Worshiping at the Altar of Family

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“A family may support him off to the side, but he’s longing for the accolades, the respect, the riches. But I found myself, while he described the feelings of idolatry–the sense that this is my whole life, this is what I live for, this is what I dream of, this is what completes me and gives me significance–thinking that, for me, this is family. This stuff of many women’s fantasies includes an adoring, faithful spouse; attractive, obedient kids; people who depend on you, love you, give you a reason to get out of bed, regularly stand up and sing your praises. And it is idolatry, just like money, power, and fame.”

“It’s the thing that causes the mom in your women’s Bible study to post the 67th picture of her daughter’s birthday party on Facebook. It’s the reason for the magazine-quality family pictures all over the house…What makes it even trickier and more confusing is the value the Bible places on family. It is the building block of a just and moral society. It is a hedge of protection for the traditionally vulnerable children and women. The Bible has much to say about the blessing of a godly spouse and a houseful of children and includes lots of good directives on how to keep those relationships healthy and godly. Parents are charged with the precious task of directing and guiding our children’s hearts towards God, so it is easy to think of family as an unqualified good. ‘Family values’ is practically synonymous with ‘orthodox Christian.’”

“If so, then why do I feel so convicted, sometimes, about worshiping at the altar of family?” 

Worshiping at the Altar of Family by Kristin and Ted Kluck

A specific but perverse

A specific but perverse manifestation of this idolatry that I have personally observed is the Christian woman whose idealized vision of a Christian marriage -- and especially of a Christian husband -- leads her to destructive dissatisfaction with her marriage and her spouse, allowing her to rationalize a divorce without a true biblical basis.  The unbiblical divorce is then compounded with a headlong rush into an adulterous remarriage to a man who appears, at least at first, to be more spiritual.  Serial marriages can be the good Christian woman's version of infidelity/adultery.

One comment on the TGC post makes a very important point in drawing parallels between the evils of pornography for men and the evils of romance fantasies for women (now coming to be known as "divorce porn").  Unfortunately, the church is either unequipped or simply fails to step in to head off the consequences when it's the woman's idolatry that is driving a divorce.

sigh

i have a lot of big feelings about this.

i do not want to write it all out right now.

one point: the church's sort of wild reaction to the feminist movement is partly responsible for the family-worship-in-women thing.

i think the church is more the core of NT society, not the family.

I agree

dmyers wrote:

A specific but perverse manifestation of this idolatry...leads her to destructive dissatisfaction with her marriage and her spouse, allowing her to rationalize a divorce without a true biblical basis.  The unbiblical divorce is then compounded with a headlong rush into an adulterous remarriage to a man who appears, at least at first, to be more spiritual.  Serial marriages can be the good Christian woman's version of infidelity/adultery.

  Or the idealized/fantasized vision leads right to infidelity even before a divorce, because the passions are out of control.   In my years of ministry, I have seen the destruction of marriages by women who have fallen for this trap.  In fact I have seen it just as much, if not a little more often, than men initiating affairs because of pornographic fantasies (not denying that it happens, too, just have seen women falling into affairs more often than men in my own ministry). 

And even when the tragedy is caught on time, and the the couple is sent to "biblical" counseling, I have seen the men lambasted, accused of porn addictions, and being unloving to their wives while the women get off with a slap on the hand.  (Everything rises and falls on leadership, after all...so it must be his fault) You're right, the church is either unequipped or simply fails...when it's the woman's idolatry.  

I couldn't help but think of that demotivational poster that shows a bunch of 40 something women going crazy over some 17 year-old guy actors (not sure from which movie or tv show, though).  The caption read, "This is accepted, but if these were 40 year old guys and 17 year old girls, the men would be arrested."  Why the double standard? 

Shawn Haynie

Virtuous woman

Anyone who reads Prov. 31 without taking any other Scriptures into account would think that this woman worshipped her family. Obviously her household is a priority, and evangelism as we tend to define it is not mentioned, although providing for the poor and needy is. What we should learn from her is that her love and fear of the Lord is the impetus for her actions, and it is a good thing that her husband is of good reputation, his trust in her care of the household is a part of that good reputation, and it is OK for her husband and children to be grateful and express their gratitude to her. This is further supported by passages addressing marriage and parenthood in the NT. 

If there's one thing I've learned in the last 25 years of marriage, parenting, and ministry, is that establishing and maintaining Biblical priorities is not a cut-and-dried matter. We go through many seasons of life, and demands change because of finances, health, and spiritual issues, so our responses to those needs will require some changes in 'visible' priorities, while our inner priorities should remain static.

