Against the tide of the anti-family agenda

Haley Csada

Haley Csada

Editor’s Note: Haley Csada, a Dr. Martin Leboldus Catholic High School School student in Regina, Sask., won first prize in the Fr. Ted Colleton Scholarship contest. This is an edited version of her essay.

Informed by secular values, many claim that the well being of the individual is the best indicator of the vitality of a society. Interestingly however, when society is viewed as a dynamic organism, it is undeniably the family and not the individual that constitutes its most critical cell. During the XXI Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Pope Francis described the family as the “engine of the world and of history” and asserted “Everyone builds their own personality in the family, growing up with a mom and dad, brothers and sisters, breathing in the warmth of home.” Indeed, the family founded on marriage is a site of moral and social construction that strengthens society as a whole. With our parents and our siblings we learn to sacrifice, to develop an ethic of life-long faithfulness, to respect and demonstrate an openness to life, and to negotiate conflict through faith-based values. The ethical social practices and perspectives that we develop within the family have a profound impact on how we engage with others in our broader social contexts and have the potential to deepen the imprint that we make as agents of social justice.

Thus, the well being of our society is directly related to the well being of our families. Sadly, today, the institution of the family is under attack by a number of forces that render it highly vulnerable. This assault may be traced to cultural relativism, our society of the ephemeral, and the snare of busyness. However, by adopting a lens of hope and by actively engaging as agents of change, it is possible to counter the forces that contribute to the anti-family agenda.

Our society is pervaded by cultural relativism, an overarching view that there is no universal right or wrong and that truth is a product of one’s cultural perspective. This view erases Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Underpinned by the notion that all ethical frameworks are valid, cultural relativism insists that opinions on morality should not be judged as good or bad, but rather, should be considered according to the society of the individual. This form of ideological colonization dismisses the sanctity of the family founded on marriage and is deployed and reinscribed by various structures in our society.

For example, provincial health curricula teach us that there are many ways to be a family. This discourse may be commended for its tendency to include the family founded on marriage, as well as traditional families that embrace adoption and the inclusion of extended family members. However, it fails to emphasize the centrality of the divine within the family structure and implies that all models of family living are ethically acceptable. In addition, our federal and provincial governments validate common-law families by providing them with the same benefits as families founded on marriage. Moreover, through various television sitcoms, mainstream media portrays families that do not follow Christian ideals as acceptable and as a matter of fact. It is rare to view a television show about a family with God at the centre. Cultural relativism mutes God’s call for family life based on the sacrament of marriage.

Our North American society may also be characterized by its penchant for the ephemeral. In our contemporary world, we subscribe to the belief that nothing lasts forever, that everything has a shelf life, and that anything is disposable if something better comes along. We are programmed by consumerism to crave novelty, changing our cell phones every two years and discarding other purchases within a few months of buying them. We then transfer our attitude towards material goods to the realm of humanity. On social media sites, we collect ‘followers’ as friends as if they were currency and then unfriend these individuals nonchalantly as if they were dust particles occupying a shelf. People are commodified as short-term assets and only have value if they meet our needs and serve our purposes. An unwanted fetus is categorized as a short-term problem that can be resolved through abortion. Those who adhere to the notion of loving one individual forever through devotion, sacrifice and with God at the centre, are considered to be naïve and sentimental. As Pope Francis notes, “many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring”. The family founded on marriage and procreation, given its life-long commitment requirements, is framed as meaninglessly demanding and unpredictable, while cohabitation is glorified as the more flexible and convenient option.

The snare of busyness and the false promise of ‘getting ahead’ also contribute to the assault on the institution of the family. Admittedly, some short-term busyness is unavoidable. However, we North Americans appear to dread being idle and have made self-induced busyness a lifestyle choice. Families are rewarded for this choice: society applauds busyness because it is construed as a reflection of ambition, of resourcefulness, and of advancement. However, self-induced busyness forces God out of the centre of our families, particularly when we privilege secular activities and spend a minimal amount of time in activities of a spiritual nature. Many families devote immense amounts of time and financial resources to music lessons, dance rehearsals and sports practices, but struggle with attending mass once a week. Parents speak to their children about the importance of studying and completing homework for school, but the study of the Scriptures together as a family is a less common occurrence. Even when families do have leisure time, it is more typical to see them plan family game nights and not family prayer nights.

As people of faith, we must respond to Pope Francis’ call “to be revolutionaries” and to “swim against the tide” of the anti-family culture. First, we must overtly reject anti-family messaging emerging from societal structures such as schools, governments and the media and urge these structures to adopt pro-life and pro-family stances. Pro-family advocacy may be accomplished by public rallies, letter writing campaigns and social media awareness campaigns as well as through our daily interactions with others. Secondly, with our overtly pro-choice federal government, it is crucial that our future voting practices support candidates with pro-life and pro-family views. Moreover, families must reposition God as their centre and prioritize family prayer, attendance at mass, family discussions about social justice, and Christian stewardship activity outside of the home.

Most importantly, we must pray. Our Lord said “for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). We must pray for the revitalization of the institution of the family and for families that are broken through separation, financial hardship or illness. We must pray that those in public office come to acknowledge the sanctity of the family based on marriage. We must pray that our society resists the false promises of relativism and the ephemeral. And we must pray that we, as bearers of God’s light, bear witness to the dignity of married family life and the sanctity of life itself, at all of its stages.

Copyright © 2018 The Interim. All rights reserved.   |   Developed by TrueMedia   |   Subscribe RSS