Bojidar Marinov has been making a name for himself in the Reformed blogosphere as an advocate for Ron Paul, libertarian economics, and theonomy. To us kinists he is an advocate of alienism, or the idea that race is irrelevant to a healthy society. Bojidar’s unsuccessful attempt to marry traditional theonomy with his alienist outlook comes to the fore in his condemnation of “clan culture,” as displayed in his recent article published on the website Christendom Restored. Marinov sets a course similar to the path taken by Gary North when he condemned “the cult of the family,” or what he called “baptized patriarchalism.”1 The condemnation of patriarchy is a recent innovation without scriptural foundation, and this newfound condemnation for the extended family has managed to conveniently piggyback on the postmodern wave that condemns all things hereditary. How opportune that the alienists should have the occasion to condemn something that is going out of vogue! After all, clans are so yesterday!
Preliminary Historical Claims
In Marinov’s article, he criticizes author Israel Wayne for promoting “family culture” as an alternative to what is referred to as “pop culture.” Wayne praises the pre-industrial, family-based culture for its “accountability, community, resourcefulness and creativity,” while criticizing pop culture for its focus upon “liberation, autonomy, spending aimlessly and consumerism.” Marinov takes umbrage at the suggestion that qualities such as resourcefulness and creativity should be attributed to clannish society. In Marinov’s view, clannish societies broke down from the spread of Christianity and specifically Calvinism. Marinov asserts that Calvinistic Protestants consciously broke from the tradition of clan order by deciding to forsake their historic homelands and settle elsewhere. He cites the examples of the settlers of New England and the subsequent migration westward as prima facie evidence of their rejection of clan identity in favor of the nuclear family. But the primary problem is that Marinov simply assumes what he is trying to prove. Why should anyone maintain that migration is to be equated with a rejection of extended family and kin relationships? In reading biographies of many of the early settlers and families in America, I find myself fascinated by how connected families were on both sides of the Atlantic. Families often kept up correspondence despite that communication was far more difficult back then than it is today. The only possible argument Marinov could make from this migration is that the migrants did not believe that they ought to live in the same locale as their extended family at all times and in all circumstances, but that is very different from saying that they treated extended family ties as marginally important. Having a sufficient reason to depart from one’s extended family for a period of time is very morally distinct from attributing no value to extended family at all. I therefore see absolutely no reason to conclude, as Marinov does, that migration represents a conscious rejection of the importance of extended family relationships. Migration can and does happen for several reasons, and today it is often accompanied by a rejection of extended family relationships, but Marinov does not demonstrate that this motivated the early American settlers or those who traversed the frontier in any way. This is simply wishful thinking on his part.
Next, Marinov rejects the idea that the Industrial Revolution had an adverse effect upon the family. Marinov insists that families who moved to the cities to work in factories married younger and had more children. Without a doubt, there have been many material benefits brought about by post-industrial technology. These benefits allowed families to grow both in cities and in the countryside during the nineteenth century. However, I find Marinov’s assertion that the Industrial Revolution “gave [the Christian family] a boost stronger than any other social factor since the 1st century AD” to be patently absurd! Marinov neglects to mention that factory life commonly entailed child labor in which children worked long hours in dangerous conditions.2 Women, too, were often forced to work in order to support the family. Marinov later insists that “our modern industrial capitalism is not only not hostile to the Biblical culture, it is itself a product of that Biblical culture, and in itself encourages righteous dominion by faithful Christian nuclear families”; but the problems associated with post-industrial society prompted the American author Mark Twain to dub the late nineteenth century as “the Gilded Age.”
Moreover, Marinov vastly underestimates the profound effect that the Industrial Revolution had on society for the worse. Writers like G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc wrote against these evils with vehemence. Belloc called industrial capitalism “a manifest evil,”3 and the Southern Agrarians likewise denounced the Industrial Revolution for changing the natural course of life into something artificial. To be certain, the issue is not with technology per se, but rather with how post-industrial society has allowed new technology to take dominion over our lives, rather than the opposite.
