June 7, 2017

By What Vision? The Attack on Marriage and Family


Contemporary times have witnessed a continued and sustained attack against the traditional family. On the excellent EWTN DVD series, The Domestic Church, Dr. Joseph Atkinson of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family presents a lucid, God-centered vision of the family as a Domestic Church. The following is a partial excerpt of Dr. Atkinson's presentation from the first episode.

By What Vision?

We live in a world where the family is under attack. It is safe to say that the institution of both marriage and family has never been as threatened as it is today. In fact, its very survival as an institution is questionable. There is hardly a person reading this who is not touched by the disintegration of family life. It can take many forms; divorce, co-habitation, the acceptance of a contraceptive mentality, abortion, fatherless homes, the rejection of the faith and numerous other dysfunctions which plague and threaten to destroy family life all together.

Beyond these problems, as Saint John Paul II himself warned in Familiars consortio, there are strong forces in our society, which are actively seeking to change the very nature, structure, and meaning of both marriage and family: and even in some cases to eradicate them all together. This disintegration of marriage and family has not happened by accident. At one time, they were considered to be sacred institutions having profound spiritual meaning.

But within the last 40 years or so society has soundly rejected this Judeo-Christian understanding and replaced it with an increasingly materialistic one. Just look at the evidence: we destroy human life in the womb and think nothing of it, we kill the aged for convenience. The uniqueness and giftedness of man and woman as man and woman is rejected. Marriage is considered to be just a social contract, changeable at will, or rejected because it’s considered too oppressive. And for some, the very nature of marriage and family can be redefined by new laws in any way we want. This current situation has been accurately described as the culture wars.

There are competing visions of reality that seek to form society with the all too serious consequences which we do not like. Sadly, in the West at least, these forces often reject the spiritual dimension to life itself. And so, the basic question of this session is which vision of reality is going to prevail? Our greatest need at the moment is to capture afresh the biblical vision of the family. Why? Because the purpose and meaning of the family have largely been lost in our society, even among Christians, and we need to rediscover God’s vision for it.

Secondly, we need to discover the presence of God in our own families. Families, all our families, are so deeply fractured that people experience so many forms of brokenness. These wounds are often unacknowledged and go untreated. Thus, we need to find ways to open ourselves, our children and all our families to the healing grace of Our Lord.

Our aims and objectives over the next few weeks are clear. We will be dealing with several key topics, including: the family at creation, how did God create the family?, the relation of the family to the covenant, the salvific family of Abraham, who, as we will discover, is actually the father of us all. We’ll also see how the family plays out in both the Old and New Testament. We’ll see how Jesus’ Passion and the Holy Spirit transform our families. And we’ll look at each of us is meant to work out our salvation in the concrete terms of our own family lives, and we will see the great mystery that we are indeed parts of the body of Christ. Indeed, our families are meant to be the Domestic Church.

The topic for this session is “By What Vision?” Vision refers to the ability to see. It’s very important. If we do not see correctly we will fall and hurt ourselves. We need to be able to have good vision and to see correctly in order that we can live well. If this is important in our physical lives it is even more important in our spiritual lives. Why? Because, the vision that we carry, the vision that we have will determine how we live our lives and their outcome. Because of this, I would suggest that this session is perhaps the most important of the whole series – that we understand what a vision is and we ask ourselves “By what vision do we live?”

The Scriptures are clear about having a vision for life. If we do not have the Lord’s vision we will perish. But if we accept and live out his vision we will find genuine fulfillment as human beings. The Scriptures, in a very clear passage in Proverbs 29:18, has a reference to vision. It states this: “Where there is no vision, the people perish but the one who keeps the law is happy.”

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