Friday, March 03, 2006

How many Crunchy Cons does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

ConCrunchy blog secretly surveyed the contributors on the Crunchy Con blog to answer the question: How many Crunchy Conservatives does it take to screw in a light bulb? Their answers, in no particular order:

Angelo Matera: We really need to get practical here. Light bulbs should be taxed by the number of lumens consumed per household family member, which would serve to incentivize the building of smaller homes that make more efficient use of incandescent devices. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking that "casino illumination" is a permanent fixture of modern life like the Pet Rock or Flowbee.

Frederica Matthewes-Green: I confess: my family now uses light bulbs on a daily basis. However, some of us hold a candle (tee-hee!) for the campfire or open-hearth fieldstone fireplace, which really a more wholesome form of illumination. But, we need to recognize that the traditional isn't always easy- there's wood to split, ashes to shovel, and frankly, we got tired of hearing the older kids yell, "Mommy, Kaitlyn's on fire again!" every time she walked a little too close.

Rod Dreher: I wrote the other day about these people who live in Alaska and appreciate elctric lights because of the whole 24-hours-of-darkness thing, which prompted this email from a reader who doesn't buy it:

Rod, the electric companies were the original anti-crunchy mega-enterprises, forcing people to tear apart the walls of perfectly sound houses for the sake of "artificial illumination." The fact that no one seriously considers living without electricity here in America just goes to prove how complete the scam is. Just consider how dangerous the stuff is- the number of fires it causes, and electrocutions... Amazing. My husband and I gave up "juice" decades ago and have lived happily ever since.
-------------------------------------------------------
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld


Bruce Fohnen: Liberal society emphasizes that man is somehow in control of light, that with the simple "flip of a switch" he can lift the veil of night which God himeslf draws over the Earth. After all, the Bible opens, "And then there was light." By appropriating the God-head for ourselves, we become arrogant of the light, and fearful of the dark.


Caleb Stegall: Bruce is clearly onto something. Rod and others fall into the trap of thinking that we're all entitled to make our own hours. It gets dark at a certain hour for good reason, to encourage one to lead a disciplined and temperate life. If one must stay up late, then he should emulate Rusell Kirk, who told ghost stories by candlelight.


Sara Butler Nardo: What are you talking about? It's past your bedtime. Put that flashlight away! Wait, is that a copy of Reason you're reading? Damn you Mendoooooza!!

John Podhoretz: Knock-knock. Who's there? Nobody answered the #*&^%@! question, that's who. If this is what crunchy conservatism is about, count me out. You can pry my light bulbs out of my cold, dead hands.


Jonah Goldberg: I think this goes to prove what I've been saying all along about Crunchy Conservatism. It's a complete load of crap and I disagree with every word of Rod's book, which I highly recommend you buy in order to see for yourself how utterly wrong such a likeable person can be.

53 Comments:

Blogger MD said...

Genius.

3:48 PM  
Blogger MD said...

Okay, to expand a little on the genius comment - I like the NR folks, I love the Corner and Rod Dreher does make an occasional good point, but I haven't laughed so hard in ages as I have in reading the crunchy cons pontificate. We are all consumers first! Uh, whatever. Tell that to all the hardworking people out there who take real pride in their home and work lives. Bit slanderous, in a clueless way, no?

3:52 PM  
Blogger Lady Jane said...

Hilarious.

4:39 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

wait! i thought the crunchy con blog WAS a parody! i'm so confused....

5:06 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

Genius, yes. Hilarious, yes. But some of the crunchies are...touchy. When the Corner went ha-ha on them yesterday, Stegall printed an e-mail that muttered about M-16s and killing people with your bare hands.

Come to think of it, the crunchy way to kill somebody WOULD be with your bare hands.

Just kidding!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

And in the self-parody department, I just noticed Angelo intoned: "Stock speculation is not sacred." Gee, what's next? Buying coffee beans is a no-no? Oh, Stegall already said that.

Sometimes parody really is impossible.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Dad said...

This is almost as funny as the Wendell Berry quote over at CC about how he can't give up his chainsaw. IIRC he couldn't give up tobacco farming either. Berry is a fruitcake, these people are dinks, and this sight nails them.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Actually, Dreher makes very many good points (though he also sometimes goes to silly extremes; is beauty really *always* "more important than efficiency"?).

Unfortunately, he wraps his good points up in "Crunchiness," which seems to consist of equal parts smug self-satisfaction and a confusion between aesthetics and morals.

And his reluctance to name names and give specific examples of conservative materialism and philistinism (and there are plenty to choose from) means that he ends up accusing many "mainstream conservatives" (Dreher's catch-all label for non-Crunchies) of views which they do not in fact hold.

7:51 AM  
Blogger James said...

This site is hilarious, and the comments (especially "the crunchy way to kill someone would be with your bare hands" are even funnier).

8:47 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

I wonder what the crunchy cons would say about the relatively new technology of the candle. After all, radical individualism came to the fore with that first candle lighter (no doubt a raving libertarian) who lit his own proprietary candle from the fire and broke away from the communal hearth. One can easily see this moment as heralding the beginning of family and social breakdown. perhaps federal regulation of candles, matchsticks, and all associated technologies would be a net gain for society.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Susan B. said...

