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Friday, April 10, 2009

Agrarianism vs. Industrialism

My good friend Daniel left an interesting comment in my post on Hamilton's curse.

In response to my statement,...
As Christians, we believe in providing for ourselves, living off the land, and being self sufficient. We are accountable to God for our actions, through His accountability system. We are unlike everyone else, who relies on the government for their daily bread, and bows down to the god of government. Everyone falls into one of these two categories, there is no gray area.

He asked...

I would also be interested to hear you defend your premise that Christians, by definition, believe in "living off the land, and being self-sufficient." Would you, for example, argue against a Christian merchant living in the city and subsisting on goods purchased from other citizens rather than provided by himself for himself? Wouldn't this fall into a third category of "Dependent (even partially) upon private enterprise"?
I'm certainly not arguing against self-sufficiency and the agrarian lifestyle; indeed I find them highly commendable. But I think you'd be hard pressed to argue that they are among the basic tenets of the faith.

He was essentially asking for me to show him "chapter, verse" and I cannot do that, simply because I do not know of any pattern, precept, or principle in the Bible that supports my statement. This is very serious. I should have prefaced my statement with, "in my opinion", or something that didn't make it sound like I was getting that from scripture.

I would like to say a few more things about this but I'd like to define these terms first. First of all, let me say that this is strictly my opinion based on the historical implications of the Industrial Revolution.

Agrarianism is defined by Scripture based self-sufficiency. I don't think self-sufficiency is strictly defined as living off of the land, although it can be. The father is the primary teacher/trainer with the stay at home mother as his support.

Industrialism is defined by being dependent upon others for daily bread. The father works outside the home and the mother may or may not, although she has the primary responsibility for raising the children.

I cannot call dependency a sin, because we are all dependent on someone to some extent. Hopefully, it's God who we're ultimately dependent on.
I do believe that Industrialism is an evil institution because it seeks to make a family or individual ultimately dependent on it instead of God. It's something that should be avoided at all risks but many of us are forced to

Thank you, Daniel, for correcting me on this point.

If you or anyone else have questions about anything I've said or written, please challenge me on that issue.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Mike said...

In my humble opinion, I believe that a man can, by many scripture verses, defend the thought that Christian's do (or should) believe in Self sufficiency.

On living in a place where you can provide for yourself:

Isaiah 5:8
Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

In the 1800’s the Northerners were well known for their love of Industrialism, and the Southerners for Agrarianism.

On the effects of Yankee Industrialism:
Micah 2:2
And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.

We can see this even clearer today in such heinous acts as Eminent Domain.
These are just a few verses from off the top of my head, so I’m sure there are many more exhorting Christians to follow this sort of life style.

I'm not yelling "Woe unto thee" to all Christians dwelling in the city, I merely seek to explain why I believe that The Lord would have us self sufficient.

~Mike

April 11, 2009 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger Stephen Boyd said...

Thanks for the comment, Mike.

I completely agree with you.

I was trying to show through this post, that per my experience, the Bible treats dependency like slavery and debt...something not forbidden but not encouraged either.

April 14, 2009 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Mike -- First a couple thoughts on the verses you quoted. The context of Isaiah 5:8 is God pronouncing judgment on the house of Israel, "His vine". Matthew Henry suggests that the ones in view in this passage are the high rollers of Israel who multiply houses and fields unto themselves (joining house to house and field to field) until "they are set alone in the earth". This passage is not about a viral self-replicating urbania in which a man builds a house right next to three preexisting houses in downtown Jerusalem; but about the ostentatiously wealthy land barons attempting to expand their own territory at the expense of the small-time landholders... one might even say, increasing their agrarianism. Micah 2:2 is a similar situation of judgment on God's rebellious people, particularly those in power taking advantage of the citizenry (see vs. 1, "practicing evil because it is in the power of their hand"). So while this verse is a well-applied rebuke to eminent domain, socialism, and broader yankeedom, it's intent is not to put the agrarian lifestyle on a pedestal either.

Second, just so you don't feel like you need to find "better verses" to back your point, I would remind you that in my original comment I mentioned I find self-sufficiency and the agrarian lifestyle highly commendable; and I stand by that statement. But as a dominion-taking postmillennialist I find it just as highly commendable for Christians to expand Christ's kingdom in any other lawful endeavor! In many ways it's easy to put "country living" on a higher plane than other occupations, in part because so many great characters from history led agrarian lives: Abraham, Jacob, David, and other biblical characters, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Robert E. Lee, and many others have some degree of association with farming and/or self-sufficiency. But having said all that, I find it impossible to justify this preferential view based on scripture. Is the potato farmer who labors in his fields to the glory of God more holy, or even more honorable than the urbane doctor laboring at his microscope to the glory of God? Can we say that George Washington's legacy is somehow superior to that of John Calvin because Washington owned a plantation while Calvin was a frail lawyer turned theologian?

I think part of our problem in this discussion is that we've allowed the terms "agrarian", "self-sufficient", and "self-supporting" to become interchangeable, when in fact they are not. I'm sure we'd all agree that the admonition of 1 Timothy 5:8 applies to bankers and doctors as well as shepherds and farmers -- but it doesn't mean the bankers have to quit their jobs and buy a farm, or even run a farm on the side.

Again, I'm not slamming agrarianism, just saying that God calls us to a variety of labors just as he endows is with a diversity of gifts. Our duty is to leverage those gifts in the most effective way possible for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Even the pastor is not more honorable or holy than the furniture maker on the strength of his occupation alone, and I don't think it's sound doctrine to suggest that the farmer is somehow to be held in higher regard than the faithful businessman either.

Sorry this got a bit longish...

April 16, 2009 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

One small correction: the opening sentence in the last paragraph of my preceding comment should read "...just as he endows US (not "is") with a diversity of gifts..."

Also, while the bulk of this comment was addressed to Mike, I'd love to hear your thoughts too, Stephen!

Grace and Peace,
Daniel

April 17, 2009 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Johann Van De Leeuw said...

Wow! Have you ever read "I'll Take My Stand, a Defense of the South and the Agrarian Tradition"? It isn't really Christian and has a lot of humanist philosophy, but it makes the same point in a different way. Your article puts it in a way that we Christians can take as truth to act upon. Thank you for posting.

May 8, 2009 at 6:50 PM  

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