The Twelve Southerners correctly observed:
Religion can hardly expect to flourish in an industrial society. Religion is our submission to the general intention of a nature that is fairly inscrutable; it is the sense of our role as creatures within it. But nature industrialized, transformed into cities and artificial habitations, manufactured into commodities, is no longer nature but a highly simplified picture of nature. We receive the illusion of having power over nature, and lose the sense of nature as something mysterious and contingent. The God of nature under these conditions is merely an amiable expression, a superfluity, and the philosophical understanding ordinarily carried in the religious experience is not there for us to have.4
If Marinov is correct in his audacious claim that the Industrial Revolution gave the Christian family “a boost stronger than any other social factor since the 1st century AD,” then why have Christian families experienced inexorable decline since industrialization has taken place? The fact that city-dwellers were predominant in Charles Spurgeon’s congregation doesn’t prove much, and it doesn’t address the decline in Christian orthodoxy that began during this period.
Next, Marinov purports to address the “true nature and reasons of feminism.” He states that feminism “wasn’t a reaction against the Christian order for the family, and its goal wasn’t to get the woman to the job market. Feminism was a reaction against the quasi-patriarchal order established on the ideas of the Enlightenment.” What is this but repackaged feminist propaganda? Seeking to defend the Industrial Revolution’s movement of women into the workplace, Marinov claims that the idea of the woman as the keeper of the home is an Enlightenment construct contrary to biblical principles. I find this claim, along with his claim that feminism was not a reaction against the Christian social order, more than a little suspect. Certainly, the ideology we call feminism, which began in earnest in the nineteenth century, was anti-Christian to the core. The feminists, in both their earlier and more recent incarnations, did not limit their criticism to an Enlightenment construct of gender, but rather took aim at the Bible itself. Scripture is clear regarding the role of wives to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22) and to be keepers of the home (Titus 2:5; 1 Tim. 5:14), and the feminists were well aware of this.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an early leader of the feminist movement, and her infidel opinions are well-known. She stated, “Woman’s degradation is in man’s idea of his sexual rights. Our religion, laws, customs, are all founded on the belief that woman was made for man.”5 She continues, “When women understand that governments and religions are human inventions; that bibles, prayer-books, catechisms, and encyclical letters are all emanations from the brains of man, they will no longer be oppressed by the injunctions that come to them with the divine authority of ‘Thus sayeth the Lord.’ ”6 She edited what became known as The Woman’s Bible, in which she opined, after analyzing the biblical text, that “the Bible in its teachings degrades women from Genesis to Revelation.”7 I wonder what Marinov could possibly mean when he states that feminism was not a reaction against Christian social order, when a foundational leader of the feminists herself states the exact opposite! We can easily ascertain how Marinov’s commitment to industrialism and against patriarchy has managed to dig himself into a hole.
Biblical Texts Concerning Clan Society
In criticizing Israel Wayne’s theological views of culture and society, Marinov rejects the idea that culture can be considered tribal. He rejects the concept of folk culture and suggests, “Such definition of culture is essentially materialistic for it defines culture by material factors (people-group, folk) while the spiritual factors (beliefs and values) are simply lumped together into an amorphous mass called ‘culture.’ ” It is apparent that Marinov does not understand materialism. Materialism entails a rejection of spiritual reality. Materialism is not the acknowledgement that material or physical reality matters or plays a significant role in one’s identity, or that material factors contribute to culture. It is perfectly logical to assert that factors such as a common ancestry, language, history, and customs, in addition to a common faith, have a profound impact on culture. There is no reason why culture has to be or even can be defined exclusively by religious beliefs. Celtic Christians can have their own culture unique from Slavic Christians, and this speaks to their differences in language, history, and inherited customs. There is nothing unchristian about simply recognizing this fact. It is true that religion is an essential component of culture, but culture is not merely the product of a confession of faith to the exclusion of any other factors. By rejecting the importance of material influences on culture, Marinov is not avoiding materialism, but rather falling into the error of neo-Gnosticism, which rejects physical and material reality as unimportant or even bad.
