If the following article by Kevin Swanson inspires you to take economics back to the family, then make sure you register for the Family Economics and Mentorship Conference! You’ll be challenged by Kevin Swanson and many others to think biblically about Biblical economics!
The family has disintegrated in the 21st century. This is the inescapable conclusion of many of today’s social indicators. With 41% of children born into homes without fathers, half of marriages ending in divorce, and the shack-up rate seven times what it was in 1970, the nuclear family now makes up less than half of American households. Most of us are past the denial stage on this point.
This said, Americans on the whole are apathetic toward the crisis. Some say the family is irrelevant to society anyway, while others suggest that an occasional family game night will solve the problem. Few are really taking this social trend seriously.
Today, most twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings see no need for the nuclear family. We all know these people. They are our neighbors, our extended family members, and people who attend church with us.
Each generation is successively worse than the previous, and the problem is getting harder to ignore. In 1960, 70% of young men showed maturity by age 30, while, today, the opposite is true: 70% of young men are not “grown up” by 30 years of age. Today, 70% of children will not grow up with their mothers and fathers at home, and the trend is only growing more bleak. In twenty years, there will be very few young men who are grown up enough to provide for their wives and children.
The family is dying a slow and miserable death in the West. Ultimately, it is a failure of the Christian faith and life that brought about our present predicament, though all of our institutions have contributed to it. There are several institutional forces that have worked hard to dismantle the family over about the last six generations. Our colleges, universities, K-12 schools, churches, corporations, and governments have marginalized the family unit because they do not see the family as integral to the socio-economic system.
Our Goal: Recontruct the Biblical Family
So how should we respond to this travesty? To the present milieu, we apply the words of Jesus: “[T]he two shall become one flesh. . . . they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. (Matthew 19:5-6).
While it may be inconvenient to universities and corporations, the family is important to God. In the above statement, Jesus seems to be most concerned by the many efforts that men put into disintegrating the family. The notion that divorce is the only thing that fragments a family is foolish, for there are a hundred other forces at work. Divorce is only the R.I.P. sign on the family’s grave.
Our goal must then be to reconstruct the family, and the hearts of men must change for this to happen. We must therefore call men and women to repent of their pre-marital fornication and their unwillingness to follow God’s order. The Gospel calls us to repentance and faith in Christ, and biblical churches must preach this at every opportunity.
But we must also address the institutional forces that are constantly at work to separate the oneness of marriage. Many churches do not teach the integrity of the household unit, though families in the New Testament served God together (Stephanas), believed together (Cornelius), were baptized together (Lydia, Philippian Jailer, Cornelius, etc.), worked together (Aquila and Priscilla), and were disciplined together (Ananias and Sapphira). You will see the same pattern in the Old Testament. Church leaders must study the Bible and teach proper theology relating to the family.
Economic Retrograde: From Strength to Servitude
Economic forces have devastated family integrity as well. In the opening paragraphs in his famous autobiography written in 1888, the missionary John Paton commented that the destruction of the family farm and the family economy in Scotland did not have to happen, but that “the loss to the nation as a whole [was] vital, if not irreparable.”
When fathers and mothers left their homes for corporate jobs, their children were initially turned over to the capitalist corporation. Subsequently, the children were then passed off to the state by way of the child labor and compulsory attendance laws. The same thing is happening to our wives now, as their medical insurance and social security have moved from the corporation to the state by way of Obamacare.
Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton argued for a “third way” in place of capitalism and communism. They argued that a family-based economy with a wide-spread ownership of property (debt-free) would protect “primal family relations and the home economy.” They warned that “measures such as unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, and national health insurance constituted a dangerous new form of servitude.”
Family Fragmentation: Socialism Fills the Void
In the political sphere, the household was fragmented when each adult in the family could vote for a different candidate. While this is the most controversial element of the discussion, it must be addressed when we look at what caused the disintegration of the family unit in terms of its relationship with the state. The separation of family members has been a vital contributor to the success of socialism in modern nations.
The rumblings from this upheaval are not limited to some faraway Marxist regime. The most significant socialist voting base that led to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 was single women. Where there is no family to provide “social” security, the socialist state does the honors. As long as the majority of households are led by single women, and the nuclear family makes up less than half of American households, we will never see a reprieve in the rise in big government. Government will continue to expand until economic collapse occurs—or we repent.
The Demise of the Family Economy
All of these factors have worked to break down the unity of biblical marriage and the household. But by far the strongest external force that has worked to separate the oneness of the family is the modern economic system.
