Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What is the Home for?

I've been reading quite a bit of Wendell Berry lately. Some friends visited the other night, and we began discussing the state of marriage and family today, which reminded me of the following quote, which we read aloud and discussed:
What Are People For?: Essays“Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate ‘relationship’ involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the ‘married’ couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other.” - From What Are People For? p180.
After reading the quote I was also reminded of another:
“The modern household is the place where the consumptive couple do their consuming. Nothing productive is done there. Such work as is done there is done at the expense of the resident couple or family, and to the profit of suppliers of energy and household technology. For entertainment, the inmates consume television or purchase other consumable diversion elsewhere.”
These quotes shed much light on the problem of parenting in the modern household for me. Most couples have no inherent concept in their minds of the purpose of their home. It has by default been defined as a place to escape from work or school, rest from work in various forms (TV, yard work, video games, read), or catch up on extra work from the office. But the home in and of itself has very little productive function for the family. It has little unifying effect on a family, in fact, most families are highly divided in their own home – each person slipping off into their separate spheres of escape. (Thus the modern generational divided church is really just a natural result of what has already been occurring in the home for decades.) It should come as no surprise then that many adults and children want to escape the home altogether, chasing children and their activities all over the city. For many it is easier to escape the confusion of the home than to fight for unity among the family in the home.

It should also come as no surprise that it is incredibly difficult to engage children with household chores, as there is no immediate connection to such work and meaning in their lives. There was a day when if one did not engage in household work (gather eggs, milk the cow, can the vegetables, etc.) then you very well may have starved, or at the very least have been very hungry. Now the solution, if one is hungry, is not to work harder at home, it is to go make a purchase.

What is the Home for? This is the problematic question any couple must wrestle with. For us, the home is a place where we certainly do some of the above time-wasters, but predominantly in our minds, our home is a place for fostering relationships with each other and with neighbors with the hopes that some may come to know Christ. It’s almost like the neighborhood pub, but with sweet tea on tap instead.

That night our friends lamented the way one couple they know are so scattered by their kids activities. I concluded, "I don’t think your friends that are smothered and scattered by child sports will be able to change their behavior until they wrestle with the question of the purpose of their home, until they can answer together, 'What is our home for?'"

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