Tag Archives: family values

“Traditional Family” Values, Traditional “Family Values”

This is fun!
From the great state of South Carolina, we were diverted some months ago by the fascinating tale of how one can now go “hiking the Appalachian trail” in Argentina. Now, in quick succession, it appears that there are two more emerging stories of interest: Mike Rogers reports that rumours about the sexual orientation of a certain Lieutenant – Governor, which have been doing the rounds long enough that even I, on this side of the Atlantic have heard them before, have been “confirmed” (but instead of evidence, Rogers simply points to his “100% track record” on previous outings). Also, from FitsNews.com (“unfair; unbalanced”. the site proudly proclaims), we have:
“S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford may be an amateur Romeo, but it looks like he’s got nothing on his appointment to the S.C. State Board of Education.
Kristin Maguire, an Upstate evangelical and one of South Carolina’s most respected social conservatives, has been one of the governor’s closest education policy advisors for years. She’s also Sanford’s appointment to the S.C. Board of Education, which last year elected her its Chairwoman.
What else is she?
The prolific author of hardcore erotic fiction on the Internet, according to documents provided to the governor’s office earlier this summer and later obtained by FITS.
Maguire, a professed Christian who home-schools her four children, declined to comment for our story but did not deny that she had previously frequented websites that feature such X-rated material.”
Ah, that grand tradition of “defending traditional family values”, as espoused so fervently by Larry Craig, Congressmen Vitter & Foley, preacher Ted Haggert …and all the others whose names I have forgotten and am too lazy right now to look up. You know them better than I do.
In any case, pointing out the hypocrisy is too easy. There are two other points behind this that deserve closer attention, because they are less frequently pointed out.
Outing the Church
First, I applaud Mike Rogers for his commendable work on outing the political hypocrites. (For the record, I am a “fierce defender” of any individual’s rigut to privacy. While I strongly endorse the personal and community value of coming out wherever possible, that final qualification is crucial: sometimes it is just not possible). BUT: when some closeted queer goes on the attack aginst the community, all rights to sympathy are waived. This is a position which I believe is fairly widely shared. So when are the professional ecclesiastical journalists, in the Vatican or around the world, going to start to follow suit?
It is widely reported that a large and growing proportion of priests, at all levels in the hierarchy, are gay. Others are heterosexual, but non-celibate. Professional Vatican watchers, it is said, know not only who many of these people are, but also their partners and preferred sexual practices. As with politicians, I would prefer that they should have the courage to come out publicly, difficult as this would be, but where they choose not to, we must respect their privacy. But as with politicians, where they actively connive in the church’s demonization of “homosexuals” and other sexual minorities, they should lose that right to provacy. There have been plenty of reports of gay bishops and cardinals emerging after their deaths, or after nasty blackmail scandals – so why not when they are alive?
It is also often said that tthe pope’s balls are one of the three most useless things in the world. So………come on, you professional clerical journalists: are yourcojones any more useful than His Holiness’s ?
“Traditional family”: a modern invention
Raymond and I had a wonderful day today enjoying the English landscape, driving around Jane Austen’s beloved Hampshire. I got to see Jane ‘s house where she spent the last ten years of her life, as well as the nearby Gilbert White’s House. Jane Austen is well known as the most popular English novelist, totally respectable and a model of gentility and propriety. Gilbert White is less well known, but equally respectable. He was a clergyman, renowned as a naturalist for his careful observations and detailed notes on natural history and gardening. Guess what? Neither of these models of English respectablity lived in “traditional” family structures. During her years at Chawton, Jane and her similarly unmarried sister Clarissa lived with their widowed mother – and a friend, who lived with them, but occupied a bedroom a little apart. Jane’s brother Thomas had earlier left the family – because he had the good fortune to have been “adopted” by a wealthy childless couple, the Knights, who felt in need of an heir to take charge of their large estate. The Rev White was unmarried – but does not appear to have lived alone in his large, rambling house and extensive garden.
Nor did many people at this time (late 18th and early 19th centuries), or earlier, live in “traditional” family structures. If you were rich enough, you might get to live with your family in a grand country house – but also with the extensive staff required to run it. Tradesmen and working professionals shared their homes with apprentices and servants. Conversely, if you were not rich enough, you probably left your family to live with your employer (if you had one), as an apprentice, in domestic service, or as a farm labourer, or travelled the country as an itinerant tradesman. And if a man was lucky enough to live with his woman and children, perhaps in a farm cottage – it was entirely possible that they were not married at all: marriage was largely a legal matter of settling property, of little practical value or religious importance if there was no property to settle. (Marriage was not required, nor treated as a sacrament by the church, for many centuries),
Biblical Times.
After returning home, I began reading the introduction to Bernadette Brooten’s “Love Between Women”. Just in theopening chapter, I came acros numerous references to same-sex marriages in the classical period – in Rome, in Sparta, in Canaan, in Egypt and elsewhere. It is well known that family structures of the Hebrew Bible hardly conformed to the “traditional” family we keep hearing about, with all-powerful men holding absolute power over the women, children and slaves of the household, with multiple wives and concubines, arranged marriages and extended families living together. In the Christian New Testament, I can’t off the top of my head think of a single instance of a “traditional” family unit. Certainly not Christ’s own biological family, nor His later family of choice, nor the household of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, nor those of the apostles, who were urged to leave their families behind, nor the Roman centurion and his “paidion” (or male slave, commonly used for sexual purposes).
No, wait: there is one, if you ignore the palace staff. The family of Herod, Herodias and Salome lived together as Daddy, Mummy and daughter.
So which of these do you suppose is referred to by “traditional family” values?
(Cross-posted from “Queering the Church“)
 

