For the Health of the Nation: Family Life and Children (Part 4 of 9)
In 2004 the National Association of Evangelicals released the groundbreaking document For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility. This historic document outlines seven different areas of concern for Evangelicals engaged in politics. In an effort to make Christians more aware of this work we are taking nine weeks to highlight the importance of this document. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here.
This week our discussion of the NAE’s document For the Health of the Nation (FTHOTN) leads us to what has become Evangelicalism’s defining issue, namely, the family. Evangelicals have long been advocates of strong, traditional families, so it is no surprise that the NAE would choose to highlight the importance of this topic.
The discussion begins, as all Christian political thought should, with a survey of the relevant biblical texts. The authors point out that God Himself has chosen to be revealed within the framework of the family. He is our Heavenly Father, salvation is our spiritual adoption as sons and daughters, marriage is a mirror of God’s relationship with the Church, and finally, it is within the confines of the family that, in some small way, we see the reflection of God’s Triune nature. Truly, if we are going to reflect God’s character to the world, strong families are essential.
However, if Christians are going to make a case in the public square for the importance of the family, it will need to be based on more than biblical texts. In the most impressive paragraph of this section the authors state:
Marriage, sexuality, and family life are fundamental to society. Whether we are married or single, it is in the family that we learn mutual responsibility, we learn to live in an ordered society with complementary and distinct roles, we learn to submit and to obey, we learn to love and to trust, we learn both justice and mercy, and we learn to deny ourselves for the well-being of others. Thus the family is at the heart of the organic functioning of society.
Countless studies have demonstrated the detrimental effects of broken families for society. It is well documented that a child raised in a single-parent home is more likely to cost the state money than a child with a solid home life. Stable families are integral to a stable society. If the Church is going to be salt and light we will need to speak prophetically on this important issue.
Another principle that FTHOTN highlights is the Catholic teaching of Subsidiarity, which is very similar to Reformed Political Thought’s teaching on Sphere Sovereignty. In it’s simplest terms, these doctrines teach that government must allow other public institutions, such as the family, to exercise their God-given authority within their respective realms. The NAE highlights three areas where the government must not stray into the familial boundaries: parents’ decisions regarding their child’s education, treating anything but one man and one woman households as marriage, and creating economic disincentives to marriage.
It is also worth noting that it is not until the very end of this section of FTHOTN that the issue of homosexual marriage is explicitly addressed. Not surprisingly, they strongly oppose the idea of same-sex marriage, but what is surprising is that they do not provide much in the way of a rational defense for this position. Especially when we consider that there are many such defenses out there.
Finally, the authors conclude by calling the Church to model strong marriages and families. We lose all of our credibility on this issue when we fail to live up to the standards we are advocating, and the NAE rightly calls us to do better. Let this be an encouragement to us all to work on our own families first, and then seek to advocate for the family in the rest of society.