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In defense of family

I'm a big advocate for family. Go figure, having 5 kids and all. Family is so important to nurturing children, creating community, and encouraging stable society. I hear all the time about organizations and political candidates that are "pro-family". Yet listening to what they say leaves me confused because it sounds less "pro" and more "anti". They make statements about "pro-family" in the context of being anti-gay-marriage, or "pro-family" in the context of being anti-gay-adoption, or "pro-family" in the context of being anti-abortion. I just don't understand how you can show you are FOR something by listing all the things you are AGAINST.

What I want to see from a "pro-family" group is something that actually talks to the finer points of family. I don't want to hear what they don't like or what they don't promote. I want to hear what they DO like and DO promote. Likewise when I hear "family values" I need a picture of the positives, what family values ARE, not what family values AREN'T.

Now, the "pro-family" groups will say that they have those definitions:
For traditional education involving parents
For adoption over abortion
For traditional marriage
For traditional role for women in the home
For abstinence prior to marriage
For traditional morals based on Christian beliefs and practices

How these translate in the literature and media when they present themselves comes across more as:
Against public education
Against any abortion or female reproductive rights
Against gay-marriage and polygamy
Against feminism and against women working outside of the home
Against sex outside of marriage
Against morality not specifically grounded in the Christian faith

The problem with these documented versus expressed values drives the widening gap between the "right" and the "left", Christian and non-Christian, and "traditionalist" versus "progressive". It also tends to be a wedge driving people away from the Christian faith in greater and greater numbers. It's fundamentalism at it's core and disallows flexibility.

So in order to rigidly stick to the talking points and avoid "the slippery slope" all potential positives are ignored. Children are disallowed from being adopted because the family structure doesn't fit the "traditional" nuclear family. The assumption is that there are plenty of wholesome, Christian, opposite-sex families ready to adopt those children. The problem is that those families are increasing adopting children outside of the U.S. This leaves children in the foster care and adoption system waiting for a family that may never materialize. Meanwhile families who can provide love and stable homes are excluded from adopting these waiting children because they don't fit the mold. We would rather those children stay in the system and have an increased chance of ending up teen parents, on drugs, in prison, or dead, or end up with a variety of lesser long term social problems.

I say instead that we should focus on net positives. We should focus on how we encourage family formation in whatever form we can, we promote long term relationships, and we allow for potentially transformational change within those families over time as they blend into society with other more traditional families. It's quite possible that as "alternative" families interact with "traditional" families, with children being the common agent for that interaction, both sides will learn something from the other. It stands to reinforce at least some of the talking points more so than today's "not in my backyard" attitude is achieving.

So compromises have to be made in order to provide for the greater good, the common good, for society. Our current path keeps us on a track of constant conflict and of loss for all parties. Fundamentalist Christianity will continue to drive people to the fringes unless it can find a balancing point and tip back towards openness, acceptance, and a willingness to accept the sinner in spite of the sin.

I say this not because I consider "alternative" families as sinning, but because the people acting as stumbling blocks to them do. It's time to put that aside and go back to "traditional" thinking.

"Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come."

"If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

"Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way."

"Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil."

These are all important quotations applicable to our current social ills. We assess the sinner and the sin and exclude them from wholesome activities disallowing the transformational power of those activities and leading them further down a path of sin. Should we allow our brothers and sisters to burn with passion and constantly change partners, or do we promote life long relationships regardless of the sexual preference of the brother or sister. If we say no to monogamy we promote promiscuity and encourage sin. If we rebuke the sin but do not offer forgiveness in equal measure and we continue to put stumbling blocks in the way of people trying to mimic positive behaviors then aren't we allowing the things we consider to be good to be spoken of as evil?

These are the hard questions that Christians have to ask. If we disallow gay marriage, polygamy, or any number of other issues that go counter to what the assumed "base" stands for aren't we also in turn promoting sin and choosing a worse fate for ourselves in that process.