Giving Thanks for Non-traditional Families

The fact that families are increasingly diverse and non-traditional is something to be thankful for.

This Thanksgiving, American kitchens and dining rooms are looking increasingly diverse. The American family is changing as more of us intermarry with people of other faiths and ethnicities, and same-sex couples take their vows in a growing number of states.

This diversity is something to be proud of—and it is certainly something to celebrate and give thanks for during our holiday, and during the annual National Family Week that accompanies it.

National Family Week is an annual celebration that has been observed during the week of Thanksgiving, for more than 40 years. Family Week is designed to build community connections and honor those who strengthen families.

Unfortunately, some religious right groups are using National Family Week as an excuse to promote a privileged status for their faith traditions, spread hate and impose their particular set of values on other Americans. One Washington-based group for example, claims that the “concept of the family” is one that “must withstand the trends of lifestyle and legislation,” or the children being raised in “non-traditional family units” will suffer.

The “traditional” family of the past –a church-going family with a bread-winning husband, stay-at-home wife and three or more kids –is no longer representative of the typical American family. Today 22 percent of Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated. More couples are having children out of wedlock, more women are taking on the role of bread-winner, and more married couples are having fewer children. Furthermore, same-sex couples are raising families in increasing numbers. According to an article in Monday’s “New York Times,” an estimated one out of 37 children under the age of 18 lives with same-sex parents.

The reality is that the changes in the American family—which center largely around diversity—are not harmful, they are the byproduct of a free and pluralistic America. Changes in lifestyle and legislation are what abolished slavery, granted women the right to vote, and brought civil rights for minorities to the forefront of American life. It is changes like these that help promote the forward march of humanity.

When the religious right vilifies what they consider non-“traditional” families, they reinforce intolerance and harmful negative stereotypes. It is a shame that such a joyous, inclusive holiday is being used to propagate hateful stereotypes in the interest of promoting a “traditional” family structure that is unrepresentative of today’s American families.
This year during Thanksgiving and National Family Week, the Secular Coalition is encouraging Americans to embrace their differences, rather than allow them to divide us. In the true spirit of Thanksgiving, express your gratitude for the American tradition of freedom and diversity by celebrating the non-“traditional” aspects of your family.

We encourage Americans to promote an expanded view of family to loved ones during the holidays and set aside time during Thanksgiving to give thanks for the diversity in your family. Strengthen ties with family members who live a different lifestyle, have a different family structure or hold different religious views, by letting them know they have your unconditional love and support.

National Family week is an opportunity for us to reflect on the importance of family—and also to make sure everyone in the family has an equal shot under our secular laws. As many lawmakers head home for the holidays, we encourage Americans to contact their legislators and let them know that they support equal rights for all families, on issues such as adoption, marriage, workplace discrimination and women’s choice.

And finally, this is a wonderful time of year to donate to organizations that support equality for all types of families.
With each Thanksgiving we are seeing the American family structure change and it is a wonderful time to reflect and give thanks for the many gifts that diversity brings.

There is no family quite like your own, and that is something to be thankful for.

Edwina Rogers is Executive Director Secular Coalition of America.

Image via Dikdriks.

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  • warking7

    The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ are the true authority. Institutionalized sin is never unacceptable in the eyes of God Almighty. You do not repent because you do not fear God. This is never a sign of progress, but decline.

  • Damn Dirty Ape

    In your righteous anger you have misstated your intended point. Judge not lest you use a double negative and appear foolish as well as intolerant.

  • Catken1

    If you cannot accept the Constitution as the authority in matters of civil law, you do not belong in America. Go found your theocracy somewhere else.
    Maybe somewhere with other people who understand how forming a loving family and raising kids together is Good in one case and Sinful in another, not based on how the family treats each other, but based entirely on what the founding couple has between their legs. Because I don’t understand that, and never will.

  • alltheroadrunnin

    By the way, in the USA one can hate anybody, hate any institution, and announce it publicly. We don’t have “Thought Laws” here, yet. Otherwise, Edwina R. might not get published.

  • Catken1

    Of course. You can hate gay people, hate the institution of marriage enough to think that it’s only worthwhile if you get special privileges gay people don’t have, and announce anything publicly that you please.
    It’s when you try to use the government to force others to live according to your wishes that you overstep your boundaries.

  • Catken1

    But I fail to see how Edwina Rogers’ post was hateful in any way?
    Unless you consider anything short of “Oh, fundamentalist Christians who attack other people’s families and seek to hurt them and their children for no reason other than their failure to comply with your religious dogma, how good and moral and pure you are! I can’t wait to give up my family, abandon my spouse, and leave my kids in foster care so that my life can be more pleasing to you! Let me kiss your rear once more, pretty please?” to be hateful?

  • alltheroadrunnin

    Cat – First, I don’t believe in any god any human has told me about. Second, I did not say I hate anything, yet you pretend that I did say that. I said we in the USA have the right to hate (or love, or ignore) anybody or any institution. You have a right to hate Christians and/or their behaviors, fine. Maybe we could outlaw them, but I don’t think that would be fair. Or maybe you would like “thought police.” We’ve already got a version of “speech police” — I think that’s close enough.

  • cricket44

    No, we don’t have the speech police. You can say anything you want…and people can react to it as THEY want.

  • Catken1

    ” Second, I did not say I hate anything, yet you pretend that I did say that.”