Unless someone is actually stating that church is Ptooey and family is Everything, we simply cannot look at each other through some arbitrary lens of 'normal' and suspect anyone else guilty of idolatry.

A general observation- the FIC movement is a bit of a pendulum swing, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. If I had to choose an extreme, I'd rather see folks err a bit to the choice of prioritizing family than neglecting it. But as with all major shifts of thought and practice, many folks who jumped on the Family-Is-Everything bandwagon will settle down into a more balanced approach. It takes a lot of effort to be truly extreme. Wink

Susan, Every extreme has it's

Susan,

Every extreme has it's inherent land mines. I don't think we can really say that one land mine is better than another when it comes to different extremes one might go to.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Wellll....

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Susan,

Every extreme has it's inherent land mines. I don't think we can really say that one land mine is better than another when it comes to different extremes one might go to.

It depends on the extreme. I'm not saying that any extreme is good, but on the grand scale of life, some seem better/worse than others. Say, extreme crunchiness is better than extreme junk food consumption, because of the repercussions and consequences. So if there is a swing, even a swing too far, toward focusing on one's family as opposed to the neglect of family, if I had to choose, that is the end of the spectrum I would choose.

However, as I stated in my post, 1) balance is essential for the times and seasons of life, and 2) I believe most extremes eventually level out, with only a few remaining on the ragged edge. In that sense I see this refocusing as a generally good thing.

 

i guess

my thoughts are more along the lines that

in reaction to the feminist movement, conservatives did more of a one-to-one reaction rather than presenting a Biblical fulness.

feminists say women are hampered/imprisoned at home, some christians respond by saying it's the woman's highest calling,

both are wrong.

churches became more focused on gender and marital status rather than Spirit gifting.

stuff like that,  yada yada

it's been interesting coming to a church overseas that's made up of mostly incomplete family units because of who accepted Christ is the family

dmyers wrote: A specific but

dmyers wrote:

A specific but perverse manifestation of this idolatry that I have personally observed is the Christian woman whose idealized vision of a Christian marriage -- and especially of a Christian husband -- leads her to destructive dissatisfaction with her marriage and her spouse, allowing her to rationalize a divorce without a true biblical basis.  The unbiblical divorce is then compounded with a headlong rush into an adulterous remarriage to a man who appears, at least at first, to be more spiritual.  Serial marriages can be the good Christian woman's version of infidelity/adultery.

One comment on the TGC post makes a very important point in drawing parallels between the evils of pornography for men and the evils of romance fantasies for women (now coming to be known as "divorce porn").  Unfortunately, the church is either unequipped or simply fails to step in to head off the consequences when it's the woman's idolatry that is driving a divorce.

 

You could not have said this any better. Excellent post!

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Americanized Christianity

This is to blame for much of the problems in our churches, not the least of which is family issues.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Susan R wrote:Chip Van

Susan R wrote:

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Susan,

Every extreme has it's inherent land mines. I don't think we can really say that one land mine is better than another when it comes to different extremes one might go to.

It depends on the extreme. I'm not saying that any extreme is good, but on the grand scale of life, some seem better/worse than others. Say, extreme crunchiness is better than extreme junk food consumption, because of the repercussions and consequences. So if there is a swing, even a swing too far, toward focusing on one's family as opposed to the neglect of family, if I had to choose, that is the end of the spectrum I would choose.

However, as I stated in my post, 1) balance is essential for the times and seasons of life, and 2) I believe most extremes eventually level out, with only a few remaining on the ragged edge. In that sense I see this refocusing as a generally good thing.

 

Any extreme, if it is idolatrous is neither better or worse regardless of the apparent fruit it produces. This is the kind of pragmatism that gets us into real trouble. We do not establish the norms nor the degree to which error or outright sin is acceptable or tolerable. If a woman or a man turns her/his family, kids, or spouse into an object of worship, they may was well bow down to a piece of wood. The hyper individiualism of American culture is the foundation for much of what passes as biblical families today. The idea is created by cultural influences and societal values, placed over the text of Scripture, and a false picture is produced. When men and women attempt to create this picture in their own families and fail, the results are often disastrous. Americanized Christianity is so pervasive in our culture that it is very difficult indeed to even recognize what biblical Christianity even looks like these days. I think this is true across the board. I left a PCA church because I watched the elders allow one woman divorce her husband without any discipline resulting, and then another woman did the same thing, and finally another. There was no adultery in any of the cases. The women were just unhappy and believed God understood the plight of their situation. I know of another case right now in a bible church where a woman left a man studying for ministry, also without any grounds. In one case the PCA pastor told me the one man wasn't being a husband to his wife while the other one was failing to love his wife as Christ loved the church. These are perfect examples of how American Christianity has displaced biblical Christianity even in some of our best and most conservative churches.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

