As with any well-structured piece of apologetic work, Mr. Wilson has outlined his primary thesis in the 3-page introduction. Some quotes will illustrate the perspective that makes up this book. I think this is important to recognize not just because some of the primary theses he describes are so unpopular today: but because these primary theses are at the foundation of many of the perspectives we see in our world today. His arguments sound might even sound good on the surface, but he attacks much of the work in gender and sexual equality over the decades. His theories didn’t work then, and don’t work now: they have lost many of their outward trappings since the 1970s, but the core remains the same.
“The value of my argument is in showing that all of the various aspects of life are related”. He will go through 16 chapters in which he tries to show how history and life and the Bible converge on a narrow set of God-ordained possibilities over thousands of years. His thesis is then presented in the next paragraph. Much though the first sentence could be the reflection of thousands of people who argue for “traditional” marriage today, they would be less willing to admit the secondary sections… in spite of their Biblical support. In spite of their claim to fundamentalism and literalism, they are not really willing to follow through on the full implications.
- “the family, with traditional religious roles for men and women in a life-long monogamous marriage relationship, is the abiding natural foundation for social order, happiness and stability.” This sounds almost like it could be said by any of the thousands of pundits who’ve followed: except perhaps for those words “religious roles” in there. But is that not what they usually mean? Where else do “traditional values” come from? Now I’m not trying to negate the effect that faith and community and church have had on my own life: but to try to say that they are the “abiding natural foundation” for all things pleasurable in the world is stretching things a bit. Trying to equate the two would seem to be a bit of modern legalism. Wilson’s is a very man-focused and dominated perspective. Although I agree that there are some patterns in our actions and behaviours that are sufficiently good that they could be called “foundational” to our well being and social order, these do not fall into the category of specific actions or laws. They are much more in the category of attitudes that undergird the best of those actions and laws: things like love and justice and compassion. Love and justice may, for some people (even most people) produce “traditional religious roles” and “life-long monogamy”, but many it does not. Many never enter into such relationship; for others they break down. To try to force men and women into such relationships today will destroy the very “social order, happiness and stability” that is being sought. We need to discover how the aspects of life that we are trying to encourage are being expressed today, rather than try to force our people into moulds that are centuries out of date.
- “When that view is abandoned for selfish individualism, the society will collapse and die”. And here the assumption is, that if one does not participate in the above description of the family (and the totality thereof), that one is “abandoning” the good for “selfish individualism”. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Many men and women, in discovering who they are, actually enter into a new set of relationships that eclipse the old, and in so doing become more loving and participatory than the previous could be. The “traditional” route to marriage forced children to get married early and then expected them to live with that decision for the rest of their lives. Some are lucky and make good decisions, and their spouses mature with them and alongside them (or, in Wilson’s man-focused idealism are led to mature with them), but others grow apart. And we treat such fortunate children as “wonders” if they make it to their fiftieth or sixtieth anniversary. Although I think it is important to celebrate such long-term commitments and the effort it takes to “bind” together for so long, I think it is just as important to celebrate a rediscovery and a redefinition in life. **
- “I see the initiating cause as being man’s distorting his role, which then initiates family decline.” Just as powerful in this book as the message that families are central in God’s (and thus human) economy is the message that the failure is man’s, and that he has the responsibility to put things back together. It is the traditional interpretation of the book of Genesis: and Wilson has the tenacity to maintain the connection in spite of its unpopularity. Then again, it wasn’t quite so unpopular in the 1970s. Many churches still maintain that the pastor is a solely masculine role; the will (quietly) teach that he is “head of the household”.