Posts tagged with: family

family_discipleship-hands-cutouts1The spate of Planned Parenthood videos raises many issues, one of which is the importance of nurturing the lives that we have had a hand in conceiving, adopting, and welcoming into our homes.

As we participate in the Economy of Love, nurturing discipleship will include biblically and theologically informed insights for parents as they express faith, hope, and love in welcoming children into God’s world. Thus, the following insights come from 35 years of parenting and pastoring in churches large and small, including plenty of financial and geographic upheaval and more divine grace than my wife and I deserve.

Our aim with our own children has been partnering with the Holy Trinity to make disciples that are neither anarchists nor automatons, but passionate and principled volitional followers of Christ. We are parents of adult children (ages 31, 28 and 25) and enjoy good relationships with each of them. They are each in different time zones and unique places in their journey, and they bring us no end of delight and concern. Recognizing the diversity of family circumstances and structures, these reflections are not culled from a one-size-fits-all-prescription-laden text.

Here are some thoughts for discipling parents in our communities. (more…)

Braekeleer_Ferdinand_de_A_Peasant_Family_Gathered_around_the_Kitchen_Table_Oil_on_Panel-largeWith the expansion of economic freedom and the resulting prosperity, we’ve reached an unprecedented position of personal empowerment and vocational choice. This is a welcome development, and it can be seized for good in any number of ways. But it also comes with its own risks and temptations.

As with any surface-level “freedom,” unless we seek God first and neighbor second, our action will quickly be steered by pleasure, pride, pursuit of power, or plain old personal preference — leading to shackles that may be looser, but remain shackles nonetheless. Such illusions are nothing new, and lurk no matter what the sphere of our stewardship. But if modernity has wielded a tangible, visible blow to one area in particular, it’s that of the family.

Over the last few decades, marriage has increasingly been misunderstood, and our misaligned approaches to business, education, and politics haven’t helped. Rather than a basic starting point, a foundation of a flourishing society, the family has become just another optional perk in the worship of narrow self-fulfillment.

“Oh that? It’s not for me. Not now.”

As a result, marriage is increasingly seen as a mere contractual arrangement, a 50-50 partnership for the purposes of personal pleasure rather than duty and sacrifice. In turn, culture and family have “evolved” accordingly. Fewer and fewer people are getting married, and those who do are doing so later and later and having fewer and fewer kids, if any at all. Divorce is routine. The basic definition of marriage is constantly questioned. (more…)

Photo by Raymond van Mil

Photo by Raymond van Mil

Five adults (three men, two women) in the Netherlands are having a child together, and plan to raise said child together. I know this is a little tricky so let me explain. Jaco and Sjoerd (those are the guys) and Daantje and Dewi (the women) are all homosexual. They’ve known each other for 10 years. Then there is Sean, who is the third person in Jaco and Sjoerd’s relationship. They would marry him, but cannot legally.

The five folks want a child. So (and if you want to read exactly how they did it, you can, but for now let’s just leave it at this) Daantje is now carrying “their” baby.

Five parents with equal rights and responsibilities, divided across two households—those are the terms of the agreement that we all signed and had notarized,” says Dewi. They had to do this because, legally speaking, the Netherlands isn’t quite ready for multi-parenthood just yet. A child can still only have a maximum of two legal parents and, in a marriage, those parents are usually the biological mother and her husband or wife. However, the biological mother is also allowed to appoint someone else as the second legal parent.

The laws surrounding parental rights have improved significantly for gay parents in the Netherlands over the past few years, but the issue of multi-parenthood is still a complicated one. In the case of this particular five-parent family, Jaco has taken on the role of legal parent number two—replacing Dewi, who initially held the position because of her marriage to Daantje.

“We wanted to make sure that there was one legal parent in both households, because we’re splitting the upbringing equally,” explains Dewi.

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If you want to see what happens when a government fails its basic responsibilities of maintaining law and order, read this fine and saddening piece by Detroit Free Press columnist John Carlisle, “The last days of Detroit’s Chaldean Town.” In it you’ll encounter the fraying of the town’s social architecture built around faith, family, work, and government.

At a conference a few weeks ago I was involved in a discussion about the ‘worst’ jobs we had ever had. Mine was cleaning the meat room at a grocery store run by four Chaldean brothers in an area just a bit further east of Chaldean Town. I worked at a “training wage” for the better part of a year, I think, while in high school. I didn’t mind transferring out to make a bit less bagging groceries.

Joseph Sunde has written a fair bit on how “hard work cultivates character.” Earlier today I was reading through a classic speech by the famed American pastor Russell Conwell, which includes this bit of wisdom: “There is no class of people to be pitied so much as the inexperienced sons and daughters of the rich of our generation.” Conwell’s point was that the rich most often attained wealth by working smarter and harder. But “as a rule the rich men will not let their sons do the very thing that made them great,” thereby depriving them of the very same experiences that enabled the creation of wealth in the first place. This is actually as true for the moderately rich as it is for the extremely wealthy. As Michael Novak has put it, “Parents brought up under poverty do not know how to bring up children under affluence.”