Thank you for this site. These conceited, arrogant, sanctimonious "crunchy-cons" have been getting on my last nerve. If ever there was a crowd ripe for ridicule, it's these snots!

10:02 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Great parody!

If these people had any chance of really affecting the culture, they'd be scary. Especially Stegall, where did this guy come from?

Scott M nails it with their confusion between morals and aesthetics. I made the same point on my blog. It is an aesthetic that they not only apply to things, but to society. They hearken for a society that they can find lovely, which from how they describe it seems to be Medieval Europe. When people start applying aesthetic judgments to society, watch out!

11:48 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

Just to make my own position clear: I don't have much quarrel with Dreher's aesthetic views, merely with his insistence that one is less moral for not sharing them.

And there is obviously a connection between the cultural democratization which says that no aesthetic preference is better than any other, and the moral democratization which says that morality is entirely a personal choice. But that doesn't mean that someone who prefers, say, NASCAR to Shakespeare or George Lucas to Kurosawa or McDonald's to home cooking is less moral (or, God help us, less human); merely that they have poorer taste.

In fact, I should have been Dreher's target audience, if he was actually interested in converting people to his way of thinking.

I agree that much of the Right has been seduced by libertarianism into applying free-market principles where they have no business being applied. I agree that too many conservatives are too accepting of the ugliness of modern life. I believe that there is an appalling streak of out-and-out yahooism in modern American conservatism.

(*CoughLIMBAUGHcough*)

But instead of reaching out to people like me, Dreher lumps all of us "mainstream conservatives" together (because if "mainstream" vs "Crunchy" is the dividing line, I'm with the mainstreamers) and treats us with smug condescension.

Rod Dreher may be the nicest guy in the world, but my reaction to his book (which I'm about halfway through) is that I really don't want to be like Rod Dreher.

If I thought that this was what it meant to be a traditional conservative, then I would dye all my shirts red and start braiding hempen rope with which to hang plutocrats from the lampposts.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

I agree that Stegall is the real loon of the bunch. He's the Carrie Nation of the pre-school set, smashing up every day-care center as an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.

But he writes the most (unintentionally) hilarious stuff, so I don't want to discourage him TOO much. He's funniest when he's corralling Dreher back to the Crunch Truth, as the parody cleverly illustrates.

Dreher doesn't worry me much. After all, he peddles his book with personal appearances at that little mom-and-pop operation Borders - 1,200 stores, $3.5 billion in annual sales, listed on the NYSE, sells lots of nude workout videos. When it comes to the economic growth of the Dreher household, the Crunch Manifesto gets tossed and the dollar gets chased.

12:29 PM  
Blogger G.J. said...

So the Crunchies are a Prohibitionist Puritan menace, eh? Funny how this line sounds remarkably identical to liberal hysteria overs such things as Prohibitionist Puritan Papists setting up towns without Porn or the Pill in Florida. E.g., http://www.bloggingbaby.com/2006/03/04/won-t-you-take-me-to-catholic-town/ Are these people Crunchies too? I think I've seen their ads in NR/NRO. Must be time for a purge of all non-crypto-liberal conservatives at NR/O!

8:22 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Nah, the crunchies are too silly to be a menace. By the way, how do you set up a town without porn, unless you outlaw the Internet? You could always go online and order nude videos from Rob Dreher's favorite store, Borders.

And if you outlaw the Internet, what happens to the Crunchblog?

Halfway seriously, this shows how impractical and often hypocritical the whole crunchy attitude is. They want to use big bad capitalism and technology to make money and spread their ideas. They just don't want anybody else doing the same.

9:12 AM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Hypocrisy? You think you've criticized someone by calling them hypocrites? Egad...how old are you? 17?

We're all hypocrites. It's just a matter of what we're hypocritical -about-.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

I wish I was 17 years old. Anyway, the crunchies are peddling such an unappetizing line of Puritanism that hypocrisy sinks them faster than a led zeppelin. (Sorry for such a heathen reference.)

Nobody except a tiny group of true believers will buy this small-is-beautiful, make-less-money crap from people who shill their books at Borders. Just ain't gonna happen, whether you're 17 or - sadly, like me - 54.

3:34 PM  
Blogger MerrySunshine1970 said...

Moreover, just because everyone is a hypocrite doesn't mean that it's nto a worthy criticism. Only that everyone should be called out for it when they're being hypocritical, including the sanctimonious Crunchy Cons.

Excellent blog.

4:28 PM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Sorry, but I don't see how being sanctimonious about hypocrisy is morally superior to being sanctimonious about the environment :).

Led Zep is not a heathen reference! It's blasphemy to think so!

(I'm 41. In Through the Out Door was released my Junior year of HS)

I think it's more intelligent to observe that, like it or not, we're all caught in this vast consumerist system that's so ubiquitous we can't even criticize it without participating in it. We have to shake hands with the devil just to get out of bed in the morning.

To me, sanctimony and hypocrisy lies in failing to admit this is true of ourselves -- that consumerism is a sinful system, and that we participate in it daily. Once we do admit this, seeing it in others is a matter of indifference to us. Instead, what's more important is what we're being hypocritical -about-.

