Likely to be Part 1: The Family
I had originally written some huge articles but decided to synthesize my points and spare you the long rambling. You can thank me later. However, it does perhaps lose some eloquence… or congruity, so if you’re wondering why this article is so brief and seemingly disconnected, you at least now have a reason.
I had the opportunity to watch the Lego Batman movie not too long ago. The main themes of the movie got me thinking. Someone mentioned that the Batman ideal of “family” was an attack on the family itself. I would agree that it is, in fact, an attack by Satan in order to confuse people as to what family really means. However, I don’t think the people making the actual film had attacking the family as their goal. In fact, I believe it was quite the opposite.
In America, you would be a rare bird to NOT know someone from a broken home. The traditional family is decaying all over this country. The terms “husband” and “wife” have been replaced by simply “him” and “her”, and marriage has been replaced by “co-habitation”. The decaying of the family is a decaying of order (“order” being a very important and extensive philosophical subject I want to discuss at another time), and the reality is that a decay in the traditional societal order that God established (and I don’t mean the artificial extras, which I’ll explain in a footnote) will inevitably result in some sort of suffering and collapse. If you take apart a house, it will eventually fall down. What we have here in the U.S. and around the world is an issue of people suffering from broken homes. Internally, people are suffering – be it from the loss of a spouse or children or rejection from relatives etc. – and they are asking themselves how they are supposed to heal the wounds. The answer seems perfectly obvious: redefine “family”. Problem solved! Wait a minute…
Suppose you had a skunk problem. The easiest way to get rid of them would be to leave out some anti-freeze for them to drink. However, to get them to drink it, you should also prevent them from using any alternatives, such as any nearby water sources. The next skunk who walks by thirsty will take his last drink from your bucket of poison. In a way, this is what is happening to humanity from a spiritual perspective.
Humans are communal beings. We have a need for family and friends. If we were to suddenly ditch word “family” from our vocabulary, we would have no way of collectively referencing those individuals to whom we feel bonded due to physical bodily heritage. Such a heritage is special because it gives us something else we truly want: a sense of belonging. Deep down inside, we actually want to belong to other people. Even I do, despite being an introvert. It’s human. Consequently, we hang on to that. Because this connection is physical, it’s something that – for better or for worse – we can’t deny. It keeps other people from simply denying any relation. It gives us a reason to care for each other (and that’s something humanity ALWAYS needs). It even allows us to extend our families through marriage and, yes, having kids. As Jesus says, ” ‘a man shall be united with his wife and the two shall become one flesh’, so they are no longer two but one.” The uniting is physical, and, when you recognize your own humanity in it and the fulfillment of your inner desires as a human being, you can see how such an act would be special.
However, we may be rejected from people who should value us as individuals but don’t (as in the case of being rejected by relatives or even parents) or we may find ourselves in company who aren’t blood kin but are intermingling with the family (as is the case with a “new partner”, “mom’s boyfriend”, etc). In such cases, it is natural to search for some way to fulfill our internal human needs. This is especially the case for children since they need both a mother and a father in their life.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the role of parents (even if I am/was/will be). However, I can give you some rudimentary facts (because I actually have a good family). A good dad protects his family. When you have kids, you are psychologically and emotionally attached to them unless you’re selfish. And no, a bad spouse is no reason for you to not love your kids. I know of dads competing with mom for their kids’ love and appreciation even long after they declared “divorce”. The dad is supposed to be the head of the family, not in the commanding sense, but in the sense that he’s the front lines, the defender, the guy who takes the bullet first. Sounds alot different that the usual cultural connotation, right? Statistics-that-I-lost-my-reference-for show (as does my experience) that young girls without a dad in their life often seek out that father figure – a protector, a “man” – and consequently become prey to boys who only want one thing, and that thing isn’t the welfare of the girl.
Mom is very much a necessary part of the family two. She’s the nurturing part. Females – even rational, thinker-type women – have a more emotionally-sensitive side than men. God designed them to have that for good reason. This does not mean the woman is somehow a weak, helpless cook-and-clean. She can RUN the house, not just live in it, and I’ve seen this done. But mom is there to nurture the children, and she too has a psychological and emotional connection to them that makes her bond with them far more special than any bond formed between those children and some other woman, no matter how much that other woman wanted to be their mom.
A man and woman also need each other, but that deserves another article (and a better job at referencing, I should say).
Considering these details, if we were to erase from people’s memory these ideas, what would happen to society? Being communal beings, people would have psychological and emotional holes to fill. We have that now, right? Why then not change “family”? Because if the definition of “family” is changed, people won’t have a way of explaining what they are missing.
