What Christians Can Learn from The Walking Dead Re: Family, Singleness, and Marriage

When secular sources get it right – The Walking Dead

(I can see disgruntled “Caryl” fans wanting to leave me argumentative comments about this post. If so, please see the “Policy on Dissent on this blog” before being tempted to leave me a nasty gram. Thank you.)

On the cable channel AMC’s hit show about the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead, the topic of ‘what is family’ is explored every so often, as it was most recently in last night’s episode, “The Suicide King.” The show centers on sheriff Rick Grimes, who leads a group of survivors, some related by flesh and blood (or marriage), but most not.

The character Rick Grimes has a wife named Lori and son named Carl, and a newborn daughter named Judith (the wife, Lori, got killed a few episode ago).

Other characters under Rick’s charge include (but are not limited to) Hershel Greene, who has two daughters, Maggie and Beth. All the other members of Rick’s group are unrelated through birth or marriage (some previous members were killed in older episodes). They have banded together to survive.

One of Rick’s group includes the redneck survivalist character, Daryl Dixon. Daryl has become the show’s most popular character.

Daryl and his older, racist, sexist, violent brother Merle get separated early on in the show. Daryl grew up in his abusive older brother’s shadow. When Daryl was not being ignored as a child, he was being physically and verbally abused by his brother and possibly by his father, when they bothered to pay any attention to him.

In the episode ‘The Suicide King’ (first aired February 10, 2013), Merle re-enters Daryl’s life. Daryl decides to leave Rick’s group to go off alone with his brother again, because Rick refuses to allow Merle to join the group.

Rick tries to talk Daryl into staying (without his brother Merle), but Daryl is still stuck in the idea that flesh and blood ties is what constitutes “family,” or that flesh- and- blood ties should take priority to other sorts of bonds.

The character Glenn, who doesn’t want Daryl to leave the group, tells Daryl that Merle may be “your blood, but not mine.” Glenn explains that the group of survivors, headed by Rick, is his family now, even though Glenn is not related to any of these people through blood ties – and Rick tells Daryl, “you are part of this family.” Daryl still decides to leave with his brother Merle, however.

You can view a video clip of a few moments of that scene, and the actors from the show discussing the concept of “family” in this video clip:

(Link:) (SPOILERS) Inside Episode 309 The Walking Dead: The Suicide King (Video on You Tube)

Rick’s group of survivors have been more of a family to and for Daryl than Daryl’s own flesh and blood relations – despite a few arguments with one or two other group members (such as the late Shane Walsh), the group has treated Daryl with kindness and respect, and they have come to rely on him for protection and defense.

In one of the last few episodes, when Rick falls apart after his wife Lori dies from childbirth, Daryl willingly risks his life to go out in search of baby formula for the newborn.

In yet earlier episodes, Daryl took it upon himself, and puts himself in danger, to go searching alone in a zombie-infested forest for the twelve- year- old daughter of Carol, Sophia, who went missing at one point.

Daryl, despite his racist family of origins, freely and glady, with no prompting from any one, gives up some of his big brother’s antibiotic and painkiller medication to a black group member, “T-Dog,” who was gravely injured.

Remember, none of these people – Carol, the new born child, T-Dog, Rick, Sophia – are Daryl’s flesh and blood family, but he still acts on their behalf anyway.

In another episode, Rick, Glenn, Oscar and Maggie – all of no relation to Daryl – go to the town of Woodbury to rescue Daryl from one of the show’s bad guys, the Governor.

