The phrase family values has come to occupy a central role in political and religious discourse in America. Politicians endeavor to associate themselves with this expression, and some religious communities advocate family values as the cure to many of our nation’s ills. Many Americans relate these values to a Judeo-Christian tradition, where there is supposedly a clear moral compass for raising children and distinguishing right from wrong.
However, this tradition is actually only one component of the values of American families—even religious families. Indeed, it is questionable whether a Judeo-Christian moral tradition is even the primary component of American family values.
Instead, two secular philosophies—modernism and postmodernism—have become significant, if not crucial, factors in America’s family values. Neither of these philosophies is typically associated with such values. However, these philosophies have together popularized four centers for family (and cultural) values that enjoy immense popularity. The term center is used here to mean the core or root of a particular system of values. Examination of a center means to cut away peripheral issues and study the main beliefs that give these value systems their vitality.