I have just finished reading Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons: 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).
The reaction to this book is evident all over the blogosphere and I think that the book provides food for thought.
What do you call people who vote for Bush but shop at Whole Foods? Crunchy cons. And according to Dreher, an editor at the Dallas Morning News, they're forming a thriving counterculture within the contemporary conservative movement. United by a "cultural sensibility, not an ideology," crunchy conservatives, he says, have some habits and beliefs often identified with cultural liberals, like shopping at agriculture co-ops and rejecting suburban sprawl. Yet crunchy cons stand apart from both the Republican "Party of Greed" and the Democratic "Party of Lust," he says, by focusing on living according to conservative values, what the author calls "sacramental" living . . . His conversations with other crunchy conservatives—e.g., the policy director of Republicans for Environmental Protection, a Manhattan home-schooler, the author's wife—are illuminating, but the book fails to offer any empirical evidence to connect these individuals to a wider "movement." Instead, it works best as an indictment of consumerism and the spiritual havoc it can wreak. While his complaints about consumer culture are similar to those advanced by liberals, Dreher frames his criticism of corporate America in explicitly conservative terms, painting rampant consumerism as antithetical to true conservatism.
Crunchy conservatism seems to accord well with my idea of the modest woman. It is based on the value of restraint not only in sexual affairs but with every area of life especially the economic sphere. Mr. Dreher states (in one of my favorite quotes from the book), “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” (p. 2). The modest woman will agree with the crunchy con that consumerism (the discourse which builds and encourages the insatiable desire to accumulate more material things and is wholly opposed to the idea of restraint) is devastating to any person’s development of virtue.
My first blog posting touched on the fact that saddest truth about women today is that they do not know themselves. In a sense, many women are alienated from themselves. Reading Crunchy Cons helped me to see that this alienation which is typical of modern society comes about in part because of consumerism. If a woman is too busy concerning herself with what type of clothes she should buy to impress others or which rich man to marry so that she can become rich too or what type of high powered job she should go into so that she can make tons of money--if a woman occupies herself with these thoughts then there is no room to contemplate the essential questions of her life--who she is truly (and she is not just her vagina!) and what she should be doing to better the world.
Crunchy conservatism is also based on the sacredness of life--that everything has a meaning and transcendental purpose. Religious crunchy cons will add on that everything has a purpose as determined by God. This sacredness leads to the belief that there are things that are true, good, and beautiful and these things are not only immensely valuable but knowable. This should sound familiar to the modest woman. What is truly beautiful is in someway connected with that which is good and true. Immodesty like the type proposed to us from pop culture is clearly none of these things. How many times have you recoiled when you saw a girl walking around in a skirt that is waaaay too short for her? Or when you see guys that think it’s cool to “sag” and have their pants far below their waist line? These reactions to the immodesty of some people’s dress suggest that we intuitively know that the style of dress is neither beautiful nor good. A sacramental view of life eliminates such behaviors and instead orients us toward a more virtuous life.
So, I’ve taken some of my favorite points from the book and tried to apply them to my idea of modesty. Undoubtedly, while reading the book, you will discover other points that you can apply. I think that crunchy conservatism has a lot to teach us, and I am grateful to Mr. Dreher for documenting this exciting phenomenon.
If you’ve read the book, let me know what you think about the connection between crunchy cons and modesty. If you haven’t read the book, stop reading this and start reading Crunchy Cons!