June 19, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

American Culture. Talk about a conflicted concept. We've been reinventing "culture" at warp speed, since we Boomers were first housebroken. Our televisions went from black and white to color; the problem is that we’ve lost all of the other "black and white" dimensions of society at the same time.

I wish I could get time for a cup of coffee with Brad Pitt; I'd like to ask him what he did for Father's Day. If you had Googled "Brad Pitt father" about three years ago, you would have had a pile of tabloid hits on his troubled marriage with Jennifer Aniston, reputedly over his desire to be a father... and her lack of desire to be a mother. Fast forward: do it again, today, and you'll get a completely different pile of reading. He's now named on a birth certificate filed in Namibia (Southwest Africa) for Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, the "love child" born to Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Conceived without the constraints of marriage, the threesome - the parents have been dubbed "Brangelina" by the adoring entertainment press - has been beyond the reach of the domestic paparazzi. It's "Love, African Style," and ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT is eating it up.

In the "living color" culture of 21st Century America, no part of that story raises eyebrows. Famous folks who star in movies and have their own "star" on the sidewalk can mingle in Malibu without a whiff of scandal. A short half century ago, words like "illegitimate" would have described the child, but that's a black-and-white kind of comment. As long as you can hyphenate, why not forgo the prenup and ceremony, and just ask the entire society to applaud your lack of convention and commitment? Aren't they "consenting adults?" "Who are you to tell them what's right and wrong?" We've really come a long way, baby...

Would anyone like to estimate how long the happy parents will be cohabiting? Does anyone really think that Brad will be around for back to school night when lil' Shiloh gets into the elementary grades? When the "parting of the ways" (no marriage, so it won't be divorce) occurs, who will get custody of the "I have both names" baby?

With that crazy mosaic for a backdrop, let me be the last to wish you a Happy Father's Day. I'm spending my FD afternoon alone - with 170 of my "closest friends"- on an east-coast bound flight. For me, Father's Day was on Saturday; my clan (11 of us, in three generations) joined the other progeny of Cheri's parents for a first-ever family reunion yesterday. There, 38 people, from four generations, spent the day toasting a job well done by the 87-year-old patriarch and matriarch. They aren't finished yet, but they're finishing well...

God was the architect for the ideal societal construct; husband and wife, 'til death do they part. Kids come along; then grandkids, and more... and all would look down the family tree to find the solid trunks and branches that would hold them up through the windstorms and downpours of life. What the Kinney crowd did yesterday was supposed to be the norm, not the exception.

In the Bible's how-to instructions for community life, the need for the healthy majority to care for the needy minority was always expressed. Who would be in that minority? Aliens. Strangers. Widows. Orphans. Fatherless. People who were outside the web of the connective relational tissue that would assure their ability to weather life were always on the care and concern list.

What happens when those disconnected people become the majority? What happens when, instead of loving marriage commitment and children born into healthy long-term monogamy, we have... Brad and Angelina, with little Shiloh, as the "new models" for the new era?

We've got some 'splainin' to do. How do we describe the invisible God - who calls himself "Heavenly Father" - when a growing number of our society mates don't have a healthy, ongoing relationship with their own father? How will we paint the picture of "Christ and his Church" - the "Bride of Christ" - when parents don't even bother to get married, or - if they did - to fulfill their vows?

Maybe it's time to get Jack and Cathy - my married for 65 years in-laws - their own star on the sidewalk, in Hollywood, and applaud a performance that's worthy of recognition...

Bob Shank

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