Oikophilia or “love of home” is a distinct aspect of conservative political philosophy. Both classical and modern liberals, value individual autonomy and consideration of abstract rights over and against home and place. Leftists may speak of “families” when describing current Democratic party constituencies, but it’s clear they see these groups as dependent upon — and therefore subservient to — the interest of a revolutionary leviathan.
We conservatives are more or less alone in our championing of hearth and home. This is certainly a cause for concern, but we can also think of it as an opportunity to breathe new life into our fractured society and political movement. A love of home can at the very least present the different brands of conservatism going about today with a “lowest common denominator” of agreement.
A proper place to begin is with the current champion of Oikophilia himself, Roger Scruton:
Human beings, in their settled condition, are animated by oikophila: the love of the oikos, which means not only the home but the people contained in it, and the surrounding settlements that endow that home with lasting contours and an enduring smile. The oikos is the place that is not just mine and yours but ours. It is the stage-set for the first-person plural of politics, the locus, both real and imagined, where ‘it all takes place’. Virtues like thrift and self-sacrifice, the habit of offering and receiving respect, the sense of responsibility- all those aspects of the human condition that shape us as stewards and guardians of our common inheritance- arise through our growth as persons, by creating value in the sea of price.1
What, then, is oikophilia? In terms of sphere sovereignty, Oikophilia is the love of family, church, workplace, and community associations. The “little platoons” which are, as Burke described, “the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind.”2
Oikophilia, therefore, is an a posteriori approach to politics, preferring the communities man has historically fostered and deriving general principles from their history of operation. This is in blatant opposition to the intentional a priori approach of Enlightenment political philosophy, which promises to “begin the world over again” only to bridle communities with, at best, onerous expectations.
As noted above, many of the dominant political philosophies today take issue with Oikophilia. It is, indeed, a vague concept, but the modern world has “progressed” to the point where once commonly accepted concepts stand in stark contrast the political madness of our age. Particularly in our troubled times where a hint of Oikophilia can be considered grounds for being called racist.
These often disingenuous or unthinking criticisms are not worth addressing here, but the potential Christian critique of Oikophilia is. Thanks to the march of Enlightenment principles into the Church, Christians have shed their proper love of home in favor of an abstract, universalized man dressed up in the language of the Gospel.
We at the Reformed Conservative contend that oikophilia is a biblical concept. Robert J. McPherson’s strong opening salvo on the matter gets to the heart of things, “Jesus had a special love for the Israelite people. He loved them in all their unique Israelite peculiarities too. He did not weep for other nations, but he wept for his own.”
This observation comes off as all the more profound when it is considered in context. God set Israel apart as a special, prophetic people and imposed strict laws to see they would remain so until the advent. All of the great books we prefer to gloss over in the Pentateuch- Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus describe a code which kept Israel from the surrounding Middle Eastern cultures. Oikophilia was not then overturned by God, but Providentially harnessed to write, maintain, and spread the word of the Lord. This continued into earliest times of the Church Age. Jesus’ particular love for Israel had millennia of precedent to it.
This concept extended outside of Israel as well – when the Roman Centurion Cornelius was baptized by Peter, he was not exhorted to leave Roman military service and join the brotherhood of man. As far as we can know, he retained his post and continued his service to the Senate and People of Rome (as far as he was concerned)(Acts 10).
When the Bible speaks of heavenly worship, the earthly distinctives of people are not somehow forgotten, but integrated and praised as a part of God’s Providential mosaic. Consider the following:
Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
Revelation 7:9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.
This all amounts to a duty in our own place and time. A duty to appreciate what we have and what has come before. A duty to appreciate how the Lord has used and will continue to use local communities. A duty to love our land and her songs.
Many are the bonds that love restores for the healing of the civic community. How to define oikophilia? Oikophilia is the bond that compels us to meet the expectations of those who love us, know us, and care about us. We echo Euripides, who well understood the spirit of Oikophilia, “Your lot was cast in Sparta. Be a credit to it.”
Citations and References
2. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France , Kindle Edition, Loc 930.