Traditional values. I have often heard people lament that our current societal problems are a result of the loss of traditional values. So, what are traditional values? In my last column I wrote about them. They are the structures that hold things together. We call them institutions. Education. Government. Rule of law. Religion. And the family. Without them we lack the ability to exercise the freedoms and creativity we desire. I also wrote that those institutions are under assault, especially by those of immeasurable wealth who have created alternative structures that protect them, and place them above those institutional checks and balances. But they are not the only ones who have lost the meaningfulness of those institutions.
Among the traditional values most lamented is the loss of family values. This loss is reflected in the changes in family structures that are perceived as devaluing the very notion of family values. The so-called traditional family structure of two parents, one male and one female, is eroding away, replaced by single parent families, same sex couples, and unwed parents.
And therein lies the problem. Or so they say.
You see, Christians are held accountable to the definition of family described by Jesus in no uncertain terms. (Mark 3:31-35 for example) Jesus questions who his family is, and says whoever does the will of God is his brother, sister, and mother.
Whoever does the will of God.
Jesus is for me the primary example of one who does the will of God. And he challenges us to do the same.
Believe it or not I was thinking about all of this last week while I was playing golf. Not just any old round of golf. I was in Scotland, playing the oldest golf course in the world. St. Andrews. The Old Course. 600 years of golf tradition.
For golfers the Old Course is Mecca, and last week was my golfing hajj.
As I stood on the first tee I was imagining the spirits of all who have ever played the course looking on, smiling, wishing me well, hoping to say, “Well played,”at the end of the round. This was going to be an extraordinary round of golf.
One of the first things about the course my caddie told me was the fact that, when it was being designed, the clubs in use had hickory shafts which created a slice of the ball. A slice in golf means the ball arcs from left to right. So, he said, most of the trouble on the holes is on the right side.
Now golfers will tell you that golf is a very traditional sport. Yet, the clubs and golf balls I used were of the latest technology. Hickory shafts were replaced with steel and graphite. Golf balls designed for specific spin rates, and distance control. Did that mean I was flaunting golf’s traditions?
Golf clubs and balls are regulated by the rules of golf. It is understood that golf equipment will continue to evolve. What really matters is the real tradition of golf that emphasizes integrity, fairness, etiquette, respect and honesty. It is the only sport I can think of where the player is expected to call their own penalties.
The evolution of golf equipment is not the issue. The spirit of fair play is.
What if we applied that same spirit to our daily lives? What if we advocated for ways that support families, all families, whether they fit our nostalgic notions of what a family ought to look like? What if we applied that standard to all those things we define as traditional values?
“Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, my mother.” Whoever.