My friend Barnaby recommended this book (so far, all of his book recommendations have scratched an itch, including Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life and The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober). As anticipated, this one didn’t disappoint.
I especially appreciate how the author, C.R. Wiley, stays clear of any sort of “self-help” style approach on the topic of the importance of the household, and its relation to the created order (i,e., cosmos). Instead, a thoughtful exploration unfolds, featuring provocative insights on piety, the natural family, and the economy of the household.
“The household is not just a shelter from a war zone; it is the command center from which we launch our attacks. It’s this vision of the world, with the Christian family at the heart, that modern parents desperately need to recover.”
- Historically, the household has been the basis for the formation of all other social institutions — school, church, business enterprise, city, nation. As the household goes, so go all other institutions of society [from the Foreword via Nancy Pearcey]
- Paradoxically, many of the other institutions in our society that once relied upon the household have turned against it. Everything from multi-national corporations to public schools now dismiss traditional household norms as retrograde and even oppressive.
- If I were to sum up this book with a single idea it would be this: household piety is as big as the cosmos. It connects you to everything because it is at the center of everything else.
- Essentially [historically] a household was an authority structure. The reason that authority was essential is because a household was an economy. The etymology of that word tells a story. It derived from two Greek words, oikos, meaning house, and nomos, meaning law; an economy was the law of the house.
- Households produced food, clothing, and nearly else worth having. And on top of that, they were social welfare agencies, educating the young, and caring for the elderly. People depended on them for almost everything.
- Today we largely think of our homes as recreation centers. That’s because in the Industrial Revolution most of the productive economy moved out of the house. Because of this, some people have wondered, just what is a father for? But in the first century a father’s authority was unquestioned.
- This is why [now] fatherhood itself has been repurposed. Now dad is a buddy, or second mommy. The goal of the friendship and nurture is the happiness of the child, as in, “I just want him/her/it to be happy.”
- It is hard to see how duty can apply to the modern family. Duty impresses a structured hierarchy onto our lives. Duty never says, “You be you,” or “Go ahead and do what makes you happy.” Duty says, “This is who you are; do what is required.”
- [On honor] Honor bound the members of a household together so that what brought honor to one brought honor to all, and what caused dishonor for one brought the whole family into disrepute.
- What we really need is a recovery of a way of life. The codes outlined a way to order our households so that they can serve as microcosms of the largest order of them all.
- Once you know what a household looks like you can see that the Bible is a kind of handbook for the household.
- For people in the first century the world was a cosmos, a sacred order; and it was filled with other beings, some of whom were people, while others were gods. And you owned them, piety paid its debts.
- The thing about pietas that you can’t miss is its social character. It didn’t isolate you; instead it bound you to everything else. It was the glue of the world: things divine and human things, matter and spirit, the past and the future…and, the generations.
- Being remembered is more important than you may suppose. It means that your story doesn’t come to an end when you do. People can get so bound up in your story that they hope for the same things that you hoped for, and live for the same things you lived for.
- That a war could be pious is incomprehensible to many people. One of the reasons for this is that we don’t feel a compelling need to provide for our heirs. Modern life is more regulated and prosperous than ancient people could have imagined.
- Our inability to understand this has something to do with the fact that people no longer see themselves as part of a line. Instead, we think of ourselves as points — disconnected, isolated, and seemingly self-contained points.
- A valuable insight that is reflected in Latin is the word for house: the word domus. Not only is that the root of domestic, it is also the root of the word dominion. In the same way, the cosmos is like a great house, one that is divinely ordered.
- A conjugal union is just the beginning; one flesh also refers to the natural issue of that of children. And it goes even beyond that: it is a union of interests, of goods, and a common future. It means that what goes for one, goes for the other.
- It means that, in a real way, conjugal marriage is the end of the world. It connects this world to the next, it unites Heaven and earth, and it is a sign that reads, “This is the way the world will end, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with wedding bells.”
- [From the Epilogue] That little tune that your household sings is in harmony with the music of the spheres, and that harmony restores many things that the enemy has perverted.
- [From the Epilogue] There was another garden to tend to. And there still is. Every household should hold something that husbands and wives can tend together so that they can be fruitful in every way. What they tend to should be theirs, otherwise they work for someone else.
- [From the Epilogue] So fight the good fight. Go home, build a house, and if you do it in the right way, you will give the world a glimpse of things to come. There is nothing more terrifying to the principalities than this.
Disclaimer: These Reading Notes are not a replacement for reading the book — just a sampling of my personal notes (copyright to the author), and potentially out of context.