I think the Crunchies are generally being hypocritical about a good thing.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

James, I'm not sure it's merely the case that the crunchies are incapable of clinging consistently to their lifestyle: I suspect that their lifestyle itself is hypocritical.

How does one avoid large corporations, for instance, by buying Birkenstocks? How does one cling to the permanent truth of beauty by buying such an ugly shoe? How does one live the rugged life by buying something whose primary selling point is its comfort?

And if communities are so damned important, why are stay-at-home moms and homeschooling the standard by which we are to be judged (harshly, apparently)? How does one cling to the community by retreating from it?

And what about books? The head Pharisee there is convinced that buying coffee is decidedly un-crunchy, presumably because it's not locally produced. And, yet, in the article that started this whole damn thing, Dreher wrote:

The crunchy-con bookshelf β€” and because they eschew television, they have lots of bookshelves β€” sags with works by conservatives like G. K. Chesterton, Richard Weaver, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, the Southern Agrarians, and Michael Oakeshott.

Those are a lot of British writers for a guy who values all things local. And I bet these books were mass-produced, too. But I also bet that these crunchies don't see anything wrong with a full bookshelf in the house of a lower middle-class family -- the sort of thing that is possible only because of the mass-production that comes with industrialization and the moveable-type printing press.

Why would they have no problem with Eliot in every house? Because their philosophy/ideology/"sensibility" itself bears very little scrutiny. Even someone who lived in perfect harmony with crunchy conservatism as I understand Dreher describes it would be a hypocrite because hypocrisy is inherent in it.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

...and before you respond by saying that even an imperfect attempt to uphold the Permanent Things is better than nothing, let me make clear, first of all, that I don't believe that crunchies are unique in their search for what is permanent. Dreher & Co. seem quick to judge all non-crunchies as not even trying to find that which lasts, but I believe that stems from arrogance on their part, not a gross deficiency on ours.

And, second, I think someone else has already upheld the Permanent Things in a way that is more moral, more internally consistent, and frankly more sane. That someone else continues to have an impact on humanity -- to that point that even those who reject his claims about who he is generally see the wisdom in what he teaches.

Compared to the Sermon on the Mount, Dreher's manifesto is garbage. To the degree that Dreher reawakens a desire for the Permanent Things in those who have become complacent, he deserves to be commended, but I fear his book and blog encourage an idolatry that cannot possibly satisfy that desire.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

The crunchies are more open to the charge of hypocrisy because they make the same charge against others, in particular the "mainstream conservatives" they seem so p.o.ed about. As Jonah quoted from page 15 of the Crunchy scriptures:

"You don't have to be a religious believer in the formal sense to be a crunchy conservative, but you do have to believe that accumulating wealth and power is not the point of life. Now, if you took a poll, ninety-nine out of a hundred conservatives would deny that they subscribed to that vulgar credo. But that's not how they live β€” even if they profess to be religious."

Well, if you're gonna rip other people for talking the talk while not walking the walk, you have to expect critics to point out the same fault. Dreher could easily have marketed his book exclusively through mom-and-pop religious bookstores. That would have been the truly crunchy approach, right?

Instead he headed for Borders, which is definitely not mom-and-pop and is VERY definitely not religious. Why? Well, I could just mutter "it's obvious", but I'll gulp and say it straight out: he wanted the money.

Meanwhile, the Crunchblog has tumbled into near-absurdity with the food show. Looks like caviar is out, dandelion wine is in. I guess we'll go down a checklist of which foods are crunchy and which are evil. Again, some things you can't parody.

Except Dreher just told us some stuff I really didn't want to know about his marriage and birth control. The fur could fly with non-Catholic crunchies on this one.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

Hm, Dreher's very, uh, revealing comments about his birth control practices are just sitting out there. Nobody has replied or even admitted they noticed. Maybe everybody's worried about a free-for-all over which methods of birth control are crunchy and which are evil.

But that free-for-all would sure be more fun than chitchat about caviar and frosting. Stay tuned...

11:22 AM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Bubba and others:

First, homeschooling is not a withdrawal from community, since public schools seldom provide any kind of community that isn't pretty sick (my wife taught in one of the top rated HSs in the country last year, and it was a freaking horror), and since homeschoolers are usually associated with some kind of home school org that provides testing, occasions for social gatherings (like field trips), etc. -- besides often being associated with a church.

Next, I think it's probaby a legitimate criticism to say that the crunchies are themselves guilty of the things they condemn in other conservatives. You should note that Caleb Stegall critiqued crunchiness early in the blog's history by claiming it was just another "lifestyle" movement rather than a genuinely conservative movement that reorients a person from the inside out.

But this all misses the point of my previous two comments here. The fact is that we are, from the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to sleep, participating in an omnipresent consumer society. It is very difficult to live at all without participating in this crap.

So the difference is not between those who are "authentic" and refuse to participate, and those who are "hypocrites" and condemn participation while participating. Everyone participates and can't help but do so.

The difference is between these two types of people:

1. people who are aware of the meaning of their participation in a consumerist society, aware of the negative consequences of doing so, and adopt a trajectory in the other direction in ways big and small.

2. people who resist awareness of the negative consequences of their participation and how this conflicts with their moral sensibilities. I suspect the people in this group seek to comfort themselves by calling the people in the first group "hypocrites."

If we can't do it perfectly, we shouldn't do it at all.

Is that right thinking?

9:58 PM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Bubba and others:

First, homeschooling is not a withdrawal from community, since public schools seldom provide any kind of community that isn't pretty sick (my wife taught in one of the top rated HSs in the country last year, and it was a freaking horror), and since homeschoolers are usually associated with some kind of home school org that provides testing, occasions for social gatherings (like field trips), etc. -- besides often being associated with a church.

Next, I think it's probaby a legitimate criticism to say that the crunchies are themselves guilty of the things they condemn in other conservatives. You should note that Caleb Stegall critiqued crunchiness early in the blog's history by claiming it was just another "lifestyle" movement rather than a genuinely conservative movement that reorients a person from the inside out.

But this all misses the point of my previous two comments here. The fact is that we are, from the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to sleep, participating in an omnipresent consumer society. It is very difficult to live at all without participating in this crap.

So the difference is not between those who are "authentic" and refuse to participate, and those who are "hypocrites" and condemn participation while participating. Everyone participates and can't help but do so.

The difference is between these two types of people:

1. people who are aware of the meaning of their participation in a consumerist society, aware of the negative consequences of doing so, and adopt a trajectory in the other direction in ways big and small.

2. people who resist awareness of the negative consequences of their participation and how this conflicts with their moral sensibilities. I suspect the people in this group seek to comfort themselves by calling the people in the first group "hypocrites."

If we can't do it perfectly, we shouldn't do it at all.

Is that right thinking?

9:58 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Read my last two posts again, James -- or read them for the first time -- and you'll see that I've already addressed your last point.

Crunchies are right to point out that too many are complacent consumers, but I think their solution is both inconsistent and shallow. Compare crunchiness to the Sermon on the Mount (which I mentioned before), and tell me which one truly cultivates an awareness of and fidelity to Permanent Things: a life concerned with Birkenstocks and organically grown tomatoes, or a life where one explicitly does not worry about one's food and clothing and instead focuses on honest relationships with God and his fellow man?

I think Christian submission to the Sermon on the Mount is a true alternative to the materialist culture of "the world" and that CC-ism is a shallow solution that is itself materialistic, just with a focus on different types of food and clothing and housing, etc.

For this you suggest that I "resist awareness of the negative consequences of [my] participation and how this conflicts with their moral sensibilities"? That's a load of crap.


As for your point about homeschooling, I'm afraid you're guilty of presenting a false dilemma, pitting homeschooling against public schools. There is a rather obvious third choice: private schools, ideally schools that have no problem building character and addressing religion, schools where the parents know the teachers and each other.

It remains a mystery to me why homeschooling is The Standard even above those sorts of schools -- to the degree that those who don't homeschool are apparently negligent parents.

7:03 AM  
Blogger R. Thornton said...

You did mean collaterally descended, didn't you?

6:13 PM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Bubba --

it's really, really dumb to complain because something doesn't live up to the Sermon on the Mount. You really mean to say that because Dreher isn't Christ, he has nothing to say at all?

Christ's "take no thought for the morrow" is hardly reflected by unthinking participation in consumerist society, which is predicated upon debt, acquisition, upward mobility, all leading to the earliest possible retirement. It's all about the morrow.

Critiques of consumerism, on my end, proceed from an understanding of the earth as God owned but under the stewardship of us humans (as in Genesis) -- so irresponsible handling of the earth is Biblically sinful on our end.

Why don't you tell us about the evils of greed and acquisitiveness, Bubba? Why don't I hear anything from you about the excesses of consumerism? It's very hard to believe you're concerned with this when you make no critique yourself, and attack those who do make a critique.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Casey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:15 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

Why don't you hear anything about the excesses of consumerism? maybe it's because we've all been "critiquing consumerism" since, oh, our 12th birthday ("mom and dad are so bourgeois!") and by now it's old news. it's called "growing up", i.e. spending your life trying to change the world in a meaningful way (reducing abortions? ameliorating extreme poverty?) instead of pontificating online about the hazards of buying coffee by the pound.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

James, a critique of consumerism is implicit in what I've written. For instance:

"To the degree that Dreher reawakens a desire for the Permanent Things in those who have become complacent, he deserves to be commended, but I fear his book and blog encourage an idolatry that cannot possibly satisfy that desire."

"Crunchies are right to point out that too many are complacent consumers, but I think their solution is both inconsistent and shallow."

I'll say it a third time, since you apparently missed it the first two times:

Crunchy conservatism accurately (or very nearly accurately) diagnoses the problems of modern society. I just believe that it's wrong about the cure.


Do I think that we ought to be good stewards of our resources? Certainly, and that includes our finances and the natural resources that surround us. But a life of "sacramental" living that amounts to buying the "right" food and living in the "right" house is a poor substitute to a life in (admittedly imperfect) submission to the teachings of Christ, whose focus was on relationships with the Almighty and one's fellow man.

