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Christianity: Marriage and the Family

World Faith

Religion and family life in Christianity: Introduction and key beliefs

Information: This article looks at how religion influences family life and the raising of children, from the Christian perspective. A version of this article was originally published on the website www.faithnet.org.uk.

Introduction

A person's beliefs about God (and even whether they believe in God or not), are greatly influenced by their family. Those who are brought up in a family where religion is a strong influence, will tend to be religiously-minded. This can be taken one stage further by saying that those who are brought up in a Christian family (or born in a 'Christian country'), will most likely be Christians (just as those brought up in a Hindu family or in India, will be Hindus etc.). Those who are not brought up in a family where religion is a strong influence, may adopt the opposite view (i.e. they may atheists). Of course, there are many examples of people who have been raised in one religion, who turn out to reject these beliefs later on. Sometimes people even change from one religion to another, or may turn from atheism to believing in God (called conversion).

The 2001 Scottish census showed that people raised in non-Christian families, tended to remain members of that faith. However, out of 79% of respondents who said they were raised as Christians, only 69% (-10%) claimed to still be members of that faith. Also, 20% of respondents said that they had not been raised in a religious family. However when asked, 'What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?', 29% (+9%) said they belonged to no religion, or were not religious (Focus on Religion, National Statistic Online).

Our family, the people we grow up with, and even our country will have a major influence on shaping our religious ideas. However, they do not always determine the kind of beliefs a person will have. We are all a lot more complex than that!

Something to think about: How have your family, other people you know and the country you live in, influenced what you believe about God and religion?

Christian Teaching about Raising Children

All Christians believe families are important. Many Christians believe that the family is the best place for having, and raising children. They believe God intended the family to be a place where children can be raised in a loving and supportive environment. They also believe parents should raise their children to learn about, and believe in God. The love that family members show to each other, should show how much God loves everyone. Many Christians believe that parents play an important role in showing their children, and non-family members, how much God loves and cares for them.

What the Roman Catholic Church says about family life:

It is in... the family that parents are "by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children... the home is the first school of Christian life... Here one learns endurance and the joy of work... love... [generosity]... forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life [to God and to other people] (The sacrament of matrimony, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part two, section two, chapter 3, article 7)

What the Church of England (or Anglican Church) says about the importance of marriage:

Marriage provides the proper context for sexual relationships and the bringing up of children... around which other relationships grow [the family's] home life together is their primary contribution to society... blessings that belong to marriage are... the procreation and nurture of children (Marriage and family issues, The Church of England)

What Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends) say about family life:

Parents may try to help their children to become accustomed to silence at home - for instance in a silent 'grace' before meals, or a moment of quiet before being tucked up for the night. Parents will also try to give some guidance on what to do in the silent Meeting for Worship - perhaps saying 'thank you' to God for something good that has happened, or looking round at each person present and silently asking God to take care of them, or afterwards, talking together about the Meeting.... Parents will not seek to impose their views or beliefs but will encourage their children to discuss, enquire, listen and reflect (Quaker Views: Close Relationships, Quakers in Britain)

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Verses from the Bible which speak about raising children:

For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him (Genesis 18:19)

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

A wise son [pays attention to] his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke (Proverbs 13:1 [Bracket mine])

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord (Colossians 3:20)

Some Key Words

  • Christening (aka Infant Baptism): A service when a baby is usually named and welcomed into the Christian Church. Christening services will be performed in Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches.
  • Confirmation: A service when a person confirms that they have been brought up as a Christian, and want to remain a member of the Church. Confirmation services will be performed in Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches for young people, at an age when they understand the promises they are making.
  • Believer's Baptism (aka Adult Baptism): Some Christians do not agree with the idea of Infant Baptism and Confirmation. Instead, they believe people should only be baptised by going fully under the water, when they are old enough to make a personal commitment to God.
  • Communion (aka The Eucharist, The Lord's Supper, Mass): A service where Christians remember the death of Jesus, by eating bread and wine. In some churches, the first communion a child takes is seen to be a very special occasion.
  • Sacrament: An outward sign of a spiritual truth, or a visible way we can see how much God loves everyone. The sacraments of marriage and baptism can be found practiced in most Christian denominations (or groups). Marriage is usually held to be a sacrament, because it is believed God intended children to be raised in families. A Christian family should show the world what God's love is like.

Something to do: Cover the list above and see if you can explain the following terms to someone: Infant baptism, Adult baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Sacrament. It is always important to learn and use religious terms correctly, especially if you are taking an exam in Religious Studies.

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