Marinov states, “According to the Bible, the boundaries of a culture coincide with the boundaries of a religion, and whatever peoples, families, tribes are within that religion, are mixed in one people,” but he does not really defend this idea from a rigorous application of biblical principles or texts. The Bible speaks of many different tribes, nations, and peoples, and these certainly do not always correspond to different faiths. The tribes of Israel were all considered to be equally in covenant with God, and yet they were still considered distinct. Furthermore, we do not really have a concrete example of someone being considered an Israelite simply on account of his faith, or even on account of circumcision. Israelites were designated hereditarily whether they were faithful or not. This doesn’t mean that faith is unimportant by any means, but it also doesn’t mean that people have no meaningful connections with others outside their faith.
It is true that “the family cannot be trusted at all times to provide a healthy culture,” but it does not follow that family must not have an important role in the transmission of healthy culture. I doubt Marinov would disagree that one of the family’s primary goals is to transmit the faith to future generations. This is why the breakdown of the family, both immediate and extended, certainly corresponds to a decline in the faith itself. God is sovereign and can work through whatever means He chooses, but He has created and ordained the family for this purpose, among others. This is why kinists believe that hereditary nations have a role to play in the transmission of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul states in Acts 17:26-27 that God created ethnic boundaries so that the nations (ethne) will seek after God and find Him. This is affirmed by the example of Timothy. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy that he is convinced of his unfeigned faith “which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Timothy 1:5). National (ethnic) distinctions were also reaffirmed in order to restrain evil (Genesis 11:6).8 This is because the family and extended family can enforce moral standards much better than a deracinated society of rootless individuals. Again, this is why the breakdown of family, clan, and tribal connections has corresponded with the decline of the Christian faith in Western society.
Marinov rejects descriptions of society such as the one that Wayne offers:
Imagine with me, if you can, a culture where you are surrounded with people who know and love you. There are parents, uncles and aunts, cousins, grandparents and even on occasion great-grandparents. Living, working, playing and worshiping with these loved-ones creates a wonderful sense of security and stability. You know who you are, to a great extent, because of your relationships with those of your surrounding family. Family can serve as a fixed reference point, linking you to geography and to the past in a way that no other friendship or community can.
“Absolutely not,” huffs Marinov. “The only fixed reference point is the faith in God. The extended family isn’t, and is never mentioned as such. The Biblical family is always the nuclear family.” Admittedly, I’m not exactly sure of what Marinov means by a “fixed reference point.” We all agree that we are justified by faith, and not by our family. That is not the point of contention, and I doubt that Wayne was trying to elevate family in any sense over true faith in God. We must, however, reaffirm that the family, both extended and nuclear, has objective value within God-ordained human society. Marinov tries to justify his assertion that the biblical family is always the nuclear family by appealing to a few examples. A couple of the examples he gives are noticeably absurd. He states, “Rahab was blessed for betraying her folk, and Ruth was blessed for abandoning her family culture.” No, both Rahab and Ruth were blessed for their fidelity to God, not for abandoning or betraying their families as such. The most Marinov could say is that they were blessed because, in their unfortunate circumstances, faithfulness to God required a rejection of their family – but that is simply to note that family is less important than God, not that it is valueless. Rahab even makes provision for the preservation of her family during the destruction of Jericho (Joshua 6:17-25). Why would Rahab have done this if family were unimportant or irrelevant?
