Family As Idol In Conservative Christianity
The one thing I have never understood, is why conservative Christians always start with the nuclear family as the building block of a Christianised society. Further, that faith in practice must essentially protect traditional interpretations of gender roles. Where did this all come from? It certainly did not start this way in the early church. From the beginning, it began as a model of extended family. In fact, the New Testament word for church began as a radical and playful word, Ecclesia. Ecclesia is the greek word given for a town council for port towns in the Mediterranean area of the Roman Empire. These councils were ruled by rich men. So, the Christians come along and scandalously from the beginning included slaves, women, children and people from varied ethnicities and social classes, in the new ecclesia’s that radically transcended social boundaries. From the beginning Christianity was radically about a new form of extended community, as a visible expression of the invisible kingdom of God. This is the reason why the early church was persecuted, because in so doing, these little Ecclesia’s challenged the power of the Empire which sought to disempower minority groups, which the church, counter-culturally, sort to include.
If you look at the book of the Acts, where people shared a common purse and lived together in extended friendship groups – it is all completely different from the ideal of conservatives with their 2.2 children, man at work and woman at home…. So where did this ridiculous situation come from? Well, we all know it does not come from the Christian faith, more political and social forces associated with male patriarchal patterns of power. The problem with such conservatives is that they cannot tell the difference between socio-cultural values and biblical principles. So this whole hetero nuclear family stereotype is an import into the faith which distorts the call of church to be a radical new inclusive form of community centred on inclusion and justice, empowered by the love of God. The drive to reduce the idea of Church as extended friendship or family, literally impoverishes the church from fully being what it is called to be. So ironically, this focus on the nuclear family puts family under enormous pressure to succeed, so much so, that it pushes many marriages over the edge, when an extended family understanding would have created greater support networks for those who are marries.
So I do not think the emphasis of the family unit to be a helpful or a biblical perspective, with a misunderstanding of the poetic language of Genesis which they try to make into objective fact, which is of course, a misuse of the text.
So a corrective, or can I say a queering of this church, must begin with an understanding of church as radically inclusive and loving extended family.
Gay bloke involved in the Emerging Church in the UK who strongly believes in a covenant theology of sexuality. This perspective holds that the Biblical position on sexuality is about behaviour and very little about sexual identity. So, by implications, all Christians whether gay or straight are called to live healthy and covenanted lives around loving God, loving your neighbour, commitment in relationships and responsbility for the planet and social justice.