Extended Family: The Church’s Role (Part 1 of 2)
The American church is somewhat focused on supporting/protecting marriage. And rightly so. The divorce rate is sad. Our culture is seemingly falling apart at the seams. But lets talk about the root causes of divorce. I have my pet theory and I'd like to hear yours. My pet theory stems from the collapse of the extended family. I feel so privileged to be a part of a big extended family through my husband. (I'll admit that's part of what attracted me about him). If you'll bear with me I'd like to: 1. describe some of the qualities of a close extended family 2. and then discuss in more detail how this supports marriage 3. and the political/religious ramifications of this... Some qualities you might find in a close extended family the kind God designed us to have!: • • • •
We all live together or near each other. We eat together probably every other day. Cooking is a centerpiece to the home. The people range in age from newborn to elderly with very few age gaps. We fight. We get on each others nerves. There is dysfunction. There is mental illness. But in the end we protect each other. We support each other. We forgive each other. We don't give up on each other. Most socialization occurs through family. Not the church. Not hobbies. Not sports. FAMILY.
There is no loneliness. Children live a childhood free from friendlessness or being left out or picked on. Elderly people are respected and taken care of. And like the children, never lonely.
OK. How does this support marriage? First of all, many of the root causes of divorce are nipped in the bud. If a man isn't taking care of his family or is hitting his wife, the extended family observes this and steps in. Elders set a good example for youngers. Often time there is an alpha male and an alpha female in the extended family. In a case like this the alpha male might have to physically intervene. (This has happened in my husband's family. He choked his brother in law when he tried to drive his family home completely drunk). Secondly, because most socialization occurs in the family, your role is so much more than just wife. You are also: aunt, cousin, sister in law, etc. So to divorce a husband you have to divorce yourself from all those other roles too. One of you, inevitably would have to "leave" the group. This is so sacrificial it makes divorce undesirable in all except the most extreme circumstances. So. To the political and church ramifications. How do we support marriage in America? Well, I can tell you one thing that isn't going to make a wink of a difference in my marriage and that is whether Joe and Steve can marry. So stop wasting time on that battle. Its misplaced energy! Here are some things conservative Christians should be supporting: • • • •
Mom's at home Duplex and inlaw apartment type housing Slow cooking. Home cooking. Large families. Bountiful children.
Things we should be more cautious about not necessarily protest but just be aware that it isn't "ideal": • • • • • •
Single houses. Far apart. Daycare Fast food. Convenience food. Small families. Church engagements, ministries, hobbies, sports outside of the home Elderly housing
If you look back to the beginnings of the New Testament, entire households were often converted together.
And I'd like to encourage those of you who aren't in an extended family like this, that the chance to create this beautiful community is renewed with every generation. So, when your kids grow up and begin to have children of their own you can invite them to live near you, continue a close relationship with you, and you can take the honorary “alpha” role.