“I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
There is no such thing as a biblical family. Do I have your attention now? I didn’t say that just to get a rise out of you and get you to tune in with me. Think about it. If you would claim to want to model your family after the biblical family, exactly which one do you want to have as your guide? They’re all a wreck. Every single one of them. That being said, a family that works to live and operate by the principles of the Scriptures is going to have better outcomes than one that doesn’t. This works even if the details of the family aren’t what we might expect. Let me point to an example from a recent sitcom. Here’s why you should give Mixed-ish a chance.
Mixed-ish is a spinoff of a spinoff. How about that for a successful premise? The show is a prequel to the show Black-ish which premiered in 2014 and is now in its seventh season. The original show is about a successful, suburban black family whose patriarch (well played by Anthony Anderson) begins to wonder if their success has resulted in too much cultural assimilation for his kids and a loss of the unique cultural heritage of African Americans. The show’s writing is smart and funny and it allows viewers to think through issues of race from a perspective that many of them do not share. The family is of course progressive and it largely ignores the rich and deep religious cultural heritage of African Americans, focusing instead on a more imagined and explicitly African heritage, but it’s coming out of Hollywood so that should really come as no surprise at all.
The first spinoff, Grown-ish, focuses in on the matriarch from Black-ish, Rainbow, as a young, twenty-something making her way in the world. Mixed-ish turns the clock back even further to when Rainbow was a preteen and teenager. The show is about her black mother and white father bringing their three kids to live in the suburbs of Los Angeles after their hippie commune collapses in the early- to mid-1980s. The show deals with the unique challenges of race and culture that are part of the experience of mixed-race families.
Now, given that description, you would perhaps be not at all surprised to learn that the family is incredibly liberal and progressive in their social and political views. And on its surface, it seems like the show is really intended to be an infomercial for why such beliefs are somehow nobler and better than those of the crass, racist conservatives. Indeed, the family lives in the rental home of the dad’s (wonderfully played by Saved By the Bell’s Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who, if I’m being honest, was the primary reason I started watching the show) dad (Gary Cole) who is a super-wealthy attorney who embodies every non-religious conservative stereotype of the 1980s. His character along with the mom’s (Tika Sumpter) stereotypically black sister (Christina Anthony) provide some wonderful point-counterpoint humor. Each episode features the characters going on one progressive mini-crusade or another and showing the world how such values are better than the alternatives at the end of the day.
Here, though, is where things get interesting to me. You see, even though the family puts forth a narrative of positive-progressivism (mom, a bright attorney is the primary breadwinner while dad is a stay-at-home dad…who goes to work as a teacher in the second season), the values they are consciously embracing are not ones modern progressives really celebrate. For starters, the family is composed of a dad and mom who love each other and are committed to one another for life. They may have come from a hippie commune, but they make clear it wasn’t one where free-love was the rule. They were a close, committed, nuclear family even there. And mom and dad have three kids. That’s a big family by modern standards. Lots of carbon emissions from all those extra kids.
Throughout the series, the family demonstrates love and grace and acceptance of one another that goes deeper than convenience or anything external. They offer forgiveness when they’ve offended one another. They don’t hold a grudge. The parents work diligently to teach their kids about justice and compassion for those who don’t have their advantages. They teach them to look out for the little guy and help those who are struggling. They value education and don’t have any tolerance for drugs. They drink, but only ever in moderation. They expose their kids to multiple generations and cultures so they can learn to appreciate people who aren’t like them. They make sure their kids know they are proud of them and committed to them before their careers. They work hard and make a good, steady income. And all of this without any kind of faith commitment or really any discernable spiritual beliefs at all. Minus that last point, theirs is a family I would gladly encourage any family to model themselves after.
Here’s the problem: That kind of a family is a bit like a unicorn in the halls of progressive America today. In fact, it may be even more rare than that. Progressive America is not pro-family. It’s not pro-child. It’s definitely not-pro large family. A family like theirs would be slammed for their rampant privilege.
Do you know where you are a whole lot more likely to find a family like this one? It’s not in liberal, progressive America. It’s in conservative, Christian America. All of the values that Rainbow’s family embraces and promotes are consistently values that come out of a deep embrace of the Christian worldview. Actually, that’s not quite true. We find those values embraced in progressive America today. But do you know where? Only among the wealthy elite. The wealthiest families in our country tend to follow a pattern. They get a degree, get married, get a job, have kids, work hard, and stay married. That’s a cultural pattern much sociological research (backing up what a careful application of much biblical wisdom already said) has confirmed again and again is an all but guaranteed recipe for success. And yet those same people tend to preach a message entirely dissonant from what they practice. If you were to put into practice the values progressive America preaches, you get all of the cultural nonsense we see all around us. But they don’t practice what they preach – much to their benefit. Ironically, culturally conservative America preaches these values, but doesn’t practice them very well leading to all kinds of hypocrisy and pain.
So, we have two wildly culturally disparate parts of the country who tend to preach one thing, but practice something else. More specifically, they each practice what the other preaches. How ironic, yes? Indeed, progressive or not, if every family in the country practiced what the Mixed-ish practices, we’d see a whole lot more cultural happiness and success and a whole lot less of the various social ills creating chaos.
The problem, though, is one of worldview. The worldview of progressivism doesn’t tend to produce the outcomes Rainbow’s family experiences. The Christian worldview, however, does. Rainbow’s family is actually borrowing cultural capital. It is borrowing cultural capital from one worldview (the Christian worldview) without giving credit or acknowledging its debt. It is like a cut flower. It stays pretty for a while, but eventually, cut off from its root, it will wither and die. Our culture as a whole has been living on borrowed capital for more than a generation. What we are seeing around us are the effects of the withering. Unless we connect back to the source for the success we claim to want, things will not improve.
This is not an embrace of pessimism. Rather, it is a clear-eyed realism that is deeply infused with hope. It is infused with hope because the source is always available. As followers of Jesus committed to His church, we are in possession of the source. Our job is to share it. It isn’t easy as our culture continues to drift away from us. But the importance of this task is increasing all the time. Mixed-ish offers us a picture of what every family should want. It’s only possible to have it when the Gospel is present as well. Let’s share the news and make sure we’re practicing well what we preach.