In our present-day society, the phrase "family values" has become more of a divisive weapon to be used in "culture wars" than a truly meaningful term that encompasses the values many parents want to instill in their children. So called "family values" need to reach beyond the one or two hot-button issues with which the phrase has become synonymous to include a lifestyle filled with compassion, empathy, peace, justice, and a whole lot more. In her new book, More Than Words, pastor, blogger, and author Erin Wathen explores ten values that Christian families should strive to embrace along with thought-provoking questions and practical suggestions for living intentionally, engaging in community, and making a difference in the world.
More Than Words was chosen as our latest church book club pick, in part because the author, Erin Wathen, used to be the pastor of our church. Her tenure there pre-dated my attendance, so I never knew her personally. However, I discovered quite by accident that I actually am somewhat familiar with her, because I've, on occasion, read her blog, Irreverin, on Patheos. What a small world! After reading her book and her blog, all I can say is that if I had known her I'm sure I would have liked her very much, and I'm looking forward to "meeting" her when our book club holds a conference with her over Skype during our monthly get-together in a few days.
Reverend Wathen wrote this book to offer a different perspective on what the phrase "family values" means. Unfortunately, in our current divisive political climate, family values has become synonymous with only a certain brand of Christianity and with only a couple of hot button topics. In this book, the author endeavors to show that actual family values should encompass much more than that. The values she covers are: compassion, abundance, Sabbath, nonviolence, joy, justice, community, forgiveness, equality, and authenticity. She contends that these are values that we should teach and model for our children and that we should practice them on a daily basis in all our relationships. And this book is a blueprint for how to accomplish that.
Each chapter is devoted to one of the values I mentioned above. The chapters begin with anecdotes from the author's life that illustrate the need for that particular value. She then continues with practical suggestions for ways in which you can practice that value, first at home with your own family, and second within your church or the wider community of your neighborhood or city. Finally she explores ways in which that value is illustrated within Scripture. Then at the very end of each chapter you'll find a four-question discussion guide that could be used with your family or in any small group setting to explore the topic further.
I really enjoyed More Than Words and agreed with virtually everything the author said. I wholeheartedly believe that genuine family values need to begin at home and focus outward toward others rather than inward toward insulating ourselves from others. Erin Wathen has a very engaging writing style that immediately drew me in. I loved reading all the little stories from her family life and could relate to them in a deep and meaningful way. While my own children are now grown and my responsibility for instilling in them the values espoused in this book has mostly passed, I still gleaned a lot from its pages and look forward to the day I might be instrumental in helping my grandchildren to learn these values as well. Not to mention, practicing these values in community is still very important even as an adult without young children. So whether you're a parent or grandparent looking to guide your own children or grandchildren in a positive way, or you're someone looking for ways to engage within your community in meaningful ways, or if you're simply someone who is searching for a deeper meaning for the term "family values," I highly recommend More Than Words. This well-written and highly readable book reclaims the meaning of these two little words from those who have used them as a divisive weapon and turns them back into a truly beautiful expression of their intended purpose, showing that real family values truly are more than just words.
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