Let me see if I can prove my point with another example. Today Dreher wrote about the aesthetic difference between a ceremony in a Gothic cathedral and one in a modern megachurch.

He writes, "Theologically, the ceremony has precisely the same meaning. But in which place do you feel closer to God, more aware of the holiness of existence? From which of these churches are you more likely to emerge with a glow of exaltation?"

I'm reminded of nothing more than John 4, in which Christ met the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman was concerned with the issue of where to worship -- the mountain or the temple -- and Jesus responded this way:

"Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." -- John 4:21-24, emphasis mine

Now, in being so concerned about the aesthetics surrounding his worship experience, is Dreher acting more like the woman, or more like Christ?

I think the answer's obvious: with his emphasis on what is essentially a new set of kosher regulations and his emphasis on the material world, Rod Dreher is supporting a positively pre-Christian philosophy.

7:07 AM  
Blogger The Contra Crunchy said...

I can't remember who said it, but a sociologist remarked ten or twenty years ago that while in Europe the debate was between Faith and Atheism, in the US it was between Christians and Greeks (meaning the ancient). Christianity bubbled up out of the same desert sands that later gave the world Mohammed, and leads to a similar austerity if taken to the logical extreme. I can only gues that the strain of humanism which is seen most vividly in the Roman church stems from the early melding of Christian piety with pagan manners (c.f. that we celebrate the rebirth of Christ with an ancient fertility symbol). Rod's aestheticism is honest and sincere, but I'd say it's a lot more rooted in Athens than Jerusalem.

8:43 AM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Kathleen -- I don't think you're accurately representing the point of view of a lot of conservatives. I think many have just never thought about these things. Our lives tend to follow a pattern into which we easily fall without thinking.

Does growing up mean not caring anymore? Or does it mean accepting responsibility for the consequences of our decisions?

Bubba -- one or two brief qualifications in the midst of a whole lotta rant doesn't count for much, and isn't the same as -making your own critique yourself-. I think if you were engaged in this critique you'd see more common ground.

The difference between Samaritan and Judean worship was far more than aesthetic -- in fact, I'd say the aesthetic has nothing to do with it. You'll note that before his conclusion about worshipping in spirit and in truth, Christ came down on the side of Judean worship -- Samaritan worship was syncretist and a deviation from the Mosaic law, and initiated for political reasons.

I think there are some aesthetics that reflect worship in spirit and in truth better than others -- I don't think this is an either/or thing. I don't think we should make aesthetics in worship everything, but neither do I think we should make it nothing.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Bubba said...

James, I do not understand why you think it's necessary for me to focus my energy on criticizing consumerism. I'm tempted to conclude that it would let us avoid the issue of the efficacy of the solution that has been proposed and is currently being discussed. If that's the case, your suggestion is as repugnant as making conservatives constantly prove their compassion for the poor before they can credibly criticize the welfare state.

I do not understand why you haven't addressed the core of my criticism -- that crunchy conservatism is inherently inconsistent and that it is a shallow substitute for the standard given us in Matthew 5-7.

And I do not understand why you think it's necessary to play Junior Psychologist.

Maybe these last two subjects are not unrelated: since you're searching for novel, superficially intellectual ways to insult those of us who dare disagree with you, you're just too busy to address the substance of what we write.

2:09 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"Kathleen -- I don't think you're accurately representing the point of view of a lot of conservatives. I think many have just never thought about these things. Our lives tend to follow a pattern into which we easily fall without thinking."

Errr, James Rovira, that is b/c you buy into Dreher's mainstream/crunchy dichotomy (which can be boiled down to "mainstream = bad, crunchy = good"). Have you never heard the saying "if you're not liberal before age 20, you don't have a heart. if you're not conservative after age 20, you don't have a brain." ? anyway, speak for yourself. my life has fallen into a pattern, and i thought about a great deal of it. there are other parts I would like to change but i can't (at least not right now) for social and/or economic reasons. We are all victims of circumstance to some degree. To insist otherwise is to tilt at windmills or fall victim to analysis paralysis (see crunchy con blog).

3:39 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

PS: such analysis paralysis is a great way of sticking your head in the sand and absolving yourself from feeling any obligation to engage with the world. I know loads of people who fall victim to this. When you are frightened and insecure and just want to give up, THAT is when you direct the conversation toward whether or not it is acceptable to buy coffee by the pound. It's a great way of checking-out while simultaneously pretending (to yourself as well as to everyone else) you are more checked-in than anyone else.

3:51 PM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Bubba --

You're just sounding dumb.

First, you say that crunchy conservatism isn't necessarily the best way to pursue the goals crunchy conservatism seems to have set for itself. Then you wonder why I expect you to critique the fruits of consumerism on your own -- when that's one of crunchy conservatism's goals.

Perhaps we should take a step back in this discussion -- tell me again what goals you admire in crunchy conservatism and how you would reach them instead. The only thing I see you saying is that you think it's more holy not to think about it...

