This Sunday I want our celebration with Steve and Hazel Capella at the baptism of their Yasiana and Nijah to inform what it means for all of us to be God’s family. If you know Steve and Hazel, you realize how sorely their painstaking patience and trust in God’s leading them to be parents has been tested. They have been in the track of foster parents to adopt Yasiana and Nijah for over three years, but only recently learned of their approval. First of all, yippee! And hooray for all four!
Second, can you imagine your heart on a string like that for years? Pouring all of that love, devotion and care into the two girls with the threat of losing them never far off? That’s not an easy way to live, friends. They’ve faced many peaks and valleys, many hopes and much uncertainty. All of that gives way to joy with these baptisms on Sunday. The Capellas will host a light lunch celebration in the Parish Hall afterward. Why? Because they are so grateful for FCC, D’s ongoing support.
All of it reminds me, it’s not easy for any of us to be family these days now, is it? Our society has become downright unfriendly for parenting. Most Americans believe that parenting is tougher today than years ago. In the Seventies, 15% of our children lived in poverty. During the Eighties, the figure nearly doubled. Wow.
Back in 1948 the government allowed a tax exemption of $600 per child. Today’s exemption, adjusted for inflation, is considerably less. Back in 1948, a family of four at the median income paid only 0.3% of its income in taxes. By 1989 that same family paid 9.1%. If we care about children and parents, we can do better.
Conservative Christians need a less selective memory about pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. They had more support, mentoring, and nurture from others than they recall. They must overcome their aversion to government help if poor families are to receive the economic encouragement they need to survive. Partnering with families in deep need to help, nurture, and incentivize them is not dragging our society down. It isn’t betraying a legacy. It strengthens our society.
Liberal Christians must quit neglecting family or children’s issues in a misguided stress upon individual choice and personal freedom. Social scientists have known for a long time what the rest of us also sense, but lack the guts to say. A two-parent family is better on the whole for child-rearing than single-parent or stepfamilies. A check of teen-aged rates of suicide, mental illness and criminal behavior clearly shows this. This is in no way maligns the single parents (mostly women) who persevere against the odds, and strive nobly with love and nurture. I am talking about norms where fathers don’t matter anymore. I don’t believe in it.
Yet what I am so concerned about cuts deeper than economics and public policy. Matters of children and parents are deeply ethical and profoundly spiritual issues. Parenting isn’t just something you do, it’s a vocation. Parenthood is something we give back to God out of gladness for our own existence. What do you think?