Is your family an idol?
The world is full of many, many things that could potentially take the place of God in our lives, and it certainly behooves us to be on guard against these idols. However, the Neocatechumenal Way’s First Baptismal Scrutiny Convivence, in classic sectarian fashion, places an inordinate emphasis on the notion of one’s family as a potential “idol”.
This convivence, which I describe here, occurs after about two years of walking in “the Way”. It starts on a Thursday evening, and ends on the following Sunday.
The Questionnaire on Idols
At around 11:00am on Saturday morning, the community is given a “questionnaire” on idols, to be completed in groups of seven or so. The questionnaire has three questions:
- Do you believe that your work is according to the Gospel, and up to now have you accumulated wealth for you or for God?
- Are your affections (wife, husband, children, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, brothers, sisters, friends, sex riches that you accumulate for yourself, or are they rather to help you live according to the gospel?
- Are you aware of your true relationship with money? Is it your Lord?
Does anything strike you as peculiar about these questions?
I would not argue against work, affections, sex, and wealth as potential idols, but at least three things worry me:
- The affections that Kiko itemizes are dominated by normal family relationships.
- Many potential idols seem to be missing, and I would place some of these, like power and prestige, for example, far ahead of family relationships on a list of potential idols.
- “Sex” is not an affection, but rather an appetite or drive. Many of our drives and appetites are prone to disorder and could in that sense be idols, but shouldn’t these too come before normal family relationships on any list of potential idols? Gluttony, substance abuse…
For emphasis, let’s list these family relationships in the exact order given by Kiko: wife, husband, children, boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, brothers, and sisters.
I believe that Kiko has an ulterior motive for emphasizing family as potential idols. You see, in a sect, extended family relationships must be drastically diminished, or even ruptured, if the sect is to have full control over the member. It will be much easier to give away family land or your Nana’s diamond ring in two years at the second Baptismal scrutiny if you’ve started to put your family relationships aside now.
Am I exaggerating?
By now, you may think that I am exaggerating the situation in order to score points against “the Way”. But consider this: At two other points in the convivence, one before the giving of the questionnaire, and one after the questionnaire, at the the Lauds celebrated on Saturday morning and again on Sunday morning, selections of scripture are read and expounded upon that include strong warnings about placing family ahead of one’s walk with Christ. These are:
Saturday Morning Lauds: “…If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…” Luke 14:25-35
Sunday Morning Lauds: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10.34 -39
Jesus warned us about the possibility of family members obstructing our walk with Him because that is a real possibility. But the problem we often see here is not that family members oppose Christ, but that family members oppose the sectarian nature of “the Way”. This convivence sets the stage for convincing community members that all opposition of family members to Neocatechumenal sectarianism should be construed as opposition to Christ. It conflates dedication to “the Way” with dedication to Christ, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not nearly always the case. Throughout Guam and Micronesia, the Neocatechumenal Way seems to be attempting to replace the family, especially the extended family, with a Neocatechumenal community. Ironically, in the eyes of many, it is “the Community” that is becoming the idol.