The ideal family

The conservative Christian writer Rod Dreher believes that the ideal family consists of a man and woman committed to stay together and to raise their children to be healthy, responsible adults.

My good friend Walter believes the ideal family is more than that.  It includes two sets of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins as well as brothers and sisters.   He thinks children need all kinds of people in their lives – a crazy uncle, a sympathetic aunt, an adventurous cousin and so on – that they can relate to and they can see as examples, good and bad, of how to live.

I think Walter is right.  Sadly, though, this ideal isn’t always attainable.  I have divorced women friends and a widower friend who’ve had to bring up their children on their own.  It was a lot tougher than if they’d had a partner to share, but the children turned out all right.

Click on Some Burkean Thoughts on SSM for Rod Dreher’s argument that a society disintegrates when people regard marriage as a contract rather than a sacrament.  My problem with his argument is that, even if I were convinced he is right, I believe or disbelieve in religion based on what I think is true and false, not on what I think is theoretically best for society.  Maybe that shows I am a product of the individualistic American culture whose bad side Dreher deplores.

Anyhow, the data indicate that families are most stable, divorce rates are lowest, fewer children are born out of wedlock, etc., in the so-called blue states where social attitudes are most liberal than in the states where conservative Christianity is strongest.  That is not necessarily a criticism of conservative Christianity; as Jesus is quoted as saying, it is the sick and not the healthy who need a physician.   I take Dreher’s argument seriously, but, at the end of the day, I am not willing to make good people suffer in the name of a theoretical ideal that may or may not be valid and may or may not be attainable.

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