The kingdom of God is like a farm

Nineteenth-century agrarians believed that community is more important than the individual and solidarity is more important than profit.

This book could be categorized as a paean to the rural life movement in U.S. Protestantism during the first half of the 20th century. Alternatively, it might be seen as a powerful precursor of Christian ecotheology and other contemporary trends. Both are accurate.

Kevin Lowe presents a new history of agrarianism, which opposed the industrialization of agriculture primarily be­cause of its negative impact on rural communities. Participants in the movement believed that community is more important than the individual, solidarity is more important than profit, and one should put one’s neighbor and the Earth before oneself. These tenets are both currently relevant and blatantly nostalgic.

What is most striking in this history is the degree to which agrarian thinkers of the early 20th century believed that they should and could influence national policy. These Christian leaders boldly claimed that they were building the kingdom of God and that God was present in their work. They called on legislators, presidents, and other citizens to support their vision. And they succeeded. Theo­dore Roosevelt created the Com­mission on Country Life, intended to promote rural development, and FDR helped create farm subsidy legislation. What emerges from this story is how many current programs and organizations have antecedents in that movement.