Jul 12, 2013

Biblical Family Values

I find it slightly amusing that the people who most frequently utilize the term “family values” are generally from the fundamentalist wing of the Christian church. It is a term that regularly falls from the lips of people like James Dobson or the late Jerry Falwell. These folks use the term as if it were scriptural.

Yet, even a superficial reading of the Bible suggests that biblical family values are not a solution to contemporary family problems. Indeed, we may already have biblical family values—and this may be part of our society’s problem. If we were to mine the whole Bible for what might be construed as a model “good family,” we would soon find ourselves in an arena fraught with irony. Adam and Eve blame each other for the original indiscretion against God in the garden. Cain kills his brother Abel. Abraham sends his wife and son into the wilderness to die in order to please his “other” wife. Joseph’s brothers first plot to murder him, then change their minds and sell him into slavery instead. Aaron disobeys his brother’s (and God’s) prohibition to create idols. David’s son kills another son after raping their sister. The prophet Hosea’s spouse is less than faithful. On and on it goes. The Bible is inundated with such dysfunctional families. Indeed, in my reading of scripture, and with the possible sole exception of Jesus’ own family, not one of virtually all the biblical families display behavior intended, or at least assumed, by the phrase “biblical family values.”

At the same time, it is also important to note that the church is indeed a family. It is the family of faith, and as such, the church comes in units, however unconventional, that function more like households than families in our typical understanding. Every church has single-parent households, sister and sister households, single person households, and the like. Although most Americans see the “two-parent with children” as the model family, the reality is that fewer and fewer of these typical family constellations exist. A faithful church recognizes the changing nature of our cultural range of households and reaches out to these with the gospel. To do otherwise either denies the power of the gospel to change lives or worse, it denies the reality in which we find ourselves. A bold and cooperative point of view addressing the changing nature of modern families encourages a creative ministry. This ministry is one that meets the needs of people without artificially calling them to be something they cannot or will not become.

Clearly I encourage family values, but more than that, I think the kind of love and concern that nuclear families take for granted are those qualities that the household of faith best exemplifies. Authentic family values in the house of God take a note from Paul when Paul writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:15-16).



Jerrilyn said...

Well stated. I'm sick of having my faith & language hijacked by right wing fundamentalist extremists. This phrase, as you address here, is used thusly. I know you want me to post these responses on your blog, but I don't know how. I always receive & read on email.

Susan Schrock said...

I'm grateful that my family is way more boring and less homicidal than some biblical families. ;-)

I really agree with this sentiment:
"A faithful church recognizes the changing nature of our cultural range of households and reaches out to these with the gospel."

Just because one family may not be structured like your family doesn't mean they aren't worthy of love, support, compassion and care.

Great message

Debbie said...

I agree completely. It saddens me that the hierarchy of the United Methodist Church does not necessarily agree. The church should be leading the way on issues such as same sex marriage, not bringing up the rear.

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