Do any of these examples help his case? No. These examples only demonstrate that families can be dysfunctional, but no one is denying this. Besides, none of these examples support Marinov’s contention that “the Biblical family is always the nuclear family.” Dysfunctionality can exist among extended relatives along with members of the nuclear family. The examples of Abel, Cain, and Seth; Shem, Ham, and Japheth; Isaac and Ishmael; and Jacob and Esau come to mind. Yet examples of dysfunction in either the nuclear family or the extended family or clan do not delegitimize their appropriate place in society. Marinov even admits as much when he says, “None of these, of course, is to declare the family unnecessary or worthy of disdain.” During this portion of the article, Marinov rapidly and almost incoherently switches between arguing against family as a “fixed reference point” (whatever that is supposed to mean) and arguing that the biblical concept of family encompasses only the nuclear family, neither of which he proves.
Next, Marinov states, “[T]he Law of God actually contains economic provisions for the break-up of the extended family”– a bold assertion indeed! He elaborates, “First, there is God’s promise to Israel to multiply them in the land (Deut. 30:5).” I don’t know what Marinov is trying to communicate here. How is a promise to multiply faithful Israelites an “economic provision for the break-up of the extended family”? This is especially suspect in light of the fact that the “fathers” in this verse clearly refer not to immediate fathers of nuclear families, but rather to their ancestors of generations past. It seems that Marinov’s first example proves the exact opposite of his point! The only conclusion Marinov could draw from this promise is that since God intended the Israelites to spread through the land, He did not intend for extended families to all reside within one household, never moving anywhere else. But this is a far claim from saying that the law required the “break-up” of the extended family, much less that we ought not to value our own clan. Continuing on: “Second, there is the system of inheritance which required that the land was divided between the covenant-keeping sons in a family (Deut. 21:15-17).” Again, it is true that this law presupposes the existence of independent nuclear families, since the bequeathing of property presupposes independent households established by a man’s sons, but this does not even remotely demonstrate an “economic provision for the break-up of the extended family,” since the existence of distinct nuclear families does not require extended families to be broken up in the process. Finally, “Third, there was the Jubilee regulation which prohibited the Israelites from selling permanently the family inheritance in the land; at the end of the 50-year period, the land had to return to the original owner (Lev. 25:13-17, 27:24).” It is true that it was permissible for family to move off the family land to some extent, thus showing that God did not command us to all live on one homestead, but once more, this doesn’t necessitate in any way a “break-up” of the extended family.
Marinov comments on these three laws:
The combined economic effect of these three would mean that over time, the heirs of the original families would have grown in numbers to the point where the allotted land to each son would be insufficient to feed him and his wife and children. He couldn’t sell the land permanently but he could lease it out for up to 50 years to another person in the family, if that relative wanted to consolidate a few properties for efficient agricultural production. The owner, then, would have the funds to move with his family either to a city, where he could start a new career in a non-agricultural business (like Joseph, who was a carpenter), or buy land outside the borders of Israel where the Jubilee regulations didn’t reach, and the land could be permanently sold or bought. The economic pressure would force the nuclear families to leave the extended family.
These passages do demonstrate that God did not command His people to all live on the same homestead, one extended family living in one home, but rather He made provisions to spread them, in some sense, elsewhere. And if that is simply what Marinov means when he argues for the “break-up” of the extended family, then so be it — it still falls far short of proving that a Christian social order ought not to place a deep value upon extended family. Now, regarding this Jubilee law, it is true that many Israelites wouldn’t have necessarily farmed their plot of their ancestral land, choosing to lease it instead. But Marinov misses the point of the Jubilee land law entirely. This law prevented ancestral land from being sold on a permanent basis and acted as an economic safety net to prevent families from plunging too far into poverty. In the worst case scenario, a man would have to work off whatever debt existed in the meantime until he would receive back his ancestral inheritance in the year of Jubilee. The result of the Jubilee land law was that it actually kept people tied to their ancestral property as a means of economic security! This hardly encouraged nuclear families to leave extended families, but rather encouraged mutual cooperation so as to maximize productivity from ancestral holdings.
