THE WEAKENED CONCEPT OF FAMILY
Kevin E. Lawson
Editor, Christian Education Journal
Courtesy: CEJ:Series 3, Vol. 14, No. 1. Copyright 2017
I am a big fan of NFL football, and I enjoy watching a game or two on the weekend during football season. As I write this editorial we are in the final weeks of the season, with two teams headed to the Super Bowl next week.
I bring this up because all season long the NFL has had an advertising campaign going with the slogan, “Football is Family.” Every time I hear it I cringe, feeling very deeply that they are sorely missing the mark. The NFL is not the only group trying to define themselves as “family.”
If Family Is Everything, Family Is Nothing
On various television shows, in movies, and in places where we may work, we hear over and over again from all kinds of groups of people that, “we’re family here.” In some cases, they seem to be trying to communicate that this is a place where people are cared for, not just a place to work, and I believe that is not a bad thing to strive for.
However, I am concerned that all of these efforts to coopt the term “family” for other kinds of supportive relationships diminishes what we think of real families, and what ought to distinguish them from other kinds of relationships. When everything is “family,” then how are real families to be different?
Take Another Look
Let’s go back to the “Football is Family” slogan. Football is decidedly NOT family. There are no covenant relationships between those in leadership roles – they hire and fire people on a regular basis, sometimes in mid-season. There are no commitments to care for their fans. If a football fan gets sick, no one on the team roster or office staff comes out to nurse them back to health.
There is little long-term loyalty. When a team runs into financial trouble, and receives an attractive offer from another city, they often leave for the better opportunity (e.g., both the Rams and Chargers have recently moved to Los Angeles). Football is an entertainment business. Teams exist as long as they can get people to come to their games and watch them play on TV. They would like to have very loyal fans, and trying to create a “family” image is a ploy to try to create that loyalty.
But let’s not be fooled into thinking that a relationship with a football team, or with other football fans, is a family.
Not only does the use of “family” language water down what real families are meant to be, but it also weakens other kinds of relationship language, like friendship. Fans can be friends, even very close friends, but that is not the same as “family.” Let’s not allow the cultural efforts to make everything “family” dilute our understanding of healthy family life, and the church’s efforts to foster strong and healthy family relationships as part of our ministry.
Dr. Kevin Lawson is the Editor of the Christian Education Journal and Professor of Christian Education at Talbot School of Theology
Learn about the 2017 Spring issue of the CEJ here.