“We’re fighting for the traditional family, the mainstream marriage, the moral foundation of our society. We can’t permit marriage to be redefined by anyone’s agenda, so we’ve got to fight to protect the fundamental building blocks of society.” — any randomly selected opponent of gay marriage
Our church is going through a series called “Healthy” as we try to discover how the Bible applies to a holistic, holy and whole life. Sunday’s sermon was about conflict, and healthy ways of dealing with it in order to maintain and strengthen our relationships with those around us.
Relationships are messy, difficult, and absolutely necessary. Community is hard work, but it’s essential. And in the context of building community and developing a sense of “family” in the church, the pastor spoke about the current status of families in America.
Consider these numbers:
1 in 2 children live in a single-parent family at some point.
1 in 3 are born to unmarried parents.
1 in 4 kids live with only one parent.
1 in 8 were born to a teenage mother.
1 in 25 children have neither parent in their lives.
68% of children in America live in non-traditional families.
These stats got me thinking…
How “traditional” are so-called traditional families?
What exactly are we working to defend when we protest gay marriage? What point are Christians making when they gloat over a homosexual dying of AIDS as “the due reward for their sin”? What good is being done for society as the church-in-general fights against this one issue?
The usual justification is that we must stand for traditional marriage and traditional families. I’ll refer you back to those stats. Traditional marriage is pretty well gone in America, just like Leave It To Beaver and black-and-white TV. This isn’t what “the gays” are doing to marriage. This is what all of us traditional heterosexuals have done to it.
Men who are little more than sperm donors skip out on their responsibilities, leaving the child-bearing and child-rearing to the single mom or teenage mother. In our rabid defense of traditional marriage, are we chasing down single mothers and telling them that their exhaustion and sacrifices are the “due penalty of sin” they committed? God forbid! I don’t think even Westboro stoops that low.
Selfishness drives spouses apart, and lust disguised as love excuses divorce and remarriage. But we don’t hold up signs and chant slogans at the woman on her third husband, or the man with a new “younger model” spouse who leaves behind an ex-wife and some children. Sure, we probably judge them like good religious folk are supposed to… can’t let them get away thinking they’re ok, after all. Gotta heap on the condemnation with dirty looks and cold distance in church.
But we’re not picketing them or campaigning for laws banning remarriage. We’re not railing about the destruction of our moral fabric at the hands of every non-traditional heterosexual couple.
I guess what I’m getting at is this: maybe we’re past the point where “traditional” really matters.
I mean, it’s nice to think about, of course, in the same way that it’s great my kids like to watch Beaver and I Love Lucy. We think fondly of tradition for good reason. But tradition isn’t what we see in the world around us, and we need to stop fighting to make it so.
When the Titanic hits the iceberg and starts taking on water, when the design flaws are exposed and the ship is going down, it’s a bit late to go to the shipwright and tell him how wrong all his plans were. There’s no point drawing up new blueprints or editing the old ones to fix what went wrong. Really, after a certain point, baling water is no longer an issue either. The problem is past that point.
The ship is sinking. Stop laying blame and start handing out life-jackets.
When we practice water survival for the military aircraft I fly on, latching on to the other survivors is one of the first steps we take once we’re in the water. Then we work together to get to a life raft.
What if the Church-at-large stopped picketing the design flaws in our society and stopped pointing at those floating and flailing in the water? What if we made it our mission to latch on to people in need, to cling to them with arms of love instead of looks of judgment?
What if we admit the ship has taken too much water and just focus on handing out the life-jackets, grabbing hold of the reaching hands that want help? Maybe we can start working together to find and build places of refuge where we can minister to people’s needs. Maybe we can show love and acceptance as the very first and ideally the very best non-traditional family out there – without changing our morals, but without using them as weapons, either.
There’s no room on a life raft for a picket sign.