Across the pond, my fellow Touchstone contributing editor Rod Dreher points in the Times of London to the emergence of “crunchy conservatism” within the leadership of the Tories. Many of you will remember Rod’s article on “crunchy cons” several years ago in National Review. His point is that there is a new movement of conservatives who are religious traditionalists and political conservatives but who are deeply suspicious of the materialist and consumerist assumptions of the reigning culture mavens, whether of the left or the right. The “crunchy” refers to the eating of organic vegetables, granola, and so forth.
New parenthood, it seemed, caused Julie and me to grow weary of the strident libertarian focus on free market economic policies as the be-all and end-all of conservative politics. As conservatives we have as much suspicion of big business as we do of big government. The attempts that advertisers made to turn our toddler into a target market only sharpened our distaste for the huckster society.
Nobody can doubt that the free market policies pioneered by conservative governments in America and Britain in the 1980s shattered the shackles of statism and made both nations freer and richer. But they were based on fundamentally materialist assumptions about human nature which conservatives ought to have known were inaccurate and which would lead in time to a loss of purpose, of community, of idealism.
I suspect Dreher is right. Perhaps “crunchy conservatism” resonates with a Southern agrarian political philosophy passed down to me from the cotton fields of Mississippi. But I think there is more to it than this. If Christian conservatism is going to “conserve” a Christian counter-culture, we must understand the ways in which our interests are subverted not only by an over-reaching government but by an over-reaching socio-economic culture as well.
After all, it is not tax policy alone causing hordes of evangelical and Roman Catholic mothers into full-time careers while their children sit home alone watching “Veggie Tales.” And, don’t be deceived, it will take much more than a weekly hour of Sunday school and moralistic lessons from singing vegetables to transform the character formation built in by two parents chasing the corparatist vision of the American dream into the fruits of the Spirit.
Most Christian Americans would concede that there is more to life than what is advertised on the high definition television screens at Wal-Mart. But do our churches and our pastors lead them to ask whether there might be something different to life than this?
I’m going to think some more about this this New Year’s Day. Do they sell organic granola at Target?