THE AGRARIAN STANDARD OF VALUES

 
A STUDY BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME


 "Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation... For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord." (Genesis 18:18:19)
 
    If you devote yourself to the pursuit of material things you will lose everything that you have labored for when you die. However, if your family is of primary importance you can have what you value the most in heaven with you. Even if heaven is not a place of marrying and giving in marriage, you will still know who your spouse is, and your love for each other will be more intense than it is now. Moreover, the warmth and love between family members will be greater not less. Your children will love you, hug you, and thank you for training them according to God's Word. In fact, there may be many generations that rise up and call you blessed, so many that the number of your descendants may well be that of a great and mighty nation (Proverbs 31:28, Psalm 127:3).
 

VALUING PEOPLE NOT THINGS


    Because the modern American lifestyle tends to exaggerate the importance of things and material acquisition, personal relationships are often taken for granted and neglected in the pursuit of pleasure. It is common for families to be pulled apart by the desire to have and experience as much as possible. Not only are fathers driven to work outside the home in order to better finance material acquisition, but mothers often leave the raising of children to strangers so that they might work outside the home. As a result, children are rushed from school or day care to dancing lessons or sporting events, as if such activities were the main purpose for living. Yet, with all the rushing about, no one takes time to ask what good these things will be fifty years from now. What good are material things to a lonely and neglected old person? The only thing you can do that will bring you happiness and fulfillment in old age is to build strong family relationships. For true fulfillment comes with the love and devotion of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

THE AGRARIAN WAY OF LIFE


    In contrast to our modern lifestyle, the rural way of life has traditionally tended to bind families together, rather than tearing them apart. Rural life could be hard, but during difficult times families faced things together. Moreover, because the children were with their parents when the various crises of life arose, they were taught by example how to handle those crises. As a result, they went into adulthood with more confidence in their ability to handle the problems of life than many young people have today. Furthermore, because they spent much of their time with their parents, they tended to show more maturity when it came time to shoulder the responsibilities of life. In fact, you might say that they were trained from youth up to shoulder the responsibilities of adulthood. That training began with the assignment of chores. As they grew older the list of chores changed accordingly. At the same time, they learned all of the skills that they would need as adults, from working with their parents. Thus, instead of being filled with self-doubt when they reached their teenage years, they were ready for adult responsibility. If they chose to leave the farm, they then did so as mature and responsible adults. And it was just such adults that established businesses, built industries, and made America the economic wonder of the world.

[NOTE: One problem that we face today has to do with the fact that when children spend a disproportionate amount of their time with other children they tend to imitate the behavior of those children when they ought to be learning to act like adults.]

    Since rural families often had three or even four generations living under one roof, it was possible for them to share responsibilities. When that was the case, the older people were not required to carry as heavy a workload as those who were younger. Yet because there was always something to do, they did not simply sit around feeling useless, as do many on social security. In addition, a lighter workload gave them more time to spend with their grandchildren, and they were able to use that time to pass on family history, skills, and the wisdom accumulated over a lifetime. Thus, rural children tended to love and respect the elderly instead of making fun of them.

    While modern couples often regard children as a financial burden, the rural family welcomed children (Psalm 127:3). The more children there were, the more hands there were to share the work. If the number of mouths increased, they simply increased the size of the garden. Furthermore, if a child had a handicap, that child was not institutionalized, but instead was cared for in love. There were always simple jobs that a handicapped child could do, such as stringing beans or mending harness. Moreover, such jobs made them feel like contributing members of the family and not just a burden upon it. However, even if they were not able to do anything they were still cared for by people who loved them, people who would be horrified by the cold modern conclusion that the handicapped ought to be killed. [Is killing people civilization and progress, or a regress to barbarianism?]
 

TRUE MANLINESS


    Since men are by nature stronger and more aggressive than women, every society has had to find some way to deal with male aggressiveness. And God's way of dealing with that aggressiveness has been to place the man at the head of the family, and assign him the role of providing for the needs and well being of his wife and offspring. Furthermore, that is a role of service; not a role of superiority as those bereft of wisdom would have you believe. The man serves his family, and they in return give him their service and devotion. In fact, if that role discriminates against anyone, it discriminates against the men, for the men shoulder the hardest and dirtiest jobs. However, men do not see that role as discrimination. They gladly shoulder the heavier load, out of kindness for women, and see it as an affirmation of their manhood.

    History reveals that society prospers, crime is at its lowest, and children are happiest only when men in general take their God assigned responsibility seriously. In fact, it is vital to the well being of a nation that the men, especially the young men, identify true manliness with the role of a provider. Wherever that is not the case, young men tend to show their manhood in detrimental ways, immorality is accepted, and the family breaks down. This is seen very clearly in the inner cities where single mothers are common and women often dominate the home. In such neighborhoods young men tend to congregate in gangs, express their aggressiveness in destructive ways, and identify manhood with sexual prowess.

    For men to rise above destructive expressions of manhood, it is important for them to see themselves as the link between past and future generations. And they will only see themselves in that way if they can be sure that the children they father are really their own. If they cannot be certain of who their children are, they are unlikely to identify with those children or feel any responsibility to provide for them. Therefore, if we are to have a strong nation we must have moral people, and a society that condemns and censures extramarital sex (Proverbs 14:34).