A redefined “family” would be meaningful emotionally only for a generation of people who actually remembered the original idea where the emotional association came from. After that, other generations would simply think of it as another group of close friends, and the emotional appeal would eventually disappear because even close friends can disappoint us. With nothing tangible to hold onto for a definition, we won’t see any difference between “close friends” and “family”, which will ultimately lead us to wondering how to describe the hole that we feel. Society – in this case, the creators of the Lego Batman movie – is effectively robbing itself of words of healing in order to create a band-aid: a temporary fix to the problem. Band-aids don’t heal the wound. They only hide it, hoping that it can heal. However, nothing is being done for the actually healing, and like every band-aid that falls off, this temporary social fix (redefining “family”) is eventually going to lose its effectiveness, and society will be back to where it started.
In short, society will have drunk the anti-freeze, or “magic Kool-Aid” if you prefer.
The ideas of “mom” and “dad” have already been blurred because of breakups in society, so naturally “family” is another term being thrown out in a chain. I think then it’s necessary to reintroduce the correct definitions of those terms as well. Perhaps I ought to dedicate another article to thoughts on those?
I’m going to stop here before this article gets any longer. More reasoning could be added to this list, but I’m sure you could come up with ideas yourself if you understand the proper “Order of the Family” (as I call it) and how it supports society. Alas, I’d love to go into a discussion of what I mean by “Order”, but that deserves a book.
Finally, I haven’t actually covered the topic of what people in the problem are to do about it. Unfortunately, to that end, everyone has a special case; there’s no generic solution that works for everyone. It’s also difficult to create general solutions when life is more complicated and one of the involved parties doesn’t want to cooperate.
Why is this important?
An understanding of family is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s because God wants us to be part of His family in a very real way. The Catholic Church recognizes that the Eucharist – which looks like and comes from flat bread and wine – is the actual body and blood of Christ, and that by eating it you… uh… become God. It’s in the Catechism; I’m not making this up. Of course, in the grand scheme of theology I’ve learned, it does make sense… uh… it’s consistent, that is; not that the concept of God could ever be explained in the first place. Anyways… you become God. You also become part of the family of God. Flesh and blood going into your body… that makes you family. The divine family is the greatest family you can belong to, and it’s open to everyone, even those from broken families here on Earth. It’s something to look forward to. If you don’t have a correct understanding of “family”, you won’t see how this is special or what it means or all that it entails. There’s more to the family hidden in it’s design than what I’ve covered here, but being that it’s a prototype, I’m sure much of it models the Final Family, no pun intended.
Second, you are connected with one. You are part of a family, even if it is disjointed and damaged. You go back to somewhere. If you recognize that, you can have a sense of belonging. And somewhere along that fickle-human chain, there’s someone else just like you who worked through life’s difficulties and gave your family line a chance to continue and thus gave you the chance to live. You are special in the grand scheme of things.
Third, it allows people to protect other people. Imagine if the police didn’t return a lost child to their parents. Imagine if – as is going on in England – the state decided a child’s fate was to die rather than letting the parents make a decision. Imagine people just abandoned their kids to a lab after giving birth to them. If you don’t understand a family, you won’t encourage the preservation of the family of someone else. This has consequences on your own life because you will be surrounded by the broken lives of other people. Your friends will be hurting inside. The people you expect to take care of you when you are older won’t care about their grandparents, much less an elderly, probably child-less individual such as yourself. It all comes back to haunt you and the rest of society, but by then, it’s too late to do anything about it.
I’m going to stop here before this article gets any longer.
Sadly, I haven’t actually discussed what people are to do about their family problems. Unfortunately, to that end, everyone is a special case; there’s no generic solution that works for everyone. It’s also difficult to create general solutions when life is more complicated and one of the involved parties doesn’t want to cooperate.
Let’s give one little example: One issue that arises is “What if my step-dad is a nice guy?” The answer maybe theoretically easier if he were a mean guy, but a nice guy? “Can’t I call him ‘dad’?” It’s harder to tell a little kid ‘no’, and in some cases, the old dad isn’t coming back. What I believe is a solution is to make clear, as the child gets older, the more “adult understanding”. The timing of that is important, of course, so that the individual – when an adult – can decide for themselves whether they still want to call you “dad” or “mom” or even “family”, but at least they don’t believe “family” is merely “emotional support group”.
Footnote: By “artificial extras” in societal order, I’m referring to social customs, cues, and attributes that people (usually extroverts or the more dominant personalities) have established to fit their preferences. For example, wearing suits and ties. Such trifles aren’t important in the grand scheme of things no matter how much people like them. I could come up with a slew of other examples, but mankind has a way of inventing far more rules than any one man can keep track of.