Focus on the Dysfunctional Family
I was talking with a friend yesterday and we were pondering the reasons why Christian marriages are statistically as strong or weak as marriages among people with no faith. I wonder if you any of you know whether research has been done in this arena that's available, either a commercial book or a thesis? If so, I'd be grateful to hear about the resources.
Lacking such resources, we were pondering that the Christian marriage has a lot going for it on the positive side, in that the believer's marriage is a vocation from God to display Christ and church, and it's a covenant, intended to permanent. They also have at their disposal the power the resources of revelation from the Scriptures, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, they have this calling to live as people of grace, forgiving one another as they've been forgiven in Christ.
In light of these pluses, why would Christian marriages be as likely to fail as non-Christians? The only thing I can imagine is that these positives are either unappropriated by the Christians, or that there are some negatives in the Christian mindset/culture canceling out the positives. Here are some of the possible negatives I see in my pastoral world:
1. We're less grace filled than we ought to be. Depending on the denominational flavor, Christian communities can often be, of places, the place most terrifying to be authentic with struggle and failure. Since our message is that God transforms lives, there's a subtle pressure to always be displaying the upside of our transformation: "Yes... I was a failure, I previously struggled with addiction, lust, anger, greed -- but that done now because of Jesus" This can be a tempting declaration or persona, even if it's not true, because admitting one's failures can make one the subject of gossip.
2. If we're less grace filled than we ought to be, then in our lack of authenticity, we become more isolated, and our isolation cuts us off from the relational resources we need in order to sustain our marriages.
3. The misunderstanding of gender roles in marriage (I'll not tackle this today... too many meetings) leads to domestic violence in marriages, and woman's loss of authentic identity. Just as male headship has been abused, and unhealthy reaction to that abuse has also created a pendulum swing, so that our spiritual vocation as husband and wives is drowning in a sea of social confusion.
4. We don't actually appropriate the resources of God's truth and the Holy Spirit's empowerment that I listed as assets above. Lacking these resources, we only have the higher call, but less tools to get us there, resulting in more failures!
I could go on, but I'm running late this morning. I'm wondering if some of you might help me by offering your own thoughts and resources to the conversation. I'll contribute first by encouraging you to read this article in the NY Times, and this page offering a host of tools and practical advice for marriage improvement.