February 18, 2006

What Is Family?

Two recent news stories brought that question to mind. First, New York state now has a law that gives authority over the burial rights of a deceased person to their same-sex partner over and beyond those of their blood relatives. In another item, there is an uproar in Massachusetts about a book that was introduced into some elementary schools that presented a family headed by same-sex parents as a "normal" family.

Both of these situations have resulted in outcries from those who are railing against the infamous "homosexual agenda" or concerned about defending the "traditional family." I don't know about you, but I have to fight breaking out in a nervous twitch when I see either of those overused, simplistic phrases.

So what is a family anyway? I'll tell you what it is to me.

When my wife passed away in October, 2004, my brother and his partner came down to Maryland from Rochester, NY, then drove with me on a round trip to Illinois for her memorial service. I did not ask them to do that. They stepped up and helped me when I needed it most. On the way home, I began referring to my brother's partner as my "brother-in-law." What they did was beyond an act of kindness, it was an act of love--the type of love that all families should have.

I have blood relatives that I have not spoken to for over a decade. There was no major rift, no bad blood existing, we just live in different worlds. It's okay with me, and apparently it's okay with them. Should I consider them my family instead of my brother's partner?

Only if I insist on limiting myself to "traditional" thinking. The very existence of Jesus and the way he was treated in his time on earth because he did not fit the "traditional" image of the conquering savior shows just how wrong that can be.

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