I’m a latecomer to the TV show, Modern Family, which is now in its 5th season. It’s about an extended family (which sounds anything but modern to me) but with some of the configurations of family that most of us experience in the US today: cross-racial/ethnic, multi-generational, “step” families, gay marriages, adoptions, second marriages and goofy parents of teenagers.
I am not commending this show to anyone who hasn’t watched it (and loved it) because I’ve learned over the years, never (and I mean never) to recommend a movie or TV show because something will offend someone and they’ll think that’s exactly what I liked about it! But I like it, partly because this modern family is funny (they’re as funny as my family!) and they deal with some common family issues, even if they are wrapped up in 30 minutes and they all live in a well-healed suburban setting.
Like I said, it’s not perfect, but it does offer a view into modern family life today; i.e. it’s not like it used to be for many of us. And for some, that’s good news and for others, it’s a struggle.
What brings this to mind is that the Vatican has called a Family Synod (for two weeks—that’s almost like General Conference!) to talk about (no legislation as far as I can tell) family…and I would guess that it means the state and religious implications of family across the globe! Families are cultural and cross-global conversations about families will be interesting to say the least!
The United Methodist Church has four areas of focus: creating new places for new people, ministry with the poor, stamping out killer diseases, and forming principled leaders. I wish we had an area of strengthening families as a denomination. The four areas of focus could intersect with strengthening families…but essentially they don’t give much airtime to them.
How does the church/faith community strengthen families when
- our families live all over the world,
- we have LGBTQ families,
- our families are cross-racial/ethnic,
- our families are interfaith,
- church isn’t always so family-friendly,
- young adults are marrying later and as often as not, living together before they do,
- 50% of marriages end in divorce
- we’re not developing practices that transmit the faith through families
- families are stressed by poverty and racism
- families are torn apart by addictions
- families are torn apart by domestic violence
- families have developmentally challenged members who need lifelong care.
Yes, the list goes on and on and I would guess that anyone reading this can identify in their own family these dynamics, challenges, and changes (not good, not bad, just are), much less in the families in our congregations. And anyone reading this list will note the glaring and inevitable omissions.
A United Methodist Summit on the Family would be interesting (but don’t ask me to do it because it would be a quagmire of politics)! Nevertheless, I have some questions:
- Who in the United Methodist Church stewards “strengthening the family”?
- Could it be that we have so much trouble talking about human sexuality because we haven’t talked about our “modern families” and how they challenge and refresh our faith?
- How do we reach out in a loving and accepting way to those families that are fearful to enter the doors of a church because “all is not right” in their homes and it’s not all right to talk about it, especially in church (where it’s assumed everyone is smart, righteous and above average!).
So maybe the biggest question is:
- When can we be honest in our faith communities about who we are as families and what comprises our families?
You have to take your miter off to the Catholics to be so bold as to hold a synod on the family but we’ll see how honest it goes in really exploring what the “modern family” is in light of our Christian faith.