Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christian Agrarianism?

The above phrase is one that I come across quite frequently as I read and research about farming in an unconventional way. Some people talk about it as if it is a movement sweeping across the nation (I'm not sure I want to be a part of a movement because movements always come and go), some people are calling it a way of life (a way of life is a good thing ... but I would rather just call my way of life a Biblical worldview with Christ above all and through all and in all), and The Deliberate Agrarian Blogger says, "it's all about repentance and redemption" (those are two words I can get along with). So, what is "Christian Agrarianism"?

The reason I'm thinking about it today is because I ran across the blog post linked above and found it very interesting. I do have a hard time trying to attach the word "Christian" to something in order to make it more holy. Things like Christian author, Christian band, and Christian artist make me kind of wary. It is almost like if we place "Christian" in front of the occupation or thing then we will automatically make it more appealing to other Christians. I believe that as a follower of Christ, He should influence everything I do ... not just the "Christian" things. So, if that is the case, then Christ will influence my farming. But, does that mean that I need to label myself as a "Christian Agrarian" and sell at a "Christian Market" only to "Christians"? No, no, and no. And I'm pretty sure that isn't even what the Christian Agrarians are saying, but I do see it as a possible outcome, just like we now have our own publishing houses, music labels, clothing lines, and so much more.

I thought one quote from the blog post was possibly a good description of Christian Agrarianism,
"God is clearly moving in the hearts of many of His people in this day. He is leading them away from the bondage of a centralized, industrialized, materialistic, soul-deadening, God-hating, earth-destroying world system. He is leading them back to the land, back to simplicity of life and faith in Him, back to something that was almost lost in the shuffle of the industrial era."
If this idea of Christian Agrarianism interests you .... or even angers you .... allow me to breakdown this quote for a moment and give a few thoughts.

"God is clearly moving in the hearts of many of His people in this day."
Okay, that is just obvious. God does work in the hearts of people to conform them more to His likeness through repentance and redemption. I'm down with that statement!

"He is leading them away from the bondage of a centralized, industrialized, materialistic, soul-deadening, God-hating, earth destroying world system." Wow, that is a loaded sentence! Let me just speak specifically to myself here, because I think that is a rather large generalization, and I don't know how complete it is. I believe God is always drawing me away from the bondage of anything. He desires me to be away from the bondage of the world - period. He did not create me for this world, He created me for eternal life with Him, so of course He desires me to be apart from bondage. But, on a more practical note I don't know if I want to be part of a people movement at all. I do want to get away from a materialistic world, and I wouldn't mind it at all if our world was de-centralized. Does that make me a Christian Agrarian? I'm not really sure!

"He is leading them back to the land, back to simplicity of life and faith in Him, back to something that was almost lost in the shuffle of the industrial era." Obviously God isn't leading everyone back to the land ... there were plenty of cities in Biblical times, but He may be leading certain people back to a connection with His creation and His people when it comes to agriculture. There are things that were almost lost in the industrial era, but that doesn't mean that it is a completely bad thing. I can see God's hand working in the industrial revolution, and I can also see people messing up God's creation during the same time ... so, what does that mean for me? Basically, I am down with simplicity in life because that allows me to focus more on my God and my family. I believe for me that means a move to the country, but not for everyone.

So, what is my final verdict? Right now I am in full-time ministry because I believe that is where God has called me and placed me. I would like to be able to live a farming life because I believe that God has given me a passion and drive for that, but I am going to work inside of His will and timing. I don't really want to take on a label though. I would like to be a farmer, doing things the way I feel passionate about doing them, and doing everything from a the standpoint of Christ preeminent in all things. Whether I am moving chickens, working cattle, growing crops, being a leader in my church, or playing ball with my family. It isn't about placing the word "Christian" in front of what I do, it is about placing Christ at the center of my life and doing things well for His glory.


Anonymous said...

I don't know that you need to label yourself as anything. I think the important thing is that you are living your faith. All other labels are irrelevant. It is interesting to think about how the desire to live a more Godly life has led many to choose an agrarian, homeschooling, home-centered life. Peace to you and yours.

Northern Farmer said...

Many have attempted to write what you just wrote and failed miserably. It's about time I can come across a blog where the author has his or her priorities right. Makes my day let me tell you!

Ethan Book said...

Tom, thanks for the kind words! I just kind of laid myself bare on that one, but it is really the way I see things.

Steven said...

Here is a good couple of articles from the University that my wife graduated from. My wife has actually eaten dinner at one of these farms and was taken on a farm tour by all the kids while they each explained their chores and responsibilities. Though I don't think any of these families make a complete "living" off of the farm, the article does get into why they are doing what they do.

Steven said...


(I'm not sure how to get a link to work in the comments, but here is the whole thing, you can't cut and paste from here)

Ethan Book said...

Steven - Thanks for the link to the article. It was a pretty insteresting read!

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Ethan,

You have a nice blog here. I enjoy reading about your journey as a beginning farmer.

