Justin Taylor linked recently to a thoughtful piece in Christianity Today called “The Gospel and the Gosselins” that covers the reality-tv show Jon & Kate Plus Eight. I do not watch the show but am familiar with it. Here’s what the author, Julie Vermeer Elliott, has to say about the profitability of the series:
“When the first few episodes revealed the earning potential of this “everyday family,” Jon & Kate Plus Eight became a brand name that was packaged and sold. And many Christians were happy to comply by opening up their wallets and their fellowship halls. When the network and the couple were not satisfied with the money generated through high ratings and book sales, the Gosselin home was filled with product placements and the children were filmed for long hours each week. All the while many (though not all) evangelicals watched with undiscerning eyes.”
One could say a great deal about this article. I’ll confine myself to a passing remark on prosperity and its perils. It seems to me that there is often a direct connection between the pursuit of wealth by parents and unhappiness of children. The more we pursue wealth, the more, in many cases, our children suffer.Money makes life easier. It solves problems, many of them significant. It is not bad to make it and to support one’s family. But we must choose carefully what our standard of happiness is. I do not know the Gosselin family’s problems closely, but it sounds like a lust for money contributed significantly to its problems. We should mark this sad occurrence. We should not assume that the same cannot happen to us.
The dilemma of the modern Christian family is posed by the market. Traditional familial constraints have dropped off, leaving many of us economic agents. How much do we want? How much do we need? How much time with our children should we sacrifice? How far can we push our materialistic quest?
These and other questions confront many of us, and many of us struggle to answer them well. The unhappiness of our children and the dissolution of many marriages testifies to this. Let us think hard about this matter, and let us strive as best we can to avoid exchanging the happiness of the home for money in the hand. Wealth promises us the world, but so often, it robs us of our soul.