Man of the Houseby C.R. Wiley
Length: Approximately 5 hours. To read (160 pages).
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The world as we know it is slowly dying; wise men will build a house to shelter their families, descendants, and neighbors. In Man of the House, C. R. Wiley mines the past to present a compelling vision for men ordering their lives in such a way to secure the spiritual wellbeing and economic liberty of their households.
Who should read this?
While Man of the House is beneficial for men of all ages, it is ideal for young men entering adulthood and those mentoring such men. Young men have time and opportunity on their side and have not yet made many of the choices that would make implementing Wiley’s vision more difficult. Still, men at various stages and stations of life will find plenty to apply to their own lives and homes.
C.R. Wiley is a pastor, writer, real estate investor, building contractor, and sometimes philosophy professor. At various points in Man of the House, he dons each of those hats to present an alternate vision of ordering one’s life rooted in the ancient wisdom of religion and philosophy, yet feasibly practical today.
The subtitle describes the work as a handbook, and it reads as such: direct and matter-of-fact. Not that Wiley writes without style, but in this book, beauty is secondary to instruction. There are certain things you must do to secure the wellbeing and economic liberty of those in your household, and Wiley is concerned to tell you what those things are and why. He does so with all the authority of a man who has built such a house.
The purpose of the book is to present an alternate vision for men living in a world gone mad. How have we lost our way? Our woes are too much to categorize here and are beyond Wiley’s book, but relevant here, we have abandoned the wisdom of our fathers as it relates to household polity and economics. The result is we are fatherless, rootless, boundless, and faithless, not to mention being the wage slaves of others. But we don’t have to stay this way; Wiley uncovers a better path.
Man of the House is organized into four parts. In Part One, Wiley outlines the foundation of a household, discussing covenants, marriage, and love. Part Two is about household economics. Wiley makes one of his primary arguments: to build a shelter that lasts, men must acquire productive property.
Part Three delves into household polity, and the bulk of the section deals with what sort of man a head of household should be. He must possess authority, gravitas, and piety. Lastly, Part Four provides instruction for relating to the outside world, particularly governments, tradesmen, friends, and neighbors.
Throughout the book, Wiley assumes four alternate personas to provide additional commentary in offset boxes outside the main body of text. Whenever he wants to say something with an edge to it, he becomes the curmudgeon. When a topic needs a closer look, he is the philosopher. The paterfamilias makes fatherly pronouncements that need to be said, but do not fit within the natural flow of the argument, while the craftsman offers practical advice.
Drawing on the work of Allan Carlson, who wrote the afterword to this book, Wiley’s main argument is that households must return to being productive rather than consumerist. Once, households were industrious societies. Husband and wife were economically bound to one another, often working side-by-side. Children also contributed to the family enterprise in meaningful ways and were often educated in the home. Today, homes are shared spaces for the private consumption of goods. This shift has wrought disastrous consequences for the modern family, one of which is the soul-crushing wage slavery to corporate America that so many families are caught up in.
Wiley’s solution is that men must make it their goal to acquire productive property. Productive property is that which can provide you a living without having to sell it. A farm, a rental house, tools, or a profitable business are all examples of productive property, and further examples of possible productive property are only limited by one’s imagination.
As mentioned above, economies have moved outside the home. But Wiley argues that to shelter families in both good and bad times, we must move our economies back home. Productive property “gives the household economy something to work on together, something to offer the world in exchange for a living” (Loc. 660).
Productive property is not the central point of Wiley’s vision. His vision is a household of love that provides for and protects its people. Productive property is a tool that economically sustains the household and helps provide for its cohesion, which is why it is so important. The rest of the book is a manual explaining what type of man one must be to get and hold on to productive property in order to shelter the people under his care.
For example, men who will build this kind of household must be virtuous, hardworking, and pious. They delay gratification and practice thrift. They possess gravitas, take responsibility, and are faithful churchmen. Wiley touches on all these characteristics and more throughout the book.
Man of the House is a much-needed resource. Many books instructing men either make a cartoon out of masculinity or emasculate it altogether. But if we define faithful manhood as the glad assumption of responsibility then Wiley’s book is must-have primer. He unashamedly celebrates masculinity—egalitarians beware!—all the while outlining it in practical terms. He does not just tell us to take responsibility for others but offers very specific instructions on how to go about it.
Part of the reason our world is falling apart, as Wiley’s subtitle declares, is fatherlessness. Whether by desertion or disengagement, many sons today grow up without the steady guidance of a strong father. No one is teaching them how to take responsibility for their own lives.
No one is cautioning them about the dangers of wage slavery. No one is preparing them to shelter others during hard times. No one is modeling how to have gravitas and lead with authority. In this way, Wiley steps in as a surrogate father figure, pointing the way for men to go to regain their dignity and liberty.
As such, Man of the House is an ideal book to give to recent high school graduates, college students, or young men preparing for marriage. Men at a vocational crossroads also will benefit from Wiley’s seasoned guidance.
In Man of the House readers will be challenged to think about their current choices and how they are ordering their lives. Wiley provides a compelling vision of spiritual maturity, personal responsibility, sacrificial love, hard work, and masculine virtue. Implementing Wiley’s vision will not be easy, but he provides enough practical instruction and personal testimony to make it seem doable.
But his practicality is not of the flimsy self-help variety—you will not find seven steps to a prosperous household. Rather, it is practical like the Book of Proverbs is practical: rooted in ancient wisdom and requiring grace and virtue. Wiley has given a gift to the men of Christ’s church in this straightforward manual for building our houses.