Conservative Christianity Stuck in 1950s Leave it To Beaver-ville


I am not a liberal or a Democrat, and I am not against “traditional,” “family,” or “biblical” values nor the “nuclear family,” nor am I against “traditional marriage,” but I do think the American Christian church of today places far, far too much emphasis on these issues, to the point they make people who are not married at age 25 with three kids feel unwelcome.

I am in my early forties, and I am a Christian female, as well as a conservative Republican, and despite the fact I wanted to be married, it never happened.

Do churches care about me, or people in my stage of life? Nope.

They offer no services or sermons for the older single who has no kids, childless or childfree. We are ignored, or else treated like trash by the Southern Baptist denomination* and by evangelical churches.

*(I refer to it as a denomination, though I’ve seen some folks on social media toss a fit and scream about how technically, Southern Baptist is not a denomination. Too bad, I was raised as one, and I don’t care if you like me referring to it as a denom or not, you’re going to have to just deal!)

So I agree with some of the content in this web page I have quoted below, and I can see its implications for contemporary American Christianity, not just Republicans.

What I am afraid of is that Christian leadership from various churches and denominations will see political stories such as this one about Obama winning the 2012 election and think the only corrective is to go even more into hyper-drive regarding the pushing of “family values,” or cries of “save the nuclear family.”

Why do I find this a concern? Because the conservative American church has already been obsessive about protecting the nuclear family (and marriage) for decades now, which has led to the dating drought in the church, prolonged singleness among Christians, and ostracizing older singles or married couples with no children, because they do nothing to help older singles actually get married, or make marrieds with no kids feel welcome.

Most American church groups fixate desperately on getting singles of teen-aged years and people in their twenties in the church door, so as not to “lose the younger generation,” but as personal experience and Julia Duin’s “Qutting Church” book demonstrate, this unfortunate, nauseating, and age- based discriminatory fixation has led to singles over the age of 30 leaving the church in droves because THEIR needs are not being met – older Christians are being ignored in favor of luring in the kids.

As a result with their disappointment over the Republican 2012 Presidential defeat (I’m not happy with Obama winning a second term, either), I can just see some pastors and conservative Christian groups buckling down even harder on defending heterosexual marriage, sexual purity (which is a bit of a joke; many conservative Christians groups claim they support virginity, celibacy, and sexual purity but do not), and so on, which will only hurt older Christian singles more, or at least not do anything to improve their plight.

The American church, Southern Baptists included, refuse to be dragged into the 21st century.

I do not agree with liberalism, homosexuality, abortion, or any of that, and I don’t know what the solution is to the erosion of “biblical” values, but I know what it is not, and what has not worked: continued obsession with 1950s American culture – of pretending like we are all still living in 1955 America, or that we should return to that era.

I’m tired of being ignored or being under-utilized when I attend a new church because I’m not a wife or a mommy or because I do not have a penis. I am not June Cleaver, the perfect 1950s fictional housewife with husband and two kids who wears pearls while she vacuums.

I want a church that deals with my existence and acknowledges it – I’m over 40, a woman, I’ve never married or had a kid, and I do NOT like children. I have NO interest in working in the church nursery or the kitchen.

How TV Killed the Republican Party’s Family Values


by Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, Nov 15, 2012 4:45 AM EST
Republicans are searching for an explanation as to why voters rejected their vision of America. The answer may be on their television screens, where an ever-expanding, bluer definition of family values makes their nostalgic idea of family values feel like a foreign world.

The biggest loser of last week’s elections may have been the Republican Party’s image of the American family.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, blamed the Republican loss on a dramatic change in our country’s “moral landscape.”

He’s right, but this isn’t new: the GOP vision of America, which includes patriarchal churchgoing families with sexually abstinent teenagers who have no use for birth control hasn’t been a reality since the 1950s

So what happened? As it turns out, one of the most influential forces in changing Americans’ definition of family can be found in the homes of liberals and conservatives alike: their televisions.

Slowly over time, the family sitcoms that Americans have been watching for decades effectively transformed what was once the culturally reinforced American ideal family into a relic of the not-so-distant past.

The sitcoms from the 1980s and 90s were on the leading edge of this shift. What those cheesy shows with nontraditional family arrangements like Full House or Who’s the Boss were doing back then was preparing the American public for a radical redefinition of family in a safe—and comical—environment.

With their hokey humor and easily solved crises, those shows led straight into the era of Ellen and Will & Grace. Though they weren’t without controversy, these situation comedies were successful because they were the next step in a much longer progression.

