Thursday, June 21, 2012

Breakdown of the Family–not when women left the home, but when MEN did…

Are you ready for a new adventurous topic?  Great!  Because this post will begin a new discussion concerning the male dynamic in a culture that supports new feminism.  Our first contributing male author is Kevin Ford.  His bio states: "Kevin Ford is married to his wife Mary, and they have two young daughters. He and his family currently reside on their farm in southern Kansas. Kevin is a full-time organic farmer with a degree in Theology from Benedictine College, and he actively promotes the Catholic Land Movement and the benefits of rural life for Catholic family and culture."

    I recently read an article by Kevin in the Distributist Review (, that peaked my curiosity so much I had to inquire about it.  Though the whole ideology behind his article, I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around, three key elements drastically caught my attention. First, the breakdown of the family began not when women left the home, but when men didSecondly, the etymology of the word Hus-Bond literally means House-Bound.  And thirdly, he questioned our economic system of wages and offers a different idea.  When contacting the Distributist Review for permission to repost, Richard Aleman from the review offered this further explanation of that third point:

    “The main thrust of Distributism is local production for local consumption, so while its agrarian aspect is central to restoring ownership, what we are mostly talk about is decentralizing the economy away from urban areas and restoring it by growing local economies. This is key in order to regain widespread ownership away from urban concentration (which enables the wage society) and back into small towns. The small town needs farmers, but it also needs "mom and pop" retail businesses, clothing manufacturers, graphic designers, and so on.   This is what we call "the parallel economy". If we want to regain a toehold on our economy we will have to create the new Main streets that will rival Big Business and reduce the size of government.” (emphasis added)

    What could be more “New Feminist” than speaking about the necessity of the MAN being at home!   I’m curious to see what you all think about this… I’m not quite sure what to make of it yet, but it was so very intriguing to me!  Here's Kevin's article:

"A little more than a year ago, I quit my job as a theology teacher at a Catholic high school to become a full-time organic farmer. I like to call myself a “Catholic farmer”, because I am striving to live out the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family, as well as Catholic social teaching, in my work and in the daily life of my family. I had been contemplating a return to the land for several years, and I finally opened myself to the grace needed to take such a leap of faith. I feel as though my story is a microcosm of the Catholic Land Movement as a whole. I doubt if any will follow exactly the same path, but hopefully some will end up on the land, working to restore Catholic culture, just as I did. After much prayer and discernment, I have narrowed my reasons for returning to the land to the following: restoring Catholic family life, bringing wholeness to our lives, regaining simplicity, and building Catholic community.
In our world today, nothing comes under attack more often than marriage and the family. In this modern assault, I felt it necessary to flee to the fields in order to provide an environment that is natural for family life, one where my children could flourish. City life with its “damnable conveniences” as Fr. McNabb, O.P., called them, is often a source of great temptation. The pagan temples and idols of today are not so clearly perceived, because they are often disguised in masks of pleasure, convenience, and materialism. To me, a return to the land marks a radical departure from the frivolity of modern city life as I seek to live a life that is meaningfully fruitful. Pope Benedict XVI has stated: “The rural family must regain its place at the heart of the social order.”1 The rural family has traditionally been the backbone of healthy cultures. Never in history has the mass of humanity been concentrated in the cities as they are today. Pope Pius XII speaks very wisely of the benefits of rural life for families in his address to Italian farm laborers:
Your lives are rooted in the family—universally, deeply, and completely; consequently, they conform very closely to nature. In this fact lies your economic strength and your ability to withstand adversity in critical times. Your being so strongly rooted in the family constitutes the importance of your contribution to the correct development of the private and public order of society. You are called upon for this reason to perform an indispensable function as source and defense of a stainless moral and religious life. For the land is a kind of nursery which supplies men, sound in soul and body, for all occupations, for the Church, and for the State.2
I can add very little to what the good Pope of happy memory already stated. I sought a place for my family to live out its life in totality without the distractions that city life often brings. I found that place far from the glitter of city street lights, way out in the country whose nights are lit by heavenly lights alone.
The Church and the Land

