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Family Values: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

A friend posted a pretty interesting essay today on family values I submit for your reading.   I liked it and don’t have much objection to it.   After detailing the prominence and priority of ‘family values’ at communicating Life he makes this statement:

Luther summed it up succinctly: love and serve God; it falls to the contemporary pastor and Lutheranism to put his phrases in context, with the understanding that it begins in family.

I thought it was interesting that, with the understanding “that it begins in family” Pastor Kelly begins with the contemporary pastor (and Lutheranism).

To be fair, I think my criticism applies to most other Christian denominations and not just Lutheranism.   Also to be fair, given where things are right now, it really will require the pastor to put Luther’s comments into context.  Odd, though, that after some 500 years, within Lutheranism there remains a need to put Luther’s comments into context!

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

In sum, this basically means that your time and resources tend to gravitate towards the things that you actually value.  So, if you say you value lollipops but all you ever buy are cucumbers, then we can infer that what you really value are the cucumbers.

So, I note that for all of the talk among Lutherans* reflecting a high view of the family and vocation more generally, where we actually commit our resources is the pastoral ministry.  Moreover, the life of the church actually centers around the things that are centered around the pastor.

Given the high view of the family that Lutherans* ostensibly have, you would think that ‘Lutheran worship’ would be something that strongly reinforced ‘family values.’  Well, some Lutherans* have high views on other things, too.  It isn’t difficult to figure out where things rate based on where we actually commit our time and resources and structure the life of the church.

Indeed, I have come across Lutheran pastors that took grave offense even at the notion of a ‘worship’ service being ‘family friendly.’  Pastor Kelly above said “understanding that it begins in family.”  In actual practice, it begins to look like ‘trickle down theology’;  eventually, I guess, all the really important theological stuff will work its way down to the mothers and fathers to implement within their families… if they dare!  For what sane parent would dare take the lead in the spiritual development of their own children?  Are not the pastors the trained theologians with years of additional schooling the obvious person for that job?  There is of course only so much that a single man can do.  Fortunately, families can also defer to youth ministers, DCEs, and teachers. With the spiritual well being of their children handed over to the spiritual professionals, the parents can sleep comfortably knowing that the matter is well in hand.

I am picking on the Lutherans* a bit because that is my own background and that is what I know, but as it seems to me the basic issue exists throughout the church.  We say we have a high view of the family but when we look at the actual life of the congregations, they are not centered around the families at all, except by accident.

I attended Lutheran schools from first grade on- elementary, high school, and college, where I studied to be a pastor myself.  In all that time there was just one semester devoted to ‘marriage and family.’  Yet, even that did not actually instruct me on my obligations as a father.  At no time- not even in college studying to be a pastor- was I trained on how to raise my children in the faith.  I have learned things in the last ten years that I never heard in 16 years of education in religious institutions.  How can this be?

It is startling to me that something like the Promise Keepers, that manly fad of the 1990s, ever manifested in the first place.  Given how much the Scriptures talk about the family, how could it have ever been a revelation to anyone that God has chosen the family as the primary incubator of faith?

There is a simple method for answering these questions.  We simply ask:  why aren’t we buying lollipops?

If you agree with me that if we’re going to say that the family as the primary incubator of the faith then we should actually act that way, then you should find a way to connect further with this ministry.  For example, in just a few months we’re having an online conference calling for the defense of the family through the arts (such as film and literature).   Join us.  More activities in that direction are to come.

A friend of mine views comments like the ones I’ve just made as anti-clerical.  It is not so.  I am simply maintaining that we ought to put our money where our mouth is… and if we don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised if consequences follow.  At the very least, people will not believe what is coming out of our mouth.  At the very worst, the continuing fracturing of the family- within the Christian Church itself- will bear its bitter fruit.


*Lutherans:  it might be worth noting that I and the Lutherans I’m referring to are the conservative brand of Lutherans, and not the liberal ones endorsing homosexuality, etc.


1 comment

  1. i’m not lutheran, but i can tell you the same struggles happen in our church everyday. it seems to me the problem is defining ‘family’ as a value and then doing something significantly positive in an ongoing basis that actually communicates that in a worship venue (or discipleship venue, et al).
    great post tony!

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