I am an old-fashioned, elderly Anglican who struggles with a lot that is going on in the modern Anglican Communion.
I am not a theologian, nor an academic, nor a scholar. However, in an effort to retain my marbles, and my faith, I do try to keep up with modern Anglican thought. Which is how I came to be reading an essay, or possibly a polemic, in the latest instalment of the ViaMedia.News series ‘Does the Bible Really Say…?’
In this particular blog the topic is ‘Does the Bible Really…Advocate the “Nuclear” Family?’ and it was written by the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy(BA, MA, M.Ed, PhD). He is the 45th Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and he presides over both the College and the Cathedral. So I assumed he knows what he is writing about.
Professor Percy gives five reasons for rejecting the idea that Christianity is “right behind the nuclear family.”
The first reason: “Jesus advocated leaving one’s parents for the sake of the Kingdom.”
Yes. Right. There’s plenty of evidence for that, but at what age? I don’t think there is any indication that Jesus suggested that children should be snatched away from their parents although there is plenty of evidence that that is what happened in the later church. Was it the Jesuits who said: “give me a child until he is seven”? And monasteries certainly took children into their care from the age of seven. Boys, anyway.
On the other hand Jesus had something to say about widows (who, inevitably were often also single mothers) and orphans. He clearly thought they needed special care, rather than being treated as an equally satisfactory alternative to a proper household, which Archbishop Justin Welby seems to believe.
Secondly, Prof Percy argues that the Bible “contains many patterns of family life” and that the Old Testament in particular “offers us dozens – literally – of family patterns”, which “should not necessarily be honoured today.”
That’s absolutely true. We don’t have polygamy any more, and I imagine few wives would offer the nanny or the au pair or the ‘Help’ to their husbands while they pursue their careers. Extended families have disappeared. By and large, we don’t even look after our elderly, and working ‘children’ who still live at home seem to be a bone of contention. There is also no mention in the Bible, as far as I remember, of families with two fathers, families with two mothers, of even, most recently, of a mother-cum-father family. [See my last blog – A Very Tangled Web – if you think you can cope with the intricacies of the situation.]
Now we come to the third reason. Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and Jesus – the founders of the worlds four great religions – were all adopted, Prof Percy tells us. If you want to learn the significance of this fact you’ll have to read the whole piece for yourself because, after reading his next statement, I gave up.
The Reverend Professor wrote:
‘Moses was abandoned by his birth mother and left to float in a small coracle in the River Nile, and had the good fortune to be picked up by the daughter of one of the Pharaohs, and nurtured as one of her own.’
I gave up because he lost my trust. He was just so wrong, on a simple, fundamental matter, that I felt I could no longer rely on him to tell the truth.
No. No. No! Moses wasn’t abandoned. He wasn’t ‘left’. It wasn’t mere good luck. It was a carefully orchestrated plan, by a desperate mother, to try and save the life of her precious baby son. She’d already hidden him for three months from Pharaoh’s assassins. She knew exactly what she was doing. She chose the place and the time because she knew where the Princess walked, and she knew when the Princess walked. Moreover, she had contingency plans in place. The baby’s sister, Miriam, well primed with what to say, was there to make sure all went well or come to the rescue if something went wrong.
Read it for yourself — Exodus, Chapter Two, vv 1-10.
The writer spells the story out very clearly for those who have eyes to see.
Much of the Bible is not easy to interpret which is good for theologians. I just hope Prof Percy isn’t often as careless or misguided with his real theology as he appears to be with this simple bit of exegesis for the masses.