    As I labored away from my family during my first three years of marriage, I became acutely aware of a great lack in the way our economic system is set up. As I taught theology to high school students, I would often find myself thinking about my own children and the difficulty I would have passing on the faith to them, simply because of how much time I must spend at school. I did not doubt the dignity of the teaching profession. However, I doubted the wisdom of our modern age that insists on men working separate from their families, and always seeking after a wage. As I began to study the breakdown of the family so characteristic of our times, I began to realize that the breakdown of the family could be traced to the implementation of the wage system. 
    What I realized is that the family didn’t start to fall apart when mothers left the home for the work place. Rather, the family’s disintegration began when fathers left the home and the land for the convenience of a city wage. Further studies brought further revelations. The etymology of the word husband was absolutely fascinating. Hus-Band literally means house-bound. When a man was married he became house bound. There in the home with his wife he would bring forth a family. There in the home he would work and provide for the family; everything was centered around the home. The home was not a place to return to after work, but rather it was the place of work, it was the center of life, and it was the stability that fostered healthy families. I realized that what I wanted was a life that was whole, one that had integrity. I wanted to live, work, and pray with my family all the time, not just in the evenings or when I was off work. I wanted to be a husband in the true sense of the word, and I wanted to be a father who was always there. Working towards a self-sufficient life on the land offers me the opportunity to truly be a father to my children. I can’t express in words how beautiful this has been.
    The third reason I returned to the land was to regain simplicity. Reading Eric Brende’s book, Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, profoundly impacted my views on modern technologically-saturated life. I began to increasingly question the necessity of so many of man’s modern inventions. ... This was especially evident in farming where machinery had nearly destroyed the small farmer and created many demands for time and capital that could not be obtained on the farm. The byproduct of animal power was increased soil fertility through manure. The byproducts of machinery were used oil, broken parts, old, rusting machines on the back forty, and pollution of all sorts. I also noticed that a horse’s food could be provided on the land, but very few farmers had ways to provide fuel for their machines. It is not that all machines are bad, but the scale to which technology has infiltrated our lives led me to take my family down a different path. Now we analyze our technology piece by piece and look carefully at its effects on family life. If it is truly more harmful to family life than helpful, then we simply don’t need it. ... We find that with less technology, we suddenly have time for activities we previously couldn’t squeeze in. Without the time in front of the television, we find time to read together, sing and dance with the piano, or simply sit out back in the evenings and watch the chickens scratch about (chickens can be a source of great hilarity, believe it or not). This simplicity gets rid of excess distractions and leaves us with more time for one another.
The final reason I returned to the land was in hope of rebuilding Catholic rural community...
Flee to the Fields
Our faith is sacramental, and therefore it is not meant to be only a spiritual reality. Catholicism with its sacraments corresponds to man in his entirety. We who are embodied souls need a faith that is both physical and spiritual. Thus we seek in some way to incarnate our Catholic life on the land and to share that life with others. I went back to the land because I believed there I would find the ideal environment in which to raise my family. There I could be a father who was present for my family. It has been a beautiful journey, and it is really just beginning. It is my hope that one day I will be surrounded by like-minded Catholic neighbors, all striving together to build a new Catholic culture. Going back to the land has radically changed my life and my goals. It has transformed my way of thinking, and it daily encourages me to be a better man. By throwing myself into the hands of providence, I am forced to give my fiat or give up. Those are my only real choices. Yet, I have never done anything so rewarding and at the same time so difficult. I hope many others will follow in my footsteps, and that one day we may have a countryside filled with Catholic smallholdings once again. Vivat Christus Rex!" - Kevin Ford.

Interesting, right?  No, I'm not ready to go buy a farm!  ;-)  But some of the ideas are very intruiging and definitely worth pondering.  So, what do YOU think? 

Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!  And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion.  Thank You!)

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1. Message of his Holiness BENEDICT XVI to the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the Celebration of World Food Day, from the Vatican, 16 October, 2006
2. Speech delivered by His Holiness to the delegates at the Convention of the National Confederation of Farm Owner-Operators in Rome on November 15, 1946, #4.


  1. I once read part of a book in a library that talked about how prior to the industrial revolution, men understood their role as also being at home and taking an active role in the upbringing of their children. Women would typically do more indoor tasks and take care of the children under three, and men would work outdoors more in the fields and also have their older children with them a lot. The book also talked about when men began working long hours away from the home in factories many of them struggled with not being there for their families as much, so then this idea developed to help men cope with that loss that they were being good fathers by providing their families with money to take care of their necessities. This idea of being a stay-at-home dad used to not exist because all fathers were stay-at-home dads, just like the moms. I wish I could remember the name of the book.

    I love this post as this is also the dream of my family--not farming as we have no land or farming knowledge or skills, but bothmy husband and I being stay-at-home parents. My husband is a web developer and he is trying to get enough freelance clients so he can work from home, and so his work schedule would revolve around family time and needs, not family revolving around work. It just makes sense to me that families belong together and that children thrive from having ample time with both parents. We hate that my husband presently has to spend so much time away from his family. We want him home.

  2. (Brandi)

    Love this!

  3. I thought the author's leaving of the workforce was inspirational, and there are lessons we can all take away from that. But obviously we are not all called to move to farms. Some of us have family members with special medical needs, so we thank God for the medical insurance that comes from hubby's "city job", and the opportunity to live half an hour from a major children's hospital. Ever notice how the kids are so excited when Daddy gets home from work, but Mom is here all the time, so she doesn't often get that level of appreciation? Dad gets the interaction with others at work - sometimes good, and sometimes bad, but even then it helps him appreciate his family waiting at home. There is good in this lifestyle, too, if you look for it. The charm of the country church does not diminish the beauty of the cathedral.

  4. Very thought provoking... There's no doubt that technology almost always squanders the opportunity to enjoy a pure experience of reality. Technology is merely the exchange of one inconvenience for another. Each of us must find a comfortable balance between the Amish approach and the jet set.

