In Desiring the Kingdom, Smith begins by emphasizing a full-orbed anthropology, because what we believe man is will directly influence how we educate. Is man primarily a brain? Primarily a consumer? Primarily a believer? These have all been answers to the question “What is man?” in the past, but Smith wants to take us back to a more Augustinian, to a more biblical, view of man: a body and a soul. Rather than saying man is a thinking thing or even a believing thing, Smith says man is a loving thing.
Being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person who loves rightly.
What is the sum of the law and prophets? To love God with all our hearts, minds, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love, rightly ordered love, is the sum of what God wants of us. And what does He give us as means of grace? Yes, prayer and the word proclaimed, but also water and wine and bread. God gives us tangible practices to repeat again and again as the means of imparting grace to us.
We are made to be such people by our immersion in the material practices of Christian worship – through affective impact, over time, of sights and smell in water and wine.
And we can take that principle and apply it to education, to our forming of the next generation.
The liturgy is a “hearts and minds” strategy, a pedagogy that trains us as disciples precisely by putting our bodies through a regimen of repeated practices that get hold of our heart and “aim” our love toward the kingdom of God.
And what better “space of education” is there for a “regimen of repeated practices” than the home? This is why our homes are so vital. That is why Chesterton said the business of the home is the shaping of the bodies and souls of humanity. The shaping of the souls begins with the body, with an earthy, daily life full of love. Even if education is done by others in a school, still the homes are a primary indicator of success or failure. It is the daily activities within our families that shape us and aim our hearts toward specific ends, that teach us – imperceptibly – who we are in the world and what the world is all about.
We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed, and aimed by liturgical practices that take hold of our gut and aim our heart to certain ends.
What are the liturgies of our home that shape our identities and our loves?
- eating together
- working together
- playing together
- reading together
- smiles shared
- tones of voice allowed
- apologies exchanged
- consequences applied
All these practices shape our children in our homes no matter where they go for their formal education. These practices educate in fundamental ways, providing a foundation for all other instruction.
We are liturgical animals – embodied, practicing creatures whose love/desire is aimed at something ultimate.
Home is where we are first loved, where we first love, and where we drink in our first and primal assumptions about the world and about ourselves. It is the original and primary space of education.