For 6,000 years, families worked together: David feeding his father’s sheep, Rachel feeding her father’s sheep, Joseph feeding his father’s sheep, and Aquila and Priscilla working together as tentmakers. Since the Industrial Revolution and the family-fragmenting economies of the last six generations, the family economy is virtually dead. Households are saddled with 20 times the debt slavery than they were in 1900 (adjusted for inflation), 10 times more government control and taxation (as a percentage of the GNI), and 10 times more corporate slavery.
It is practically impossible to maintain much of a family economy while a thousand little slave-drivers tie down the average man. So our children are plugged into the state as early as their pre-school or kindergarten years, and eventually wander away from their families while ever-increasing odds predict that most will never start their own family.
Consider this illustration: The average kid (we’ll call him David) enrolls in college two thousand miles from home, gets an apartment, and plays computer games until he’s 29. David hooks up with Rachel for three months, and thinks about having kids when he’s 48. Meanwhile Rachel goes off to college, gets her little career going, tries not to get pregnant, but bears one or two kids by the time she’s 45 years old (whether or not she is married). She doesn’t need a husband because she has her corporate job and Barack Obama to take care of her.
The above scenario is hardly fictional. As of this year, half of children born to women 30 years and younger are born out of wedlock. The disintegration of the American family is real and atrocious.
But what happens to a society where the nuclear family is in the minority, and dysfunctionality is the norm? Dysfunctionality gives rise to more dysfunctionality. The law of sowing and reaping is inevitable; we reap more than we sow—and absent a fundamental change of course, the unsavory harvest of broken families will only get worse over time. Without the radical reintegration of the family economy and family education, we will fail to salvage civilization.
Back to Basics: Restoring the Family Economy
Homeschooling plays an important part in the vision to re-integrate the family. It is a part of a larger vision, for education is a subsidiary of economics. One of the chief ministry objectives of Generations with Vision and Vision Forum Ministries is to urge fathers to get involved in their families, and many dads now “get it.” They, alongside their wives, are striving to re-integrate the family in the area of education.
Homeschooling is family-based education, but what about family-based economics? Through our children’s education, we prepare them for their future work, and, thankfully, the vision to cultivate family-based economics is growing. Especially during this economic downturn, we have begun to see families pulling together and developing their income streams. When folks ask me if we are a one-income family or a two-income family, I tell them that we are a seven-income family! Everybody pulls together. Each player is vital to the team, and everybody works.
We are not speaking of the “traditional” family here, where the father works and the mother stays home. Nor is it the latchkey family where children are raised by the state to play their part in the statist economy. Rather it is an “oikonomia,” the Greek word that our English word, “economics,” is taken from. The Greek word “oikonomia,” technically translates as “The Law of the Family.”
From the beginning, the basic economic unit was not the individual, but the family. Proverbs 31 was clear: “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her so that he shall have no need of spoil.” What it doesn’t say is, “The heart of her corporate boss and seven layers of bureaucracy doth safely trust in her.” The Bible counts on the family economy being unified and integrated.
One of the reasons why young men are playing computer games at 29, and young men 25-35 years of age are the only demographic making less money than they did in 1970, is that they were not trained to work when they were young boys. For the last three generations, young men have not been mentored by their own fathers. “School,” as traditionally configured, does not train a boy to work. To wait until a boy is 16 or 18 years old before you put him to work is to make a grave error, and we are suffering the consequences of it.
Fathers and mothers must train their sons and daughters to contribute to their household economy from the beginning. Then, these parents will have an inheritance to give their children, and their children will take care of them in their old age. Within the family economy, we have more opportunity for discipleship, family integration, and the preparation of our sons and daughters for their own family economy.
The Time for Reform Is Now
What do you do with a society where the young 30-year-old men are playing computer games, and the 65-year-old men are playing golf? What happens to a society where there are far more retirees than Generation Y’s in the work force, especially if the social security system is nearing bankruptcy?
This is where we are today, and the economic situation is dire. Unless we change the way we educate, the way we do our economics, and the way we integrate our families, I tremble to think of what will happen in the upcoming decades.
Now is the time to redefine a biblical economy based upon the re-integration of the family.
By Kevin Swanson
Homeschooled himself in the 1960′s and 70′s, Kevin Swanson and his wife, Brenda, are now homeschooling their five children. Kevin has 35 years of experience in the homeschooling movement and serves as the Director of Generations with Vision – a ministry he founded to strengthen homeschool families around the country. As a father who wants to leave a godly heritage for his own five children, Kevin’s passion is to strengthen and encourage the homeschooling movement all over the world, and to cast a vision for generations to come.
This article was originally published on Generations with Vision. Used by permission of Kevin Swanson. © 2013 Generations with Vision. All Rights Reserved.
“Harvest Time,” © 2010 Ian Britton. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.
“Video Games,” © 2011 Steven Andrew. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.