Do You Choose Your Own Family Before you are born?

Do We Get a Say in Which Family We Join?

For the LGBTQ community in particular, “it’s not uncommon to locate a substitute family, informally known as a chosen family,” as Dani Blum recently pointed out in an article for The New York Times. It is the kinship you develop outside of the traditional family structure, as defined by Blum, who defines a “chosen family” as “deep, close relationships… people form separate from their biological relatives.”

The concept of a “chosen family” is not new, and it is certainly not exclusive to the LGBTQ community. However, in a time when people are ready to label healthy bonds as “toxic,” situations like these are on the rise and can have serious consequences.

God intends for human connections to be a source of His universal grace. The love shared between a husband and wife, or that of a parent and kid, is unlike any other connection and is essential to the functioning of any society. All forms of friendship are valuable, from the closest bonds to the casual acquaintances we share with our neighbors. All of these types of relationships are becoming unusual and disorganized in today’s tech-driven culture, which is slave to utilitarian concern.

Moreover, it is imperative to recall that Jesus preached of a bond that unites the saved beyond blood related, established by His blood. According to the Gospel of Matthew, he inquired, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? He then pointed to his followers and responded, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Because whomever obeys my heavenly Father’s will is related to me as a brother or sister or mother.”

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A more profound sense of the word “family” can be used to the Church. God’s preferred unit is the family. It can provide for those who have experienced a void in their lives due to parental absence, abuse, or hostility. As far as Christ’s relationship with us and our relationships with one another are concerned, family is the sole relationship used as a model for the Church in the Bible.

The problem with so-called “selected families,” at least in the modern sense, is that they don’t provide a satisfactory substitute for anything. We use these friendships and romantic partnerships to push aside and ultimately replace our biological families, rather than merely “increasing” the scope of family.

Decades of research have revealed with crystal clarity that this is especially harmful to youngsters. Mothers and fathers bring unique qualities to their children’s lives that can’t be found in any other type of relationship. Adoption is the most healing kind of family structure, yet even then, many adopted children still have to go through significant emotional wounds. Adoption is a noble decision that usually occurs when other options have failed. God’s love and redemption for humanity are metaphorically depicted in the Bible through a variety of family ties, including adoption.

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Society has forgotten that the biological family is hardwired into the earth by God’s plan in its glee over making “family” out of any motley collection of people. Family is no accident of history, no social construct that may be replaced. Because of how deeply it is embedded in biology, no culture that has rejected it has thrived.

Even so-called “selected families” fall short of satisfying people’s fundamental emotional requirements. As Joshua Coleman wrote in The Atlantic, “Studies on parental alienation have expanded fast in the past decade, presumably reflecting the increasing number of families who are affected.” In one study of moms aged 65 to 75, one in 10 reported being alienated from an adult child. As many as 62% of respondents said they only spoke with loved ones less than once a month.

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The fact that members of a biological family aren’t picked makes them all the more beautiful. In essence, they are based on a sense of duty, to one another rather than to oneself. However, if we have the option to join a social circle, we have the same one to leave.

Although there are unfortunate exceptions where relatives are poisonous in the traditional sense of the word, the modern ethos teaches us to seek out the company of those who require less of us. Will these “preferred” substitutes hold up under the stresses of growing old, getting sick, and dying?

It is more important than ever that the Church fulfill its mission of providing a family for those who lack one in this time and place. The Church, like the family, is not something that was artificially added to the world, but rather something that was always there. It is the same Creator who envisioned a human family consisting of a man and a woman, a husband and wife, a mother and a father. Any culture that attempts to rewrite the history of the world to exclude these interdependent facts is doomed to fail.

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