Rev. DeVries is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Wingham, Ontario, Canada.
It seems that mainline denominations, with their steadily shrinking memberships, are becoming increasingly desperate. Anything goes in attempting to attract attention with a view to reversing that trend. The Record, newspaper of the Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario region reports in the November 8, 2006 issue under the title, “United Church Launches Lively Ad Campaign”:
An ad showing Jesus Christ sitting in a Santa Claus chair is part of a United Church campaign launched yesterday aimed at reaching out to the 30-to-45 crowd in hopes of getting some of them back into the pews.
The ad, among a half-dozen to appear in December issues of lifestyle magazines and community newspapers, is just one aspect of a three-year, $9-million campaign called Emerging Spirit that also includes an interactive website and a grassroots effort to get the church’s 3,500 congregations involved.
The ad, depicting Jesus sitting in a shopping mall with a child on his knee and surrounded by presents, asks: “Would you still take your kids?”
It is aimed at stirring up a debate about whether the “commercial aspect of Christmas can coexist with the spiritual and moral” side of faith, said project leader Rev. Dr. Keith Howard. Should Christmas be about Jesus, Santa Claus, or both?
The ads, created in partnership with Toronto-based communications firm Smith Roberts and Co. are also part of an effort to build awareness of the web-sitewww.wondercafe.ca said Howard, executive director of the project.
Another ad shows two grooms on a wedding cake and asks, “Does anyone object?” In another, a bobble-headed Jesus sits on a dashboard and readers are offered the choice “Funny” or “Ticket to hell.” An ad featuring a can of whipped cream asks: “How much fun can sex be before it’s a sin?”
WonderCafe.ca, developed by the church’s Emerging Spirit team of Internet experts, hopes to connect with Canadians who don’t have a faith community but are deeply interested in things spiritual, Moderator Right Rev. David Giuliano, the church’s top official, told a news conference in downtown Toronto.
Statistics Canada’s 2001 census showed that membership in the church, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, continued to decline, dropping from about three million in 1991 to about 2.8 million in 2001.
A 16-month-long Environics Research Group study showed a majority of 30-to-45 year-olds “believe in God, that this belief shapes their lives, and that nearly half pray each day,” said Giuliano. That’s the “good news.”
The “bad news,” he said, “is that a majority of them see the church as judgmental, arrogant, boring and not able to respond to their spiritual and moral needs.”
WonderCafe was launched in hopes of overcoming this negative view of organized religion, he said.
The church sees the website “as a gathering place for people with faith questions…and as having a neighborhood café feel to it,” said Giuliano.
“It offers surfers who are not interested in attending church a chance to discuss faith and spirituality,” he said.
Obviously nothing remains sacred. The clear biblical teaching that it is the pure preaching of the gospel that brings in God’s people is ignored. There is no longer any shame. Jeremiah 6:15 seems apt, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abominations? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.”
Judicial activism and legislative decisions are continuing to redefine parenthood and are creating alternative family models. The latest development in Canada was reported by Tim Lai (Toronto Star, January 3, 2007) in an article entitled, “One child, three parents.” The article explains:
Ontario’s highest court has given legal parental status to the lesbian partner of a biological mother, essentially giving a young boy three parents.
The case is believed to be the first in Canada in which a child has more than two legal parents, according to Peter Jervis, a lawyer for the lesbian partner. He said while there have been birth registry cases in which lesbian couples sought parentage of their children, the fathers in those cases were not active or were unknown due to sperm donations.
In this case, the biological father, a friend of the lesbian couple, remains involved in the boy’s life at the request of the two women.
The couple, who are the primary caregivers, have stated that this is in the best interest of the 5-year-old. The father would have lost his parental rights if the lesbian partner had been able to adopt the boy under Ontario law.
The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling released yesterday overturns a 2003 Superior Court of Justice decision not to give the female partner legal status as the child’s mother. The judge said the court did not have jurisdiction to grant the title.
Justice Marc Rosenberg, writing on behalf of Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and Justice Jean-Marc Labrosse, found that due to a gap in legislation, the court in this case can exercise its “parens patriae”—the legal term for the state to act as the guardian for a minor—in declaring the partner a mother.
“Advances in our appreciation of the value of other types of relationships and in the science of reproductive technology have created gaps in the (Children’s Law Reform Act’s) legislative scheme,” Rosenberg wrote, “Because of these changes, the parents of a child can be two women or two men.”
“It’s very good news for her; for her son, and for her family,” Jervis said. “She’s been the mom of this child since he was born, but this grants legal recognition to her status.”
“Like any case at this level in the judicial process, it could create a precedent,” Jervis said.
