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1950's Family Dinner

Leave 'Beave' in the Past and Lead Your Family into the Future

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More than fifty years after Leave it to Beaver, the quintessential Christian family in America is anything but quintessential. The “Beaver” has traded out slacks and loafers for ripped jeans and a pair of Yeezys. Ward golfs on Sunday, rather than compelling his family to attend worship at their local church. June is far too tired after work for baking pies. Few Christian families are classical two parent homes.

If they are a prototypical two-parent home, June almost certainly is not home baking pies and cleaning house all day. While the ordinary Christian family isn’t nearly as conventional as it once was and while the Cleavers would hardly recognize modern society, there is still a place for the Christian home in America. 

Here are two thoughts to help us rethink the Christian family for today.

1. The past wasn’t perfect. Suburban bliss is an illusion. It always has been. None today can live up to the ideals of the 1950s and we shouldn’t try. My family and I did life in Haiti the year of 2015. With no cable television, we brought sets of DVDs with us from a bygone era. We figured we would introduce the kids to shows like Bewitched. Set in the same era as Leave it to Beaver. We figured it had to be wholesome! In some ways, we were right.

What we didn’t count on, was the general tone of lack of respect for women and the obviousness of past racial divides in America. There was nothing criminal about the behavior of men on the show of course. There were just strong indications of how far our culture had not come when it comes to women having a voice in the home and society. Inherent intimations of segregation were plentiful.

These old shows are windows into cultural identity of that era. Look at our generation’s television. I looked at the top 10 shows across the most popular internet television platforms and found that in every show a major or supporting character is lesbian, transgender, or homosexual.

In the 1950s society had not come far enough. Today, the pendulum of morality and Christian influence has swung wildly far in the other direction. That generation was replete with repression. Ours is overflowing with permission. Every social road in the Beaver’s day had a red light. Our moral lanes are perpetually greenlit.

The past was not perfect and neither is the present. Let’s not compare ourselves to the past. We do not need self-criticism or burdens of guilt. We need to be free in Christ to lead our families to be who God is calling us to be today.

2. Every Christian family is a pioneer family. We cannot look to the past for all or even most of the answers for today. We are pioneering new territory.

One of my sons is active in theatre. In one of the theatre companies he’s involved with, there is a child who identifies as “non-binary.” My preteen homeschooled missionary pastor’s kid is navigating life in the alphabet soup environment of modern sexual identifications. He is frankly better at it than I am! After theatre practice one day he said, “It’s like you always say dad, I just show respect to them and be a real friend to them. They know I am a Christian. That can show Jesus to them right dad?”

You bet buddy. The modern Christian family must double down on love and truth if we would be strong internally and relevant externally. Accept imperfect. Recognize limitations. Be real. Be honest.

My teenaged son has engaged many adult Christians in honest apologetic work. I have overheard him explaining more than once that it isn’t judgmental to expect professed Christians to have a biblical worldview and live up to biblical expectations for belief and behavior. Wow. All of my kids and your kids live in pioneer circumstances in modern society. No American Christian family has ever faced conditions exactly or perhaps even mostly like our setting.

The past can give us insights but it cannot give us answers. Only the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit can do that. says:

How joyful are those who fear the LORD – all who follow His ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home. Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees as they sit around your table. That is the LORD's blessing for those who fear Him. (NLT)

Those olive trees may not be of the same variety as they were in generations past, but there is still a place for the Christian home in America and around the world.

God is still calling the Christian family to be a witness to Him. Mom may not be home baking pies and Wally may be from a previous marriage, but God’s power and grace have not changed at all. The Christian home still has a place for today.

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About The Author


Dr. Chris Surber is a disciple-making minister and missionary. He, his wonderful wife, and five children have made their home in Michigan, where Chris serves as the Senior Pastor at Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia. Chris is also Co-founder and Executive Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti, a ministry which equips and empowers indigenous Christians through various programs including Bible clubs, agricultural development, and elderly care housing. Chris enjoys writing books, articles, and columns to inspire faith and provoke thought for the Christian Church and the