Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Family Idols?

I have long wondered at the degree to which modern evangelicalism venerates the family.  In the September 2005 edition, Speaking Of Faith discusses this among other topics related to marriage and family.  Check it out.


Eric Livingston said...

Interesting transcript. I can't respond to all of it without writing for an hour.

Suffice it to say, I agree with many of their points. Eve was created as an EZOR KNGDO which indeed connotes the equality between the sexes. KNGDO, indicates the two were reciprocal helpmates.

I do believe evangelicals single out homosexuality and concern themselves with that above and beyond the problems of sex outside of marriage and divorce. We should probably hold these latter two issues in higher concern, considering they are more prevalent among evangelicals. However, all three of these things are outside of God's intention for man. I don't believe any of these three scenarios is God's hope for his creations today. That said, all three of these situations exist in Christ followers and nonChrist followers' lives. What, then, do we do with them?

We show them grace. We love them. We serve them. We counsel with them. We hold them accountable. And we hold ourselves accountable to them. In short, we live with them as either our brothers and sisters, or as people outside the body whom we desire to have join us at the Table.

CJR said...

What about the idea that we over-inflate the place of family beyond what Scripture portrays?

Eric Livingston said...

I don't know that we over-inflate the value of family. I would say that we lean on the O.T.'s culture of a patriarchal society too greatly. Our society's family model has definitely changed, but the how we live life within family units and our value and focus on those family units is pretty similar.

In what instances do you see Christians over-inflating the place of family?

CJR said...

From the transcript referenced:

Prof. Johnson: So on the one side you have, let us say with family, you have clear passages that affirm family and the household. For example, in Paul's letters to his delegates, qualities of good parenting are qualifications for leadership within the community. Young widows are to marry and raise their children and run households. So all of this is very affirming of family, and you can pick out those texts. On the other side, Jesus says, "If you want to follow me, you have to hate your father and mother." You know, "Leave your wife and your husband and your children, by the way. Abandon them and come follow me."

Ms. Tippett: I've heard lots of sermons in my life trying to massage that and interpret it so that it is palatable.

Prof. Johnson: Again, this is the case of Christians tending to privilege one set of texts and ignoring the other set. And all Christians do that.

Many years ago I gave a talk at a conference called "God Doesn't Like Families," and I basically wanted to trace that stream in scripture from Abraham on — right? — "leave your family, leave your home," right?

And running through the New Testament and suggesting God doesn't seem to be that interested in families. Or as a colleague of mine, Luther Smith, memorably said in a sermon one time, what the Bible seems to say is that families are necessary, but they're not sufficient. And I was asked by a local parish if I would come give a talk on that subject. And I sent them the title "God Doesn't Like Families." I arrived in the church. I opened the bulletin and it said, "Godlike Families." So I began my presentation by saying, "This is the problem."

They had misinterpreted — quite deliberately. They thought my title was very much too scandalous.

And so clearly one problem within one version of Christianity is a kind of idolatrous posture with regard to family, so that a family is not only necessary, which all of us would acknowledge, but that it's also sufficient. And losing that edge which is essential to the biblical tradition the prophetic edge of moving beyond family, moving behind kinship into a larger world which is God's creation.

I think it actually helps being committed in a more appropriate way. I think, for example, that good parenting does not have as its goal keeping kids at home. It's preparing them to be free to leave home, so that a certain degree of distancing is required even to do the job, that if you cling too closely, you ruin them. Just as if you abandon them, you ruin them. So there is that tension.

Similarly, the draw outside the kinship system to serve a larger world I suspect is a premise for really good commitment to the kinship system, to family. Unless I see our family life as part of a larger ecology, the tendency is to make it idolatrous, to absolutize it.