I have addressed your claims about the "inherent" inconsistencies of crunchy consevatism repeatedly. Read my critiques of charges of hypocrisy. Here's the substance again:

1. We can't live in this society without participating in consumerism and its ills.

2. Given that fact, critics of consumerism will always live inconsistently with their critiques.

3. As a result, the important thing is our recognition of the legitimacy of the critique and our shaping of the trajectory of our lives accordingly -- are we trying to pull ourselves out of the consumerist web step by step, or immersing ourselves further in it.

If we're on the right trajectory it doesn't matter to me that we imperfectly live up to our ideals.

This is a general rule for Christian living, I think.

Kathleen -- first, I never said I "buy into" Crunchy conservatism. I agree with some of its goals and intents, that's all. I haven't read Dreher's book and, from what I have read about it, feel it has little to offer me. But it does seem to bring up some important issues worthy of attention.

Furthermore, you're getting the cart before the horse regarding my thinking. I already observe a majority of conservatives not really thinking about their lifestyles. I see most people just flowing along letting decisions be made for them. The popularity of books such as The Purpose Driven Life indicates that this is true, that many understand themselves to be doing just that.

So if I see value in Crunchy Conservative, that is because it supports observations I have already made, not the other way around.

Furthermore, citing yourself as an exception is hardly a response to my point. If you claim you are an exception I believe you. That does not negate the rule I'm establishing -- that most conservatives don't really think about the way they live.

Most people in general probably don't think about they way they live -- esp. economically.

Jim

8:09 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

james rovira, what you are talking about is a weakness of PEOPLE, not conservatives. anyway, your statement is inherently flawed. if the Purpose Driven life is a bestseller, that must mean that people AREN'T content with just flowing along but at least attempting to examine their lives. you are hardly in a position to determine how much they have thought about this stuff, what kind of compromises they have had to make in spite of such thought, etc. who made you such a know it all? seems to me you should give people the benefit of the doubt, rather than its opposite.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

James:

First, you say that crunchy conservatism isn't necessarily the best way to pursue the goals crunchy conservatism seems to have set for itself. Then you wonder why I expect you to critique the fruits of consumerism on your own -- when that's one of crunchy conservatism's goals.

I didn't think that the critique itself was one of the goals of crunchy conservatism -- and I still don't see it now. Furthermore, it's not crunchy conservatism's goals that I agree with, but merely its diagnosis of the problem of consumerism. As such, I don't understand the expectation that I chime in and further criticize consumerism.


Perhaps we should take a step back in this discussion -- tell me again what goals you admire in crunchy conservatism and how you would reach them instead. The only thing I see you saying is that you think it's more holy not to think about it...

It's not that I admire its goals; I think that its critique of consumerism is valid, but its solution of an apparently pre-industrial society won't accomplish anything substantial in terms of a greater recognition/appreciation of "Permanent Things."

What do I think is the solution, then? Simply, a growing relationship with God and His church through Christ -- something that cannot be imposed on anyone.

Without that, no amount of eco-friendly shopping habits will amount to real, lasting joy. In comparison to that, such habits are minor in significance -- nice as "icing on the cake" but otherwise beside the point.

The "substance" of your response to my criticism doesn't address the core of my criticism, that crunchy conservatism does little more than replace one form of materialism for another, that it establishes its own kosher code.

10:39 AM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Kathleen -- I've been in reading groups for the Purpose Driven Life. Many of those reading the book say they've never thought about their lives, just gone on with the flow. I agree with you that this is true of everyone to an extent -- in different ways, about different things.

If that is the case, why is my pointing this out so unbearable? Why does it seem so harsh? And if this is the case, then why isn't CC seen as having some value in addressing this fact?

Bubba -- I've already addressed your point in your last comment. This is really inappropriate "either/or" thinking. Let me elaborate:

Being in Christ does not teach us about the effects of consumerism on the environment.

Being in Christ should tell us what attitude to have once we learn of those effects.

Awareness of permanent things is the product of being in Christ, yet.

Automatic knowledge of how to live out that awareness is not.

Jim

1:15 PM  
Blogger kathleen said...

I guess your pointing it out is unbearable because it is trite, and old news, but presumes to be just the opposite. Cluelessness mixed with preachiness is a toxic combination for me.

again i'll say it -- if reading groups exist to read the purpose driven life, that is prima facie evidence rebutting your claim. You are rebutting your own claim! do you get that yet?

2:02 PM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Kathleen -- I'm really sorry you have nothing better to do than call the ideas I'm presenting names :). If what I'm saying is obvious, why argue? Saying it is obvious seems to me to be another way of saying it is true. Yes, it is obvious to me too. I never claimed otherwise.

No, Kathleen, I'm not "refuting my own point" by pointing out the popularity of books like The Purpose Driven Life. It is popular because it articulates a problem that many people couldn't articulate before they read the book -- and the problem is, as I have been saying, that most of our decisions are made for us and we flow right along with them. We don't live consciously.

So I think it's good and encouraging that people are so interested in the book because it means they recognize the problem and want to address it.

But that does not mean they don't have the problem.

That's like saying high sales of cold medication means people aren't suffering colds. We buy the cure because we have the disease.