THE MARRIAGE BOND


    Most people are familiar with the saying "Blood is thicker than water." The thought behind that saying is that family loyalty is stronger than friendship. And, it is blood that binds a family together, causing the members to identify with each other and feel a loyalty to each other. However, what about a man and wife? Since they do not share a common bloodline, what binds them together? What do they have in common that no one else shares? Of course the answer to this question is sex. The sexual intimacy which a man and wife share with each other, but no one else, causes them to feel a bond to each other – a family bond. I am not saying that such marriages will never have problems. I am saying that in spite of difficulties, a man and wife who are confident of each other's faithfulness, will feel like they are family. In fact, when that bond exists, the love between them normally grows stronger over the years, not weaker. However, adultery breaks that bond of trust. Once adultery takes place a marriage is never the same. The victimized spouse may be willing to forgive and forget, but the relationship will never be the same. The question, Can I trust him (or her)? Will always be there, even if the immorality took place before marriage. For, if the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery" was not taken seriously before marriage, there is a question as to whether it will be taken seriously after marriage. Finally, if a man has any question at all about his wife's faithfulness it will damage the bond which he feels toward his children, for if he cannot be sure that his wife is faithful, then he cannot be certain that the children are really even his. For that reason, the sexual bond is fundamental even to the bond of blood relationship.

A FAMILY HERITAGE


     The bond of blood relationship is of key importance in channeling a man's aggressiveness into constructive effort. Because of that bond, a man will work to build a home, a business, or a farm expecting one day to leave it to his children. In fact, because of that bond, he views leaving it to his children almost like leaving it to himself. He sees his children as an extension of himself, often placing their interest ahead of his own. Yet the motivation for all of this unselfish generosity ceases to exist if a man cannot be certain that his children are really his.

    When property is passed on from generation to generation, men tend to see themselves not just as consumers of wealth, but as stewards who are responsible for preserving and passing on a heritage to future generations (1 Kings 21:3). Since property taxes can be a great hindrance to passing on the land, especially in hard times, it is noteworthy that the Law of Moses did not place any tax upon the land. In contrast, ancient Rome taxed the land so heavily that many farmers were forced to sell. The rich then bought the land and used slaves to till it while the rightful owners begged for government handouts (bread and circuses).

    Since people from Eastern Europe tend to associate farming with peasants, they often regard the work of a farmer as menial labor. In contrast, Americans have historically had a high regard for farmers, and are more likely to compare a successful farm with the estate of a British noble, than with menial labor. In fact, because the estate of a British noble was, in effect, his kingdom, when English peasants acquired the right to buy their own land that ownership carried with it connotations of nobility. A farmer's land was his kingdom. Englishmen then brought that high view of farming to America, as they sought to cut their own little kingdom from the wilderness. Moreover, because they sought independence, they did not look to government for favors, handouts, or charity. As far as government was concerned, they wanted only protection from evil or selfish men. Outside of that, they wanted government to keep out of their affairs. They wanted to be left alone. They wanted to be free to live quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty (1 Timothy 2:1,2, 1 Peter 2:14, 1 Timothy 1:9, Luke 22:25,26). And, that is the spirit that led our founding fathers to prize freedom more highly than even life itself.

CONCLUSION


    In 1931 a group of men, who later came to be known as the Nashville Agrarians, published a book entitled, "I'll Take My Stand" in defense of the Agrarian way of life. In turn, that book inspired other books as other authors sought to defend agrarian values. And those values still need defending, for they are mocked and attacked by those who want government to control every aspect of our lives. To that end, I would like to conclude with a prose poem, that was written by John M. Birch, Christian Missionary to China, just prior to his death at the end of World War Two.
 

THE WAR WEARY FARMER


I should like to find the existence of what my father called "Plain living and high thinking."

I want some fields and hills, woodlands and streams I can call my own. I want to spend my strength in making fields green, and the cattle fat, so that I may give sustenance to my loved ones, and aid to those neighbors who suffer misfortune. I do not want a life of monotonous paper-shuffling or trafficking with money-mad traders.

I only want enough of science to enable fruitful husbandry of the land with simple tools, a time for leisure, and the guarding of my family's health. I do not care to be absorbed in the endless examining of force and space and matter, which I believe can only slowly lead to God.

I do not want a hectic hurrying from place to place on whizzing machines or busy streets. I do not want an elbowing through crowds of impatient strangers who have time neither to think their own thoughts nor to know real friendship. I want to live slowly, to relax with my family before a glowing fireplace, to welcome the visits of my neighbors, to worship God, to enjoy a book, to lie on a shaded grassy bank and watch the clouds sail across the blue.

I want to love a wife who prefers rural peace to urban excitement, one who would rather climb a hilltop to watch a sunset with me than to take a taxi to any Broadway play. I want a woman who is not afraid of bearing children, and who is able to rear them with a love for home and the soil, and a fear of God.

I want of Government only protection against the violence and injustices of evil or selfish men.

I want to reach the sunset of life sound in body and mind, flanked by strong sons and grandsons, enjoying the friendship and respect of neighbors, surrounded by fertile fields and sleek cattle, and retaining my boyhood faith in Him who promised a life to come.

Where can I find this world? Would its anachronism doom it to ridicule or loneliness? Is there yet a place for such simple ways in my own America or must I seek a vale in Turkestan where peaceful flocks still graze the quiet hills.