@Bro. Dingess

I agree about the pragmatism, although from my pov it's more just a weariness of constantly being pulled away from my familial responsibilities to 'serve the Lord'. And that's in quotes because mine and my husband's idea of how to serve the Lord best is not always what someone else thinks I should be doing with my time, energy, money, or talent. I've recently come from the 'neglect your family and worship the church' end of the spectrum. So please forgive my gazing at the mirage of greener grass.

I've said before that church and family are to be symbiotic- they strengthen and uphold and encourage each other. Marriage and church are both reflections of Christ's relationship to the believer. If there is a tug-of-war going on, things are out of whack. 

Also, I don't think of family as always being husband+wife+kids+dog+picket fence. Single folks have a responsibility to their living parents, even when they become independent of them. They should honor and take care of them if they can, and IMO they should make a valiant effort to do so. Single, divorced, widowed- there are Scriptures that address our roles and relationships with each other. No man is an island and all that. 

 

Tug-of war

I find myself unable to comment much about your response because I am unclear about what you mean by having a "tug-of-war" going on between church and family. It depends on the specifics of your situation. For some people a tug-of-war might be the commitment to involvement at any level, or attendance at least weekly. To others it could be much more than that. To be sure, if we are not feeling any tug-of-war at all, I would probably argue that we are not making much of a sacrifice in our service. I cannot tell where you have drawn your lines and whether or not those lines find support within the Christian tradition or Scripture.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Tug of war

It does depend on specifics of the situation. Families are not carbon copies of each other. There are singles, couple without children, couples with children, those who care for elderly parents/relatives, or have a spouse or child with serious health issues, widows and widowers, the elderly,.. each have differing needs to be met, as well as different capacities for service.

Some churches have schedules and expectations that allow for very little time for families to simply attend to the basic needs of life. People have to work, to rest, go to school, study and pray, to care for themselves and each other, to care for their homes, and to minister in their communities. 

Then there are folks who schedule their time with many activities, but don't ever think of church ministries as an avenue for family bonding, fellowship with other believers, and service.

Either extreme is going to result in a tug-of-war with the other.

When we are talking about 'sacrificing' in our service, we can't be suggesting that husbands neglect their wives or vice/versa, nor parents their children, or adult children neglecting the care of their parents, etc... That isn't the kind of sacrifice we are called to make. If having one's household in order is a qualification for church leadership, the elders and deacons cannot be guilty of 'sacrificing' their families on the altar of ministry. That is a good example of how the church and family are symbiotic. 

It isn't just the family that needs to draw their lines where Scripture draws them, but churches need to examine their own lines and measure them against Scriptural principles of church function, ministry, and evangelism, not extra-Biblical traditions and Americanized visions of success.

 

The Family Submits to Christ by Submitting to the Church

What does it look like when a man is giving his wife the "right amount" of attention and who says when that happens? Does a wife decide what the "right amount" of time is? Who says her expectations are biblical to begin with? Who leads the family? What happens when the husband decides that x amount of hours is appropriate and the wife wants more? Who is the place of authority to decide? If the wife can decide when the church is out of line AND when the husband is negligent, isn't she stepping across the line in terms of her God-ordained role? What should a Christian woman do when her husband and church displease her in terms of her expectations in these matters?

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Good questions

edingess wrote:

What does it look like when a man is giving his wife the "right amount" of attention and who says when that happens? Does a wife decide what the "right amount" of time is? Who says her expectations are biblical to begin with? Who leads the family? What happens when the husband decides that x amount of hours is appropriate and the wife wants more? Who is the place of authority to decide? If the wife can decide when the church is out of line AND when the husband is negligent, isn't she stepping across the line in terms of her God-ordained role? What should a Christian woman do when her husband and church displease her in terms of her expectations in these matters?

First, we submit to the church as the church submits to Christ. The Bible makes some things plain as far as roles of individuals, families, and the church are concerned.  Other things we infer from principle and pattern, while yet others require we use our God-given intellect and conscience. Specific questions must be answered based on each particular family.

I agree that women can have unreasonable expectations, and I think the Bible is fairly clear that mature women are to teach younger women how to love their husbands and children, in addition learning from their own Bible study and prayer, the instruction they receive at church, and from their husbands. It is important that the wives of those in leadership are able to teach and be an example of proper priorities in the home and church. 

