The Neccessity of the Family
Where is the Nuclear Family Headed?
This statement, which appeared in one of the most prestigious educational journals in the United Kingdom, is typical of the recognition being given by the secular society of the importance of the family unit after decades of negligence. Some educators, particularly in the private sector, are more forthright, insisting that society lacks the "torch of moral firmness" in the "dark age of immorality" (Dr. Bob Acheson, "Preps' Moral Rôle in the New 'Dark Age'", TES, Ibid., p.14).
"Family conflict, scant supervision of children by parents, lack of interest in their education or leisure, harsh or erratic discipline and long-term separation from a parent are key factors in causing juvenile crime..." (Times Educational Supplement, "Criminal Intent Runs in the Family", August 29, 1997, p.6,)
Dr. Acheson, chairman of the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS), points out, quite correctly, that a "rampant cult of individualism" has corrupted views of the family, religion and democracy.
How often does your blood boil when separating parents tell you in the cosy privacy of your study that they are about to split up but that this won't, of course, affect the children?" he asked delegates at a conference.
"Personal" vs. Communal Christian
We find not dissimilar trends in Christendom in the Western world. The emphasis has been placed on being a "personal Christian" with most concepts of church community being relegated very much to a second-class rôle. As many educators know, it is important for a child to realise himself -- to crystalise out an ego -- a process which is in the making throughout childhood but which particularly comes to the fore in the teenage years. It is, however, precisely at this time that children need to develop a consciousness of family and communal responsibilities, duties and obligations in order to precude, as Dr. Acheson calls it, the "cult of individualism". This is emphasised throughout the Bible in both Testaments -- in the Old the concept of nation is stressed; in the new, the Church family. The family is so central to the biblical revelation that Paul goes as far as comparin the Church with the human body -- we are more than individuals, for each individual, like the limbs and organs of a body, makes up a greater whole. Eyes and feet do not declare independence, Paul argues, because to do so would result in the disintegration of the body.
The Rise of Atheistic Individualism
This self-evident fact, however, was ignored in the post-war ears of ever increasing atheistic individualism both in the liberal democracies. The communist east went to the opposite extreme, suppressing individualism altogether and insisting on the absoluteness of the state as the "collective individual". Both West and East have missed the mark entirely -- the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and therefore the real needs of man who was created by God to fulfil certain inborn needs, requires a careful balance of individualism and collectivism.
We are born independent, unique children of God, alienated from God because of sin. Each individual must, on his own, come to know God by searching for the truth and entering into a personal relationship with his Lord and Saviour. But this is only the beginning -- sadly, it is the end for most forms of discipleship in the churches. Once we have come to personal realisation in Christ, or rather, once we have begun the process of personal realisation, there is the need to become a part of a wider spiritual family. God ordained this to be the Church but rebellious man, in his attempt to distance himself from any sort of moral responsibility so that he can pursue selfish ends, has substituted Church for the secular gods of sport, sex, power, politics, etc..
The Search for Personal Realisation and Happiness
Many secularists are now realising that individualism does not lead to personal realisation and happiness. So, like the communists before them, they are now substituting tyhe secular society for the Church or, almost as bad (if not worse), false religion. In Norway where I have lived for nearky a decade, where socialism has been the predominent mode of thought for almost a whole generation, one sees how "statism" is increasingly substituting for the Church. The leaders of the communes (county and parish councils) have become the new priests. The permissive liberal state has become the Church. And like its false ecclesiastical forbears is becoming increasingly dictatorial and unaccountable.
The Cult of Individualism in the Charismatic Churches
I am therefore distressed, but not surprised, to see how modern charismatic churches appeal to the cult of individualism, reshaping the gospel to make it more palpable to our selfish, ego-centric society. It is almost, but not quite, teaching that once a man or woman accepts Christ he has the freedom to do whatever he wants to. These churches are full of young people brought up in the modern secular cultus of individualism -- and they thrive in these churches, for a while, until the churches have nothing more to "give" them, as they suppose. The modern Church has, in many instances, merely become a religious theatre where consumers go to be entertained. Whilst these modern churches are certainly an improvement on the secular version they are still counterfeit and do not lead their followers to true freedom in Jesus Christ.