This particular blog entry is, of course, of special interest to me because you took the opportunity to critique my recent blog post and my use of the term “Christian agrarian.”

I like the term and I use it because it describes a way of life that is dear to me and that I believe many other people are discovering. The term, “Biblical agrarianism” also serves the purpose. To my way of thinking, anyone who is a professing Christian, who believes and lives their life based on a Biblical worldview, and is compelled by that worldview to live their life and raise their family within a rural/agrarian setting, is a Christian agrarian. There is certainly no need to accept and adopt the term yourself. Nevertheless, from what I have read of your blog, it describes you.

You are certainly not a pagan agrarian, or a Jewish agrarian, or any other kind of an agrarian. And if your lifestyle is not agrarian, I don’t know what it is.

I have never in my writing attached the word “Christian” to “agrarian” in order “to make it more holy.” In fact, I take offense at that. I’m not trying to market something here, as you imply. My intention has only been to define something that appears to be clearly happening within the lives of many Christian families.

And, to be sure, “Christian agrarian” isn’t about selling anything to a Christian Market, as you say. On the contrary, Christian agrarianism is about living a life that glorifies God and blesses our neighbors. Here is more of a definition, excerpted from my blog essay titled Light in Our Dwellings:

“Christian-Agrarianism (sometimes called Biblical-Agrarianism) is Christianity lived within an agrarian paradigm. It is trusting God, His word, and His promises more than the false promises of materialistic industrialism in all it’s manifestations. It is filtering every vestige of industrial culture through the sieve of a Biblical worldview and discarding that which does not please and give glory to God. It is fathers and mothers focusing more of their time and effort on their homes and family relationships and less on their own selfish desires. It is families physically working together to break away from dependence on the industrial providers and, in so doing, growing closer to each other while becoming more dependent on the Lord. It is Christian families reflecting the love of Christ in their churches and in their communities.”

In that same essay, I talk about the fruit of a life lived for the glory of god within the Christian agrarian paradigm:

“It is this light, shining from the homes of godly families, living simply and separately for His glory, that will have a far greater impact for the Kingdom of God than any well-funded, well-organized, topdown, Christian-political movement or parachurch ministry. God always works from the bottom-up. He uses the poor, the weak, and the humble far more than He does the rich and successful.”

You say you don’t want to be part of a “people movement.” Well neither do I. Been there, done that. Republican politics. Parachurch ministries. I don’t want to be a part of any manmade “movement” and I have publicly stated that I don’t want to be a part of any attempt to turn whatever-you-want-to-call-this-thing-that-the-Lord-is-doing into an organization. Read my blog titled, Starting a National Christian Agrarian Association.

As for all Christians going back to the land, I’ve never said all Christians should do this. I would never say such a thing. That’s not for me to say. I’m not the leader of a movement here. God moves in His people’s hearts and uses them, as it pleases Him, for His good purposes, and He does not call us all to the same “ministry” in life. Some will hear His call to separate their families from the city and pursue a rural, agrarian, lifestyle because they see it as a setting in which they can best raise a family for His glory. That is a huge part of why I am here on the land. I grew up in the suburbs of a large city. I know from personal experience that is not the best setting for raising a family. But I suppose that is something the Lord has clearly showed me. That is not the case with others (but it does appear to be moreso in this day).

My writings are intended to paint a picture of life as I believe it is best lived. I present my own family and the life we lead as a testimony to God’s goodness within this kind of lifestyle (agrarian). In so doing, my writings may introduce others to an idea that they have never considered. Or, perhaps they have considered it, and the Lord is speaking to them, but they need encouragement to do that which they are called to do (that is what I hear from most people). Frankly, most modern Christians do not know the extent of their bondage to the industrialized culture.

Christian agrarianism is, to my way of thinking, about separating ourselves from the very worst of the ungodly Industrial culture of our day, including Industrialized Christianity. I wrote about this in my blog essay titled, Syncretism vs Christian Agrarianism.

I like your final paragraph, your “final verdict” on “Christian agrarianism.” I appreciate what the Lord has led you to do. Many others will, I’m sure, also appreciate knowing about your family journey, and I will do what I can to direct them to your site. What you are doing by living your Christian life within the agrarian setting is, as far as I can see, edifying to the body of Christ, and it is a witness to unbelievers. You are glorifying God with the life you are living. That is what Christianity is all about.

My final verdict is that I don’t much care whether you call yourself a Christian agrarian or not.That is really unimportant. But please be careful not to misunderstand or misconstrue anything I have ever said about “Christian agrarianism.” It is merely a defining term, and I do think it is important to define our terms in order to better understand what we are talking about.

My sincere best wishes,

Herrick Kimball
(a.k.a., The Deliberate Agrarian)

Ethan said...

(a different Ethan)

- Seems there are good movements and bad ones. Jesus started a pretty good one, so did Luther and so did the Founding Fathers. The good ones aren't always perfect of course. Movements are really like world views, you can't get away from them. You are always headed in one direction or another.

