Family Values in Urban America: Judeo-Christian Perspective vs. Secular Perspective
Judeo-Christian Perspective vs. Secular Perspective
Background of family values in the American society
Judeo-Christian perspective on family values
Secular perspective on family values
Judeo-Christian Perspective vs. Secular Perspective
The topic of this paper is family values in urban America and it is from the analysis of the family values that the study intends to draw out a difference between the Judeo-Christian perspective and the secular perspective in regards to family values in the urban America.
The paper begins with a background looks at the family values in the American society and how different sectors of the society define or describe the context. The second and the third section of this paper will look at the Judeo-Christian perspective on family values and secular perspective on family values in the urban America respectively. Fourthly a comparison between the two perspectives will be carried done before the paper concludes.
Background of family values in the American society
The term “family value” became widely used in the urban American context in the late 20th century and it was widely used to refer to a set of morals or beliefs that promote social interaction, family unity, it was also used in childhood development to provide children with societal view. The set of morals or belief comprise of issues such as roles of marriage, childbearing, divorce, sexuality and gender roles. (Arnold and Herbert, 194-220)[footnoteRef:2] wrote that these morals not only influence the interaction of the society with the family, but also with the legislative policy of a particular country. [2: Arnold and Herbert,194-220]
(Adler,197 -236)[footnoteRef:3] in his account of family values, which is more inclined towards an evangelical Christian conservative perspective; described them as social and political beliefs that aid the family unit to be the essential moral and ethical unit of the society. Previous research conducted on the America public show that the urban America Society view family values as closely related to Christian values. Another section of the population describes it as taking care of each other, loving and supporting one another, while the other define it, as possessing good values, knowing what is wrong and what is right. [3: Adler,197 -236]
According to (David 12-14)[footnoteRef:4] in the urban American society politicians have increasingly used the topic of family values in order to win over the American conservative voters. In the political arena the definition of family values differ in accordance to the political affiliation one is in. For example the Republicans perceive family value to comprise of certain principles like; promotion of the traditional marriage, opposition to gay marriage, promotion of the traditional education, opposition against the legalization of abortion, promotion of abstinence education and laws that safeguard children from exploitation and obscenity. [4: David 12-14]
Democrats on the other have used the context of family value in their manifesto to promote ideas such as; acceptance of gay marriage and single parents families, which are rather non-traditional American family, acceptance of gays adopting children, universal health care, financial assistance and social programs for families. Different civil society organizations such as the Planned Parenthood group, Parents and friends of gays and lesbian group and the People for the American way have used the context of family values to promote ideologies such as adequate maternity leave, affordable child bearing, family planning, gay marriages and single parent families. (Gillis, 23-46)[footnoteRef:5] and other critics of the Democrats argue that the Democratic Party and such organizations as mentioned above use the context of family value to promote alternative family structure rather than promoting the conservative set of morals for the traditional family. [5: Gillis, 23-46]
The Republican Party in their campaigns have always pointed out that since World War II the World has being experiencing a decline in family values. A report released by the Institute for social research in 2001 asserted this claim by the Republicans, the research focused on family values and attitudes such as role of sex in the society, divorce, childbearing and extramarital sex, since the 1960’s and it aimed at observing specific changes that have occurred so far. In its conclusion the research noted that since the 1960’s there has been increased tolerance towards diversity in family values and behavior that are not part of the traditional family set up.
The reports further noted that the gender equality has increasingly become popular ever since, as women take up key roles in the family and also in the decision making process, which were traditionally dominated by men only. Further more there was increased acceptance in divorce and cohabitation of couples who aren’t married was not a societal stigma anymore.
(Popenoe, 527-542)[footnoteRef:6] lamented in his studies that the decline in family values in the urban American society is due to economic and social environment in which parents are more committed to their work and social life. This has led to the diminishing of parental influence during child development that consequently leads to a child becoming an adult without mastering the traditional family values. [6: Popenoe, 527-542]
Judeo-Christian perspective on family values
(Mark, 122)[footnoteRef:7] used the term Judeo-Christian in his studies to refer to a set of morals or beliefs that are held jointly in common by both Christianity and Judaism. Judeo- Christian values is particularly common in the urban American society whom perceive the ideologies behind them as aiming to promote ethical accountability, free will, doing what is right and most importantly the values tend to promote teaching from Christ and Biblical prophets. [7: Mark, 122]
In the American society it is argued that Judeo-Christina values thou not directly entrenched into the country’s constitution these values are the building blocks of the country’s laws and that they have a basis in the declaration of America’s independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In regards to the declaration of Independence it is apparent that the Judeo-Christian values in the American society can be summarized as creativity, liberty and honoring the life given by our maker. Thou is clear obviously clear that the State and the Church have been separated it still evident that God is not separate from the state. This is confirmed by the public swearing speeches that usually end with the phrase “.so help me God” and the common phrase used by politicians that says “God bless America” or “In God we trust.” This evidently proves that even the urban American society still practice the Judeo-Christian values.