What's really dumb to me is how you keep arguing with me about this point when you've already agreed with it by saying most people are like this, not just conservatives.

Like most critics of crunchy conservatism, I think you care more about maintaining your current lifestyle without facing critique than you do about truth or moral responsibility.

6:05 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

James Rovira, you know JACK about my current lifestyle. But let's just assume that I'm a mouth-breathing consumer who is completely shallow and selfish. I can live with you thinking of me that way.

It is true, that there are so few books like the purpose driven life out there. the self-help section in the bookstore is really small, and has been for years. There is hardly ever any spiritual self-help stuff on the bestseller list. churches are shutting down left and right. Oprah and Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura make all that money because they like talking about clothes and shoes and how to get out of family obligations. we can't find any soldiers to fight a voluntary war. americans don't give money to charity. americans don't give foreign aid. If more of us were like James Rovira, though, that would be different.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

James, I didn't think you had addressed my criticism, but I appreciate the elaboration nevertheless. Allow me to remove some of the line-breaks to present your elaboration in one paragraph for easier reading:

Being in Christ does not teach us about the effects of consumerism on the environment. Being in Christ should tell us what attitude to have once we learn of those effects. Awareness of permanent things is the product of being in Christ, yet. Automatic knowledge of how to live out that awareness is not.

Let's say that one can't devote equal amounts of energy to all moral problems, which I think is probably true. Let's say that one can't tackle every moral problem simultaneously, which I think is certainly true. Either way, one must have one's priorities right. So if we should sacrifice any of these goals, which should it be?

- Quickly reconciling with someone you've wronged.

- Mastering the temptation to indulge in lust and hatred.

- Being nothing less than honest.

- Treating even those who hate you with love and respect.

- Doing good deeds quietly so as to avoid the spotlight.

- Praying sincerely as part of genuine relationship with a personal God.

- Trusting that God loves you, knows what is in your best interest, and is both willing and able to bring that about.

- Buying organically grown free-range chickens.

(One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.)

Which of these goals is secondary? It's obvious.

Crunchy shopping habits pale in comparison to these seven other goals. It is dung; they are diamonds. If you're growing in those seven goals and also shop as conscientiously as possible, great: that's icing on the cake, as far as I'm concerned. If you must sacrifice any of those seven goals en route to being a crunchy consumer, you have wandered off the reservation.

Those seven goals ought to be familiar; they summarize part of the Sermon on the Mount. One can appeal to the idea of being a good steward of the environment God gave us, but crunchy shopping has no explicit mandate from Christ. The Gospels record no mandate, so either Christ never gave it or the Apostles guided by the Holy Spirit didn't think it central to Christianity.

You can say that environmental damage wasn't as severe in those days, but the city of Rome probably had about a million inhabitants, making it comparable in size to London just before the Industrial Revolution, so the first-century rabbi had an object he could have criticized. And, at any rate, if crunchiness was so important, I trust that God would have found a way to make that clear.

But we don't have passages about the importance of what we eat; instead, we have the precise opposite, taught by Christ Himself and Peter and Paul and James.


If that's not enough, I would ask you to look at a writer that Dreher says is part of the crunchy bookshelf: C.S. Lewis. Like Tolkien he preferred the natural beauty of the English countryside, but did that aesthetic sensibility find its way into The Screwtape Letters?

No, it did not; instead, we find the same focus that is in the Sermon on the Mount -- a focus on relationships and the virtues of faith and humility and charity -- and an explicit warning about letting one's Christianity become subordinated by some great "cause".

Does it seem to me, then, that the focus of the Screwtape Letters is more thoroughly Christian than the focus of crunchy conservatism? Abso-frigging-lutely.

I'll reiterate something I wrote early on in this blog: to the extent that CC-ism makes people more aware of the problems of consumerism, it's a good thing, but to the extent that it offers just another materialism as a solution, it is a distraction.


I'll close by responding to something you wrote to Kathleen:

Like most critics of crunchy conservatism, I think you care more about maintaining your current lifestyle without facing critique than you do about truth or moral responsibility.

I can speak for no one else, but my problem with crunchy conservatism could be put this way: I think my current lifestyle should be challenged, but primarily (if not solely) by the standard of Christ, particularly the Sermon on the Mount. I demonstrate the need for a Savior in my life every time I fail to resist the temptation to lust, to rage, or to lie. In comparison to those things, whether I shop at Wal-Mart is very nearly irrelevant.

8:05 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"Like *most* critics of crunchy conservatism, I think you care more about maintaining your current lifestyle without facing critique than you do about truth or moral responsibility.


"Most"? James Rovira, which critics of crunchy conservatism DON'T care more about maintaining their current lifestyles? I wonder -- how do you know that they care more about truth or moral responsibility than I do? And what is their criticism of crunchy cons -- how is it so different from mine? I'm curious how you make that distinction, especially seeing as you know zero about my lifestyle.

8:34 AM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Kathleen -- I'm not responding to what I perceive as your current lifestyle, because you're right -- I don't know Jack about your current lifestyle. And I said before that if you claim you're an exception to the rule, I believe you.

