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Bio: Verily Valerie

Valerie is a 42-year-old, single, Reformed Christian lady who lives in Baltimore. She doesn't remember a time before she knew and loved Jesus, but she does remember accepting John Calvin into her heart in March of 2000. Valerie is a member of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis.

Though her career aspiration is to be a housewife, Valerie has not yet found anyone suitable who wishes to hire her for employment in that field (or, more properly, anyone suitable has not found her), so in the meantime she earns her daily bread working in communications -- editing, writing, print design and website management.

valerie [at] kyriosity [dot] com


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Saturday, August 9, 2008 AD

Spheres, Employment and (Surprisingly) Father Hunger
I don't understand a lot about the theology of sphere sovereignty, but the gist of what I grasp is that there are a few spheres whose governance is to be kept fairly separate. The family, the church and the state are the God-ordained spheres I see in Scripture. Each has its own governance. The father rules in the home, the elders in the church, and the king or some other officials in the state. And of course the Lord rules with absolute sovereignty over all, whether they like it or not.

There are, of course, various sorts of sub-rulers in each sphere. For instance, in the family, the mother also rules over the children, and sometimes the children can be called upon to mind siblings who have been left in charge, but the father is ultimately responsible before God for how the family conducts itself. In the church, there may be deacons serving under the elders to conduct mercy ministries, and authority to organize the potluck may be delegated to the Smith family, but the shepherds -- the ruling and teaching elders (allowing a little variation for episcopal and congregational church bodies) -- are ultimately responsible before God for how the church conducts itself. In the state, the higher authorities will employ soldiers and policemen for the actual sword-wielding, and there's even a legitimate place for tax collectors to assist in the rendering unto Caesar what is his, but the kings and presidents and governors and senators are ultimately going to have to give account of the authority entrusted to them.

That sound about right so far?

One of the ongoing discussions in Reformed circles is about the sphere in which education rightly belongs. I'm of the opinion that it is ultimate the responsibility of the father, who is called to raise his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. All truth is God's truth, so all gaining of knowledge of truth must be submitted to God, and therefore falls under the category of the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I think a responsible Christian father could carry out this duty in a variety of ways -- educating his children himself or largely delegating the task to his wife by choosing the homeschooling route, delegating the task to a governess or private tutor in his employ, or working cooperatively with other Christian families (who have, through baptismal vows, accepted the responsibility to assist one another in raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord) to form a school. So far, I see precious little role for the government in the process. If a crime is committed -- if a father is assaulting or starving his children, I'm all for the men in blue coming along to haul him off (so long as we don't do silly things like redefine a corrective spanking as assault or being sent to bed without any supper as starvation).

Now, most of this is stuff I've absorbed from other sources. I may not have all the terminology or details right, but that's the gist of the understanding I've gleaned. If someone cares to correct me on a factual point, please do so, but I really don't want to argue about what I've said up to this point. There are others who can do so more ably and willingly, and I'm sure you won't have trouble finding some, what with the whole Interweb right at your fingertips. What does interest me is a discussion regarding what follows with anyone who is pretty much on the same page re what precedes.

A discussion I've not heard, but would very much like to hear, is about the sphere in which employment resides. But I have my own thoughts on the matter.

Mel is my lawn guy. He mows and edges for me and some others in the neighborhood, and in other neighborhoods, as well. (Note to self: find out if he does snow removal in the winter.) I'm guessing Mel has a family, and this is his means of supporting them. By being his own boss, he has a lot of freedom, but he carries a great deal of responsibility. If a client moves or quits paying, Mel has to find another client to make up the difference. If there's a drought, and nobody's grass grows, he has to find some other way to make money to feed his family. He needs to manage his income carefully, planning for eventualities such as illness or decrepitude. It seems to me as if this job of Mel's is within the sphere of his family rule -- he bears the responsibility.

Now suppose Mel has a brother named Del. Having similar vocational interests, Del is a gardener. But he is not self-employed -- he works for Mr. Jones, tending the lawns and trees and flowers on his vast estate. Del doesn't have as much freedom as his brother -- he can't set his own rates or hours, and is very much dependent on Mr. Jones to be honest and consistent with his wages. But nor does he have so much responsibility. Mr. Jones happens to be a decent fellow who faithfully pays Del an annual salary for his work (he definitely does do snow removal) and doesn't withhold his wages in case of a drought. If Del gets sick, Mr. Jones calls in his personal physician to tend to him. (OK, so I've morphed my scenario into Jane Austen world here, but bear with me.) Del even lives in a little cottage on the grounds, and when he's too feeble to trim hedges or pull weeds, Mr. Jones (or perhaps by then his son) will continue to be responsible for him. It seems to me that Del's employment also fits in the family sphere, but in this case not his own family, but the Joneses.

It's easier to see, perhaps, in situations where the employee is closely connected to the household of the employer (Del and Mr. Jones or Eleazar of Damascus and Abraham to pull out a biblical example) that the employer bears some familial responsibility for the employee. But why not in other situations?

There's a scene in the film North and South in which Mr. Thornton says that it's not his responsibility whether his mill workers' children have enough to eat. But if employment in the family sphere, then he does have some responsibility. If a king should be first in battle and last in retreat, and a captain should stay on the deck of his sinking ship 'til all his men have been evacuated, and a husband should lay down his life for his wife, then surely an employer should be willing to sacrifice his own comforts when economic circumstances warrant, as they did in the context of the movie, cutting worker wages.

