Family Values


When I was a pastor I visited one home which had the normal number of windows, open to the sun during the daytime; but remembering my visits I recall the place as dark and cavernous. I think I know why: the family was a mess, with madness, resentment, sexual confusion, mutual recriminations, and a constant anger seething below the surface, all part of an awful mix. Even full of sunlight, it was a dark place.

There was another home I visited, one in which the husband, wife, and daughters lived in such loving accord that I felt blessed being there. They lived in a tiny, crowded apartment, and it was radiant.

I thought of both places when the phrase “family values” came up once again in the context of the fight against state recognition of same-sex unions, which have unfairly been seen as a grave threat to the family. Simply given the numbers, divorce would seem to be a much greater threat (if indeed same-sex unions pose any threat to the family at all, something that remains to be demonstrated); but before we get even to that place in the argument, let’s ask some questions about the thing we’ve put on the pedestal.

Most of us will find our way to salvation, or for that matter to damnation, from within the context of a family. Even celibates are formed in large part by their relationship with parents and siblings; married people live with their partners, well or badly, and do a more or less decent...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.