Representation matters. We all know it. We seek to have a representative board in our churches and non-profits, a representative staff, we even have a committee on representation to make sure we follow the rules.
It is no secret in the political world that minority groups such as women, black persons, indigenous persons, and people of color are vastly underrepresented. When it comes to a class gap the numbers are even more staggering, the same goes for sexual orientation. We are struggling to be “representative” in our representation.
So last week when Kamala Harris was named as Joe Biden’s running mate I was thrilled, I rejoiced. No, I don’t agree with her on everything, no I don’t agree with him on everything. I do, however, feel it is my Christian duty to vote the current administration out of office.
So even though I was voting blue this November anyway, I was thrilled for other reasons. I am thrilled to have a woman on the ticket. I am thrilled to have a multi-racial black woman on the ticket. But as she addressed the country as the Vice-Presidental candidate for the first time last week I had tears in my eyes for other reasons.
Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff are a blended family. They look like my family. Not simply because they are a multi-racial family, but because they are promoting the best of what blended families look like. As she spoke to the American public and the world she described family, the family that in remarriage my husband and I have strived for with our ex-spouses.
In her speech she described how the greatest honor in life was to be called “Momala,” the term her step-children came up with for her because no one liked the term “step-mom” (can I get an “AMEN!”) She also described her honor of being an Aunt, sister, God-mother, and daughter. I wept.
Kamala embraced her husband’s children as her own, and by the way, she mentioned Doug’s ex-wife Kerstin, she embraced the blended family as well. She described showing up for swim meets and sitting on bleachers as one family, showing up for their child.
So much of this story is how our family functions. My husband and I seek to put aside any differences with our ex’s and show up for our kids as one family. One difference is that both my husband and I brought children into our marriage which does add another layer to things, but in terms of putting our children and their needs first, this is the modern-day goal of the blended family.
In the church, we seek representation and we value family (or at least we say we do), but we are not so quick to embrace a blended, representative family. My church doesn’t quite know what to do when my husband and ex-husband bookend our children at Christmas Eve service. People don’t quite know what to think when I sit shoulder to shoulder at a ballet recital with my husband’s ex-wife cheering and sharing her favorite candy.
It’s weird, it’s uncomfortable, people often respond by shying away or finding a moment to pull one aside to gossip about it. We are trained to “take sides” but what happens when there is harmony and peace for the sake of the kids? Is it weird, sure a little, but we have sought to build new relationships, independent of the divorce. We strive to do our work to make this possible, and yes, of course, some do this better than others, and it’s not always possible.
There is no “one size fits all” for the American family anymore. Divorce is a reality, but it doesn’t have to look like reality tv. Kamala Harris is a great example of this. I pray we, as the church, can continue to support families in this healthy behavior.
If Jesus were around in the flesh today I think there would be a parable about this that starts, “The kingdom of God is like…”
So let’s use this opportunity to embrace the messiness of the modern-day blended family. All of them. Parents – step or not – children – biological or not, all sitting together, or not.
The Reverend Shannon Meacham (@revmeach) currently serves Ashland Presbyterian Church in the Baltimore suburbs. She lives there with her husband Derrick Weston and together they raise their four children. You can find her musings about any and all subjects on her personal blog, Pulpit Shenanigans, or listen to Pub Theology Live podcast, of which she is a co-host.
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