Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What are "Traditional" Values?




Wikipedia defines "Traditional Values" as "those beliefs, moral codes, and mores that are passed
down from generation to generation within a culture, subculture or community."  However, at the
time of the writing of this article, Wikipedia was unable to cite any references or sources to support this definition.  This illustrates the problem with defining traditional values or family values:  every family has different traditions.  To act as if everyone in a particular group or of a particular religious or political persuasion has the same values is to be very shortsighted.

For instance, many people who say they are proponents of traditional values cite the Bible as their authority for those values.  But are we to assume that the majority of people in the world hold to those values and therefore, those values are normative? Let's see.....

According to this chart by the U.S. Center for World Mission, 33% of the world's population are Christian.

So why are we accepting what the 33% says as normative?  In statistics, what is "normal" is defined by the bell curve.  Meaning, when a number of variables are plotted on a graph, 2/3 will fall within the bell curve, and that 2/3 is considered normative.  Which means, Christianity does not have enough adherents for their beliefs to be considered statistically normative.

So why then, do we allow conservative evangelicals to dictate to us which political positions and which laws should be considered normative?  They talk about traditional values and family values as if they are synonymous with Christian values.  But this cannot be the case.

Then they say something like 'traditional values refers to the values espoused by our founding fathers.'

Well, let's see about that.  How many of our founding fathers owned slaves, or were married but slept with and fathered children by their female slaves?  Is that a family value we want to perpetuate?  I don't think that just because the founding fathers did something or believed something that we necessarily ought to believe and practice it too.

And although all the founding fathers' names appeared on the church rolls of orthodox churches, as did almost everyone during that era, their private beliefs were obviously different from their official public personas.  In his widely read The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine, the principal American exponent of Deism, called Christianity "a fable."  Paine, the protege of Benjamin Franklin, denied that the Almighty ever did communicate anything to man, "by ...speech,...language, or ...vision." Deism became widely popular during the 18th and 19th centuries.  To quote from the Encyclopedia Brittanica, 

"Although orthodox Christians participated at every stage of the new republic, Deism influenced a majority of the Founders.  The movement opposed barriers to moral improvement and to social justice.  It stood for rational inquiry, for skepticism about dogma and mystery, and for religious toleration.  Many of its adherents advocated universal education, freedom of the press, and separation of church and state.  If the nation owes much to the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is also indebted to Deism, a movement of reason and equality that influenced the Founding Fathers to embrace liberal political ideas remarkable for their time."

So our founding fathers embraced "liberal political ideals."  Doesn't sound like conservative evangelical fundamentalism falls into that category.

So, the "traditional values" that conservatives speak of, those cannot be considered normative because Christianity doesn't have enough adherents to be considered normative, and the ideals of the founding fathers were liberal political ideals which are not representative of today's so-called "traditional values."

What do conservatives mean when they say "traditional values?"  Mostly, all their traditional values have to do with gender, gender roles, sexual identity and behavior.  In other words, monogamy, heterosexuality and sexual purity.  Why is it that conservatives get so hung up on these antiquated values?  Why try to make them normative for everyone?  Why try to behave as if deviations from these states of being are deviant or shouldn't be allowed to exist?

For one thing, conservatives are not into freedom.  They are into control.  Sexual freedom is the ultimate freedom.  If you feel free to explore your sexuality, then you will probably feel free in every area of your life.  And they don't want that.  The more the people around you are able to experience their own personal freedom, the more you might notice and decide that you don't like being controlled and you might want to follow in their footsteps.

I have never understood Genesis Chapter 3.  In this chapter, God tells Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree, because if they do, their eyes will be opened and they will be like God, knowing good and evil.  So, that sounds like it would be a good thing.  Throughout the Bible, adherents are admonished to try and be like God.  But in fact, the God of the Bible does not want people to have their eyes opened.  Because they might see the truth.  If that was not the case, then Adam and Even wouldn't have been chastised for becoming like God.

The idea that Adam and Eve would have lived forever if they hadn't eaten of the fruit is an outrageous myth.  There is no such thing as being immortal.  Our bodies always wear out, eventually.  So when Adam and Eve ate the fruit and saw that it was good for food and made them wise, this was a good thing.  This is how we know the God of the Bible is a fraud.  Any being that wants to keep his children in darkness and does not want them to know the truth should not be trusted.  And we shouldn't be patterning our lives after him.

Once again, I want to admonish our lawmakers to stop calling Christian values "traditional values" or "family values" and acting like, somehow, these are the only values that matter.  You are certainly entitled to live your lives the way you want, but don't try and pretend like somehow the values the rest of us espouse are somehow less important or less normative than yours.

Remember, in the Bible, King Solomon was supposed to be the wisest man that ever lived, and he had a thousand wives and concubines.  So why aren't we embracing that as a "family value?"  If it was good enough for the wisest man that ever lived, why isn't it good enough for me?


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