this is to let common sense guide you, not rigid ideology. This results in a moderate approach to life, one that may look like either hypocrisy or backsliding to true believers. But it’s more sustainable over the long run, I think.
I’ve found that it’s far more effective to show people how they can make little changes in their daily lives that bring us closer to living out the ideas I believe in, rather than to present this radical call to conversion. I’m not peddling a religion here, after all. We need radicals to remind us of what we ought to be striving for, but not everybody is capable of being a radical. If true Christianity were only about monasticism, who would be a Christian? Who could be a Christian? We need monks and nuns as spiritual athletes, to help, both practically and by example, us Christians who will never be spiritual marathoners or Olympic contenders, but who share the same religious ideals, and would like to live them out as best we can, in our particular circumstances. So too with the crunchy-con cultural outlook. We cannot all be Wendell Berry, but if the only way to incorporate Berry’s wisdom and insights authentically into our lives is to move out to the country and become farmers like him, he will remain a cult figure of no influence. Fortunately, that’s not the only way.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus