Family Idolatry And The Dictionary

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Every language has a dictionary. And most people think of definitions as set in stone and definitive as the Bible. No where is this more untrue than in our religious vocabulary. Take love for example. In biblical times, love was defined by agape love – God’s love for man and man’s love for God. Today, love generally means one thing – sex. Making love is as easily understood as making pancakes for breakfast, a feat of mechanics. Beauty is as deep as a tanning bed. But platonic love that transcends the beauty of any individual has been replaced by romantic love, by an undefined system of marriages and hookups not found in the Bible, intermittently legitimized by a church wedding and nuclear family.

Unfortunately, a society with an out of balance platonic/erotic system of interpersonal relationships cannot accurately define many biblical concepts. A society that is so focused on the family cannot comprehend the eternal. A classic example is True Love Waits. First, it communicated to teenagers that true love was represented by a marriage to the right person instead of a relationship with Christ. Second, it communicated to them that love was erotic and all about sex. Third, it told them that they were not loved until they found their true love. Fourth, it told them that waiting was only for teenagers. Fifth, it told them that everybody was destined to be married. Fifth, it put the horse before the carriage by assuming a godly marriage could be done without accepting Christ first. And sixth, it separated the sexual from the spiritual by not including God in the equation. True Love Waits was indeed started by two family men concerned about their daughters not fitting in at school; by family men who did not have the proper insight and balance between the married and unmarried, between the erotic and platonic, between God’s concerns and concerns of this world. Unfortunately, it gave the sexually immoral society we live in more ammunition. It gave them enough straw men to last a lifetime. The headlines were not about waiting for marriage to have sex – but chewing gum, dirty glasses of water, and half eaten chocolate bars. Purity balls became incestuous father and daughter relationships. Even worse, they took boys out of the equation, the ultimate affirmation of sexism. This is what happens when the family is idolized, when parents get a hold of biblical langugage they do not have the insight to define, when they think their priorities and their children’s trump everything in this world.

The families that do have their priorities in order and that can see beyond the erotic concerns of this world need to speak up on these issues – or the word “platonic” will soon be removed from the dictionaries and the word “purity” will become a four letter word. I’m afraid this is a natural result of the ageism, sexism, and marital statusism that is prevalent in churches today. There is nothing biblical about youth groups, family worship centers, Vacation Bible Schools, women’s conferences, pastor and wife teams, or children fitting in at school. All of this and a lot more has presented a warped idea of Christianity to the world and a wrong picture of God’s love. Does something have to be in the Bible to be a good idea? Not necessarily. But good ideas are based on wisdom, not on family comfort. What is your true love? I hope you can see it’s more than wedding planners or engagement rings, more than the ideas of a few misguided men and the worship of their children.

Imagine that your TV preacher of choice announced to the world that he had invented a little battery operated box called “Honest Abe” that glows a green light when someone tells the truth and red when they lie. The good old fashioned Christian virtue of honesty in the palm of your hand. But when the 5 million people that bought it the first day get it home, they discover that Honest Abe only works between people who are first degree kin. I would imagine that a lot of buyers would be happy with that. After all, PaPa Smith just wanted to know if Uncle Earl was telling the truth about that land purchase. Would it be surprising if the very concept of honesty became associated with a box called Honest Abe? Then we would live in a purity culture and honesty culture.

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