(Gillis, 44-46)[footnoteRef:8] listed some values that can be considered Judeo-Christian values in the American society, and have their basis from the country’s constitution, the Holy Bible and the Declaration of Independence. Some of the values include; the sense of what is wrong and right and the sense of wisdom, truth is sacred and without it justice or liberty is unattainable, human life is a gift from God, America’s liberty is also a gift from God, which is also stated in the declaration of independence; human creativity is a gift from God, hate evil, love your neighbor, sacrificial offering is a Judeo-Christian value, courage is a Judeo-Christian value, among others [8: Gillis, 44-46]
The Judeo-Christian perspective on the family values in the urban American considers religion to be the ultimate source of morality and that the traditional family forms an essential element in the American society. The American family association can best demonstrate the Judeo-Christian perspective on family values in the urban American. The group in a spirit to promote Judeo-Christian values on the family context advocates that the urban American citizen realign his or her culture to reflect on traditional family values and Biblical truth.
In summation of the Judeo-Christian perspective on the family values in the urban America, (Davison and Alan 89-112)[footnoteRef:9] notes that it is totally against gay relationships and marriages, acts such as pornography or abortion, fornication, cohabitation of the unmarried, some certain aspects of feminism and the separation of the State from the Church. [9: Davison and Alan 89-112]
Secular perspective on family values
The term secular has been used to refer to a particular perspective that is not concerned with religious or spiritual affairs of this world and those who practice the secular tradition believe that things such as education and law should be based facts rather than religious beliefs. Secular perspective can trace back it history to the Greek Hellenism where truth is not truth unless it based on facts.
Secular perspective can be attributed to the thought of the enlightenment and inspired by the rapid development of science; many thinkers in the 19th century rejected the authenticity of divine revelation and called into question basic principles of Judeo-Christian values. Based upon 19th century conceptions of science, scientists who were naturally secular ought to develop modern scientific conception of man and the universe.
Through this development which have transpired over the past decades several ideologies were formulated which have contributed to modern men, in particular the urban America separation from God, and confused the comprehension of basic moral truths in them. These ideologies have been mixed with propagandas, which have weakened the urban America’s conscience and this has resulted to creation of an environment in which there is breakdown of the traditional family values.
Referring to studies done by (Michael 143-154)[footnoteRef:10] they listed some of the ideologies that have been brought about by the secular culture and they include; God, religion, and questions of morality are matters of personal opinion which have little or no relevance to social problems; Human being are highly evolved animals; value is relative as there is no absolute standards; the nuclear family is a product of social evolution and is just one of a number of possible forms of social organization; problems in the urban America society can be solved by technology and the social sciences with a particular emphasis on the role of the state in social engineering. [10: Michael 143-154]
The university, the public education system, the legal system, the media and entertainment industry and advertisement companies are some of the institutions that have been influenced by the secular relativistic ideas and have helped to create a moral and cultural climate which has contributed to the disintegration of family values in the urban America; this is according to (Mark)[footnoteRef:11]. [11: Mark]
Taking the example of the university education system in the urban America it has emphasized on a scientific or empirical approach not only to science but also to the social science, this in a sense is embracing the secular ideas of modernism. Consequently university students and graduates will perceive the World from a modernistic perspective emphasizing on relative values and modern man secular nature, thereby the ideas obtained from their education will also influence their personal morality.
The secular perspective on the urban America has had a negative effect on the culture of the American society and even their perception on family values. It is no wonder in this society young people feel justified in engaging in premarital sex or many couples can rationalize dissolving their marriage. (Stephen and Milton 12-23)[footnoteRef:12] is quoted saying that “in a society which emphasizes on gratification over self-control and morality is viewed as a matter of personal opinion, it is no wonder families are breaking down and domestic violence and crime are on the rise” such as the urban American society. [12: Stephen and Milton 12-23]
Judeo-Christian perspective vs. Secular perspective on family values in the urban America
In Judeo-Christian values truth is considered as sacred and there can’t be any justice or liberty and happiness without it. In the Bible Jesus interlinked truth and liberty by saying “the truth shall set you free” and in the book of Exodus God describes himself as “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth” in the book of Deuteronomy again God is described as “he is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice.” Therefore Christian conservatives are bound by the truth which is the word of God and who is referred to as the God of truth. With this religious belief conservative Christians in the urban America will practice universal and absolute moral principles and will further consider nuclear family to be a sacred institution protected by very clear standards of sexual morality.
In the secular world God and religion are matters of personal opinion which have little or no relevance at all. This is because in the secular perspective what is truth has to be verified through the empirical methods of science and it is not sacred at all and hence since religious or Biblical teaching can’t be verified they are considered non-objective truth or opinions rather than scientific truth. On the other hand Judeo-Christian values are based on faith in the divine spirit while values in the secular perspective are relative because reason itself is incapable of defining any absolute standard of value. Thus without values people in the secular urban America will be justified to have bad personal morality like engaging in premarital sex, breaking marriage vows and the overall disintegration of family values.
