Wendell Berry (born August 5, 1934) is a true intellectual. He’s also a farmer. He models what we will see someday in the garden city (see Revelation 22:1-5).
Berry comes from a long line of Kentucky farmers. His life is uniquely balanced as an American poet and novelist, a cultural critic, and a conservationist—that is, in the classic sense of conserving what is important. For Berry, what is important is the land and the connection between the family and the farm.
In an article published in the September/October 2005 issue of Orion magazine, Berry writes of Renewing Husbandry:
THE WORD “HUSBANDRY” IS THE NAME of a connection. In its original sense, it is the name of the work of a domestic man, a man who has accepted a bondage to the household. To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve. Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the domestic plants and animals—obviously because of the importance of these things to the household. And there have been times, one of which is now, when some people have tried to practice a proper human husbandry of the nondomestic creatures, in recognition of the dependence of our households and domestic life upon the wild world. Husbandry is the name of all the practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.
At creation, the first family was placed in a garden to tend and keep it. This has been known, variously, as the Cultural Mandate, the Creation Mandate, or the Development Mandate. Man is placed in the midst of creation to be a steward, to husband the land (Genesis 2:15).
The work of cultural creation (“cultural” is related to cult, or worship, and cultivate, or tending the soil and the soul) is the work of the family – male and female (Genesis 1:26-27).
The Hebrew word for husband in the Genesis 2 is Õiysh. God himself is the first farmer (Genesis 1: 8) and the Õiysh, husband, of Israel, just as Christ is the husband of the church.
At the level of language the relationship between “husbandry” and “husband” is obvious. The relationship transcends the merely superficial. In Genesis 2: 15 Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden to husband the land. But God says the stewarding family is not complete (Genesis 2:18, 20b); the complementary partner, the wife – Õishshah, will be created. Adam will now husband—“care, keep, save, conserve”—his counterpart, Eve, as well as their family (Genesis 2:20) and the land they will share.
It is also of note that the first adam – male, came from the ground (adama) and the second and complementary adam– female, was formed from the first adam. The man’s source was the ground he will husband and the woman’s source is the man she will complete in their fulfilling of the Cultural Mandate
In Letters to Young Ladies, Lydia Sigourney writes of the dual points of responsibility between the woman and the man to create the whole:
While her partner toils for his stormy portion of that power or glory from which it is her privilege to be sheltered, let her feel that in the recesses of domestick [sic] privacy she still renders a noble service to the government that protects her, by sowing seeds of purity and peace in the hearts of those who shall hereafter claim its honours or control its destinies. (p. 15)
While her husband toils against the weeds in the garden (Genesis 3) to provide for his family, the woman is sheltered. Note, he is her servant, not her tyrant. She is protected, not for a life of ease, but for the critical task of nurturing the future citizens of the nation. While the government affords protection for her, she performs a noble service of educating the future leaders of the community and nation. Her husband and the government create a protected space for her to fulfill her glorious calling. She is developing the character of future citizen leaders, those who will “claim its honours or control its destinies.”
– Darrow Miller
This post is the fifth in a series on maternal feminism.