Today, family breakdown is not only commonplace, but is celebrated. This fall, NBC released a new comedy called “The New Normal.” Made by the same people who created the culturally toxic show, “Glee,” this program seems to glorify family breakdown, and is awash in crude language and references.
The Greek philosopher Plato is reported to have said that there is nothing more telling about someone’s character than what they find funny. The joke, however, is on us Americans, if we think family breakdown is something to laugh upon.
As father of a newborn, I have been pondering anew the importance of family. Looking for all the resources I can to become the father God expects, I came across a book titled, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker. Written from the perspective of a pediatrician, Meeker contends that the most likely way to ensure a good outcome on rearing daughters is to have a strong father.
I think the same could be said of families. If your neighborhood consists of strong families, it is likely a good one. If your church is made up of strong families, it is also likely strong. If our country were to be made up of strong families, we should expect a good future. Sadly, we are experiencing the opposite effect. Divorce, out-of-wedlock birth, cohabitation, infidelity and other ills too terrible to mention tear away at our families.
Far too often, secular individuals and groups have successfully used the battering ram of government to make worse, either unwittingly or not, family breakdown in America. At the same time, there have been some notable examples of trying to use the powers of government for the good.
For example, in 1999, then Gov. Frank Keating launched the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI) to combat family breakdown in the Sooner State. Through partnerships with churches, civic and community organizations, the governor hoped to drastically reduce divorce in the state. In fact, a goal was set to reduce it by one third by 2010. Despite great efforts by many, including many Oklahoma Baptist leaders, 2010 has come and gone and the high divorce rate remains.
I do not necessarily think this speaks to the failure of the initiative, but rather the fact that it will take so much more than a single initiative to strengthen the family in Oklahoma. Indeed, cultural forces often have as much—or more—of an effect on the way we think and act than do politics.
How many hours are spent by citizens trying to reform the White House which could have been spent focused on our community and our own house? While each of us has a duty to stay politically engaged and aware, I sometimes think we overestimate government’s potential to do good.
In His earthly ministry, many expected Christ to take power and exert a Kingdom on Earth. Instead, He said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus, instead, spent His precious time investing in the lives of a few, who, through the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, turned an Empire on its end and gave birth to Christianity. We would do well to follow the example of our Master.
Fortunately, most churches today offer programming that seeks to bolster the family. Whether it is events for fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, times of prayer and worship or service evangelism, the church is the best outlet for a family to be strengthened. And when death, or even divorce, ravage one family, there are others nearby to step in the gap and assist, acting as the arms of Christ. The BGCO offers resources for families as well, through its Church & Family Equipping office.
It should come as no surprise to hear that a major TV network is producing a show like “The New Normal” that will work against the family. Instead of simply cursing this darkness, though, we instead should take this moment as a springboard to show and tell a lost and dying world what a real normal family ought to look like.