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Chapter 8 From Family Values to Family Virtues Rodney Clapp Editor's Introduction Rodney Clapp's chapter on family and sexual ethics draws explicitly on Mac­ l ntyre's work in several ways. He uses Maclntyre's recognition of the plurality of traditions to call into question the very phrase "traditional family." I n particular, he points out that the mid-twentieth-century bourgeois nuclear family is strikingly different from any traditional family that writers of the Bible would have known. One of the differences is the extent to which public and private have been distin­ guished in modern times and the family designated as the sphere of the private. I n our day, the purpose of the family has been reduced to provision of intimacy and affection - not a function it can well serve without any more significant telos to hold it together. Clapp suggests that a Maclntyrean tack on the "family values" debate would urge us to pay attention to the Christian family tradition exactly as a tradition - a historically extended, socially embodied argument. And the social embodiment of the Christian tradition is the church. In fact, he suggests, the church is the Christian's primary family. There is irony in the fact that political conservatives couch the debate in terms of family "values." As Macintyre would point out, to substitute the word value for more substantive moral language such as virtue is to accede to the liberal politi­ cal agenda - the project of "founding a form of social order in which individuals could emancipate themselves from the contingency and particularity of tradi­ tion" (Whose Justice? 335). Furthermore, since values have no source beyond personal choice, the assertion of one set of family values over another can be nothing more than the assertion of preference. In the second half of his chapter, Clapp attends to the charged issue of sex. Sexual attraction is not a mere biological urge but something shaped by narra­ tive traditions. Clapp develops James McClendon's thesis that modern Christians' understanding of sex, love, and marriage has been shaped not by the Christian story but by the myth of romantic love. Only by recognizing as normative the Christian story, with its world-transforming goal, can we find adventure enough to make marital virtue more appealing than romantic yearning. NANCEY MURPHY 1 85 1 86 Rodney Clapp The Family Values Debate Since at least the summer of 1991, when Vice President Dan Qyayle attacked a television character for her loose living, Americans have been heatedly involved in a debate over "family values." It has been a debate about profoundly important matters, usually conducted shallowly and histrionically. Sadly, though Christians have been among the main players in the debate, they have brought little real theological orientation or perspective to it. I brazenly propose, in what follows, to do exactly that - to ask what, if any, business Christians, exactly as Chris­ tians, have in fighting for family values. Brazen, but not entirely foolish, I will theologically appropriate the esteemed work of philosopher Alasdair Macintyre. Christian convictions (for example, that Jesus' cross calls his followers to a cru­ ciformly nonviolent way of life) will precede and adjust Macintyre's terms and arguments. But Macintyre's terms and arguments will help to crystallize and, I hope, point beyond limitations in the family values debate. So equipped, and focusing on a specific aspect of the family values debate, I will be enabled to suggest that the view of human sexuality presupposed in the family values de­ bate - the sexual person as consumer - is profoundly in tension with a more decidedly Christian understanding of sexuality and family life. The Historicity of "family" From at least as early as 1966, with the publication of his Short History ofEthics, Alasdair Macintyre has emphasized the historical situatedness of ethics - and indeed, of all philosophy and ways of life.1 Human beings, as historical crea­ tures, simply cannot escape to timeless and placeless vantage points from which to view "reality" or "the way things are actually." Macintyre has instead ar­ gued, compellingly and in detail, that particular persons and communities see and respond to the world as they do because they are situated in a tradition that significantly determines the shape of the world for them. He has accordingly rejected post-Enlightenment attempts to belittle and escape tradition, attempts to appeal instead to a universal, timeless, and placeless Reason. Without capitu­ lating to any radical relativism (a persuasive tradition must, after all, account for physical...


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