This case drew criticism from the Alliance for Marriage and Family. The umbrella group— composed of Focus on the Family, the Catholic Civil Rights League, REAL Women of Canada, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Christian Legal Fellowship—was an intervener in the case and opposed the declaration, saying it would go against the traditional family unit in Canadian society and law.
In a similar vein, a sobering article, “Experimental Kids” (World, December 9, 2006) by Lynn Vincent, looks at this alternative family scene from the perspective of the children involved. Vincent recounts the experience of Katrina Clark. “At 7 years old, Katrina Clark was a precocious little girl. When adults asked her questions like, ‘What does your daddy do?’ Katrina had a ready answer: ‘I don’t have a daddy,’ she would chirp cheerfully. ‘My mother was artificially inseminated.’ Now Clark is 18 and a university student. She is able to give expression to the questions, the pain, the emotional wounds that developed as she grew up.” Vincent reports:
Clark is among the first in her generation old enough to be gin speaking out about growing up in the brave new world of alternative family models. Driven by the increasing use of reproductive technologies, the debate over same-sex parenting, and the acceptance of single and even “group” parenting, a growing panoply of new “family constellations”—as one psychologist has termed them—is raising questions: Where does society draw the line between adults’ perceived right to parent and what is best for children? What role should the state have in defining parenthood? And with little data to measure outcomes, is the world steaming away too rapidly from the two-parent, mother-father model?
“Our societies will either answer these questions democratically and as a result of…serious reflection and public debate, or we will find, very soon, that these questions have already been answered for us,” writes Elizabeth Marquardt, director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values (IAV) in New York. In her 2006 report, “The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children’s Needs,” Marquardt cites evidence that governments worldwide are quietly pushing aside old-as-time familial identities such as “mother” and “father” in favor of legal terms elastic enough to accommodate everyone:
—In Spain, where same-sex marriage was recently made legal, the legislature voted to replace the terms “mother” and “father” with “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B.”
—In the United States, judges in donor-conception and surrogacy cases now must navigate the labyrinthine complexities of the planning, financing, conception, carrying, bearing, rearing, and genetics of a child, to determine which adults hold parental rights. (Commissions in Australia and New Zealand have proposed unraveling similar problems by allowing donor-conceived children to have three legal parents.)
—In same-sex parenting and divorce cases, U.S. judges have declared non-relatives “psychological parents,” even when a fit biological parent wanted the child.
—In Vietnam, a state-supported hospital is considering setting up a community sperm bank due to demand from single women who want a baby but wish to remain unmarried.
On that front, Katrina Clark’s mother was in the vanguard. “She was one of the pioneering women who went into (artificial insemination) as a single parent,” Clark said. Throughout early childhood, Clark developed coping mechanisms to deal with the utter absence of a father figure in her life. She would tell herself that her father was dead or that the college student whom her mother had chosen from among other potential donors was probably too young to take good care of her, anyway. “It didn’t occur to me that he was aging along with me,” Clark said.
But when Clark hit middle school, parents of one friend divorced while another friend reunited with her long-lost dad. Katrina found herself yearning for the chance to experience not only life’s greatest joys, but also its deepest sorrows. In the divorce case, “I was almost jealous. I knew I could never feel that pain,” she said. “And not only would I never feel that pain, I would never have the chance to reunite….”
Katrina Clark insists that it is not a matter of whether children are wanted and loved.
“But that’s not the issue,” she said. “The issue is adults making life-altering decisions for their children that are in the adults’ best interests as opposed to what’s in the best interests of the child.” And while various child-welfare experts define “best interests of the child” variously, Clark argues that the real experts, the children themselves, are not being heard.
“Part of the problem now is this is still a new situation,” Clark said. “My generation is the first to be studied and no one has really looked at us. I’d rather not have been a guinea pig, but I was. Still, a lot of people in the medical, scientific, and legislative communities are not listening to us. I don’t know why. Maybe they can’t relate to our pain.”
This article provides another “complaint.” Negative views of adult children are “bubbling to the surface.” Make no mistake. It is the children that suffer when God’s ordinance of marriage is trampled underfoot, when the biblically-ordained family is rejected. What misery! What pain! What a farce—words are cheap—”Best interests of the child.” No one listens. In our day men and women are out for themselves. It is an age of independency. It is an age of self-seeking. And the children suffer.
Let us not be influenced by the spirit of these evil days, for God’s judgment sounds loudly: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption” (Gal. 6:7, 8). They have sown the wind; they are reaping the whirlwind, destroying the very foundations!
In stark contrast to this godless selfishness is God’s command to His covenant people to love—love your neighbor, love your children, love your husband or your wife. Christ Himself demonstrated this love by giving Himself—as a ministering servant all His life, and as a willing sacrifice in His death. Selfless loving is sowing “to the Spirit,” which has the promise of reaping “eternal life.” “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).