The coming-out episode of Ellen, which aired in April of 1997, was one of the show’s highest rated, even though the controversy that it created probably led to the show’s eventual cancellation.

But just five years later, DeGeneres returned to the national spotlight—and even greater fame—as the host of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Today, the controversy surrounding her sexual orientation is almost difficult to imagine.

But the shift in the moral landscape goes back much further. Television in the 1950s portrayed a stringent vision of a traditional family—think Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy, or Father Knows Best—shows that one can easily imagine playing on repeat in the Romney living room.

But it wasn’t long before new sitcoms appeared and began to show the cracks and break the model.

In the 1960s, Bewitched, The Addams Family, and The Munsters maintained the traditional family model, but used nontraditional characters, a witch and an assortment of monsters, to change the formula. In shows like Family Affair, The Andy Griffith Show, and My Three Sons, single parents—because of death, not divorce—appeared for the first time.

In many ways, the 1970s revealed just how influential the primetime sitcom could be. In a recent review in The New York Times of the DVD box set of the popular 70s sitcom All in the Family, Neil Genzlinger noted that, “before All in the Family sitcoms were largely something to tune in for escape and reassurance. But as of Jan. 12, 1971, when All in the Family had its premiere on CBS as a midseason replacement, comedies suddenly had permission to be relevant.”

…And in the 1980s and 90s, popular culture began to explore dysfunction in families, as in The Simpsons and Married With Children, both objects of consternation from the GOP at the time. And of course many sitcoms portrayed completely new ways of being a family.

That’s what Full House was all about, and as we watched that show we saw a lot that we didn’t recognize in our own families—unless, of course, you grew up in a huge house in San Francisco and were raised by three straight, single men—which was subconsciously stretching our definition of what it means to be a family.

…Today, of course, we need only look at the popular sitcom Modern Family for an indication of just how much the idea of family has changed.

That one family, which includes divorcées, immigrants, adopted children, gay couples, and strong women leading their households manages to encapsulate all the ways in which the definition of family has shifted and yet, remarkably, their arrangement is not unbelievable, nor does it stray too far from “traditional” family values.

But what Modern Family doesn’t have is anybody who looks anything like a mainstream Republican: it’s difficult to imagine a character resembling Todd Akin, Rick Santorum, or even Mitt Romney appearing as anything other than a bumbling curiosity from an earlier age.

By showing what works for other—albeit, fictional—families, and by not heavy-handedly forcing values onto viewers, these shows both reflect the shift in Americans’ morals, while simultaneously pushing toward greater openness and acceptance of alternative family arrangements.

Rather than downplay the role of family as its definition evolves, popular culture has shown us that family is as important as ever—so important, in fact, that people for whom the status of “family” has been denied will do anything to be included within it.

Shows like Modern Family, Parenthood, and Glee don’t cast aside traditional family values so much as expand them to include more people, a move that couldn’t be more at odds with the Republican Party’s alarmist, exclusionary rhetoric.

And that’s exactly what this most recent election affirmed. For decades Americans have been welcoming nontraditional families into their homes, laughing along with their exploits, falling in love with them, and learning to see them as equals.

So yes, the moral landscape has changed, and in the process Americans have become more open and accepting of differences, understanding that successful families come in all shapes and sizes. The GOP’s overwhelming defeat on social issues was inevitable: no amount of campaigning or fundraising can make voters fear the “redefinition of the family” when they know that families have been in various states of redefinition for decades—both in real life and on TV.
Related post, this blog:

(Link): News headline: “Out of Wedlock Births are Society’s “New Normal”

(Link):  Where have all the TV dogs gone? – indication of the decline of the nuclear family

(Link): The Nuclear Family Was A Mistake – by David Brooks – and Related Links

(Link):  Why Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Aren’t Fighting the Culture Wars by D Linker

(Link):  NFL Star Benjamin Watson: America Is Not a Christian Country

(Link):   Republicans Ditch Family Values As Strategy (article)

(Link): Neo Calvinists / Neo Reformed Are The New Religious Right

(Link): The Bible Calls Christians to Make Individual Disciples, Not to “Change Culture” Nor to Save, Redeem Culture Nor to Save or Promote Marriage or Manufacture Christianized Entertainment

(Link):   Social Conservatives Plot ‘Coup’ Against GOP over Family Issues

(Link): Republicans Turning Backs on Christians – Social Conservatives – Values Voters

(Link): Reviewers of Dobson’s book about parenting girls confirms it – U.S. Christians fixated on 1950s culture

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