So even though I hated that job cleaning the meat room at the Chaldean market, which closed some years later, I was sad to see it go and I’ll always carry those experiences with me and try to pass their lessons along to my own children. The rise and fall of Chaldean Town also has some things to teach us about flourishing at the community level.

child traffickingAt first blush, the issues of same-sex marriage and surrogacy don’t seem to have too great a connection. However, in Ireland, a public debate illustrates how closely these issues are related, and it isn’t good.

In May, same-sex marriage became legal in Ireland by public vote. In the days before the vote, major news sources noted that “fears” of surrogacy would sink the vote for same-sex marriage, even though surrogacy is not legal in Ireland. The question raised is: Do people have a right to procreate or, more importantly, have children? Christopher White explains:

The confusion can be traced back to a 1991 case, Murray v. Ireland, in which the high court effectively held that there is a constitutional right to procreate. While many on both sides of the referendum argued that this decision was referring to natural procreation, the decision has already been used to promote donor conception. It’s understandable, then, that many were fearful that a “yes” vote would open the floodgates to a practice that many Irish voters do not support. Mothers and Fathers Matter—the leading civic group opposing the same-sex marriage referendum—launched a campaign that papered the country with ads and posters of a young, concerned toddler with the following slogan: “Surrogacy?: She Needs Her Mother For Life, Not Just For Nine Months. Vote No.”

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kindness-heart-image-orgspringSurely, there is not one social conservative or conservative Christian that has not been shaken by the events in our nation over the last week or two. It seems as if everything we know and believe to be true has been cast aside and trampled upon. Should we take the Benedict option? The Buckley option? Should we just put our heads down and go quietly about our lives, hoping no one notices us?

The New York Times’ David Brooks has an idea worth pondering. First, he says (as have many others), we must realize we live in a post-Christian culture. (I think most of us have gotten this point, loud and clear.) Perhaps though, Brooks opines, we are now in a post-cultural war culture as well. It’s over – at least to a point.

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

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heart in handCompassion is a marvelous virtue. Feeling concern for others and acting sacrificially — especially on behalf of those that cannot return the favor — reveals mature character and contributes to human flourishing.

Compassion moves missionaries and monks to great efforts as they plant churches, pioneer institutions, and work for justice across cultures and geographies. Paul’s words are the motivation for his apostolic proclamation that, “…the love of Christ compels us…” and, “one died for all, therefore all died. And those who live should not live for themselves but for him who died and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5)

This agape love includes moral conviction and missional wisdom.

“Unsanctified mercy” (thank you, Jill Miller, for this term) arises when compassion becomes compromise and our fear of offending subverts biblical truth. The American church is increasingly guilty of doctrinal, moral, and spiritual compromise under the guise of compassion and misplaced historical guilt.

At the risk of offending tender sensibilities, it is time to confront our own hearts and our public ministries with gospel truth. Progressive Christians have served the kingdom well as they expose the excesses of consumerism, capitalism, and colonialism that often mark American and Western ecclesial efforts. Conservative Christians serve God’s reign as they remind the church that there are timeless beliefs and values not subject to one’s “evolution.” The sanctity of life, the definition and marriage, and the historical foundations of the gospel and Scripture are among these convictions. There is much room for civil family debate on a variety of issues and strategies.

The events of the past half-century and the last few months are cause for grave concern and I am unashamedly speaking truth to power as unsanctified mercy leads the church down pathways of compromise, irrelevance and ineffective witness. (more…)

“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.” -Isaiah 61:11

Jean Marie owns a restaurant and farm in southern Rwanda. After his first year in business, he worked with Urwego, a local micro-finance partner with HOPE International, to secure a loan to purchase more animals and improve his land’s fertility.

Today, he employs 8 people, supports 11 orphans, and has 5 children:

His story is another great example of how something as simple as access to capital can be a key to achieving success and stability in the developing world. And yet Jean Marie’s story points to something even more crucial: a love for Jesus, faithful obedience, and the fruit of both across family, community, and enterprise. (more…)

PrintChristina M. Weber thinks so. She says that Christian women have been trail-blazers in showing us how to balance family life, work and worship. In the 20th century, Weber says that political ideologies tried to break down family life.

Marxists and communists promoted disconnection between children and their parents with incompatible work schedules. They also destabilized marriages with the encouragement of promiscuity and lust.

The agenda—dependence on the state above family and God — fueled the economic and political goals of their leaders.

But women know better. They know that family is the key to society, and keeping that in the forefront of their minds as they built businesses set them apart. (more…)

In this short video, Allan Carlson of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society describes the importance and centrality of the family to a health society. Families that work together in some endeavor tend to be healthier, are able to care for themselves and thus become the foundation of a sound economy and society.