After earning his Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary, Dr. Jerry Pipes dedicated his life to the cause of using spirituality as the foundation for strengthening family ties, with Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy standing as one of his lasting contributions to that cause. Victor Lee -- Pipes' co-author on the project -- serves as the Minister of Single Adults & Evangelism at First Baptist Concord, in Knoxville, Tennessee, and his specialized skill set in the realm of ministry to young people is prevalent throughout the book. Together, Pipes and Lee combine to tackle the age-old dilemma facing families everywhere: emotional distance between spouses, a lack of connection between parents and children, and rivalries between siblings. Rather than devote several chapters to a discussion of why these problems seem to afflict families across all spectrums -- including religious and secular or lower- and upper-class family units -- Pipes and Lee immediately diagnose the problem as deriving directly from the inherent selfishness which plagues all individuals.
From an organizational perspective, the book is arranged into six highly informative chapters -- 1) Healthy Families; 2) Developing a Mission Statement; 3) Passing the Baton; 4) Out of the House, Into the World; 5) Out of Your World, Into the Church; and 6) Sharing the Message -- with each chapter offering proactive advice for families struggling to reconcile their naturally selfish tendencies with their inherent love for one another. In the second chapter, Pipes and Lee express their view that any family committed to living a healthy Christian lifestyle should consider the adoption of a Mission Statement to guide their conduct, asserting that "a family mission statement will serve as a centerline and guardrails for your family on the road through life… and help us make Christ's priorities our priorities."1 The crux of the argument put forth in Chapter 2 echoes the thematic foundation of the entire book, as Pipes and Lee continually contend that a life of faith and devotion to the Lord is the only truly effective way of navigating life's endless array of unexpected trials and tribulations. Pipes and Lee state that a family mission statement "must not be just a set of words, but a description of a lifestyle -- one that is consistent with and reflective of the Word of God" because "if you serve Christ, you serve His purposes,"2 and it is this concept of worshipful living in the name of family bonding which provides the basis for the book's rhetorical objectives.
From a personal perspective one of the most compelling sections of the book concerned the concepts of teaching and learning, as Pipes and Lee reveal that children learn as much from subtle absorption of behavior exhibited by others as they do from formal instruction in the educational setting. Upon reading this passage, I began to recall instances in my own childhood when I found myself observing adults acting in ways which diverged from the lessons learned in
1. Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy. (Alpharetta, GA: North
American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1999), p. 25.
2. Ibid, p. 27.
church and school, like when strangers on the street would curse each other during arguments, or when my parents would gossip about our neighbors. According to Pipes and Lee "teaching is not telling and listening is not learning. Modeling is teaching. Observing, then doing, is learning,"3 and even at a young age I likely patterned my own behavior on that actions and attitudes displayed by the adults around me. From the standpoint of Christian teachings, obviously I have vivid memories of watching the nightly news with my parents, and watching them struggle to answer when I would invariably ask about the Catholic Church's ever-widening scandals. Although their evasions were not nearly enough to shake my faith, I know that the strict sense of obedience to church elders which once guided my childhood was replaced by a more pragmatic consideration for worldly authorities, and in many ways this only served to strengthen my commitment to following the Lord's path in my daily life.
Although the authors make a convincing case for a return to Christian values as the preferred vehicle for reconnecting fractured American families, every reader should critically analyze the contents and construction of persuasive texts to derive the most value from their message. In the case of Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy, I found myself questioning the author's repositioning of assumption and presupposition in the place of factual evidence, as Pipes and Lee consistently rely on personal anecdotes, blanket conjectures about society and roughly constructed deductive reasoning to provide a tenuous foundation for their lessons.
3. Ibid, p. 50.
The most blatant use of presupposition masquerading as fact occur when the authors express their belief that the majority of families are "unhealthy," and that only through the Christian process of personal redemption can fractured family units be reconstituted as functional groups. Although the case made over six chapters for this particular redemptive process was admittedly convincing on an instinctual level, the lack of empirical data, statistical evidence or scientific proof was disconcerting to say the least. For example, when Pipes and Lee claim that the adult figure with whom a child spends the majority of their time with -- gymnastics instructor, baseball coach, or aunt) will naturally exert the highest level of influence on him or her,4 this assertion would seem to warrant a certain level of evidentiary support. Instead, the authors simply expect the reader to take their proverbial word for it, and while their opinions may be based on a wealth of personal and anecdotal "proof," from a scholarly perspective opinions hold little water in comparison to rigorously refined facts. Obviously when writing on matters of religion and spirituality -- which are inexorably linked with the concept of faithful belief -- authors will be forced to allow their preconceived notions to influence the direction of their message, but Pipes and Lee would have benefited immensely from the act of providing secondary sources to substantiate arguments premised wholly on presupposition.
Upon reading the entirety of Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy, I found myself considering the actions which could be integrated into my own life in the name of spiritual-based
4. Ibid, p. 11.
improvement, as many of the lessons imparted by Pipes and Lee seemed to resonate with me as a student living away from their family. Specifically, the ideas contained in Chapter 5 ("Out of Your World, Into the Church") compelled me to reflect on the depth and scope of my parents and their commitment to ministering as a family before I departed for college. One action step I hope to embrace during my time gaining a formal education is to return home on a regular basis for the sake of worship and spiritual study with my parents and younger siblings. As Pipes and Lee state, the use of family mission trips and direct community work completed as a family alongside a church group can be immensely rewarding, providing the perfect platform for genuine interaction between family members which aligns Christian teachings.5 By making time for spiritual connection with my parents and siblings, I can ensure that even upon returning to school our bonds will endure the inevitable bouts of homesickness and emotional upheaval the separation anxiety can create.
A second action step I've been considering since reading the book concerns the pursuit of evangelism advocated by Pipes and Lee in Chapter 5, wherein the authors implore young readers to reaffirm their personal faith by instructing others as to the teachings of Christ and his disciples. When learning about the seven types of relationships people…