Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Messy Family

This has nothing to do with more sweet potato stories, nor with the colossal diaper I just changed (the kind that requires a bath, change of clothes for Mom, and redecorating the nursery).

Rather it pertains to this excellent interview (thanks to the Joneses for the link) on what the Biblical concept of family should be. Too often in defending the family against the encroachments of a culture that is defining it into irrelevance, Christians have acted as if the mom, dad, brother, sister, all beautiful and smiling model is the biblical standard of a family.

To see where this concept leads, here's a Washington Post article linked to by the Worldmagblog yesterday on fertility clinics offering gender selection. One of the proponents asks, "Why shouldn't patients have the right to choose this? It's one of the most basic rights in our society that we can build our families the way we wish."

Well, no, actually one of the most basic things you do not have a right to is compelling other people to fit your model of who they should be. Killing (or perpetually freezing) half your children so that you can have the kind of baby you want is not a fundamental right. (And I think this pertains to infertility as well. I cannot understand how Christians can think killing some of their children so that they can have their "own" baby--when there are so many babies out there who need them--is justified.)

One of the things I found truly chilling about the article, though, was the realization that the only current ethical debate is over whether it's alright for parents to pick a child's gender just because they want to. As an example of established ethical practices, the article said, "So far, most of the couples doing this either suffer from infertility or want to avoid passing on devastating genetic diseases, primarily ailments such as muscular dystrophy that afflict boys more often than girls."

I was breezing along through when I stopped and realized, "Wait a minute---that's us." DOB's disease, although less severe than muscular dystrophy, is genetic, and does indeed affect boys more often than girls. Apparently it would be ethical (and to many people's minds, no doubt preferable), for us to make all of our babies in petri dishes, and then kill the boys so we'd have less likelihood of passing on the disease.

This view of the family as designer perfection and the "anybody who wants to love each other and live together are a family" both have the same flaw: they say that we humans can define what is and should be a family. But God says the family is something He joins together. And the family God joins together is a good thing, and a thing with boundaries, but it's rarely a neat thing: it's caring for the old and the sick as well as the young and the healthy; it's welcoming the child who came at an inconvenient time or with inconvenient features; it may mean seeking out and taking in those who have nothing to recommend them but the fact that God loves them. That's a family.

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