In addition to the texts Marinov cites, we could also include passages he doesn’t cite. Naboth the Jezreelite refuses to part with his ancestral property to King Ahab under the very principles just discussed; he would not cede “the inheritance of my fathers” (1 Kings 21:1-3). The nation of Israel is enumerated by tribes descended from common patriarchs in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, identified by hereditary descent (1 Chronicles 1-8). Obviously these tribes were nothing if not very large extended families. Perhaps the most convincing passage that speaks to the importance of extended family is Numbers 36. Here the case law of the daughters of Zelophehad from Numbers 27 is generalized to all Israel. This law stipulates that female inheritors marry within the tribe of their father so that ancestral inheritances would not move from tribe to tribe; “for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers’” (v. 7). This reference, as well as references to the “chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead” and “the families of the sons of Joseph” in Numbers 36:1, clearly do not refer to exclusively nuclear families, thus rendering incorrect Marinov’s assertion that “the Biblical family is always the nuclear family.” If the Israelites had commitments to multiple “fathers,” then it is evident both that the Bible speaks of family in an extended, tribalistic way, and that the Bible teaches that we ought to value such relations.
Marinov later asserts, “The Jewish Diaspora in the antiquity was the largest movement of nuclear families away from their extended families, and it was copied much later by the Phoenicians and the Greeks, who originally were patriarchal societies.” The Diaspora was caused not by obedience to some imagined biblical mandate to move away from extended families, as Marinov seems to think. The Diaspora was God’s judgment upon Israel because of her unbelief. As God promised in Deuteronomy 28:64-68, Israel would be scattered among the heathen if she forsook the covenant. The Diaspora was not a blessing that allowed the Israelites the opportunity to move apart from extended family connections. This is further demonstrated by the fact that Ezra, who oversaw the return from captivity, considered Israelite identity to be a matter of heredity, rather than simply a matter of faith (Ezra 2:59-62). Marinov’s theological proofs against extended families, tribes, and clans have obviously fallen short of the mark. He fails to properly interpret the implications of the passages he does mention, and leaves out very important information relevant to our present discussion.
This first article evaluated Marinov’s faulty understanding of history regarding both migration and feminism. We also evaluated Marinov’s flawed claim that the biblical model of the family is exclusively the nuclear or immediate family. Marinov considers historic examples of migration as evidence that Christians didn’t consider extended family relationships important. The truth is that Christians historically believed that there were legitimate and morally acceptable reasons for moving away from one’s extended family. By no means does it follow that they considered extended family unimportant. Marinov also has a questionable understanding of the nineteenth-century feminist movement, seeing it as a legitimate reaction to the Enlightenment rather than the overt rebellion against God-ordained social order that it clearly was. He himself propagates the feminist narrative that the evil patriarchalists wanted to keep women in the home and not let them utilize their talents in society. Finally, several reasons were provided to conclusively demonstrate that the biblical concept of family and kinship extend beyond the immediate or nuclear family. Several case laws given to Israel undoubtedly express the importance of extended kin relationships. In order to apply God’s law properly, we will need to apply these precepts to our society to recover the extended family relationships that our ancestors once cherished.
- See his book by the same title: http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/pdf/baptized_patriarchalism.pdf. ↩
- For instance, see http://eiu.edu/eiutps/childhood.php. ↩
- See Hilaire Belloc, “The Faith and Industrial Capitalism.” ↩
- The Twelve Southerners, I’ll Take My Stand, “Introduction: A Statement of Principles.” ↩
- Letter to Susan B. Anthony, 6/14/1860. When Stanton refers to “our religion,” she is obviously referring to Christianity, and likely has the biblical creation account and verses such as 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 in mind. ↩
- Original source unknown. These Stanton quotes are taken from Goodreads, under the entry for Elizabeth Cady Stanton. http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/120585.Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton. ↩
- You can find Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible here. ↩
- See also Deuteronomy 32:8 and Ecclesiasticus 33:10-13. ↩