Religious Family Values

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” –Luke 14:26

Whenever the expression “Family Values” is used, it is publically presumed to mean being pro-nuclear family as a primary meaning and code for anti-gay as a secondary meaning. Although some intellectually dishonest folks like to claim that it means pro-family full stop, that declaration of being pro anyone necessarily means, if not actively anti-everyone, at least pro-whoever above all others.

It’s a difference of putting one group ahead of everyone else or putting one group ahead and pushing certain others farther back. A magnitude of some significance, but not much meaning.

But given the above Jesus Bible quote, I have to wonder when religious right conservatives say “family values” what are they actually meaning in their own minds?

To be a follower of Jesus, you have to not only abandon your birth family, but hate them as well. That’s pretty clear cut.

So being for family values is actually at odds with being a follower of Jesus, unless that family value is hate.

It’s not surprising that childhood religious trauma is a common experience for people with severe mental health issues later in life.

Spare the rod and spoil the child is a cautionary warning to beat the child to prevent spoilage, not an instruction to indulge the child and not beat them.

This understanding is far more horrifying than the presumed just against gay people that “family values” signifies to social progressive and liberals.

But, if meaningful dialog is to occur between the parties, then we need to understand each other – and to do that, we have to understand what the other side understands.

Otherwise, we are using the same phrases to mean entirely different things.

One way to avoid errors and risk misunderstanding, is to be curious.

When you say you support “family values”, what do you understand that to mean?

Do you understand that to mean that married couples with kids are more valuable than other members of society?

Or do you mean that everyone’s equal under the law, but that families more equal?

Because really, it comes down to the inconsistency of the anti-gay marriage position and the inability to define marriage in a way that excludes gay people but doesn’t also exclude straight people who are currently able to marry. Such as heterosexual athiests or infertile/childless by choice people.

But, I think when they say “Family Values” they actually mean anti-everyone, just like the Bible quote says.

I think that to follow Jesus is to put yourself above your family and worse, the ideas of the religion above people.

This is why religious so cling to rituals and beliefs, no matter what the human cost is. Why parents will subject their children to beatings, exorcisms and banishment if they don’t uphold the ideals.

To be a Christian is to put your faith before family, even while putting your family – the obedient ones anyway – before everyone else.

A recent article in BBC news magazine that made me think “there’s a reality show that I would watch”, tells of two families who discovered their babies had been switched 12 years earlier:

“It is difficult,” concedes Naimat. “One family is Christian, the other is Muslim. We have different traditions. What I fear most is that the daughter I’ve raised will start going drinking in bars, that she will stop praying and working. I’m worried she will lose her religion.”

I find it appalling that the concern wasn’t that she would keep in touch, that she be happy in meeting her birth family, but that she maintain the religion she was raised in. With no comment about whether he would allow his daughter, raised Christian, to keep her religion in his Muslim household.

Religion is about the group, be it family or tribe or sub-group – not about individuals.

The idea of family honour and what behaviors violate that honour – such as not covering your head, wearing revealing clothing, or talking to members of the opposite gender – basically any high school day in a secular western nation – could result in death for daughters who disobey or death/gang rape for sisters when sons disobey.

It may seem like I’ve veered off Christianity into another religion tangent, but Christianity and Islam are from the same source religion – Judaism – collectively, they are the Abrahamic religions, and as originally practiced, women and children/teens did not enjoy the liberty and freedoms, the independence, that we have today in secular democracies.

Which is why religion is about controlling behaviour and demanding obedience to rules or else suffer now and in the afterlife.

Religions do not value families, they consume families. Religion asserts the man as the head of the household and provides a cultural context for the man to rule absolutely over the family. Even to the point of murder to restore religiously determined honor.

This is at odds with the secular notion of equality for all people, regardless of gender.