    No, I didn’t say you personally hated anything. I said you (meaning the general “you,” not necessarily you specifically) had the RIGHT to.
    And no, I don’t hate Christians. I just don’t want fundamentalist Christians tearing apart my friends’ marriages and hurting their kids because they don’t like the fact that my friends chose spouses without adhering to fundamentalist Christian religious law.
    No one is trying to outlaw Christianity or its practice (except the bit that apparently includes, “force everyone else by law to follow our religious rules) or to force you to live by other people’s religious laws. That is what anti-gay fundamentalist Christians (and there are many other sorts of Christians) are trying to do to gay people and their families, not what we are trying to do to them.
    Nor is it oppressive “thought police” or “speech police” behavior to have the gall to speak up for our friends and their families, and to demand for them and for us the right to live our lives as we see fit, even if we don’t comply with your religious beliefs or anyone else’s. That’s the standard fundie whine – “You aren’t doing what WE tell you and living by OUR rules – you’re OPPRESSING us and taking away our freedom of religion! You have the gall to criticize us and speak up about your views of our beliefs, rather than either shutting up and obeying us or telling us how good and moral we are! You’re THOUGHT POLICE! WAAAAAH!” Doesn’t work. Freedom of speech goes both ways, and you are not being persecuted, oppressed, or suppressed, just because someone else has the gall to disagree with you about your right to tell them and their family how to live, or about the general morality and value of your beliefs.

  • leibowde84

    “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ are the true authority. Institutionalized sin is never unacceptable in the eyes of God Almighty. You do not repent because you do not fear God. This is never a sign of progress, but decline.”

    - Warking7, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. You can read into his descriptions of marriage being between a man and a woman all you want, but he never forbid anything in those statements, only affirmed traditional marriage (did not deny homosexual marriage directly). Further, even the idea of homosexual marriage did not exist in any way at the time of Jesus, so he would have had no reason to discuss or refer to it.

    The person you are thinking of is Paul, a man who never once met Jesus, but merely claimed to have “seen him in a vision on the road to Damascus.” A vision that left paul shaking on the street and that none of his fellow travelers could see. This claim would be laughed at today, so to claim that this man’s words on homosexuality should “damn” their community, for which we have no objective evidence pointing at any choice being involved, for all eternity. That we would take the words of, not the divine, but the imperfect man who never met the divine and refuse to consider that he could have been wrong is not only illogical and unreasonable, but, I would argue, cruel, despicable, and most importantly, unchristian.

  • leibowde84

    And remember what a great Bishop said recently … who agrees with you no less. He reminded us that homosexuality is a sin and can lead to damnation, but there is a special place in hell for those of us who judge them; playing God as if their job is to rid the world of ungodly behavior.

  • leibowde84

    The fact that people could be against homosexuals becoming parents for adopted children is so cruel, unchristian, and unreasonable, that it almost makes me laugh. We aren’t talking about a choice here people!! It’s not like it is between a heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple. There are too many kids needing to be adopted and not nearly enough parents to take them. How can you be so cruel to say that these kids are better off being on their own than raised by a homosexual couple. Get real and read the Bible, if that’s your thing. It is pretty clear about helping those in need, and does not say anywhere that we are to allow suffering when we have the power to stop it.

    If you truly think that kids are better off with no parents than homosexual parents, then I’m all ears for your argument and reasoning. But, please, spare me the Bible passages, as we all already know what they say, and not everyone believes that they are the word of God. So, what we are left with is the question, is the rule against homosexuality important enough to cause the unneeded suffering of literally millions of children to come?! Everything else is meaningless compared to this question, for we have no way of controlling or even knowing what God wants for us apart from scripture, which is, in many people’s opinion’s, unreliable at best. But, we do know that we can give these abandoned children loving parents.

  • Catken1

    And anyway, I would argue that any deity who burns people forever and ever in hell for loving the “wrong” person and trying, with good will, to build a happy and secure family with them, is not worth worshipping. Anyone who does worship that deity is collaborating in the abuse of their sisters and brothers, no less.

  • itsthedax

    A lot of conservatives seem to view freedom as a zero-sum game: They can only consider themselves to be “more free” by limiting the liberties of others.

    I don’t claim to understand homosexuality. But I do understand that my views on it are unimportant. The only important thing is that American homosexuals have the same legal standing and rights as everyone else. This includes the right to fall in love and start a family with the person of their choice.

    The truth is that by exercising their rights, they do not diminish the freedoms of anyone else. The only group attempting to limit the freedom of others is the conservatives, who want the government to endorse their fears and hatreds, and codify them into law.

  • leibowde84

    Agreed in full.

  • alltheroadrunnin

    Cat – thank you, you make my point. Although, Christians have never done a thing to you. You cannot give an iota of evidence of Christians ever doing a thing to you. I know that. You just don’t like them, fine, that’s your right. No one in the USA has ever had to “comply” with any beliefs, yours, or anyone else’s. You don’t even have to agree with USA institutions, public or private. What’s your problem?

  • Catken1

    Some Christians have campaigned to have my friends’ marriages taken away and their children denied the benefits of a legally-protected family. Is that not harm? Is that not seeking to force them to “comply with” someone else’s religious beliefs in order to have a secure civil contract?
    If someone of another faith said that marrying and raising children in a Christian family was inherently sinful in their eyes, and sought to have Christians denied legal civil status for their marriages, would you not take that as harm? Would you say that anyone who dared protest such an act, or speak out against it, just “didn’t like” members of that person’s faith?