It's time for another mini-round of Crunchy Cons mania, with Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher and his strange little book finally reaching gound zero in the journalistic world of snark. That would be the Style section at the Washington Post. Reporter Hank Stuever actually went down and visited the infamous Dreher bungalow in urban Dallas, and there is evidence in his piece that he actually wrote some of his feature -- half of it, even -- after he met the family.
I was lucky enough to eat at the Dreher household -- the very table shown in the Post piece -- during the time between Stuever's visitation and the publication of the piece. I must say that special kudos must go to the lady of the house, a journalist by training who is currently doing that homeschooling mother thing, for absolutely nailing what would show up as the lead direct quote in the feature. I mean, she called the soundbite word for word.
Two succulent, naturally raised chickens with good farm references are in the oven, snuggled up in a roasting pan like doomed lovers. Fat, perfect carrots are peeled, chopped, seasoned and ready to simmer.
"Notice that I am literally barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen," observes Mrs. Crunchy Con, and perhaps, she quips, she should have done her hair for the occasion like Phyllis Schlafly's. The li'l Crunchy Cons, boys ages 2 and 6, are out back in the warm Wednesday afternoon sun, making sculptures out of a bowl of ice cubes -- something constructive and home-schoolish, something very We're Not Watching TV.
You can read the story for yourself (by the way, the free-range photo with this piece is not from the Dreher household, but it could have been). I would be interested in knowing how GetReligion readers would rate the snark factor. Is it 50 percent snark and 50 percent nice or, my own rating, 25 percent snark and 75 percent nice or what. Offer us your ratings.
The piece is absolutely obsessed with the surface of things. Take the food, for example. Dreher's ultimate point in talking about food is to talk about the sacramental nature -- in an ancient, orthodox sense -- of the key elements of life. I recently wrote a pre-Pascha column about an Eastern Orthodox priest who has created a cookbook that hones in on the same point, by which I mean the links between the family table and the holy table in the center of parish life.
This is the central thesis of Rod's entire book. You can tell that Stuever heard this. It may be unfair to say that he did not grasp it. At the very least, he could not work it into the hip Style-page-flashing-back-to-the-New-Journalism worldview. So we get:
The Drehers are self-conscious and good-natured about living the "sacramental" life described in his book: Dreher writes in a breezy, slightly Southern style that is less dogmatic than a reader of political tracts might expect. He essentially lays out his family's entire domestic process, from their practice of natural family planning over birth control (Julie's expecting their third child in October), to what they eat, to Julie's decision not to work, to how they home-school their boys with help from a parents cooperative.
Please note: Rod did not write a political tract. That is one reason why the political right does not know what to make of this book, which is about faith and culture over politics.
P.S. For those wanting to go whole naturally-fatted hog, there is a new Dreher interview up at Christianity Today. Here is how Capt. Crunchy answers the key question there:
What role does religious faith play in crunchy conservatism?
It's absolutely at the center. If you're going to stand against the materialism of the age, the only thing that gives you firm ground to stand on and the passion to fight it is faith in God. We live in a culture where the forces that try to separate families from their values and families from each other are so strong that only faith in God can give you that deeper vision you need to make the sacrifices necessary to live a countercultural life.