Thursday, March 22, 2007

Contradictory Conservative?

I've recently begun reading Rod Dreher's book, Crunchy Cons. In a few days, I'd like to write about my impressions, but since I haven't been able to get very far in the book as yet I don't have too many thoughts to share.

One thing that keeps striking a somewhat painful note is that this book appears to have been written at a time when Mr. Dreher was more optimistic about certain things in his own life, and by extension, by the influence he thought that crunchy conservatism might eventually be able to have on mainstream conservatism, and perhaps even on the Republican Party. This optimism seems to have had a somewhat evanescent quality: Mr. Dreher's enthusiastic plans to homeschool his oldest son fell apart, he and his family left the Catholic Church to become Eastern Orthodox, and in recent days on his blog he's seemed quite defeatest about social conservative positions, and willing to abandon any attempt to seek a political solution to such problems as abortion and gay marriage.

None of this, of course, means that the book has no merit. But it's hard to separate the eager voice of the man talking about embracing permanent values, preserving and protecting the family at all costs, and seeking to live a sacramental life, with the realities about Mr. Dreher's experiences in the recent past.

This apparent contradiction may end up being solved in later chapters. I'll let you know if I think it is.


Crunchy Con said...

Thanks for reading my book. I think there's a difference between optimism and hope. I am hopeful, but not optimistic. I think you'll find as you keep reading that the things that have happened to me since I wrote the book make more sense.

In the homeschooling chapter, I am clear that homeschooling does not work for everybody. In our family's case, certain learning disabilities that we identified in our older son after testing made homeschooling almost impossible for him. We hope to be successful with the younger children. My family's switch from Catholicism to Orthodoxy has no bearing on what I say in the book, as you'll find out. And on abortion and gay marriage, I am not abandoning my opposition to either, only making what I hope is a prudent judgment about the prospect of religious and social conservatives reversing them through politics. As my optimism for political change dims, my conviction that conservatives have to work harder on building up our own communities and institutions grows stronger. I don't at all say that we should abandon politics, only that we should have a more realistic idea of what we can accomplish through politics. And again, I think you'll see as you read the book that all of this was anticipated in its pages.

I do hope you like the book, and even if you don't, I am grateful that you've decided to read it. Cheers, Rod.

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you SO much for commenting here! I appreciate what you've said, as it does seem to clear up a certain tension that seemed to exist between the first chapter of the book and some of the things you've written recently.

I hope it's all right if I post a full review of the book when I'm finished reading it, even though I'm nothing like a professional book review writer. Conservatives, crunchy or not, may soon need to ask ourselves, "What are we conserving?" especially if the so-called 'moderate' Republicans take over the party in the next election, and I think you have already outlined the parameters of the answer to that question in your book.