Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Focus on the Family is Losing Their War Against Familes

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

For more than three decades, James Dobson and others like him have been touting the same message. Only nuclear families are legitimate and any other family structure is detrimental to children. As we see in the video, they cherry pick or distort legitimate studies to try to prove their point.

But as suggested, gay and lesbian parents have to work harder to have a family, so there are no "accidents". They are not as a rule "teen" parents and when they apply for adoption, as with any other applicants, must prove that they can provide a stable and loving home.

In his book the Rights Revolution, Michael Ignatieff discusses family issues:

What conservatives see as the collapse of the family, liberals view as its mutation into new forms. Nowadays, there are many types of good parents and many types of good families: nuclear, extended, single-parent, same-sex. The fact that there are many types of families does not mean that there are no longer any fixed standards about what a good family is. The test of goodness is loose but evident: it's a community where each member receives and displays lifelong moral concern for the well-being of everyone else .... an enduring moral commitment.

A child needs to feel that her development matters intensely to another person, and that this person will stay the course with her to ensure that she develops as best she can. What a liberal insists upon is the idea that it is possible to reconcile a commitment to absolute standards of care and responsibility in family life with a faith that these standards can be met by a wide variety of persons and a wide variety of possible family forms.

So-called family values, as propagated in the rhetoric of North American popular entertainment, pulpit sermonizing, and political homily, are a downright tyranny. They make people feel inadequate, ashamed, or guilty about their inability to conform to what is in fact a recent, post-war suburban norm of family domesticity. (1)

That's what defines a family, not it's structural makeup. By hammering the idea that a child can only develop properly with a married mother and father, risks making some children feel inadequate, not in the home but within society. Because what children of "family values" parents hear at home they will repeat on the schoolyard or playground.

Most Christians, whether on the left or the right, will agree that children are a gift from God, so why can't they accept that maybe he (or she) just chooses a variety of gift wrapping?

The results of a study on children raised by lesbian couples finds the opposite to what Dobson preaches:

A study that has been following children raised by lesbian parents for the past 24 years has concluded that not only are the children healthy, they’re generally smarter, nicer and better behaved than those raised by male-female couples.

The results of the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study were published today in Pediatrics magazine and found that “daughters and sons of lesbian mothers, all conceived through donor insemination, were rated higher than their peers in social, academic and overall competence, and lower in aggressive behaviour, rule-breaking and social problems, on standardised assessments of psychological adjustment”. While there have been many studies about the children of gay and lesbian parents, this is the first one to follow children from conception through adolescence. (2)

This doesn't mean that we should aspire to having all children be raised by two moms, only that it's OK for children to be raised by two moms, or two dads, or one mom or one dad, or any other combination. And to do that we need to redefine "family values".

We need family values all right, but the ones we actually need must be pluralistic. We need to understand that the essential moral needs of any child can be met by family arrangements that run the gamut from arranged marriages right through to same-sex parenting. Nature and natural instinct are poor guides in these matters. If good parenting were a matter of instinct, families wouldn't be the destructive institutions they so often are. It is frequently the case that perfect strangers turn out to be better parents or step-parents than natural ones.

... The point is not to invalidate one type of parent. Instead, it is to insist that ideology will not help us here: if we insist that one category or type of parent will always do a better job than any other, we are certain to be wrong. Same-sex parents have taught us that there is no necessary relationship between heterosexuality and good parenting. The question to be asked in every case is not what kind of sexual creatures these parents are, or even what kind of biological or other relationship they have to these children, but what kind of parents they are. The test of goodness here is the capacity for sustained moral concern and to be willing to make reasonable sacrifices for the sake of children's interests. (1)

Religion is being used and abused for financial and political gain. As such it has narrowed discourse to single issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage, instead of looking at the broader picture, and examining faith from a variety of concerns. E.J. Dionne, in his book Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right, states:

... reducing religion to politics or to a narrow set of public issues amounts to a great sellout of our traditions. It is common to speak of religion as "selling out" to secularism, or to modernity, or to a fashionable relativism. But there is a more immediate danger .. of religion selling out to political forces that use the votes of religious people for purposes having nothing to do with a religious agenda—and, often enough, for causes that may contradict the values such voters prize most. It is a great sellout of religion to insist that it has much to teach us about abortion or gay marriage but little useful to say about social justice, war and peace, the organization of our work lives, or our approach to providing for the old, the sick, and the desperate.

Religion becomes less relevant to public life when its role is marginalized to a predetermined list of "values issues," when its voice is silenced or softened on
the central problems facing our country and our government. (3)

The neoconservative movement that has tapped into religion, has been able to deflect attention away from the things we should be focusing on, including those mentioned above, but also on health care, education, poverty, homelessness, etc. This has worked to their advantage because those are all the things they really want to avoid having to deal with.

The religious right, left and everything in between, need to start working together on the things that really matter, and not allow the politicians who choose to exploit, or those in the lucrative "business" of selling faith, to set the agenda.


1. The Rights Revolution: CBC Massey Lectures, By Michael Ignatieff, Anansi Books, 2000, ISBN: 978=0-88784-762-2, Pg. 102-103

2. The Secret To Having The Perfect Child: Be A Lesbian, By Brian Moylan, The Defamer, June 8, 2010

3. Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right, By E.J. Dionne, Jr., Princeton University Press, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-691--13458--1. Pg. 3