As a never-married adult Christian, I am disturbed by the undue emphasis American Christian culture places on “the family,” by which they mean the 1950s standard of man married to woman with one or more children.
Maybe conservative Christian groups are correct and secular culture is hostile towards the nuclear family, but the obsession they have with defending it means these Christians frequently ignore or exclude anyone who does not fall into the nuclear family demographic (married couples with children).
(I discussed this issue in previous posts on this blog, such as: Conservative Christianity Stuck in 1950s Leave it To Beaver-ville)
I came across this book review which also discusses the topic (copy of a post at goddiscussion.com; source: (www)goddiscussion.com/85000/jesus-family-values-by-deirdre-good/:):
Jesus’ Family Values by Deirdre Good offers challenge to conservative Christian views
[The book review opens by describing how some American Christian groups claim that the nuclear family is under attack, as do some European groups, such as the British “Christian Action Research and Education, or CARE for short”].
…. [I]t is quickly apparent that the family is viewed in exclusive terms as being two parents (of different sexes) and children. But the grandaddy of all advocates of the ‘Christian family’ is without doubt the the behemoth that is Focus on the Family a multimillion dollar ministry formerly headed by James Dobson whose aim is to “help families thrive.”
Anyone would think that the testimony of the Bible was unequivocal given the unanimity with which Christian marriages laud their particular vision of family as the very bedrock of civilization.
But, even excluding the First Testament with its references to polygamy and like exercised by God’s righteous the Second Testament is far from clear. To cite one primary example Jesus in Matthew 10: 35-37 makes the startling comment that his mission is not so much to establish Christian families that will form the basis of a Christian civilization but is rather to “set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (English Standard Version).
Deirdre Good in her book Jesus’ Family Values offers a succinct but powerful challenge to this conservative hijacking of ‘the family’ as being a mainstay of Christian civilization.
However, apart from some minor allusions in her introduction and conclusion Good does is this by nary a reference to Dobson and his ilk. Instead Good takes each of the gospels and Paul’s writings separately to show that the family or the household in the bible is first of all not a uniform entity but secondly it is not in no instance the ‘Christian Family’ of the family values crowd.
Most crucially in the Pauline witness in particular the family is represented as the transcendence of the people of God over matrimonial and filial relations.
In part this is due to the imminence of the anticipated apocalypse but it is also a sign of the new life believers have in Christ whereby we are adopted in a new family that is exponentially more multi-voiced than the Conservative Family.
In addressing this diversity Good asks in her conclusion “what does this look like in practice for twenty-first century Christians?”. She continues that “if it looks like irreconcilably different worshipers gathered around the table of the Last Supper and celebrating salvation by Jesus Christ in vastly different patterns of life, is that not entirely congruent with the multiple witnesses presented in scripture? Can we consciously and as a matter of policy exclude any member of the body of Christ without damaging the whole?” (p. 148).
What makes this book so compelling is that these conclusions are based on solid biblical exegesis and the varied testimony of scripture. In a simply written but academically rigorous argument Deirdre Good has shown the modern construction of the ‘Christian Family’ to be little more than conjecture. Jesus and the Christian faith is very much pro-family, it is just that the meaning ascribed to the term is much more inclusive than James Dobson may wish to admit.