I might have, instead of doing the laundry or something, gone down the rabbit hole of this website, the one we mentioned in the podcast yesterday. There’s not too much there, beyond extensive advertisements for the book, and this curious assessment of ancient and modern history. As far as I can make out, the person behind the idea that the cure to all our problems is a Return to Order feels that the brightest and best moment in human history was before the modern state, particularly when humanity embraced those kinds of social organizations that relied heavily on the family—and feudalism.
We find this same tendency at all administrative levels in the feudal, municipal and royal. In all areas, whether in finance, diplomacy or warfare, we note that the family, as it existed back then, was a great unit of action and impetus to the fullest extent possible. Nothing escaped the penetration of the family’s influence; it is found in feudal estates, guilds, universities and municipalities. As a result, the State — a kingdom for example — was actually a family of families ruled by a family. The royal family.
Well, I won’t lie, I do love a royal family—all of them, actually. My favorite facebook group is the royal watching one. I check in with it every morning. And goodness, also a big fan of the family. I’m quite fond of my own in particular.
Also, I have totally been guilty of blaming all our modern ills on the automobile—the horseless carriage if you will. Truly, everything I hate about 21st century life can be traced back to this terrible convenience. If I didn’t have a car and had to walk into town, you can be sure I would stop by my neighbor to see if she needed anything. Also, I would be so exhausted from my efforts that I would sit on my porch and chat with my neighbors, who would also be worn out. I wouldn’t need a cellphone. Ugly urban sprawl would be instantly checked. The Vestal Parkway would not even exist. Also, if you think about, I would definitely require a live-in maid. Which would be a great help to the economy, maybe. But who’s to say I would be at the top of the heap and not the bottom?
The problem with feudalism is that most of the people were not comfortably (or uncomfortably) installed within the thick cold, stone walls of the castle keep, graciously extending a hand to whoever made it across the moat, riding out in heavy armor to die of wounds or the plague. Most of the people, knowing their proper place, were huddled in their hovels (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term, I’ve watched Ruth Goodman hanging about that gorgeous French tower, the one where she builds a fire right in the middle of the rushes on her earthen floor, laughing merrily about the possibility of incineration as she gives the pot of gruel another stir) scattered about at the feet of the main family, only one of them (families I mean) being important. Organic was exactly the word for it.I mean, I am a big big fan of indoor plumbing. It’s my favorite. Also I do love driving a fast car. And I’m super grateful that I don’t have to do all my laundry by hand in a big tub and then die of small pox.
Also, I am not at all against the virtues of humility and dignity. I love a well ordered life where everything has fallen kindly and gently into place. I just happen to think that our current governmental organization is just as “organic” as feudalism. It’s fairly bursting with life. Washington DC is more like Ankh-Morpork than anywhere I can imagine—you just have to lower your eyelids and imagine all the people rushing up and down are definitely members of some awful guild—the assassins or the thieves or whatever.
Really, it doesn’t do to idolize the family, or feudalism, or a life with no technology. The problem that we have now has always been with us—sin, rebellion against God, a deep boredom with the person and work of Jesus. Making America Feudal Again isn’t the answer. Taking people where they are, in all the difficulties of their lives—organic or manufactured, caught on the border or ensconced in smooth elegant halls of power—and telling them about Jesus is the only cure to any of our ills. But then, it always has been. Whichever way we organize ourselves, we will figure out ugly and cruel ways to injure each other. The rule of law, however broken and unjust it is, is at least as good as the arbitrary and potentially ruthless inclinations of a single potentate.
Look, it’s always been bad. And it will get worse. But also, if you really put your delicately shod foot into the Way of Jesus, you will find that he is not very interested in your good order, in your well constructed life, in your perfect family. As you try to organize yourself—or worse, others—he will constantly interrupt your efforts and mess everything up. You don’t need some other kind of king, you need to unconditionally obey Him, who is Lord and God. And that, when you do it, can feel like a great and terrible unraveling, a coming apart at the seams. And yet, organically, everything does sort of fall into place—emphasis on the sort of.
Now I will arise and rejoice in the modern invention of the spectacle, whereby I am able to see both far away and very close just by moving my eyes up and down. It’s amazing.