The scene also brought up a point that would make application stickier. If I recall correctly, part of the problem was that the children's father was not earning enough to survive on decently, but the other part was that he was drinking too much of his wages. I don't know how or if the familial responsibility of the employer extends into that scenario. A father is still a father, even if he's someone else's employee, and I don't mean for my idea of the employer's familial role to be meddlesome and micromanaging, but just as I'd want the state to step in when there's criminal neglect, I guess I would want the employer in this scenario to take some action to defend the drunkard employee's children.

Of course I come to a bit of a wall when I consider how to apply this in a world where most people work publicly traded corporations and nonprofit agencies rather than privately owned businesses (at least I assume that's the case). (I'll leave the ginormous proportion of government employees out of the picture for the moment. Let's just say that in my ideal world there wouldn't be nearly so many of them.) But I think that it's another symptom or perhaps another cause of the rampant fatherlessness in our culture that workers aren't personnel anymore, but human resources. No surprise that most people change jobs like they change their socks these days, and employee loyalty is an rarity. There's no sense of personal responsibility and care and concern toward employees by their leaders in the workplace, so there's no respect and honor and love and loyalty in return (of course I speak in generalities, knowing there are wonderful exceptions in the world).

Huh. I didn't know my thoughts would end up on father hunger!
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 6:55 PM • Permalink • • 8 comments


On August 11, 2008 2:22 PM Blogger james3v1 wrote...  
I've done some thinking about this, and I don't have time to post all my thoughts here, but I agree with the central thought--that the workplace is an artificially separate sphere that has been adopted by most modern societies.

The corporation model, making a faceless, personless entity that is the head of the workplace environment divorces any personal responsibility over the worker, where as the model you're talking about (family workplace) does not.

The short version is I think that over the long haul (thinking cross-generationally) we ought to be working to return to a family business model rather than a corporation model, doing business with men we know rather than companies that entice us.

It takes a great deal of personal sacrifice to do so, like paying more for a little better serviced, locally owned business rather than buying what you want at the lowest price possible at a big box. But that's what thinking long term does. It understands that if you want prosperous people to buy your services/wares/goods/etc. then you need to use theirs, or all of us will work, shop, and live at WalMart or whoever wins the store wars.

Of course some better, liberty based government policies would help this along. :0)

On August 11, 2008 3:35 PM Blogger The BadgerMum wrote...  
I agree with you, though I would say that Church has a legitimate interest in educating all her children, not just the adult ones. Don't know how this would work out practically speaking beyond the obvious Sunday morning sermon. You already know I'm not into age-segragated anything on Sunday. But it seems like if a pastor offered a history or literature or Greek class to kids in his parish it wouldn't fall into the cagetory of "family business," but that may be because I have trouble separating an ordained minister from his office.

On August 12, 2008 2:41 AM Blogger Annette M. Heidmann wrote...  
This was an interesting post, posing an interesting question, and I enjoyed discussing it with my husband. Paul currently provides software engineering services to a very large corporation (General Dynamics). He has also worked at Honeywell and Motorola, also very large, impersonal corporations. However, rather than feeling like a sort of "small cog in a big machine," his perspective has always been that he is Mel. He provides a high value service to whichever company can pay him a salary and benefits commensurate with his skills, but the company is in no way responsible for or over him -- rather, the company with which he decides to contract is simply his client.

On August 13, 2008 1:41 PM Blogger The Dane wrote...  
I know you said you didn't want to discuss anything prior to a certain point you had arrived at in the post, but since I couldn't get to that point myself, I did have a question. Don't think of this as an argument, just me wondering.

Is a statement like "All truth is God's truth" really very meaningful to the discussion? I've heard this more often than I'd have expected to hear it and it never really makes sense to me.

To my ears it sounds about on par with all cattle are God's cattle, all government is God's government, and all whore's are God's whores. Each of these is, of course, true. But none of them relate to who (beyond God) is responsible for them.

It could be that I'm entirely missing the point of the phrase, but as it seems on the face of it, "All ____ is God's _____" seems more to do with acknowledgment of God's sovereignty over all and less to do with how we mete out the middle-management responsibilities over the things over which God is sovereign.

On August 13, 2008 1:49 PM Blogger Valerie (Kyriosity) wrote...  
God's sovereignty is indeed the point. If the middle managers are failing to acknowledge or communicate that point, then they are derelict in their duties. And if a Christian father is delegating the education of his children to others, he should ensure that they are ready, willing and able to acknowledge or communicate that point pervasively in all they teach. Not that anyone's going to do this perfectly, but I believe Scripture requires them to do it purposefully.

On August 13, 2008 3:17 PM Blogger The Dane wrote...  
Oh, I think I missed something. I thought you were saying that because all truth was God's truth, then education is the responsibility of the father. But it sounds like you're presuming that responsibility before the All Truth statement.

Whether I agree or not, that makes more sense. I think I just misread you the first time.

On August 13, 2008 3:31 PM Blogger Valerie (Kyriosity) wrote...  
I guess I was sort of saying that, now that I go back and look at the context. Fathers are responsible for raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Learning to acknowledge God's sovereignty in all things is a significant chunk of that. Ergo fathers are responsible to make sure it happens. Clear as mud?

On August 13, 2008 6:02 PM Blogger The Dane wrote...  
Yup. Now we just have to figure out if education is the same thing as the nurture and admonition of the lord (or at least a subsidiary part of that). I'm pretty sure that it's not (or at least that a large portion of it is not), but since that's not your subject here, I'll politely bow out.

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