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Theology of Family Life, Marriage and Parenting

Marriage

Marriage is a civil society institution present in all countries and cultures, where the pair enters a secular agreement in the eyes of the law. However, religious marriage is possible when a ceremony is conducted (simultaneously or separately, depending on religion) with the couple being wed in the eyes of God. Many choose to be wed by a priest, making the union both civilly legal and religiously bound, and in both cases, the marriage is an institution that is welcomed as a natural continuation of family and commitment. Biblical marriage is defined by procreation and joint stewardship over the future that the man and woman in their assigned roles serve together before God. It is based on a heterosexual monogamous relationship, with the ultimate responsibility of the man and the woman being a ‘suitable helper’ with full commitment to each other (Kostenberger, 2010). Meanwhile, the American cultural marriage is also a couple’s commitment to personal love, but it is a socio-economic unit as well. However, modern cultural beliefs alongside changes in societal codes have weakened the institutions, which is why it is particularly difficult to maintain it as a religious norm, with changes in laws, such as allowing no-fault divorce as well as same-sex marriage that degrade the institution (Anderson et al., 2014).

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Singleness

Although rare, there is evidence of a Biblical call to singleness, with one of the categories of people not marrying, particularly in the Old Testament, those who faced some type of divine call. A divine call or a conscious choice of singleness and celibacy is even identified as “the gift from God” (NASB, 2020, 1 Cor. 7:7). It becomes more common in the New Testament, particular from those choosing to be closer to God, celibacy is praised by Jesus, Paul, and the Revelation (Kostenberger, 2010). Despite the common perception in Western culture that singleness after a certain age is abnormal or characteristic that something is wrong with the individual, the choice should be respected within religious communities, and in some denominations such as Catholicism, clergy, and servants of the Lord are not allowed to marry.

Sexuality/Gender

As both a matter of biology and even creationism, humans are sexual beings primarily for the purpose of recreation and reproduction. It is both a natural process and has been encouraged by God since the creation of Adam and Eve. However, in humans, unlike most other beings (at least as known), sexuality is also a factor that is an underlying drive to feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Sexual connection brings people intimately closer and generates pleasure, both physical and emotional. Therefore, sexuality has become a means of both pleasure and connection in romantic relationships and is a critical component of healthy relationships. Similar to marriage, religion places the emphasis that sexuality is a heterosexual affair and preferably should occur within the parameters of marriage. With modern science, contraception allows for to prevent of procreation. Certain religions accept it, while others fully deny it (Catholics), but it does not change the rules. The concepts of sexuality that are defined by Christianity and the Bible are set there for moral reasons, not purely from a procreation viewpoint. For religion, sexuality has been an issue that is part of theology and ethics, so there are certain lines that should not be crossed, such as many are against LGBTQ sexual relationships (Adamczyk & Hayes, 2012).

The prevalence of discussion regarding psychological gender over biological gender is a matter of choice, sometimes even for younger kids is concerning. This is known as transgender identity, and the biblical and Christian perspective on this is that it is a challenge to sexual well-being and goes against God’s natural design. The secular opinions reject biblical standards and are potentially immoral. However, from a sexual perspective, the transgender idea has the consequence of shifting the concept from procreation and the natural union between a man and a woman in a different dimension. It becomes no longer clear as to the biological gender and sexuality of the individual. While God calls upon us to love others, religion prioritize honoring God, which such practices do not (Sims, 2020).

Divorce

Divorce has become very commonplace in civil marriage, with rates exceedingly more than 50%. In the religious community, divorce is not acceptable unless there are very extreme reasons for such (i.e., abuse or heavily irreconcilable differences). The religious community can address divorce by protecting the institution of marriage and addressing its values. There can be potential to offer resources to couples and reinforcement of Christian values in the community. It is difficult to balance civic and religious concerns, but while civic divorce may be easy to file, couples can work with religious leaders on their marriage under God before finalizing it. Religious divorce and civic divorce have their own requirements, so the end of one does not represent the end of the other. However, with the introduction of no-fault divorce in US law, civic divorces are much easier to file than religious ones. Religious divorce is challenging, but balancing it involves close cooperation among all stakeholders and the couple itself.

Religious Home

For most people, religion is more than a set of beliefs or behaviors; it is a way of life that also influences behavior, structure, and relationships within the family. Religion typically encourages wholesome families, with both parents and children, if possible. Religious families tend to maintain patriarchal structures based on biblical examples, although that is not a necessary reality in the modern world. There are likely certain traditions within religious families, such as going to Church on Sunday or praying before dinner. However, religion also influences the interaction between family members, such as maintaining respect, valuing one another, and supporting. In religious households, “good’ parenting with being warm and loving, while setting boundaries and standards for their children” (Howarth et al., 2008, par. 4). There is an emphasis on two-way communication with children and promotion of healthy development for all members of the family. Congregations play a significant role in helping to support healthy families. This occurs through ministry in the church, educating about family values, both children and adults, and supporting healthy examples of religious families for younger generations.

Parenting

Having both parents is highly important in bringing together a balanced family. While in the modern day, both a man and a woman can technically fill both roles in terms of care, providing, and others, there are elements from psychological and biological perspectives that are difficult to replace. One example is a mother breastfeeding their child. Fathers and mothers typically bring different emotional and psychological dynamics to parenting that are difficult to replace without each other, but together they are supplementary to create a more wholesome environment. A single parent, although difficult, can meet both roles, and it does not necessarily mean that the child will grow up somehow unfulfilled. The church can play a role by aiding single-parent households by helping in the raising of the child, such as through Sunday school and other community events where the parent can be offered support while the child instilled with values from members of the community that they lack from a missing parent. The church needs single-parent families as they are part of God’s family, but these families need the church as well, and it has a responsibility to minister to the complex needs of such households (Mari, 2019).

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References

Adamczyk, A., & Hayes, B. E. (2012). Religion and sexual behaviors. American Sociological Review, 77(5), 723–746. Web.

Anderson, R.T. et al. (2014). The church and civil marriage. First Things. Web.

Howarth, J., Lees, J., Sidebotham, P., Higgins, J., & Imtiaz, A. (2008). Religion, beliefs and parenting practices. Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Web.

Köstenberger, A. (2010). God, marriage, and family: Rebuilding the biblical foundation, second edition. Crossway.

Mari, R. M. (2019). Why the Church Needs Single Parents, and Single Parents Need the Church. Christianity Today. Web.

Sims, A. (2020). A biblical perspective on transgender identity: A primer for parents and strugglers. Focus on the Family. Web.

The Bible. (New American Standard Bible [NASB]). (2020). Lockman Foundation. Web.

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