The Gospels’ Queer Values

 

Jesus & Family
Jesus & Family                              (Stained glass Image, Tiffany Glass Company)

The opponents of gay same-sex marriage and of the “gay lifestyle” (whatever that is), like to claim that their opposition is rooted in traditional family values, “as found in the Bible.”   This claim is so completely spurious, is is remarkable how seldom it is challenged.  Just a little thought and reflection shows not only how the Gospel values have little to d with modern Western conceptions of the “traditional” family, but they are so far removed from it, that the real values espoused can certainly be described as “queer”,if not quite as specifically gay.   Continue reading The Gospels’ Queer Values

The Gospels’ Queer Values.

Jesus & Family

The opponents of gay same-sex marriage and of the “gay lifestyle” (whatever that is), like to claim that their opposition is rooted in traditional family values, “as found in the Bible.”   This claim is so completely spurious, is is remarkable how seldom it is challenged.  Just a little thought and reflection shows not only how the Gospel values have little to do with modern Western conceptions of the “traditional” family, but they are so far removed from it, that the real values espoused can certainly be described as certainly “queer”, if not quite as specifically gay.  In reaching this conclusion, I have been reading and reflecting on the social context of the ‘family’ as experienced in Jewish society and the broader social environment, at Jesus’ own ‘family’ in childhood and maturity,  at His actions, and at His words.

The Jewish Family.

It is important to recognise that traditional Jewish society did indeed place enormous importance on the idea of family, both in the narrow sense of the immediate biological family, and in the broader sense of the ethnic Jewish community.  This was so important that on the one hand, everyone was expected to marry and produce l, and on the other, that those outside the narrow ethnic group were regarded as inferior, even unclean.  The  detailed dietary and other regulations well -known from the Old Testament were part of an elaborate legal structure to maintain the ‘purity’ of the Jewish nation. The Jewish family, however, was very different from our modern conception, deeply patriarchal, and with uneven treatment of men and women. Women were were expected to show rigorous sexual fidelity to their husbands, and were thought of as the ‘property’ of their men.

In the broader social environment, the Jewish state in Jesus’ day was under Roman military occupation.  Like the Greek society of the time, the Romans too had a deeply patriarchal society, and one in which there was not the modern distinction between ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ activities.  Distinctions were drawn rather, on the social class of one’s sexual partners, and male citizens would routinely have sex not only with their wives, but also with other lovers, prostitutes and slaves of either gender.

Jesus’ Families.

My reflections on this theme were initially prompted by a posting on “Nihil Obstat” for the feast of the Holy Family, in which she pointed out how very atypical for the time was the Lord’s own childhood family, so often quoted as a model for all Catholic families.

But our childhood families are not the only ones we live with.  More important as we grow older are those adult families we make for ourselves, usually by forming couples in marriage or out of it, and with or without children.  As LGBT people we are also very conscious of how often we may remain single, but still form looser groups of friendship, who may in a real sense become our ‘families’ of a different sort.

So what were the adult ‘families’ that Jesus made for himself?

First, and famously, He did not marry.  This alone is remarkable, given the expectation in Jewish society of marriage and procreation.  So, what were His other relationships – what informal ‘families’ did He form?  We get the answer to this easily enough by looking at the Last Supper.  The Jewish Sabbath meal, and most especially that of Passover, are the occasions above all when Jewish people get together as families.  It is significant then that the Lord spent his own Passover meal – which we know as the ‘Last Supper’, with the 12 apostles:  these were the people we must take to represent His closest family.  Who were these men?  If they ever had wives and families of their own, they had been set aside to spend the rest of their lives with Jesus.

Think about it:  on the most solemn holy day of the Jewish calendar, when it was customary for all Jewish people to share a ritual meal with their closest family, Jesus and the apostles spent the evening as a group of single men.  Does this not sound remarkably like a modern group of urban gay men spending our equivalent family festivals sharing meals together, away from biological families?

Single people know, of course, that the concept of “family” can be fluid. In addition to our closest, most intimate circle, there are often others who might be very close, almost family, but not quite in our innermost circle. Who represented this ‘almost family’ circle to Jesus Christ?  The most obvious candidates to me are the household of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, with whom He had an obviously close and special relationship.  What was the nature of this household?  Once again, very far from the expected “traditional” family.  The two women are described as ‘sisters’ and come across to me as the stronger, more vividly drawn characters:  Lazarus is famed more for his death and rescue from it, than for anything in his life.  Even at face value, this is an unusual household:  Jewish women would typically have been married off at an early age, not still living as adults with their brother.  Where such households did exist, it would normally be the brother, as the only male, who would be expected to dominate the household and be the focus of attention.  For a clearer understanding of the household, it is worth remembering that the word ‘sisters’ may have been used euphemistically: it is at least possible that Mary and Martha were a lesbian couple, living with a gay friend as lodger.

So: in His families of choice, the Lord spent His time either with a band of single men, or with a household of two single women  (possibly a lesbian couple), and yet another unmarried man. Even in the broader social circle, I am not aware of any instance where He is reported as spending time with a a conventional married couple with children.  Thus far, in examining the Lord in His own family context, we have found not an endorsement, but a repudiation, of the traditional family.

I still need to show that this repudiation of the traditional family is continued in His words and actions.  That I will do later in a  follow-up post.