Friday, March 13, 2020

Family (4) Alternative

Brooks claims that the solution is the emergence of broader social groups that can provide an alternative to extended families.

In the beginning was the band. For tens of thousands of years, people commonly lived in small bands of, say, 25 people, which linked up with perhaps 20 other bands to form a tribe. People in the band went out foraging for food and brought it back to share. They hunted together, fought wars together, made clothing for one another, looked after one another’s kids. In every realm of life, they relied on their extended family and wider kin.

Except they didn’t define kin the way we do today. We think of kin as those biologically related to us. But throughout most of human history, kinship was something you could create.

In other words, for vast stretches of human history people lived in extended families consisting of not just people they were related to but people they chose to cooperate with.

Americans are hungering to live in extended and forged families, in ways that are new and ancient at the same time. This is a significant opportunity, a chance to thicken and broaden family relationships, a chance to allow more adults and children to live and grow under the loving gaze of a dozen pairs of eyes, and be caught, when they fall, by a dozen pairs of arms. For decades we have been eating at smaller and smaller tables, with fewer and fewer kin. It’s time to find ways to bring back the big tables.

Brooks describes a number of social institutions that are emerging as an alternative to the nuclear family.

Because Christians are supposed to be experts on “loving one another”, we should be leading these efforts. In an article called Tens, Hundreds and Thousands, I explain how God wants to re-create society from the bottom up, starting with extended families at the bottom, and then connecting them together to establish stronger groups.

God wanted the Israelites who left Egypt to be organised this way. With the gospel and the outpouring of the Spirit, this approach became even more effective and powerful. The Tens and Hundreds that Moses described, and expanded in the gospels and Acts are the equivalent of the bands that David Brooks described, but more effective, because they are united by love and empowered by the Holy Spirit. They will provide a safe place for families to shelter.

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