In Judeo-Christian perspective right from creation, God demonstrated his interest in and value placed on the marriage institution and family, by being practically involved in its institution. God did not simply speak it into being as he did the beast of the field and the fowls of the air. He carefully put it together step-by-step. God put man to sleep and from his side took a rib and formed the Woman. Not stopping there, God took the Woman by the hand and led her to Adam. Therefore marriage is a unique relationship having its root in divinity; this is according to Genesis 2:22. Conservative Christians in the urban America view nuclear family and marriage not only as the central foundation for the transmission of social values but also as a sacred institution protected by very clear standards of sexual morality. Christians that are bound by their religious values will ensure that their marriage union works because it is a covenant.
In the secular perspective nuclear family is viewed as a product of social evolution and is just one of a number of possible forms of social organization. (Putnam)[footnoteRef:13] attributed such ideologies to the way people perceive family and marriage as a necessary evil and looked at by some disdainfully. Secular ideas suggest that “those in it want to rush out and those outside it want to rush in” as majority of the urban America, thou believe that marriage should be a lifetime but it should continue under extreme circumstance. Such notions have lead to majority of the same urban America accepting divorce as fact and statistics indicate that the decline in of marriage and family unit has been greater and more alarming in the past twenty-five years than any other quarter century in history. [13: Putnam]
In the Judeo-Christian values marriage has being described as a union, in which there are two people of opposite sex coming together with a view to building a God centered home. One man, one woman, it involves a higher level of relationship with each other, than with any other person on earth. It is a union of spirit and body according to Genesis 2:24. And according to Ecclesiastes 4:9 when a man and a woman come together as husband and wife, they are expected to have entered a better way of living. From all the Biblical teachings and Christian values gay marriage is unacceptable and it is not even recognized by religion by God himself. The only union recognized by Judeo-Christian perspective is between man and wife.
In the secular world and more in particular in the urban America, gay relationship and marriage is totally accepted. The Democratic Party in its manifesto describes family values to include the acceptance of non-traditional family which one among them is gay unions. The acceptance of adoption by gay couples is another aspect in which the secular perspective and the Judeo-Christian perspective differ.
Referring to studies done by (Thornton and Linda 1009-1037)[footnoteRef:14] the positive aspect where secular perspective differs from the Judeo-Christian perspective is on the issue concerning gender equality. The Judeo-Christian perspective advocates for women to take their traditional role which is not a male dominated field. The secular perspective calls for gender equality and its has seen women being regarded as equals in family unions and they even take up an active role in the decision making process that was initially a traditional role for men. [14: Thornton and Linda 1009-1037]
From the onset of this study family values was described as the set of morals or belief that guide family unity and social interaction. And apparently an important observation was made in regard to the urban America’s political perception towards family values. The two main political parties in the urban America that include the Republican Party and the Democratic Party both have a different perception about family values. The Republicans, of which the study can identify them as conservatives, usually use the term family values to include promotion of traditional values such as traditional marriage between man and woman. The Democrats whom are viewed as liberals use the term, family values to include the promotion of non-traditional family values such as marriage between same sexes.
The different perception on family values by the two parties can as well easily demonstrate the difference between Judeo-Christian perspective on family values and the secular perspective on family values in the urban America. The Republicans are more inclined towards Judeo-Christian values while the Democrats are more inclined towards secular perspective.
In conclusion of this essay, it is important to acknowledge that the secular perspective has taken over the family values in the urban American as reports show that there has being a decline in family values over the past twenty five years. This is evident by the high divorce rate, increasing number of single parents and many states that are now legalizing gay marriages and the adoption of children by gay couples.
These statistics indicate how morality of the urban American is decaying and at the same time the flawed secular and relativist bias of modern secularism has undermined the very principles which are necessary for the maintenance of a stable society. Thus it is important that the conservative Americans including the Republicans join forces to advocate for an urban America with a new faith-based perspective.
Adler, Libby S. “Federalism and Family” Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 1999
Arnold, Laura W., and Herbert F. Weisberg, “Parenthood, Family Values, and the 1992
Presidential Election” American Politics Quarterly, 1996
David K. Naugle “The Way We Never Were”: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. New York: Basic Books, 1992.
Davison Hunter and Alan Wolfe “Is there a culture way” A dialogue on values and American Public life, Brookings institution Press, 2006
Gillis, John R. “A World of Their Own Making”: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values. New York: Basic Books, 1996.
Mark Bertrand, “Rethinking World view”: Learning to Think, Live and speak in this World, Gospel centered publishing. 2007
Michael Parenti, “Democracy for the few” Wadsworth Publishing, 2007
Popenoe, David. “American Family Decline, 1960 — 1990: A Review and Appraisal.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1993
Putnam, Hunter. “Reason, Truth and History” Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981
Thornton, Arland, and Linda Young-DeMarco “Four Decades of Trends in Attitudes toward Family Issues in the United States: The 1960s through the 1990s.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 2001
Stephen A. Grunlan and Milton Reimer, “Christian Perspective on sociology” Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003
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