In the previous post, we covered the first part of the gender roles dilemma. We turn our attention now to the latter half of the issue – the priority of the home.
Or, should I say the loss of the priority of the home?
In her insightful book on worldview titled Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey chronicles how we came to the place where so little of our lives actually happens in our homes. It surely has not always been so. Allow me to attempt a far too brief summary of Pearcey’s research.
In older cultures, especially the Jewish one of the Bible, life centered in and around the home. The family was the basic unit of a local economy, with husbands, wives and children all contributing to the family business. Dads were in and around the home a lot. Dads were expected to be the primary teachers of children, especially in religion and history (sounds like Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78 to me). Due to proximity to the home, it was more common for Dads to also be engaged in household chores, child-rearing, and the like. This by no means implies gender roles were not well understood. Indeed, each member of the family had a job to perform to contribute to the overall health of the home and the community. But, in general, the family had to function as a team, and most everything in life found its locus in the home.
This was the model of life in America, too, well into the 19th century. Pearcey points out how common it was for local economies to be family-based and family-driven. Furthermore, Dads in America were the primary teachers and trainers of children in those days, especially in matters of religion and business acumen. While it may shock some readers, Pearcey also asserts that Dads in early America were working out of the home or on the family property, and were thus around children all day and did lots of nurturing activities. One of the most interesting facts she dug up was that up until the early 1900s, cookbooks were all written and addressed to men! So, the view we have been harboring of domineering, unloving Puritan Dads is obviously mistaken.
So, what happened? In a phrase – The Industrial Revolution. It demanded men now work outside the home to keep the family fed and keep the nation growing. It left women to do everything around the house and with the children. Women now were not needed so much as economic contributors. The natural result of this was to make women feel less valued, and the sin nature in men caused them to “rub it in” if you will. This set off a series of knee-jerk reactions: women resenting being treated like second-class citizens in their own homes; men all too easily giving up the role as primary religious instructor; women fighting for the right to enter the workforce to regain their sense of value; men trying to dominate them in the workforce via discrimination; women insisting on more-than-equal treatment and fighting to prove they could do anything men could do; men going hog wild to prove their manly distinction from women; women trying then to tame or domesticate those insensitive pigs called men (recall that women were the main instigators of Prohibition). You see the progression of the dilemma, right?
Remember our previous discussion on the War created by the entrance of sin into this world? Pearcey is simply tracing how the war begun in Eden progressed through American culture. And the tragic results of all this on us today?
Children being raised by day care workers (or family members who are typically too old/tired for that task).
Children being taught and trained by anyone and everyone other than parents.
Women struggling to be the spiritual leaders in the home due to workaholic men.
The absence of men in the church.
Divorce and remarriage to the Nth degree.
Fatherlessness. Single Parenting.
Virtually all spiritual instruction being left up to the teachers in the church, for an hour each week.
Virtually all activity of the family residing outside the home (even “family activities” are outside homes today).
The horrific results of the Gender Wars as described so powerfully and convincingly by Peacey are seen and experienced by all of us every single day. Put simply – we have lost the priority of the home.
It’s critical to know where we’ve been, where we are, and the way forward. So, what is the way forward? How do we regain the clear biblical design of the home, where Dads and Moms are working together to invest heavily in their children to raise up godly seed? Where Dad is respected as the head of the wife and home, even as he submits to the Head of all heads – King Jesus? Where Moms are treasured and valued and celebrated as not just nurturers, but as co-partners in making the whole family and home a place of great peace and prosperity under Christ’s Lordship? How do we re-capture this biblical vision? Is it even possible in our economy and culture today?
Yes, it is possible, but admittedly extremely difficult. It demands we sacrifice the American Dream that is so enthralling us. It demands we downgrade lifestyles and find our contentment in the Lord Jesus and the joy of just investing in our home lives. It requires us to perhaps cut out some hobbies, sports, facebooking, TV-watching, and the list goes on. While we need not eliminate all these things, we must be willing to simplify and streamline our lives in order to spend far greater amounts of time reading and discussing Scripture in our homes. More time singing and praying and worshipping in our homes. More time just being together at home (and no, each person texting in a different room does not count). Break out the Bibles and Checker boards. Take long walks and share your hearts for God and His glory in creation. Go visit an elderly neighbor as a family and pray with him/her. Take your children with you as much and as often as possible in your daily routines. Fight for God’s vision for home, realizing we all need the grace of God in Christ to accomplish anything of spiritual significance or value.
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our daily lives really do show where our treasure is, don’t they? How we spend our time tells the story of our treasure. How we spend our money, too.
The issue is not so much that we all need to return to farming the family land (most of us have no land today). Nor is the issue that women need to stay at home constantly while men stay at work constantly. No, no! That is what is causing this war! Christian friends, the issue has always been and will always be our hearts.
If the Lord makes us willing, and gives us His passion and vision for the priority of our homes, nothing or no one will stop us! Our families and homes will slowly but surely begin to change, until our neighbors think us somewhat weird while secretly longing to know the fullness of joy we so obviously display.
God help us get back to the priority of home. Once again “turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6).