From the article in the OP- "But I found myself, while he described the feelings of idolatry---the sense that this is my whole life, this is what I live for, this is what I dream of, this is what completes me and gives me significance---thinking that, for me, this is family."

Yes- that's idolatry. We should find our significance, our completeness, in Christ- not on things on this earth, and that includes our family. While God will hold us accountable as to how well we obeyed Scriptural principles regarding our familial roles and duties, we are still to love our families with God's eternal purposes in mind.

 

Clarification of previous posts- When I said "I've recently come from the 'neglect your family and worship the church' end of the spectrum. So please forgive my gazing at the mirage of greener grass." ​I was speaking of the kind of church where a mature Godly man with a mature, Godly wife is not chosen as a deacon because he occasionally was required to work on the same nights as the mid-week service and couldn't always get off work for special meetings, in favor of a young, immature man whose wife is a basket case- but who could be at all the meetings, because he was SO dedicated to the church that Bless God he would not accept any job that would require him to work in the evenings or would not give him time off for special morning meetings and he was so zealous on behalf of the church that he would state such at his job interviews (this was all part of a testimony given during a church service that received a thunderous number of "Amens")... and it didn't even make church leadership blink that this guy was on unemployment, welfare, and food stamps for over a year

Hope that helps explain a little more where I was coming from, because I haven't experienced 'idolatry' of family in a church environment- it's been the opposite. But the opposite is not the subject of the OP, so forgive the rabbit trail.

Tough one

That is a very tough situation. Impossible for me to comment. The needs of the church are what they are. The ability of your husband to serve is what it is. Perhaps now is not the time. I would encourage you to examine your thought process around your fellow brother and sister. Of all that you have said, that is the area where your greatest opportunity to love comes in my opinion. To despise a candidate because he is young brings Timothy to mind. Second, if he has the confidence of the leadership of the church, that should  be enough. To refer to his wife as a basket-case is behavior I would encourage you to avoid. I will pray for your family and church regarding this matter.

Americans have a very difficult time with the concept of submission, and the last time I checked, I was one of them. It is a struggle because the sin nature, coupled with a radically individualistic culture, makes biblical submission challenging. But take heart; we have an unction from the Holy One and He has given us the victory over sinful enslavement.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Despise?

I don't despise anyone. What we have here is a clear case of a church ignoring the qualifications for deacon. We are not required to submit to leadership that is violating Scripture.

But I don't intend to continue this off topic path. Suffice it to say that I agree with the OP that if she feels that all she is in this world is a wife and mother, or if a woman's expectations aren't rooted in Scripture and reality, there are going to be problems.

American Autonomy at its best

Susan, I understand that some church leaders violate Scripture. I watched a man submit to leaders who allowed his wife to separate from him and they did nothing. He continued to submit while his wife divorced him and they did nothing. He continued to submit but took his case to the Presbytery. It was only when the Presbytery, in very political and in good-ole boy fashion, informed the man that his wife could legitimately repent of the divorce without reconciling with him and remove her name from membership, that the man finally decided to move on. The leadership was told by several key members (women mostly) that they would leave the church if the leaders attempted to discipline this woman. This was the second man she had divorced and apparently the first separation was also for unjustifiable reasons. This man was far more concerned with submitting to God's plan and doing his part obey the divine mandate to submit than he was anything else.

The risk of sin enters in when you accuse your elders/leaders of violating Scripture. That is a VERY serious accusation, not to be made lightly. It is something you must be completely certain of. If you think that has happened, you must take that issue up with your husband who should approach leadership in ALL humility and ask questions to verify. But he must do so with a spirit of reverence and great gentleness. It cannot be an accusation. If there is a clear violation of Scripture, he should follow the steps in the church documents, which should be based on Scripture to address the issue. The questions I have regard the type of government, such as ruling elders, if there is an body to which he can appeal that is over the local assembly. If it is a typical independent Baptist church that does not have a plurality of elders, that would be the first problem, in my opinion.

I would also encourage you to avoid speaking with anyone about this matter. In other words, don't talk to friends or other church members about it. You have a responsibility to protect your leaders even if you disagree with them. In every situation we must seek for behavior that honors God and elevates His kingdom. Most of the time, that requires great humility on our part.

 

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. III John 4

Thanks

for all the advice, but we have done all of the above, and it's now in the past. I was simply clarifying my pov about a remark I made earlier, because our experiences shape our perspective. 


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