Posted: 21 Jul 2011 05:02 AM PDT
I find it interesting to read these 'textbooks', books written by people in the academic community. This one was the result of a bunch of research on families living in Canada from 1850-1940.
It's interesting to me for a couple of reasons. One, families are the basic unit of all civilization and to see the family in it's various forms throughout time is very instructive. I like to understand how the family has morphed and changed with the needs and demands placed on it.
Two, it gives me a further insight into the Canadian psyche and helps me to understand where as a culture they have been and a better glimpse at where they might go in the future. Third, it's interesting to compare what we as a church were saying to those families during those times, and how sometimes, we are still emphasizing things that were important back then, but may not be as applicable today. There are a lot of parallels to families back then and today, but there are some differences.
Here's what I learned:
Economics have an enormous impact on families. We are in an age of prosperity right now, children don't work and contribute to the family like they did in the 1800's. Their focus is education and training. Prosperity has given us that ability. It's not like that around the world, and it's hard to tell what comes first, prosperity or a shift in the moral code of families that emphasizes education over work.
The way that we are interdependent has changed. In those days, families were self-sustaining economic units that purchased very little. They were connected through helping one another as neighbors. Today, we aren't self-sustaining at all, but rather sophisticated consumers, purchasing everything and producing only one thing through our training or experience in a narrow part of the economy (job, career). This has shifted the balance inside of families and outside of families.
Back then people married and had families to physically survive, today it seems people leave families and leave marriages in order to emotionally survive. Emotional needs are more important to us today than they were back then. Physical needs were more important back then.
I learned where the Children's Aid Society got it's start, and I could see the seeds of the welfare system that was rolled out in the Great Depression and continues today. The toll on the people that were recipients of aid was well documented and disturbing. More disturbing was reading about Native and Inuit families in those years and how the different attempts at helping them turned out. It's incomprehensible.
Mankind clearly doesn't have an answer for the problems of mankind. We are making things worse and that's when we don't try to do anything about it. When we do, it's often worse than if we had done nothing.
The book I read was used, and the person that read it before me was interested in the role of women throughout the research. My guess would be that they were of the feminist leaning. They highlighted the abuse of women and children through economic hardships and then the shift in the role of women and children in the family through the shift to industry (jobs, career) that happened in the early 1900's. Their notes in the margin were full of passion. Even that was helpful to me, as that is clearly a sentiment in our culture, and it helps me to understand their thought process.
I'm more open now to allowing some flexibility in the dynamics of a family after reading this. It's obvious that families and some of the dynamics have shifted throughout time. There are still some principles that the Bible gives us, love, respect, honor, provide, teach, train, remind, obey, be considerate, but there is still some ambiguity. Any family in an urban, suburban, rural, Western, Eastern, New World and Old World can be mature in these things and still look different than each other. There's a lot of wisdom in the Bible.
I see too, how it's only by the Holy Spirit that we are a blessing to each other. One of the quotes that stuck out to me, was that inside families we are at the same time the best and worst to each other, abusive and nurturing. How we desparately need the wisdom of the Spirit of the Living God and his unconditional love spilling out of us and grace between us.