Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Democratic Family Values

George Lakoff, in his books Moral Politics and Don't Think of an Elephant , demonstrates that the worldviews of conservatives and progressives are distinguished by a network of "radial" metaphors related to the family that form their respective "frames of reference." Lakoff says conservatives frame thought according to a strict father model of parenting. Progressives frame thought according to a nurturing parent model of parenting.

If that is true, and I think Lakoff's thesis is compelling, does this distinction hold among people who share the same faith? Is there a single "Christian" way to view the family that will determine where Christians fit in the spectrum of political thought.

Though Lakoff discovered the frames of references by linguistic research into 'radial' metaphors, conservative linguists familiar with James Dobson's Dare to Discipline quickly pointed Lakoff to Dobson's work. Dobson's thought is based on a patriarchical model of the family that views family life hierarchically as a chain-of-command. This model can easily be supported with texts from scripture and has often been viewed as the only biblical model for the family by many evangelical Christians.

Recently, however, the biblical credentials for the patriarchal chain-of-command model of the family began to be questioned when some conservative, evangelical scholars trained in textual criticism discovered that the oldest, therefore most authentic, texts of Paul's letter to the Ephesians demonstrated that the Apostle was undermining the family hierarchy and breaking the chain-of-command by advocating a more egalitarian, mutually-submissive relation between husbands and wives. Those findings proved so unsettling that Southern Baptists made it an article of faith to believe that wives must be "graciously submissive" to their husbands and then terminated all tenured professors, career missionaries, denominational executives, etc. who publicly disagreed.

I've been trying to educate and inform Southern Baptists about these matters for years. Here are some links to articles about biblical family relations that I have written over the years:

The Christian Family: Mutual Submission or Chain of Command?

Dead "Head" Leads SBC Family

Until I read Lakoff's books last week, I did not realize that the patriarchal family was so foundational for conservative politics.

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