It would be years before I learned to appreciate rural places in their complexity, to see their beauty without sacrificing their reality.
Because, like most rural communities, my small town is and was a complicated place. The rural communities I serve now are just as complex.
There might be rolling fields of produce, but they employ fewer and fewer people. People are friendly, but often only after a long initiation (my parents bought our house in 1989, but my father is still not considered a local). And in an age where fear is the dominant political language, suspicion of the stranger can twist strong community ties into an impenetrable knot.
Berry, of course, recognizes that the communities he writes about aren’t simple. In several of his essays in “What Matters: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth,” he insists on understanding the complexity of an economy and rebukes the fantasy of simple solutions.
In his work, I catch glimpses of the places in which I’ve served and lived. Berry knows about and portrays this other version of rural. But he doesn’t linger in the grittiness of it before moving back to the ideal.
Read all of "Why I hate Wendell Berry" by Allen T. Stanton at Faith & Leadership.