Put not your trust in agrarians

I knew it!  I knew there was something rotten about Wendell Berry.  So now the supposed Christian defender of natural living has endorsed gay marriage.  From Dreher’s quote, it seems that he also endorses divorce and abortion.  We see this again and again, don’t we?  Anyone who will not explicitly renounce Leftism will eventually cave completely to the Left.  Well, congratulations, Wendell!  You’re sure to make yourself very popular with this repudiation of natural law, not with the One Christians are supposed to be trying to please but with the group you apparently care about.  Go ahead and win more praise for yourself by slandering (for example, by saying that we endorse adultery and fornication) those of us who defend the natural law in its entirety and refuse to betray our Saviour for the sake of a loathsome perversion.  Letting us know about your openness to prenatal murder and spousal abandonment certainly makes the break easier.  I really do feel sorry for the good men at Front Porch Republic who misplaced so much admiration on this man.

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36 thoughts on “Put not your trust in agrarians

  1. Well, this is a discouraging development. Admittedly it’s been a while since I read anything on FPR, but I’ve come to think that the crowd it attracts is a bit too gentle and scholarly for its own good, as well as not putting sufficient thought into the “social issues.” For the most part (there are happy exceptions, of course), they only really raise their voices when they’re talking about consumerism, industrialization, and such. That’s all well and good, but as Proph said in his post on siege mentality, and as you say here, Bonald, any area of thought where one doesn’t actively and consciously resist liberal ideas is wide open to infection by those ideas.

    Also, this struck me:

    “I really don’t understand how you can single out homosexuality for opprobrium and wink at fornication and adultery, which the Bible has a lot more to say about. The churches are not going to come out against fornication and adultery because there are too damn many fornicators and adulterers in their congregations.”

    I hear this kind of argument often, and I find it really stupid. Berry seems to think that the churches should yield to liberalism on homosexuality because they’ve yielded to it on other issues, otherwise his argument would be that the churches have been too lax, and should go back to condemning fornication and adultery as well as homosexuality. That says something about where the will of God falls on his list of priorities. (Hint: Far, far below the whims of degenerates.)

    • There are churches which preach that homosexuality is sinful, churches which avoid the topic as they avoid all controversy, and churches which “affirm” homosexuality. The last mentioned are apostate, the middle group are cowards. I don’t know of many churches in the first category that do not also preach against fornication and adultery. Berry’s argument makes no sense. It would only make sense if he were arguing that the amount of time churches allot to preaching on these subjects should be proportional to the amount of space the Scriptures give them. That, however, was not what he was arguing for.

  2. There is always a false note with a Western white man today who is vaguely spiritual. Only Chestertonian robustness will stand the test of these times.

    • Speaking of which, here is a great passage from the Psalms 139, a favorite Psalm of pro-lifers:

      If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
      Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
      They speak of you with evil intent;
      your adversaries misuse your name.
      Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
      and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
      I have nothing but hatred for them;
      I count them my enemies.

  3. Happened upon your blog and although I think the writing is good, the effort is good, and there is some truth to what you say, I’d like to add…

    It is not the ‘liberals’ or the ‘conservatives’ or even the ‘lukewarm’ ones in the middle. It is those who twist the truth, those who don’t know it, those who refuse to see it. That simple. Truth or lies. We’re surrounded by lies, all of us. The truth is scarce, hidden, but there for all to find. Find it.
    M

  4. I always found him to be overrated. Realistically he is simply following in the long line of leftist communitarians and like all modern isms left communitarianism is terribly incoherent.

    There was a time when I had high hopes for the “porcher”movement and yet still many of their leaders like Medaille and Deneen are solid but on the whole their movement has been at best ineffectual. To have any success I think they’ll have to follow the lead of the Ron Paul people i.e. become much more militant.

    • There is no one in that whole sector who emanates any danger, who is just itching for a good street fight. For example, Murray Rothbard was like that. I am not endorsing Rothbardism.

      • Heh. Come to think of it the Austrians are probably the worst example to use. After all millions in corporate capitalist financing legions of professional academics in “think tanks” and a more than generous share of politicians and pundits have been shilling for Austrian Economics. Yet they have gone absolutely nowhere.

        One bright note is that many in the so-called “patriot movement” seem disenchanted with the Paul’s sellout to Republican establishment. Maybe some of those people will migrate over to our way of thinking. How much more of Lew Rockwell saying “RON PAUL 2016!!!!!” can be people take?

      • Yes I know. I had originally used the Austrians i.e. Ron Paul people as a bad example. So I wasn’t addressing whatever your point was. But thanks anyway.

      • OK. But you are right about Austrians and Libertarians. Has there ever been a group with less courage of conviction? Has any one of them ever gotten fed up and crossed the line and done something tangible against a government? On the contrary, even Rothbard sucked at the government teat at UNLV.

    • Leftist communitarians aren’t serious. When you get down to specifics, they’ll never really restrict anything in the name of community that a liberal wouldn’t already be okay with restricting. Conservatism is serious communitarianism.

