Idolatry of the Family

I recently came across a great, succinct article about the idolatry of the family. The poetry of the style adds to the punch. These first two paragraphs say it so well:

Jesus didn’t die on a God-forsaken cross to preserve your horn-rimmed vision of 1950s Americana. He did not go through hell and back to secure the keys to an exclusive gated community. And he didn’t suffer lacerations so that your nuclear family could be photographed beside the tulips in matching shiny egg-white shoes.

Jesus had a family. They were his scraggly followers. Yes, he had flesh-and-blood siblings, but they thought big brother was a fake and that mom must have been crazy for buying into all of his religious ranting. They told him to shut up, so Jesus ignored and disregarded them. As he was gurgling his last bloody breath at Golgotha, he wheezed to John—“the disciple whom Jesus loved”—that Mary was to be his mother and he, her son.

One of the things that has always amused from a historical perspective is that one of the main reasons why the early Christians were persecuted was because they subverted traditional family values. They gave women leadership in their religious institutions instead of relegating them to be temple prostitutes. The slaves worshipped alongside their masters as equals. They proclaimed that the brotherhood of Christ is more important than any bond of blood relation. They weren’t persecuted for being another religion – there were lots of religions in the Roman Empire co-existing peacefully. They were persecuted because they shattered the whole social hierarchy from the top (the Emperor) all the way down (the slaves).

For some reason in the last generation, American Christianity has taken up the cause of preserving “family values,” by which they mean 1950’s white America. Something has clearly changed. This article is bang on in saying that so many churches have become way too preoccupied with this goal, and with equating this goal with anything that is truly “biblical.” This is why I start to get worried whenever I hear people proclaiming something as the biblical way to do things – it usually means the 1950’s white America way to do things.

Adding to that, the New Testament is fairly clear that singleness is at least as highly valued – if not more – than marriage. Paul says that he wishes everyone could be single like him, although he admits that some people will need to marry. Jesus’ disciples complained that marriage was too hard when he told them they shouldn’t divorce, and he responds by saying that maybe they shouldn’t get married then. Marriage is definitely seen as a sacred thing and is also often honoured throughout Scripture, but so is singleness. Marriage is simply not seen as the obvious correct choice for every one. So it’s not like these Christian groups even have a very strong case. And that’s without me even getting into how this image of 1950’s Americana also tends to result in a lot of other problems. Women are made second-class citizens. Anybody non-white is made a second-class citizen. Anybody poor is a second class citizen (1950’s Americana is all about the middle class).

As the article concludes,

An idol carved in the shape of a smiling family is still an idol.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.