    It's naive to romanticize the farm life. Few would have the true grit to follow this worthy call. This appears to be a recipe to return to a lifestyle that basks in the fruits of its own labors: rich, rewarding, efficient, laborious, tenacious. You get out what you put in. A full commitment would yield a humbling but grateful way of life.

    I respect and admire the author's guilded character, but ultimately as a bystander. The methods and philosophy discussed in this passage are so far removed from daily reality that such a worthy, but radical shift in lifestyle appears untenable. The only way such a tectonic shift may seem possible is if faced with a major life crisis. Human nature shows that it’s hard to steer from the path of least resistance or from easy habits unless given a strong shove.

    Nonetheless, I pray that the author is successful to raise awareness and inspire us all to at least push the pendulum back the other way. Thinking about and then taking small steps in this direction is the only way to complete a long journey.

  5. Hi. I am a new blog reader and am delighted to run into a familiar face (i.e. Kevin Ford) here. My husband and I are blog friends with Kevin and share the same dream of having a modified agrarian life, so that we can have greater complementarity in our home and family. My husband is able to work from home, as a software engineer, so we are currently working with a realtor to find a small farm, on which we can raise a few animals and give our children an abundantly joy-filled upbringing.

    Grace and peace, Katie Rose

    I totally agree with Kevin that family life is skewed when the father is away for 8-10 hours each day. It seems to me that the Industrial Revolution, and its resulting economic change, resulted in a home that is hyper-feminized and a workplace that is hyper-masculinized; whereas, in medieval economics, work was grounded in the family home, whether as a family craft (tailor, baker, etc) or on the family farm. Wendell Berry offers an insightful recounting of this development in his book, "The Unsettling of America". Great book!

    We long for a return to greater complementarity in our family, as well as the opportunity to work together in a way that is holy and dignified. Thanks for the great post!

  6. I agree that the biggest aspect of this article that is important in living our Catholic life is having our families as WHOLE families.

    I talked to my husband Paul about a response for this topic because, through the years, we have lived both lifestyles (one where he has worked outside the home and one where he has worked from home). Currently, Paul is in graduate school, I am a part-time youth minister and we also homeschool our five children. In this configuration, we both come and go from the house at odd hours and the kids and their lifetime of learning and Catholic formation are definitely a high priority. Paul had some good insights to share:

    First, we need to know what our calling is. We need to make sure that we are choosing our work because GOD wants it. The world needs good doctors and accountants and the corporate world needs Godly influences (google "Christians in Commerce").

    For our family, we prayed and wrote a Family Mission Statement. This helps in our daily choices. Daily, we have to choose between multiple goods. Having a personal family mission statement gives us a grounding place to go back to and ask, "does this fit with God's plan and goals for our family?"

    What is most important is to remember that there is not a hard and fast rule that states that one way is best. If it aligns with your family mission statement and what God is calling you to do, then it is good. For instance, some children should be homeschooled, some children need to be in a school - one is not hard and fast better than the other. Some women are called to work, some to stay home. (I am a stay-at-home mom sometimes, but I am also a youth minister - definitely a calling!) Some men are called to work from home and others are not. It is not absolute that one way is better.

    It is not a moral issue as to whether or not one works at home.

    However, it is a moral for the father that he should be involved in the family and is a very important part of raising of children in the Lord. (This does not mean that single moms cannot raise children in the Lord - this comment is about the father, not her - God can provide in all situations!)

    We should be careful not to think that one of us is morally superior to another. The main goal for each of us should be to evaluate our lives and choices on how God has called us to be Christ in the world. What impact is your family making? How are you reflecting Christ? Some of us will be called to home-based work, some to farming, some to out-of-the-house work.

    "There are a variety of ministries, but the same Lord...For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ..." (1 Cor. 12:5,12).

  7. Well, we are halfway through year two of farming full time and doing quite well with the radical break from our previous way of life. It is not my point that all should become farmers, but that we need many, many more farmers and craftsmen, etc. set up in village-like structures (even within cities). The alternative economy is essential for the return of a sane economic system that doesn't use and abuse billions of people. Food, crafts,etc. should be local to the extent possible. If you would like to see some our farm updates or my thoughts on all of this I'd recommend visiting our blogs.

    Kevin Ford (Farmer)

  8. I love this. While we are not about to by a farm in Kansas, I feel wholly blessed that my husband has the right ideas about his "work/life balance" (to use the modern phrase). I am currently seeing in my own family the terribly negative effects of the husband saying "my sole role is to go out and earn money", leaving the wife at home unsupported in every way, except financially.

  9. Poor explanation of the etymology of "husband" in my opinion.
    I 'm unfortunately not surprised to see "husband" portrayed by a man as "housebound" instead of "master of the house" or even "householder" since the first diminishes him considerably. Which is obviously why a feminist who wrote a book called "Woman How Great Thou Art" picked up on it. "How Great Thou Art" is a hymn about Almighty God, so naturally a feminist redirects it toward "woman." Elevate woman, diminish man. Invert the natural hierarchy.