      I agree that the focus on Front Porch Republic is a bit off. I don’t trust anyone who’s not a flaming culture warrior, and with good reason. That said, one of my favorite internet commentators, Jerry Salyer, writes for FPR. He’s “concerned” about Berry (http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2012/07/agrarianism-gay-marriage/).

      • The refusal to bite bullets seems to be a significant characteristic over there. I stopped reading them regularly in 2009 during their dust-up with Jody Bottum of _First Things_. Paraphrasing loosely, Bottum made the obviously correct point that the stuff localists care about is necessarily caught up in the race, ethnicity, culture, and religion of the locals. This, naturally, leads to the conclusion that preserving the stuff localists care about almost certainly requires some efforts to preserve the locality’s race, ethnic, cultural, and religious mix (or utter uniformity, as the case may be). Finally, he went on to make the equally obviously correct point that, today, we call movements which are caught up in this way racist, xenophobic, and anti-semitic.

        This provoked Caleb Stegall to spew squid ink and make rhetorical pretzels in order to forswear consciousness of race, ethnicity, or religion in FPR’s localism. And he was not an island unto himself in this. What is there to take seriously after that? It’s a joke, right? Is some small town in the upper midwest allowed to object to a sudden influx of Somali or Hmong refugees or not? If not, then what are the FPR guys even talking about? WalMart destroying the downtown business district you are allowed to object to, but Hmong and Somali gangs destroying the downtown business district you are not?

      • That was the dispute that caused me to lose my respect for Jody Bottom. Of course he’s right that localism is incompatible with liberal universalism, but he took that to be an argument against localism. Bottom seemed to think there’s some categorical imperative that the Jews have the right to be universal party crashers.

        FPR: “Can we have distinct communities?”
        Bottom: “But what about the Jews?!”
        FPR: “They can have their own communities, and remain in ones they’ve already integrated into.”
        Bottom: “But there will be some communities they’re not part of, and for those communities to preserve
        themselves, they would have to EXCLUDE THE JEWS.”
        FPR: “Well, yeah, to some extent.”
        Bottom: “Well, then, I say nobody can have their own communities, because excluding Jews is always wrong.”
        FPR: “Screw you, you pansy self-hating gentile twit.”

        Okay, maybe that “FPR” should be labeled “me”, because I don’t think they said anything that clear.

        And before anybody starts up on me, I’m not picking on the Jews. I didn’t bring them up; Jody Bottom did. I realize that no particular Jew asked to be brought into that argument, much less in such an asinine way.

      • Interesting point. I have to say I jumped to First Things defense and gave them a lot of sympathy when the whole “is First Things liberal” argument was raging. But they have always had a rather large contingent of liberals or almost liberals, and that is a problem.

      • I meant to say, I jumped to Front Porch Republics defense. Writers like Salyer and Matthews help make up for FPR’s flaws. I actually called First Things too liberal (and in my opinion it was leaning in that direction just a few months ago).

      • You put your finger on the difference between conservative and liberal communitarianism, Bill. For liberals, communitarianism is simply another way to oppose big business. For them it’s always about farmers’ markets, town meetings, and the local music scene. It’s never about the home of my people.

      • Bonald, I agree with you about Bottum. But FPR did not, it seemed to me, defend themselves in a way which made sense. The right defense is something like “The thing you falsely call racism is 1) not racism and 2) not an evil and 3) a positive good.”

        Okay, maybe that “FPR” should be labeled “me”, because I don’t think they said anything that clear.

        I guess I could be convinced that it was only inclarity, but that is definitely not the impression I got at the time.

        @Anonymous:
        “Is First Things liberal?” is about as interesting a question as “Is National Review liberal?” I came away from the dust-up with the distinct impression that FPR is liberal, or at least that it has absolutely no stomach for a fight.

  5. Part of the problem is that many living the actual lifestyle are liberals, as many conservatives are overtly consumption-oriented as a reflexive response to liberal eco-posturing. The whole crunchy con thing is rare compared to the neo-hippie thing.

  6. I really don’t understand how you can single out homosexuality for opprobrium and wink at fornication and adultery, which the Bible has a lot more to say about. The churches are not going to come out against fornication and adultery because there are too damn many fornicators and adulterers in their congregations.

    I have always found that argument revolting due to its dishonesty. There are no “fornication and adultery pride parades” or groups promoting adultery. If there were t-shirts stating “Proudly cheat on my wife” or “Multiple adulterer and proud of it”, perhaps there would be a case.

    The reason that the churches are so obsessed with homosexuality is because of the gay movement’s subversion of what the churches teach about homosexuality. Should there be a universal consensus that homosexuality is wrong, churches would treat homosexual behavior like any other sin: something that we need to avoid. What we are confronting is not the sin of homosexuality, but an attack on the authority of the Church to teach, according with natural law, tradition and scripture, what is right and what is wrong.

    Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

    • Ralph makes a good point here. I haven’t heard any robust condemnation of adultery and fornication from the pulpit lately, but neither have I been scolded for harboring a disreputable prejudice against adulterers and fornicators. I have, on the other hand, been at least twice chided from the pulpit for withholding Christian love from men and women owing to their sexuality.

      Anyhow, if Berry were correct about the churches “winking” at some sexual sins, shouldn’t he tell them to stop this winking rather than to start winking at other sexual sins as well?

      • Anyhow, if Berry were correct about the churches “winking” at some sexual sins, shouldn’t he tell them to stop this winking rather than to start winking at other sexual sins as well?

        I’ve also seen this attitude in “Christians” who lean towards feminism. They argue that when men sleep with multiple women, they are perceived as “players,” whereas women are perceived as “sluts.” But instead of attempting to persuade us that immoral behavior should not be promoted, and that this is a problem we should correct, they say that they too wish to participate in bad behavior with no consequence. Huh? I could understand this line of thought from an atheist who had nothing to live for but pleasure, but when I hear Christians say this, that’s just weird.

      • A few years ago Jeremy Lott wrote a book entitled “In Defense of Hypocrisy: Picking Sides In the War on Virtue”. There is an excellent chapter in it which points out the difference between Jesus’ condemnation of hypocrisy and the condemnation of hypocrisy which is popular today. Hypocrisy is failing to live up to high moral standards which you profess. Jesus condemned hypocrites for not living up to their professed standards. Today hypocrites are condemned for having the standards in the first place.

    • Thanks for the links. Scruton’s take on communitarianism reminds me of Christopher Lasch’s. Their opposition to liberalism is entirely theoretical; in practice it’s just liberalism rebranded.

  7. Does anyone else find it nauseating how Dreher consistently uses the phrase “it strikes me…”? I see this phrase used often by mainstream conservatives (see Golberg, Jonah), and it “strikes me” as a way to avoid making any firm commitments that the left might find distasteful. It’s a way to avoid actually saying something concrete that might be ‘mean’ to sodomites, perverts, and other wonderful people that we’d really rather be nice to.

    And of course, this phrase is used only with respect to opinions that oppose the leftist orthodoxy. I’m sure no mainstream conservative would use the phrase when opposing an opinion to his right. Then it’s all fire and brimstone.

    • I find just about everything Dreher does nauseating. He is one of those people who comes across something other much more intelligent people have known for a long time and thinks that he has happened upon some great truth and that everyone else should appreciate him for it.

      His constant bashing of the Catholic Church is also getting tiresome. Now that he is discovering that the Photian Schismatics are not as squeaky clean as he originally thought will he be leaving them? Where to? I bet Mormonism.

    • Dreher was never a real conservative. Always a neocon appeaser with the ultimate goal of de-fanging anybody on the religious right who from every saying anything that would offend the mythical “moderate voter”.

  8. It would seem that unless one hews to the High Conception of State and Statecraft that goes back to Aristotle, one is bound to err disastrously.

    Americans are, of all nations, particularly prone owing to the experience and mythology of the Open Frontier and thus a lack of appreciation of the City.

  9. Disappointing about Berry, but he is a political Jeffersonian. Anyone who endorses an explicitly “Americanist” paradigm like this in 2012 will eventually come around to support things like gay marriage, if purely from a libertarian “mind your own business” standpoint.

    A truly rooted, agrarian society would not tolerate open perversions. These ‘neo-agrarians’ are essentially romantics who want to preserve the ‘social progress’ of modernity while hearkening back to a modern pastoral, idyllic, and integrated way of life. They want what they consider the best of both worlds. Can’t be done. Agrarianism means patriarchy, tradition, hierarchy, and rootedness. None of this hippie nonsense.

  10. I must say I’m disappointed to hear that Berry has jumped on this bandwagon. Though I haven’t followed his writings or pronouncements lately, there was a time during the unrestrained idealism of my youth when his ideas of agrarianism and communitarianism exerted a positive influence on my thinking by steering me away from views that were more decidedly leftist; though he has not figured among my intellectual mentors for a long time now, he has maintained a privileged spot in the back of my mind.
    Sometimes students will come to my classes sporting a “Gay? Fine by me!” T-shirt, or a colleague will likewise have to advertise his political correctness with a “safe zone” sign or something. Berry is stooping to their level by feeling that he has to proclaim that he’s “with it.” Very disappointing.

  11. From the article: “Abortion for birth control is wrong,” he says. “That’s as far as I’m going to go. In some circumstances, I would justify it, as I would justify divorce in some circumstances, as the best of two unhappy choices.”

    Maybe we should simply adopt an informal rule: Treat all “Exceptions” Republicans and/or Christians as liberals.

  12. So Berry’s a traditionalist? 150 years ago he’d be run out of town on a rail for saying such things, but then again, he’d be conforming to the Zeitgeist back then.

  13. Pingback: Wendell Berry Backs Gay Marriage | Happolati's Miscellany

  14. Pingback: Father Knows Best: Live Bait Edition « Patriactionary

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