- I have read Herrick and others quite a bit. I think the qualification of Christian in respect to term agrarian isn't an attempt to Christianize it but instead to clarify it.

- Would be hard to tell if God is moving mens hearts back to the land or not. One would have to be able to look back a hundred or so years from now. The expectation that for God to be moving that he must be moving all mens hearts at the same point in time is unreasonable. Isn't it possible that what we are seeing is work that has just begun? Personally speaking, I am being moved. Not sure what or who is doing it but I am being moved and when I talk to other men that don't even know what the term agrarian means they are being moved also. This has been very surprising to me. Perhaps we have just come to the end of the line as to what this culture has to offer.

Ethan Book said...

Hmm... okay, instead of saying movement lets call it a "Reformation"! :) I can get behind a reformation, and I do believe that our culture (including aspects of the church culture) need to be reformed.

If you have surfed to this post recently I encourage you to check out Mr. Kimball's latest entry and my response there. I would openly admit to being an aspiring (since I live in town) Christian agrarian according to the definition, I just would say for myself that I am a Christian. Somewhat along those lines, I don't walk around telling people I'm Baptist, I just tell them I'm Christian. Besides, I don't even know if I'm Baptist since I've also worked at Lutheran and PCA churches! :)

It will be interesting to see some comments if anyone else checks out the writings. I believe the way of life (the Bibilical worldview life) should not be up for debate. I was debating mostly the use of the term and the possible implications.

Thank you for any and all comments! I truly appreciate the discussion.

Yeoman said...

This is an interesting entry, and I'm glad you posted it.

I've been reading Herrick Kimball's blog recently, after discovering that there are now a selection of agrarian blogs. Several years ago I had one, and it was the only one I could find at the time, I've since done it in.

One of the things I've struggled around is the same thing you note here, that is the association with Christianity with Agrarianism in this fashion. I am a Christian (Roman Catholic), and I hope that it is central to my identity. It does seem to me that living close to the land helps religious people remain close to what is real. At the same time, however, I think there is a danger is associating Christianity with Agrarianism.

The reason I think that is dangerous is several fold. For one thing, as Christians, everything we do should have been considered in a Christian context. If being an agrarian keeps us closer to God, that's a good thing. But I wouldn't say that Christianity mandates a person be an Agrarian. That would be in error. Being an agrarian may complement our Christianity, but it is not necessary for it.

Additionally, there's always a danger amongst religious, and philosophical people, in equating their philosophical beliefs with their religious ones. Many religious people come to assert that what is actually a philosophical, not theological, belief is a theological belief. As that's an error, it weakens both beliefs.

Steven said...

These have all been great posts! I don't think I can get myself to think so deeply about it, so close to a Holiday, to try to explain how I feel about the label or the ideas.

On a lighter note... did anyone see the "King Of the Hill" episode about organic food and grass-fed beef? I watched it at fox.com last night. It was GREAT!!! as usual it was very funny but it was also very informative. Imagine that! I don't watch much tv, and I don't have cable, but this show can't be missed by someone that's looking into agrarianism...
They change the shows available on fox.com probably weekly, so if you want to see if you have to watch it soon.

Ethan Book said...

Steven - Thanks for the link. I watched it this afternoon while I was finishing up some work and it was amazing. I'm going to throw the link up for everyone to see, because I think it was a really good advertisement for grass finished beef and even organic produce.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post. I see that you are following the calling that God has for you. I praise God that His calling is not exactly the same for everyone.
I realize that back in the 70's as I followed God's calling while farming that He is able to take someone from one occupation to another to serve Him. Since then He has taken me to serve Him in many areas like working as an electrician, plumber, carpenter, pastor, machinist, teacher, mechanic, and a host of other things. It is amazing the people that God has put in my path to minister to. I think of the apostle Paul being sent to prison by a sovereign God to win over the Roman Guard
I praise God for the adventure He has put you on. Might you be blessed as you continue to seek to serve Him with your whole heart.

My prayer for you and others is to willingly serve the sovereign God where he has planted you.

In Christ's service,

Ryan said...

I ran across the Deliberate Agrarian and this blog by searching google for a better way to live...I don't remember the actual search words :). After a 6 month furlough from work when my daughter was born, we took action on a life of work, eat, sleep for more, more, more and decided to work to directly feed, shelter and clothe ourselves. We are just beginning and have a lot to learn, but the goal is to use money as little as possible.

I feel God has been moving us in this direction for quite some time now and this month we are going to meet with a landowner out in the country. I believe that living a simple life, not driven by stuff and money is very biblical, urban or rural, and one can be very agrarian in town. (I'm not a very good "dumb rule" follower so I have a few chickens in town :)

About the "labels" or categories, it's how we humans relate to life....as for the movements...they are just a fad that catches on nation wide.

I'll be following your blog, Ethan, as well as reading up on The Deliberate Agrarian. I look forward to learning about the life ahead of us.

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