I have a question:
In "The Last Temptation of Christ," Jesus' last temptation is to get down off the cross and live a calm, happy, private life with Mary Magdelene and their children, working as a carpenter. In an episode of Millenium (did anyone else watch that TV series from a decade ago?) an emissary from the dead, presumbably from the devil, tries to persuade the series hero to retreat from his work fighting evil and embrace a quiet life with his family, his head buried in the sand. The apostle Paul, while saying it's better to marry than to burn, advocated the single life as the higher course. This path was embraced by the Roman Catholic church and led to people like St. Francis of Assiss and Mother Teresa, who did immense good in the world. Clearly, from its earliest days, the Christian church has understood the "happy family" as a stumbling block to serving God fully.
Yet, at the same time, the family is valorized in Christian circles. Nothing is more important than building strong families and putting your family first. How often is "I have to take care of my own children" accepted as an excuse, even if the "care" is frivilous, such as taking one's child to soccer on Sunday morning? In the early 19th century, Quaker meetings criticized Elizabeth Fry for throwing care of her 12 children onto the meeting while she pursued God's calling her life of prison reform. Would we be any different? Would we be worse? Would Elizabeth Fry today actually BE in prison for child neglect instead of doing God's work in the world?
I'm certainly in favor of strong families, and I understand that 35 percent of children are born to single mothers and that divorce rips families apart. However, and here's my question: How do we reconcile the message of family as a "temptation" that prevents us from doing God's work with a notion of family as all important? Do we make an idol of family? And if we do, how do we support strong families while not turning that goal into an idol?