“There is no office such as pastor’s wife or pastor’s children and I work very hard to ensure that our family remains our top priority over the church. Too many pastors put their ministry above their family and their wives and children get active in the church just so they can be close to their husband/daddy which is tragic. We have a normal fun family life and by God’s grace my wife and kids love Jesus, me and our church.”
This, to my mind, is perhaps the most clear articulation of the kind of idolatry of the family that is common among evangelical Christians in America today. For a lengthy clarifying discussion of this whole issue, please see this conversation between Craig Carter and myself.
For my part, Driscoll’s comments are perhaps the most horrifying thing I could expect to hear from the mouth of any pastor about the priority of the family. It turns out that the Catholics have something going about clerical celibacy after all!
The problem with Driscoll’s statement is not just that its the standard conservative line, or that it is the battle cry of the Dobson’s and Robertson’s of contemporary evangelicalism. The problem is rather the sort of moral universe that such comments presuppose. Driscoll reifies the dominant notion that “natural” institutions like the family simply are the moral norm which have value in and of themselves merely by vritue of their existence. The ethical vision of the New Testament, by contrast, is constituted by a radical interruption of all such “natural” conventions of morality and social life. The scandal of the ethic of Jesus and the early church is precisely that all the commonly accepted priorities, allegiances, and social formations of this age are radically disrupted by the apocalyptic erruption of the advent of Christ in death and resurrection.
Bonhoeffer serves as a far better guide to the nature of the apocalyptic ethics of Jesus when he states:
“So people called by Jesus learn that they had lived an illusion in their relationship to the world. The illusion is immediacy. It has blocked faith and obedience. Now they know there can be no unmediated relationships, even in the most intimate ties of their lives, in the blood ties to father and mother, to children, brothers and sisters, in marital love, in historical responsibilities. Ever since Jesus called, there are no longer natural, historical, or experiential unmediated relationships for his disciples. Christ the mediator stands between the son and the father, between husband and wife, between individual and nation, whether they can recognize him or not. There is no way from us to other other than the path through Christ, his word, and our following him. Immediacy is a delusion.”
“But it is precisely the same mediator who makes us into individuals, who becomes he basis for an entirely new community. He stands in the center between the other person and me. He separates, but he also unites. He cuts off every direct path to someone else, but he guides everyone following him to the new and sole true way to the other person via the mediator. … Those who left their fathers for Jesus’ sake will surely find new fathers in the community, they will find brothers and sisters; there are even fields and houses prepared for them. Everyone enters discipleship alone, but no one remains alone in discipleship. Those who dare to become single individuals trusting in the word are given the gift of church-community. They find themselves again in a visible community of faith, which replaces a hundredfold what they lost.” (Discipleship, 97-98)
Too much of the contemporary evangelical church wants to rush to conclusions about having happy family, a comfortable life, a stable career, and personal security. There is this angst amongst Christians when the inversion of Christ’s call is talked about too much. Instead we flee quickly to the promises of abundant life that are given in the gospel as if they legitimated our current aspirations and dreams. However, the promise of abundant life, as Bonhoeffer understood is nothing other than the complete annihilation and recreation of our current ideas about the good life. What we need is not satisfaction, not the assurance that we can have it all. What we need is the eviscerating call of the Crucifed and Resurrected One who demands that we follow in the path of his kenosis, and so, giving up everything, and only thus, gain everything and more.