Just about skipped over reading this book. Books about home and family and marriage tend to not interest me. What I find is that I can read them, but my wife doesn’t apply what the books are teaching, and why should I be the one to make changes in our home, marriage, and family? And there is the guilt load from realizing how far I fall short of being the husband, father, family leader, and shepherd I should be.
So, I was highly inclined to give this book a pass by. And yet, I finally felt guilted into reading it by Brian Kohl who works for Canon Press. So, just to be nice, I read it.
On the one hand, I am always in need of another set of exhortations, rebukes, occasional encouragements, and out right slaps in the face over family matters. Spiritual, moral, economic, and practical lessons for life together as a family, in a shared space, and amongst wife and children are needed. I agreed to read the book just to subject myself to such.
But that is not what Wiley’s book is about. I was not prepared for the greater issue of his book. The Household and the War for the Cosmos is not a manual for home life. It is a call for the greater entity than just husband and wife or parents and children. This book is about the household. And what does that mean?
The future of civilization is not merely dependent upon males and females getting married and then having babies, although that is essential. The household is a structure, a hierarchy, an order that is part of the greater order that God has created. It is rooted and focused on the past and is aiming toward the future.
Part of what is fascinating about Wiley’s book is his discussion and comparison between what Abraham did and what Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome, did in The Aeneid. There was a piety, an out of date and out of use, but vitally essential word, that characterized both men and their missions.
So often we miss the big picture because we are lost in the focus on the smaller angles of the smaller pictures. We need to save babies, stop the encroachments upon family freedoms, keep couples together, maintain proper and biblical gender roles, and more. The brush fires against family are many. But to expand that analogy, if we have many brushfires, the greater danger is a huge wind that will spread and increase the flames all across the landscape.
Wiley uses and likes the term “Guerrilla Piety.” He also likes the Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, which he views as a handbook for such piety. This is a militant book. But again, this is not the Benedict Option or the call for an Amish retreat. The household is the center and fulcrum of the debates across the land.
Part of what I keep thinking from my 2 enjoyable readings of this book is that the ideal family is not the primary goal. We can have the idealized family notions with just the right amount of fatherly leadership, wifely/motherly submission and co-reigning, children nurturing and catechizing, societal withdrawal, courtship driven marriage planning, family worship, and perfection. Only, I never achieved any of that when my children were small, and now my youngest is 18.
And if I fell short of the marks, I must admit that my own parents and my wife’s parents fell even more short of the mark. But we (my wife and I) and my children were and are blessed because the imperfect, stumbling, struggling, often chaotic homes we had and have were, nevertheless, stable and Christian. In military terms, we were not elite special fighting units, but we did wage war and never considered surrendering to the enemy.
America is a mess right now. We are living through the worst time in all of our history, except for all those other times which were also the worst times in our history. Voter fraud doesn’t happen, but systemic racism does. The printing presses that “make money” are rivaling those of the Weimar Republic of old. Political satire and political reality are indistinguishable. Several people have said, in my hearing, that they really feel sorry for the young who will have to live with the consequences of these times.
I, on the other hand, envy the young. God’s plan for the household. God’s order for confronting the flimsy idols of our time. God’s raucous laughter (see Psalm 2) at the pantywaist plastic sword wielding powers of our age. God’s promises of victory over all of His and our enemies. As many as the blazes are. As mighty as the wind that threatens to fan the flames. God’s flooding will extinguish the fire and drench the enemies totally.
The most basic patterns set forth in Scripture do not begin with a political program or a top-down Washington set of guidelines for changing the culture. Look to the household. This is not said to minimize the role of the church, which is, ideally, made largely up of and training, households. Parents, children, grandparents, relatives, and others brought into the circle of the family bonds are the means to confront the culture.
Oh sure, we need to sharpen the edges of our husband and wife relationships and communication. And for certain, we need some more instruction on training our children. And yes, yes, yes, to Christian education. And yes as well to training Christians to be good citizens. And yes to evangelism and a thousand other issues. But let’s center on the household.
I strongly suggest that this book not be ordered singly, but in multiples of ten. Groups and Sunday school classes need to read and discuss this work. Like I said, I read it twice. Another two readings wouldn’t “do me no hurt” (to quote Mother York from the movie Sgt. York).