Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Ever-Loving Family

Periodically, I read good books that I would like to share with someone, so I thought I might begin posting brief observations on the blog about a few of the works from which I have benefitted.

We are living in an era of Western history in which the family as God designed it to be is crumbling as a social institution. This is not to say that the family is becoming extinct. Mankind would have to become extinct before the family would disappear. Nevertheless, it is certainly the case that the pagan attack on the family as God intends it to be is increasingly institutionalized as the norm in our society.

Sadly, historians and sociologist who deal with the family have contributed greatly to this pagan redefinition of the family. Throughout the 1960s and 70s ideologically driven scholars worked hard to re-write history according to their assumptions, and the result is that many people have a terribly skewed notion of the natural family. Many people assume that the pre-modern family was oppresive towards women and incompetent towards children. Others believe that the family is simply an evolving form of human relationship that has no fixed identity, nature, or purpose; hence, we are free to define it and practice it as we wish.

All of these misconceptions are dealt a healthy blow by the work of Steven Ozment. Several years ago I read his When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe, and I was impressed with his even-handed and clear-sighted treatment of his subject. Recently, I had the opportunity to read Ancestors: The Loving Family in Old Europe , and once again I came away thankful for Ozment's accurate historical treatment. The blurb on the back cover expresses well the gist of the book:

Here Ozment, the leading historian of the family in the middle centuries, replaces the often miserable depiction of premodern family relations with a delicately nuanced portrait of a vibrant and loving social group. Mining the records of families' private lives - from diaries and letters to fiction and woodcuts - Ozment shows us a preindustrial family not very different from the later family of high industry....

When the history of the family is viewed accurately, it becomes increasingly evident that God's design for the family truly is best for everyone - men, women, and children.

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