Wendell Berry

Rod Dreher is author of the Crunchy Con (granola conservatism) blog and an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, and he wrote in the name of Wendell Berry on his ballot for president of the United States.

A week before, he wrote a column about Wendell Berry in his newspaper: Wendell Berry’s Time is Now.

Most haven’t heard of Wendell Berry; I first heard of him through reading books about Christian perspectives on the environment. Here are some quotes from Dreher’s editorial:

Could any man be less relevant to the politics and culture of our time than an old Kentucky poet-farmer who is so out of step with the times that he refuses to use a computer and still tills his earth using draft horses? And yet, given the converging crises of this extraordinary moment in American history, it just might be that in the winter of a long and honorable career, Wendell Berry’s moment has arrived.

Why? Because in his numerous essays, poems and novels, the traditionalist agrarian writer, now 74, has stood steadfastly for fidelity to family and community, self-sufficiency, localism, conservation and, above all, learning to get by decently within natural limits. Our nation and our world have reached a crucible of near-cataclysm in our economy and – with climate change – in the environment, chiefly because we have refused to live within our means.

If Mr. Berry’s politics can be summed up in a single word, it would be stewardship.

Though to all appearances an old-time Democrat, his faithfulness to his iconoclastic vision makes him an uncomfortable presence among the mainstream left and has won him new admirers on the dissident right. He is a moralist hostile both to big government and big business. He is a Christian who can’t be understood apart from his deep religious conviction that humankind is under divine command to be good caretakers of creation – the land, its creatures and each other.

If you build your politics on this foundation, you will find yourself standing outside the camps of our parties. Most Republicans don’t care for him because he is a harsh critic of industrialism, consumerism and the unfettered free market as a destroyer of land, community and healthy traditions. Most Democrats regard him as out of touch because he is a religious man who holds autonomous individualism, especially the sexual freedom it licenses, to be similarly destructive of families, communities and the sacredness of love.

“The first thing we must begin to teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve.”

Unlike mainstream environmentalists, Mr. Berry won’t separate “the environment” from humanity. He once told me that he will not sign on to the environmentalist cause until activists recognize that ordinary people and their needs are part of the natural world, too.

The sum of Berry’s philosophy might be “live within boundaries.” This isn’t a popular idea among either liberals or conservatives, but it is wise, and I believe it is Biblical as well.

Grace and Peace

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