So do not be fooled into thinking that these mushrooming charismatic groups are evidence of God's mighty hand. They are a bubble of religious illusion that can be popped as easily as a baloon. They are merely perpetuating the cancer of super-individualism by preaching that believers are kings and queens who ought to be healthy, wealthy, and driving around in Rolls Royces and Merceses Benz's, which they claim are the signs of God's favour.
"The Church of MacDonalds"
The "Church of MacDonalds", as I am sometimes tempted to call it, is a false takeaway, do-it-yourself Gospel that has little or nothing to do with biblical Christianity. Jesus taught that we were to forget self and its never-ending demands and focus our energies on serving others. He taught that the way to the Kingdom was one of cross-bearing, not of hopping into golden limosines on a "highway to heaven". He taught that the way to salvation was a narrow one requiring humility, repentance, and self-abnegation. And He promised that those who followed this path would experience peace and joy of the variety that isn't "here today and gone tomorrow" -- in short, we would enter in the permanent security of His rest, peace and happiness.
All worthwhile, lasting movements are built on the foundation of self- sacrifice. Florence Nightingale inspired better hpsital care by her selfless devotion to the sick in the Crimea. Those who fight against evil inevitably suffer persecution and sometimes death. There are no "highways" to paradise -- they are usually narrow, lonely, and paved with suffering. No wonder, then, that the apostles in the New Testament described the Christian's work as a "ministry of suffering" for they knew, from personal experience of the resurrected Messiah, that real joy and suffering were inseparable. Counterfeit joy has no opposition -- it is fleeting and hollow.
The Dark Age of Hyper-Individualism
We are in a dark age of hyper-individualism and it's getting worse. The communists of Eastern Europe threw of the shackles of anti-individualism and embraced the West's counterfeit. And now in the East, like the West, family values are being eroded. The demon of individualism has raised its ugly head there too and is consuming a new generation of youth.
The family must return as the central unit of society. As an educator myself, I see the debitating effects of divorce, of absent parents, and those whose rules are too lax or draconian. In Norway there are now telephone desks for lonely children to ring because their parents are both pursuing careers and don't have time for them. In my own school there is pressure to institute more and more clubs ostensibly for the children but in reality to allow parents to pursue selfish career ambitions.
Men and women are endowed by God with many gifts not all of which can necessarily be ustilised in this brief span of mortality. We were created who we were to perform certain social rôles -- men and women were created to have different but complimentary callings in life. And to this end, in part, they were created and endowed.
In this century there have been major debates and unheavals over male-female rôles in society, most of them unprodictive and spiritually unhealthy. Not surprisingly in societies where individualism is stressed husbands and wives are encouraged to pursue careers, often at the expense of their children's welfare.
New Covenant Christian Rôle Models
So what rôle-model does the New Covenant Church advocate? We believe that Christians are given two options:
The New Covenant Church does not submit to the mediaeval view, which still predeominates in some cultures, which insists that the mother is always homebound. But at the same time it rejects the dual-career apprach to modern families. It does teach, however, that the father is the principal money earner and has the primary responsibility for earning his family's daily bread whilst the mother should be at home for her children as long as they need her whilst pursuing other useful activities.
(1) To create simple family units where the father goes to work and the mother remains at home so long as she has young children in her watchcare;
(2) To create cooperative communities where women especially are given the opportunity to develop other skills without depriving their children of maternal care. There are two types of these:
(a) Firstborn Communities where families live in one central location and devlop home industries in which all can participate. Whilst mothers are expected to spend a good deal of their time with children they are also encouraged to cooperate such as to allow them to develop other skills in other areas;
(b) Local Colony Communities where single family units cooperate in a similar way to the above whilst living in the cities.
This page was created on 11 April 1998
Last updated on 11 April 1998
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