Perhaps the ugliest idol that we see today is the so-called “traditional family.” This idol is widely worshiped in the conservative factions of most religions. It should be obvious to its worshippers that it is an idol when these people see agreement between groups who have traditionally held opposing theological viewpoints. There are Roman Catholics and die-hard Evangelicals who are joining together to worship this idol. Muslim and Christian fundamentalists alike bow at its feet, all the time, pretending to be the true followers of their religion. While they cannot agree on the real tenets of their true religion, they find remarkable agreement in the false religion of “family values.”
The reason that the family idol is so particularly heinous is because it cloaks its emptiness and poison under the “gold-leaf” facade of respectability, social responsibility, and “proper” religion. Like almost no other modern idol, this idol pretends to be True G-d, while it is in fact a golden calf. In order to distract its worshipers from the truth, it points to sexuality and calls “perversion” the “golden calf.”
This idol has established itself firmly on the altars of most churches. It is so clearly cemented in the Free Church denominations (Evangelicals, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc.) that whole campaigns are built around it. Holding the Scriptures in its hand, the family idol cloaks itself as the “word of G-d,” leading its devotees to forget about the Incarnate Christ and the message of love. “Family values” replaces “Christ is risen” as the primary hymn of this religion.
In other circles the idol is less blatant and perhaps less well noted. In the Anglican, Protestant, and Reformed churches, the idol prefers to set itself somewhat inconspicuously on the round tables of committees rather than on the central altar. While these groups often abhor the blatant bigotry of the “family values” charlatans, they nonetheless give the idol voice and vote on their committees and hold back truth and honesty in its name.
In the Vatican, we see the family idol starting to get itself on shelves in cardinal’s offices and pontifical quarters. While Rome has normally been the domain of the fertility (procreation) idol, this idol has welcomed its more commonly worshiped sibling. The two stand side-by-side, demanding respect from Roman Catholics and fostering the strange new friendship between traditional theological foes in the Roman and Free Church camps.
The family idol spreads its immorality very insidiously among all segments of the population. Most obvious, of course, are the many Christians who have given up the Gospel Message to worship the family. Sadly, these former Christians may not even recognize their change in religion.
Yet the family idol does at least as much damage among those who would most vigorously reject it. That is because it falsifies itself as Christ Himself and, through this confusion, leads to the rejection of Christ. Confused by the lies of worshipers of the family idol, many people who do not fit its narrow definition of “family” turn away from G-d and religion altogether. This of course, is just another form of idolatry. The immorality of idolatry is not worshiping the idol itself, but rather the lack of worship of the True G-d. It is strange that the churches that are so committed to evangelism on the surface have not recognized this destructive, anti-evangelical power of the family idol.
The symptoms of the family idol’s worship are very strange. It causes the equation of a heterosexual, dual-parent, child-raising family with some sort of moral ideal. While there is rational and empirical evidence that children may be better off in two-parent family, there is no evidence that a heterosexual pairing is any better than a homosexual pairing. Furthermore, there is remarkable evidence that single-parent families are successful in raising well-rounded balanced children.
Most (or even all) children are not raised in ideal surroundings, so there is no reason to hold the two-parent ideal as any more important than economic, intellectual, geographic, nationalist, or other “ideals.” Empirical evidence indicates that white American children have more opportunities than those of other races, yet no one would suggest that only white families should reproduce. The same argument in favor of heterosexual families is equally invalid.
Yet the family idol and its devotees use ignorance to promote themselves. They make ridiculous statements such as on heard from ‘Focus on the Family’ that implied that the children of committed lesbian couples would have problems that were intrinsically related to their mothers being a lesbian, rather that heterosexual couples. Obviously the moral character, dedication, and quality of parents — not their sexual or affectional orientation — is what determines whether a child will grow up healthy, functional and morally upright. Yet because of ignorance people fall for the propaganda of Focus on the Family, the Traditional Values Coalition, and other groups that dedicate themselves to the idolatrous worship of their own definition of a “traditional family” and its so-called “family values.”
These groups do great harm to the people who do not fit their narrow concepts. They also draw people away from G-d because they present a false image of G-d. They present a hateful, narrow-minded, bigoted God that no sane person would want to love. Their self-defined “family” is their idol, their politics is their idolatry, and their actions are immorality in the clearest sense of what the Bible describes as such.
Rev. Fr. Robert Darrell Hall is an Anglican priest and a Texas Peace Officer in Austin, Texas.