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THE FAMILY AT THE CENTER
At the center of community life, the world over, among all the races of men, there stands the family. It determines the character of community life. The Hebrew nation, developing out of the family of Abraham, is a summary of social development. The human family grows out of smaller families. Scattered in lonely regions, in solitary mountain huts and forest cabins; crowded together on Chinese river boats, or in New York tenements; living in the primitive conditions of African jungles or in the high development of an American suburb, all families have in them the possibility of contributing to the world life. Those who would Christianize the communities of the world, must raise family life to its highest terms.
God setteth the solitary in families.-Psalm 68: 6.
The “man without a country” was the sensation of a day. The man without a family would be a greater marvel. When a child loses his family relationship, the community makes haste in various ways to form other family bonds around him. Can we estimate the contribution that the family has made to our life? Multiply this and endeavor to assess the community work of the family. The ties that pull both back to the old home, and forward to the home of the future, are among the spiritual bonds that tie men and women to the higher life of the community. The homing instinct is a spiritual force. A man recently wrote an intimate friend, “I have come back
here to my native village after an absence of many years, to the sunlight of the eastern room where I was born, in the old house where our family lived for fifty years in unbroken love and friendship, where our father and mother sacrificed and worked for us, in this home from which they maintained for twenty consecutive years one of their five children away in school or college.” What other contribution to the world could these parents have made comparable to five lives, put out into the constructive forces of the nation, carrying something of their message to the life of men?
SECOND DAY: What Sort of a Family Do I Like?
Jesus said unto them from the beginning of the creation, Male and female made he them. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let
not man put asunder.-Mark 10: 5-9. Here is the Christian standard simply stated by Jesus himself. Does it seem like a commonplace in our community life? How would the purity and charm of the Christian home impress us if we saw it for the first time after being brought up in the midst of Moslem polygamy, or in a part of Africa where women are chattels, purchasable for half the price of a cow? Does Jesus set too high a standard, or is there more charm in the lax views of some Bohemian group, coining clever phrases about platonic affection, and imagining itself making new experiments in sex freedom? It is sheer hypocrisy to talk of social progress if one's own life operates for the breakdown of the very foundation of society.
THIRD DAY: The Creative Power of Motherhood
A worthy woman who can find ?
She doeth him good and not evil
woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be
31: 10-12; 26-31.
This picture goes far beyond the sacred sentiments of personal affection which lead our modern communities to celebrate Mother's Day. It is a description of the community service of motherhood to a patriarchal group. It compares the labor of woman in the home with that of the other groups that support the community, with the toil of the merchants who bring it nourishment; with the strength of the soldiers who defend it; with the wisdom of the philosophers who teach it. It shows that in her family sphere she partakes of all the services which are rendered by the larger community groupings.
Do our communities fully appreciate the creative work of women in the home? Study the conditions among the thousands of women secluded in the zenanas of India and the harems of the Moslem world. What factors have made the difference between their situation and that of women in America ?
A tenement mother working at her sewing machine and nursing her babe while she worked was portrayed on one of the posters at the Chicago industrial exhibit. There was no time for her to stop if her own food was to be earned. Underneath was the inscription : "Sacred Motherhood.” Do our communities treat motherhood as sacred ? How does our reverence for motherhood in the tenements compare with that in our own home?
Fourth Day: A Training School for Righteousness
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise), that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath : but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.—Eph. 6: 1-4.
“Parents are all the time asking me to solve their children's moral problems, to give them the guidance they themselves ought to have given them long ago in their own homes,” says a teacher. "Often enough I cannot give it because of the parents themselves. They cannot make high standards effective in their home until they themselves are different people.” The famous boys' schools in England have certain traditional standards of honor. They are an unwritten law. The boy who enters the school finds himself in their atmosphere. He lives up to them by unconscious development or he is ostracized. The family, likewise, by its standards of honor must be the training school of righteousness for the community. The cry for social righteousness is a cry for family right
The records of juvenile lawlessness trace back into homes where the family life has broken down. The corruption of the last thirty years in American political and business life has been due in no small measure to the breakdown of standards in the family. The old control of force was largely abandoned, and parents were not adequately equipped to train their children by the power of love and reason. How shall this needed equipment be secured ?
FIFTH DAY: Family Relationships Extended
And there came his mother and his brethren; and, standing without, they sent unto him, calling him. And a multitude was sitting about him; and they say unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answereth them, and saith, Who is my mother and my brethren? And looking round on them that sat round about him, he saith, Behold, my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.-Mark 3: 31-35.
In a full family there are eight relationships to be maintained: husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister. Meditation upon each of these will reveal their significance as social forces in community life. So important are they that when people are denied them, substitutes grow up to replace them. Homes are supplied for children without parents. Fraternities and sororities express the extension of two of these relationships.
But there is no possibility of extending the central relationship. According to Jesus this is a tightly closed circle. To break or extend it involves disaster, personal and racial. The evidence of modern science confirms the ancient teaching.
Which of these eight relationships is most in danger in American life-among the poor? among the well-to-do? among college men and women?
Sixth Day: Love, the Family Law
These things therefore the soldiers did. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold, thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold, thy mother! And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home.—John 19: 25-27.