This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Brave New World of Equality

It should not be news that the outcomes of success for children do in fact depend a lot on the family.  However, one sociologist that has been studying this has come to some startling conclusions.  Adam Swift, who has taught at such prestigious institutions as Harvard, MIT, and Wisconsin-Madison, has studied this issue of success of children who have parents who care for them in such ways as reading bedtime stories, providing private school education, and having functioning family interactions.  As he has compared the success of children with these advantages to the failures of children who do not, he has come to an interesting conclusion:  We should not give these advantages to any child lest we unfairly tilt the playing board of success in that child’s favor.  To do so would be discriminating against a child who does not have such a family.
Keep in mind that Adam Swift is not a fringe guy; he is well respected in the academic community.  Swift only grudgingly accepts parents reading bedtime stories to their children, while acknowledging that that act puts those children at a distinct and unfair advantage.  Here is how he puts it: “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.”[1]  He actually believes that by being kind to one’s own children, we are “unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children”!

This conclusion is the result of thinking that children are not the stewardship of parents, but of the state.  So what does one do with the fact that different families provide different opportunities to different children?  Here again is Swift:   One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”[2]

What an insane way to deal with inequity!  What we need to do to for all children because some children are deprived of healthy families is to make all families deprived.  If all are miserable, that is equitable.  More misery is better than some thriving.  Such is the new definition of equality.
In Swift’s grandiose utopia, he and his colleagues decide what features of healthy family life need to be eliminated in order to create a more level playing field.  Here is how he says that, “What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children.”[3]

 According to Swift, private education should be outlawed as inherently discriminatory.  Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods. It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.”  “Equality” is now defined as such a societal good that we must, by force of law, prohibit even good and loving actions because there are some children who do not receive those actions and that means unfairness.

In the debate over same sex marriage, many traditional marriage advocates have said that once marriage is no longer defined as being between one man and one woman, there is nothing substantial that prohibits marriage from being further redefined as involving more than two people.  If marriage is not confined by gender, why should it be confined by number?  Swift’s view of multiple parents reveals once again that the slippery slope that traditional marriage advocates fear is in fact quite real.   Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,” says Swift[4]. In a stunning leap of logic however, he does limit his understanding of the number of parents . . . to ten!!  “We do want to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution,” he says. “If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.” It seems of little comfort that Swift wants to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution when in fact that is precisely what he advocates . . . at least to the point of 10 parents.

How is it even possible to propose this nonsense??  It comes once we loose the moorings of society from moral absolutes and in particular in Western civilization from Biblical moral absolutes.  Without absolutes, we become captive to the tyranny of “fairness,” “equality,” and “level playing fields.”  But those terms no longer mean what they used to mean.  Now, they mean that we must provide exactly the same opportunities for all children or we withhold those opportunities from all children.  Beyond the impossibility of accomplishing this utopian nightmare, consider that the parents which provide the most nurturing environments for their children will, under this crazy scheme, be considered most discriminatory and evil.

God’s answer, of course, to the problem of family heartache and dysfunction is quite different.  Swift’s “gospel” or good news seems to be, “Let’s make certain that everyone is equally miserable.”  God’s Gospel promises that repentance and faith in Christ can redeem us from under the curse of sin because Jesus Christ took the curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  God’s Gospel promises that restoration is possible (Joel 2:25).  God’s Gospel promises that even those aspects of life where there are lifelong consequences for sin and neglect can be redeemed for His glory (Genesis 50:20).  God’s Gospel says that anyone, no matter how deprived or advantaged by one’s family, can be a child and servant of the Living God (2 Corinthians 5:17).  God’s Gospel provides the framework where generations of sin can be halted and a new paradigm of family living can take root (Ephesians 6:1-4).  And this Gospel saves completely, not just for thriving in this life but for all eternity (John 3:16).

The world is becoming a scary place, but praise God, the Gospel shines even more radiantly as the darkness deepens.

May the Lord bless our families for His glory with a deepening love for Christ and the Gospel,

Scott Boerckel

[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.