The recent holiday season had me experiencing and thinking about family a lot. I am finally at a point where I feel I need to speak up about something that I find to be tremendously troubling emanating from large sections of the Christian church. I have concluded that this is a blind spot that is harming our credibility and witness as followers of Jesus. I am talking about conservative Christians support for “family values.”
On the surface “family values” sounds perfectly innocuous. Kids deserve a married mother and father who provide stability, support and love throughout their lifetime. Promoting this standard is in societies and children’s interest. Unfortunately this laudable goal has become a phrase that demeans other family models, ignores their very existence and seeks to deny fellow Americans rights we all share.
It has come to this: when a conservative American Christian promotes “family values” they are directly and openly condemning the existence of LGBT families, regardless of their intention.
It does not have to be like this. Christians can follow their faith without directly infringing on the rights of LGBT families to exist. But we need to fix this blind spot that so many have when they say “family values.” What are some ways forward?
1) Recognize that LGBT families exist. Conservative Christians can promote “family values” all they want, but that is not going to break up happy, loving, committed LGBT families. These families love each other and their children just as much as any other family. There is common ground to be promoted here. Stability between two parents benefits children, regardless of their gender, and can be seen as a decidedly conservative value. We are dealing with real people who need God’s love. The sooner we recognize this fact the better. Wrestling with this recognition will be difficult for many Christians but ignoring this issue is hardly more feasible. I am still trying to figure out what this means for myself as well. I do not have all the answers but recognize that presently we are not loving people the way we should.
2) Recognize that LGBT families are helping. Regardless of how sinful you may think gay people are personally, they are becoming loving parents to children that need them. If every child in America had loving straight parents tonight that would be something worth considering but in reality there are hundreds of thousands of children in this country who are hoping to be adopted. To try and prevent capable gay couples from starting families of their own is not only incredibly hurtful to them but ignores the needs of children all over the country.
3) Recognize that”family” is a complex phenomena. People’s definitions of family are probably as diverse as the number of people on the planet. Are two parents ideal? Probably, but does that mean we should take children away from single parent homes? Of course not. A loving single parent can do exponentially more than two parents who are emotionally neglectful and/or abusive. Sometimes grandparents or other relatives or friends are left to raise the children and they do a tremendous job. The bottom line is that the American nuclear family is one model amongst many. We can promote this model while also supporting and strengthening all the models that actually exist and are benefiting children right now.
I realize I am raising difficult and complex issues with this entry. I also realize I have not reached a final conclusion on any of the things I address above. I really hope this entry is the start of a conversation between Christians and others about what it means to practice our faith today. This probably will not be my last entry on this topic. I hope you will engage and share your stories, thoughts and comments. I welcome them as openly as I can.