The Value of Family Values

Restoring family values has been for some time one of the rallying cries for the far right. It’s not without merit, but I think not in the way they intend.

What they want is a restoration of a a married couple household consisting of a working dad as head, and a mom providing nurture and support to three children. Only legal marriages between a man and a woman count. All other relationships not leading to marriage would be illegitimate, some illegal.  Any language or public display within the framework of LGBTQ, etc. would be banned from the American lexicon, whether in print or on air.

These are not values. They are social structures and carry no moral content.  But they do suggest a social structure framework important to the long term health and welfare of society.

A healthy society is replenished by successive generations  that have been raised to be educated, responsible adults having the knowledge, skills and work ethic to contribute, each in their own way, to their own needs, to the needs of those closest to them, and to the good of the community.  In a democracy they must understand the responsibilities of citizenship.

Children are best nurtured and prepared for adulthood in households of two loving, mature adults.  Single parents have demonstrated they can do as well, given adequate support from their community. These are real family values. The  structure of the household can have many variations, and whatever works, works.

Families, no matter how functional, can’t do it alone. They require a community that assures, without regard to the ability to pay, that every child has access to the best available education. Education is a real family value.

Families also depend on communities providing the best available health care without regard for the ability to pay.  Healthcare is a family value.

Families need elected representatives more committed to the good of the whole than to the demands of a few special interests, or to the success of their own interests.  Special interests do have a legitimate role to pay, but public policy for the good of the whole is more important to family value.

These are real family values.  By themselves they are neither liberal nor conservative, but conservatives and liberals can advocate for them, each in their own way.

As a progressive Christian, I believe family values are strengthened by deeply rooted faithful commitment to follow Jesus, free from subjection to unnecessary legalism, and dogma incompatible with the way of love God has set before us.  No doubt other religious traditions strengthen family values in equal measure.

One might object that I’m being too loose.  Didn’t Jesus say no one should put asunder what God had joined when a man and woman became married?  In Jesus’ day marriages were arranged by contract, easily broken by either party.  Some were blessed by God’s grace through faith.  Today’s clergy are witness to many marriages performed in church, where God’s blessing was never invited, nor relied on when offered. Words were recited without much thought to living faithfully and lovingly through thick and thin with God’s help. 

Jesus used man and woman as the only available and easily recognized model; he did not exclude from God’s grace  other ways of becoming a household.  Martha, Mary and Lazarus were a household blessed by God.  Lydia and her people were a household blessed by God.  Who is my family, asked Jesus. All who follow me in the way of love are my family.  There are many ways to be a family blessed by God. All are invited, none must accept.

Real family values are important.  Families, healthy families, are necessary if a society is to prosper into future generations.   Families cannot do it all on their own. They need generous communities willing to pool their collective resources, investing in the best education and health care possible, open to all without distinction. 

Families need communities willing to invest in opportunities for good jobs, with an infrastructure efficiently linking everything together.  It’s a real family value.

America has drifted from recognizing real family values and from the needed public investment to support them.  Too many have been seduced down a dark alley of hypocritical social customs masquerading as moral values commanded by God. They serve only to condemn others, while placing children’s pageant halos on their own heads. 

May it please God that the momentum will shift toward the way of love Jesus has pioneered for us. May it please God that those of other traditions, or none at all, will be guided I

n a way of love Blessed by God.

2 thoughts on “The Value of Family Values”

Leave a Reply