Throughout the series, Daryl has shown himself not to be a racist, sexist jerk like his older brother Merle. He has a difficult time emotionally connecting with other people, but he is, at his core, a decent guy who tries to help other people.

~~~~~~ ASIDE ~~~~~~~~

Before I return to the main theme of this post (which is, ‘who is family’), I wanted to address another issue about this show:

It may resonate with this blog’s particular audience to know that the actor who plays Daryl has said in interviews that in his mind, the character Daryl, who is also in his 40s, is a virgin. The show’s writers have, so far, never given Daryl a love interest or a sex scene – and remember, Daryl is hugely, hugely popular with the show’s viewers.

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Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians Re: Marriage

Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians | Re: Marriage Not Happening for Hetero-sexual Christians Over the Age of 30

While conservative Christians keep on despairing that today’s American culture no longer resembles 1950s “Leave It To Beaver” families, the majority of them keep right on ignoring one significant group: unmarried Christians over the age of 30 who want to get married but who cannot find a Christian partner.

About the only Christians who have taken note of this plight are those who are in the group themselves, such as myself.

There are many Christians over the age of 30 who want to get married, but they cannot find a suitable partner at church, through friends, or on dating sites. And their petitions to God on this matter are not working. God remains silent and does not move.

Meanwhile, we unmarried Christians [* please see March 2016 update at the bottom of this post], who want marriage but for whom it remains out of reach…

Stand by and see the never-ending avalanche of blog pages, magazine articles, and booklets printed, or radio shows broadcast, by mainstream evangelical groups bemoaning the fact that 20-somethings are putting off marriage until their late 20s…

Or that they are dropping out of church altogether, with a smaller amount of attention paid to topics such as divorce and how to keep a marriage together.

But there is nothing from the Christian community, no attention, prayers, concern, or material, for those who cannot even get to the altar to begin with (with the exception of a small amount of Christian material which insults us and puts us down).

I was reminded of all this again when skimming over parts of a book online. The book is “Church in an Age of Crisis,” by James Emery White.

In a chapter about marriage (I don’t see any chapters on prolonged singleness among Christians – which is typical), he writes in a sidebar:

— Begin Quote from Book —
The Crumbling State of Marriage

-[1] For the first time since the US began tallying marriages, more Americans of prime marrying age have stayed single rather than tied the knot

-[2] Proportion of married adults of all ages was 52 percent in 2009, down from 72.2 percent in 1960 – the lowest percentage since the US began tracking in 1880

-[3] Cohabitation in the US has nearly doubled since 1990
— End Quote from Book —

As for point 1, (“more Americans of prime marrying age have stayed single rather than tied the knot”), how many of those singles want to stay single? How many of them have intentionally chosen to stay single into their 30s and older? Why is this distinction almost never made?

How many of those singles are like me, who always desired and expected to marry, but it just never happened?

Why do these worried and pearl-clutching conservative Christians always seem to assume that those of us Christians who have remained single past the age of 30 or 40 have deliberately chosen to remain so?

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

Hmm. Maybe I should stop listening to Christian radio host Mefferd (her show is online here). The show title was “Mefferd speaks to Dobson,” with no indication of what the topic would be.

I clicked and listened. The show I listened to online is (Link:) here.

Most of her show topics are pretty interesting, but occasionally, she veers off into views I don’t agree with, or she interviews guests whose views make me want to puke.

As it turned out, Mefferd was interviewing Christian author Dobson about a book he wrote a few years ago called “How To Raise Girls.”

I’ve addressed in previous posts how most American churches and Christians are stuck in a 1950s time warp, where they continue to judge all behavior and culture by TV shows from the 1950s.

These types of conservative Christians look upon such television shows or the 1950s itself too, too fondly. I agree that the culture today is vulgar and coarse, and probably more so than it was in the 1950s.

However, and alarmingly, some conservative Christians consider 1950s American culture an ideal one, one to be emulated at all cost – they don’t hold Jesus Christ as the prime example to be emulated, mind you, but 1950s American culture.

Among other topics, I mentioned in the post “American Women Serving in Combat,” that one possible reason Christianity is failing today in the United States and church membership is lagging, is that American Christians spend more time wagging their index fingers at liberals and liberalism, and talking about the evils of contemporary culture (such as the existence of abortion and so on), than in actually helping people – specifically helping other American Christians.

If American Christians spent more time actually meeting the emotional and practical needs of other American Christians, instead of ignoring them in favor of pontificating on abortion, the legalization of homosexual marriage, concern about feminism, or on raising funds (for the billionth time) for rice and beans for starving orphans in Africa, maybe more Americans would find being a Christian more rewarding, practical, beneficial, and want to attend church regularly.

I listened to Mefferd interview Dobson concerning his book “How To Raise Girls,” and was completely turned off.

Gender complementarians (such as Mefferd and Dobson) over-empahsize their view that males and females differ.

Biblical gender egalitarians, such as myself, agree there are differences between males and females.

However, the older I get, I no longer buy the view that males and females are polar opposites across the board.

I think the genders have a lot in common, and both genders are expected by God to imitate Jesus Christ.

There is no “pink” Jesus for girls and no “blue” Jesus for boys.

Anyway, Dobson spent some time telling Mefferd on this radio show that Christian parents ought to raise their little girls to be “lady like.”

That term is rather sketchy and vague, and I don’t recall him clarifying what he means by it. Maybe he was more clear what he means by that term in his book.