Furthermore, I wasn't making claims about self help books in general. In general, most self help books are designed to help us overcome the negative emotional affects of our lazy, selfish, self indulgent lifestyles.

The Purpose Driven Life is different in that it specifically calls attention to the fact that most of us live our lives unaware of the choices that we are making, or even that we make choices, rather than just have our lives laid out for us. PDL attacks this fundamental flaw in our thinking -- that we don't live deliberately. This specific point is what I was arguing, not about the phenomenon of self help books in general.

Overall, I'm trying to make sense of your contradictory attacks on CC. You think all this is obvious but seem to deeply resent people pointing out the obvious. So far as I can tell, you seem to resent lifestyle critique for any reason.

If the shoe fits...

and if it doesn't, it's not my judgment that matters in the end anyhow.

Bubba --

Thank you. Of course the one obvious thing is secondary.

But you're still falling into either/or thinking.

I think you need to think both/and.

See, that which is secondarily important is -still important-. Saying something is of secondary importance is very different from saying it is of no importance at all.

Water is of primary importance and food secondary, because we will die much more quickly without water than without food. But we still need food to live.

So, yes, please do focus primarily on forgiveness, honesty, etc. And certainly see the concretes mentioned by the CCs as being secondary in importance.

Secondary, but still important. Perhaps even one visible expression of those things we consider of primary importance.

Jim

8:00 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"I'm trying to make sense of your contradictory attacks on CC. You think all this is obvious but seem to deeply resent people pointing out the obvious."

James Rovira, you know, you should really floss your teeth. Flossing is a good thing. It keeps your teeth healthy. It's really best to floss after every meal. Having healthy teeth will do wonders for your appearance as you age.

you don't resent my saying this, do you? or maybe you just don't think teeth are that important! huh! maybe you are a plaque lover.

Come to think of it, I'm going to write a book about how conservatives don't floss enough and how great it is to floss. Who cares if it's screamingly obvious? It's true! Why on earth should someone resent me for telling them to floss?

Maybe NR will start a blog discussing the best way to floss, why everyone should do it, why it's important for the movement that conservatives have great smiles, etc.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

James, the discussion would be futhered if people like Caleb Stegall attempted to demonstrate fidelity to the primarily important things like charity and humilty, however imperfectly.

More to the point, I get this sense from the CC blog that the crunchy lifestyle of what to eat and where to live is being treated as being not just important, but primary. If virtue is having the proper feelings for the proper things to the proper degree, than CC-ism isn't virtuous.

To use a dietary analogy, if current consumerism is junk food, crunchy conservatism could be considered a salad, but it should not be considered the Bread of Life.

The CC blog could have been dissauding me of this concern that I have, but it's haven't the exact opposite effect. Maybe that will change when they reach the chapter on religion, but given that Caleb Stegall was interviewed that chapter, I fear that that week might be even more obnoxious.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Bubba said...

Very quickly, James, this recent post is precisely the sort of thing that worries me on the question of whether crunchies are elevating their lifestyle to the level of an idol -- an idol that may be more aesthetically pleasing than crass pop-culture consumerism (so that therefore appeals to Beauty can be made in its defense), but an idol all the same.

10:52 AM  
Blogger kathleen said...

"It’s just one beggar showing another beggar where they found the food."

Matera neglects the fact that one man's food is another man's poison.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Pauli said...

Bubba - yes. Angelo writes about taking to heart a request for a "...calm explanation of how certain ways of life they haven't considered - such as moving into an older neighborhood or buying free range food..."

What about the first people who moved into that neighborhood, you know, when it was brand new? Were they wrong - should they have looked for an older neighborhood?

Also - the "beard fallacy" (as in "how many hairs on my face do I need for a beard?") how old does the neighborhood have to be? 50 years? 66 years, 3 months and 5 days? 100 years with a tolerance of plus or minus 52 months?

This stuff qualifies as transcendental good news? I'm holding my gut laughing, this is vague, elite nonsense!

But here's a good idea. Why doesn't Angelo start a real estate company that only sells R.E. with the "Crunchy Seal." Or maybe just give the agents more of the brokerage commission for selling old houses than newer suburban ones. Then interview the successful ones and find out the sales pitches they used to move the houses. Put all those marketing lines in a book which can be used to evangelize those seeking enlightenment about the most moral real estate. Hey, the end justifies the means - by using the structure of the existing capitalist system they may yet crunchify the entire planet! Or at least land another book deal....

8:55 PM  
Blogger James Rovira said...

Kathleen -- thank you for proving your mettle by descending into pure idiocy.

Bubba -- Honestly, Bubba, this entire parody blog and your comments don't really demonstrate charity or humility either. The problem with parody is that it only works by misrepresentation -- which is inherently uncharitable to the person being parodied.

You preach charity and humility but demonstrate neither -- you're more concerned about pointing out hypocrisy. Now if you think this behavior on your part is consistent with your own principles, then perhaps you should try extending that type of thinking to people who are -saying the right things about a very specific subject.-

I don't need people to stroke me to convince me of the truth. Wanting truth packaged a certain way means that other things...like ego, or not having your comfort zones threatened...are more important to you than the truth about our consumerist lifestyle.

5:46 PM  

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