My last blog was actually before the birth of my daughter who is now 14 months. At risk of stating the chuffin’ obvious, there’s nothing like having a child to make you think about parenting. Well, having a child and Jane Austen. Well, having a child Jane Austen and Silent Witness. Well, having a child, Jane Austen, Silent Witness and Steve Chalke.
So I was reading Persuasion by Jane Austen on my Kindle. I actually hate Jane Austen, but it’s one of the books you get free with a Kindle, and I like free books so I can give more money to Gospel work. Ahem. And so, for the Gospel, I suffered through this typically dull and ponderous Jane Austen tale: woman stopped marrying the one she loves my her snobbish family, meets man later and Reader, she marries him. The interesting thing is the portrayal of her parents – in this case her dad is an uncaring lazy spendthrift sycophantical aristocrat. It’s his snobbery that stops her marrying a penniless navy officer she deeply loves, and even Lady Russell who is a sympathetic surrogate mother gives her bad advice – not to marry the man she is meant for because he is not of a suitable class. It all works out the end, but no thanks to her hapless/shallow/self interested family.
Fast forward 200 years. Silent Witness playing out its typical plotline – objective and heroic scientists save the day from clueless and morally conflicted police officers. In this particular episode, the clueless police officer was under pressure to perform from her successful police chief father. “Just wind up the case quickly love, so people will respect you, don’t bother with the evidence” and other such accurate portrayals of murder investigation. It all ended in tears of course, for everyone, because this oppressive parent was forcing her to be something that she didn’t really have it in her to be. In the nineteenth century they preferred happy endings, so parental meddling didn’t stop the marriage. In the twenty first century post modernism has made us a bit more gritty and parental meddling means the daughter dies. The cultural narrative is clear though isn’t it? Your parents are likely to be selfish, wrong, confused and make decisions that ruin or even end your life. The idea that healthy, good, and happy outcomes could come about by respecting parents who wisely want what’s best for you is not even likely to get the time of day. Heaven forbid you might do what your parents want, against your own better judgement, and they turn out to be right.
This same unspoken and assumed suspicion of parents underlies one of the many emotionally manipulative hard cases that Steve Chalke uses in his recent volte face article on homosexuality. He tells the story of a family torn apart when Christian parents wouldn’t attend their Christian daughter’s same sex partnership ceremony. Of course, this is the parents fault. Of course, when parents express an opinion about something, have moral views, encourage their children to behave in a certain way, this is inherently destructive, controlling. Parents are always in it for themselves, and their effect is always to stop the real you emerging butterfly like from the cocoon of their oppressive family life. Doing what they say is destructive. People miss out with being who they love because of parents like this. (Austen) People die because of parents like this. (Silent Witness) Families are broken up because of parents like this. (Chalke)
Whereas of course, Christians who have been running the race a bit longer than you might actually be more likely to have it right than their twenty something children. Parents might actually act in the best interests of their children sometimes, because, you know, they actually love them a bit. They might even have the right to have their views respected in the decisions of their children because they are still leaders of the family, and responsible for our upbringing. Children might even take their parents advice over very personal decisions, and something awful might not happen.
Read the wisdom literature folks. It might have more help to give us in how to relate to our parents than every cultural narrative there is chirping away in the background.