I am going to assume for the purposes of this post that I understand what he was getting at with the phrase “lady like.”

I was definitely raised by a “June Cleaver” (1950s fictional television character) type of mom myself – all the way.

I crossed my legs when I sat down, wore panty hose under dresses, did not use cuss words, never wore pants to church services, didn’t sleep around, was never blunt or confrontational – I was a sweet, helpful little doormat who repressed all anger.

I can’t even begin to describe how being raised to be so “lady like” did so much damage to me, how many problems it created.

I am now trying to un-do the years of beliefs and behaviors I was taught was proper, godly, or lady like for a Christian female.

And it’s that very “ladylike” behavior that was so crippling for me (and other Christian women) that Dobson wants other girls to strive for.

There’s this assumption by these Dobson types – the ones who think little girls should be taught to be “lady like” – that if a female is raised to be a gentle, soft spoken, coy, compliant little thing, that this will attract men to her as she ages, and she will be able to get a husband.

I can see how that sort of thinking was true when my mother was a teen ager, but it’s not true for women like me who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s.

Being coy, passive, meek, modest, mild, self-effacing, totally selfless, nurturing, and compliant (“ladylike”) does not guarantee a girl a spouse any more, and is actually a lure for abusive men, which gender complementarians don’t seem to realize – or care about.

Being “lady like” also stunts a girl’s ability to become an independent adult.

After listening to Dobson’s interview with Mefferd about his book about girls,  I went to a book review site and looked Dobson’s book up.

I read reviews by people who read Dobson’s book, and they interestingly echo some of the views I expressed in my post the other day, over conservative Christianity in general.

You will see some of those views here, ones that I’ve brought up before about the state of contemporary Christianity, that these reviewers repeat about Dobson in particular, like how these reviewers notice that….

  • Dobson idolizes 1950s American culture;
  • Dobson, like so many other biblical gender complementarians, portrays un-biblical codependency as being desirable in a female, or mistakes codependency for being some kind of biblical standard for femininity;
  • spends more time complaining and bitching about liberalism than he does in actually dispensing useful parenting advice, etc:

From reviews of Dobson’s book “How To Raise Girls”

Review by Aaron Thompson

(who gave the book a 2 star out of 5 star review):

This review is from: Bringing Up Girls: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Women (Hardcover)

I’ll just say I’m not a fan of James Dobson, but I have a habit of reading books even if I don’t think I’ll like them. I got this for free, so I thought I’d give it a go.

True to what I expected, I thought the book was far too negative. The majority of the book is spent talking about how the world is terrible and getting worse by the second. He spends a lot of time recounting “the good ol’ days”, which I assume is when he was a young person. I think it’s safe to say the world was just as bad then, just in some different ways.

I also think he is far too old-fashioned. Call it what you will, but I don’t think it’s necessary for a man to walk on the street side of the sidewalk or order for his date. Those types of behaviors would drive me crazy. In general, I don’t agree with the 1950’s housewife idea he has for women. If a particular woman wants her relationship to work that way, fine. But many don’t.

And lots of men don’t want that, either.

And guess what? We are dedicated Christians. I do like a little romance to be sure, but if my husband acted the way Dobson advocates for, I would feel completely smothered.

Dobson also makes himself sound outdated by comparing piercings to self-harm, such as cutting, and saying that it means you hate yourself.

No, Dr. Dobson, I didn’t hate myself when I got my tongue, nose, lip, and whatever else pierced. I just liked the style at the time.

It had no bearing whatsoever on my relationship with God, and it did not mean I was sexually abused, drank alcohol/did drugs, or had promiscuous sex. In fact, none of those things were the case with me.

I also disliked his assessment on Disney Princesses. He’s a big fan. He says girls love them because they’re beautiful, have it all together, marry Prince Charming, have an unlimited wardrobe complete with fancy dresses, and everyone loves them.

They are the epitome of femininity and represent wanting to feel beautiful and loved as well as secure.

I don’t think those are very Christian attitudes, to be honest.

I would rather be focusing my life on whatever God calls me to, even if it’s hard. Even if it’s dirty. Even if it calls me to be lonely, ugly, poor, or unmarried.

I think the Princesses give the wrong idea that desiring security and beauty is more important than desiring God. Would I completely ban a daughter from playing with Princesses? Of course not. It’s fun to dress them up. But I do worry about her “looking up” to them.

Honestly, I don’t think Dobson includes enough scripture. When he does, the majority is from the Old Testament. That’s not bad, but I would like to hear the words of Jesus and his disciples. To me, the book (and Dobson, for that matter) is about Traditional America first, Jesus second.

There are a few things I found worthwhile in the book. Dobson had interesting information on warning signs to look for in teenagers with things like sexual abuse.

This is helpful, because my husband is a youth pastor. I also appreciated the ideas for daughters and fathers to strengthen their relationship. I know that a lot of girls don’t have fathers in their lives, or if they do, their fathers are distant, so I think this is a great thing for fathers to hear and possibly be convicted about.

All in all, I think there are far better parenting books, but in most books, you can find a few worthwhile things.

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Jesus’ Family Values by Deirdre Good challenges conservative Christan emphasis on “family” (copy)

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

Please click the “more” link to read the rest of this post

———————

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.

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

(thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/15/
how-tv-killed-the-republican-party-s-family-values.html)

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.
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