Family Values vs. Family Values

I wager nearly half the country tuned into the season's opening of Murphy Brown. And we all heard Candice Bergen say deny that there is any normative definition of the family, that all that matters is "commitment, love, and caring." But the fascinating thing in all this is that Candice Bergen herself is actually very much in favor of family values. That's right. Listen to what Bergen told TV Guide in a recent interview. "As far as my family values go," Bergen said (and I'm quoting here), "my child and my family have always been my top priority.... I don't see the point in having a child if you're not going to spend as much time as you can with that child." These are strong words, but there's more. Bergen actually claims that during the filming of the notorious episode when Murphy Brown had her baby, she herself warned the producer about the implicit message the show might send. Let me quote from the TV Guide interview again: "I said we do have to be careful," Bergen said, "that we don't send out the message... to young women especially, that we're encouraging them to be single mothers." And she ended by saying, "I myself ... believe the ideal is that you have a two-parent family. I'm the last person to think fathers are obsolete." End of quote. When I read that I was bowled over. Wow, I thought: Candice Bergen really believes the two-parent family is the ideal? Then why is she so opposed to Dan Quayle saying exactly the same thing? The answer is subtle, so listen carefully. We live in an age of individualism, where it's OK to be in favor of family values and marriage and all sorts of wonderful things--just so long as you make it clear that these are only your own private opinions. When Candice Bergen tells us her ideal for the family, all she's doing is expressing her personal feelings. But Dan Quayle and his fellow conservatives are saying something completely different. They're saying family values are part of a transcendent moral code that is binding on everyone. They're saying there are objective standards against which we can measure people's behavior. That's the difference. As long as you are merely expressing your own feelings, you are free to say whatever you like. But if you maintain the existence of a morality that is objective and universal, you have committed a grave transgression against the reigning ethos of individualism. That's why Candice Bergen in the TV Guide interview complains that Dan Quayle has become "arrogant," "aggressive," and "offensive." It's not, as we have seen, because she disagrees with him. She actually holds a lot of the same views on family issues. His offense is that he actually holds these views as objective truths. When we participate in the family values debate, we have to understand what the other side really thinks. The roots of the debate run deeper than family issues. The real disagreement is over the very nature of truth.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary