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Morality September 13, 2006

Posted by fajita in Family Science.
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What should moral energies of Christians be spent doing?

A. Discouraging and penalizing couple cohabitation

B. Work to support the children these cohabiting couples produce

Please, don’t cop out and say BOTH. Please, explain your answers. I listened to a speaker today compare U.S. and Swedish marriage, parenting, poverty, and policy patterns. It was a very good presentation and provided some terrific things to think about. So, above is the question I offer to you who are Christians.

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1. Dan - September 13, 2006

One of the things I have been reading in Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy is that the way of Jesus is to never judge people. Period. To the degree that we judge people and put them in boxes, we have limited or completely eliminated our ability to love them, because we have said we are better than them. No if, ands, or buts, for those who take what Jesus said seriously [Judge not…]

My interpretation is that the way of Jesus is to eliminate lust from your heart, which by its very nature produces the right actions of not cohabiting. Pop Christianity spends almost all its time dealing with the surface issues and never inviting people to change their hearts, out of which lead right actions.

A more direct answer: I would support the children and provide them as best a model of Jesus as I can offer them and their parents.

2. shane coffman - September 13, 2006

B.

Without question.

3. paul - September 13, 2006

As a teacher and a Christian, I spend my time taking care of the kids without regard to parental marriage status. The kids aren’t to blame for their parent’s problems.

4. Matt - September 14, 2006

I guess this may be a one sided discussion. It strikes me that if you do A at all, functionally there is little chance you’ll ever be able to do B.

“You bad, bad, bad person. You should never, ever, cohabitate. Aren’t you ashamed of whats happened…Now…let me show the love of Jesus by equipping and assisting you in raising your children.”

Sorry. You can say you want to do that. But it won’t work.

5. John Alan Turner - September 14, 2006

I strongly disagree with Matt’s statement that if you discourage cohabitation you cannot support the children. I think you’ve set up a false either/or situation here.

It is possible to support children and still have healthy dialogue about the often hidden dangers of co-habitation. Women in such situations, for example, are far more often victims of abuse and abandonment. Couples who live together before getting married are more likely to get divorced. Children of divorce struggle with higher rates of sexual promiscuity and drug and alcohol use.

Yes, we should make a commitment to support children regardless of their background or circumstances. But I can’t imagine knowing the dangers of a behavioral choice and withholding that information. That would be irresponsible.

Clearly, we must use grace and wisdom in how we present that information. But that ought to be the case with how we present any information.

6. justinmundie - September 14, 2006

can you discourage couple cohabitation without penalizing it? and then do number 2 as well?

Cause I don’t think the government should be making laws prohibiting cohabitation… but I don’t think it would be wrong to ENcourage it.

And we definitely should help them take care of their children. Matt, I think your view fundamentally would differ with that of Jesus. First off, those kids are not at fault for their parents. Second off, by discouraging cohabitators, and then not helping children, you are hurting two groups of people… one who will still probably not get married, and two, children, who will be told growing up about the hypocricy of christians who are told to love, yet don’t show it.

I think I may have copped out. If I can’t encourage 1 and do 2, then I will just say 2.

7. preacherman - September 14, 2006

We do B first showing them the love of God and doing what we can to support their children..Having the attitude of Jesus..”Let the little children come to me..” He didn’t say, “Only the children who’s parents are holy…come to me.”
Then in love we approach A.
It all about having the attitude of Christ.
Showing his love and mercy to a world who needs hope and healing.

8. LW - September 14, 2006

Personally, I think Christians should be concerned with encouraging and equipping any family, whether bound by marriage or common-law, to become loving, supportive parents and caregivers.
The children are in this world, that’s a fact, so it only makes sense to show love and compassion towards them.
I think cohabitating parents will listen to Christian communities who aren’t judgmental and who offer support and concern for their needs as a family, whether we approve of their living arrangements or not.
This should not be a moral issue for the cohabitants but rather for the Christians.
It’s not our place to judge other people. It’s our responsibility; however, to love unconditionally.
I know that’s not a popular viewpoint as far as living together is concerned before marriage. My own kids did that and they were certainly taught better, but children do not always listen to their parents or do things to which we will always approve.
We were supportive of their efforts to form their new family and home but at the same time they knew our feelings about the arrangement. Eventually they got married.
If we had hit them over the head with scripture and turned our backs upon them, they might still be cohabitating.
Love is difficult sometimes; especially when it involves issues that so many have very strong opinions.

9. fajita - September 14, 2006

We have to focus on supporting children through policy, religious systems, and other means. From a community perspective, all children are our children. It is our responsibility to find ways to support these children.

I think, though, that in American churches there is more moral energy placed in being against cohabitation than being for at risk children.

I am a not advocating cohabitation. What I am doing is sayng that we need to spending our moral energy for something that matters rather than against something. I tihnk that the energy would be better spent and more inviting.

Furthermore, I think that we can make more headway helping at risk children than we can ending cohabitation.

10. justinmundie - September 14, 2006

by the way, i meant to say encouraging marriage, but not discouraging cohabitation.

11. Matt - September 14, 2006

I like JAT’s comments, and my thinking actually isn’t too far from his. The problem comes when all of the energy is being put into condemning cohabitation- if you become known for that, you lose your chance to minister. But… to have conversations about whether it is the best idea once you have a relationship with someone. Thats quite different.

12. greg brooks - September 15, 2006

Why should I expect a person who is not a Christian not to have as much sex as they can with as many people as they can?

Discouraging cohabitation among Christians requires a conversation (a discipleship if you will) that starts long before the topic of cohabitation comes up. As a Christian, not cohabitating is about really deep things like treasures in heaven, the lamp of the body, being bought with a price and so on.

But for someone who is not a Christian, my conversation with them has to start somewhere else. The price for that person has been paid but they have not yet brought themselves to the customer service counter to redeem their coupon. They are still browsing the store, putting things in their basket, unaware that Satan stole their wallet before they even got past the greeter.

So here I am, having already checked out but still wandering the aisles. I’ve got my receipt so getting out won’t be a problem. But I haven’t left yet.

I come across this shopper, and in their basket they’ve got a box of Shackin’ Bits and some Pampers (that happen to be wrapped around a baby).

What should I do–coo over the baby and keep shopping? Maybe ask them if I can borrow the kid and take it to the VBS aisle me and my friends set up back there in the fabric section nobody ever goes to?

Shake those Shackin’ Bits in their face and crank up an infomercial for Marital Bliss Bits?

Or–how about I ask them if they’ve found what they’re looking for? “Can I help you find something?” Maybe they need some formula, or sippy cups or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. Or they just put a new Jaguar in the basket and need somebody to pet the leather interior. Or they might be looking for the margarita mix. Maybe they don’t know the right aisle.

Or perhaps they can help me find where the heck they hide the olives. Have you ever looked for olives in Wal-Mart? Now they have that section labeled, but they didn’t used to. I think they labeled it because they noticed me wandering up and down with a depressed look on my face. “Cute kid. How long have you been married? OH. Can you help me find the darn olives?”

And so on. Making friends. Seeing if they want to talk about anything at all. See if we can help each other out with life.

All of which is towards the goal of going down to the river to pray one day.

Anyway. Sometimes the first step is to call the cops and have the kids snatched up. Maybe they’re really good parents and their kids don’t need very much support. But–they need Jesus more than they need to get married . . .

13. Johnben - September 30, 2006

If you don’t already know, there is much research to show that cohabitation prior to engagement/marriage predicts later divorce. Scott Stanley at Denver U has a nice theory to explain that — heard it when I went for training in PREP. Bill Doherty does work to help young unwed fathers stay in the relationship before the diaper and other pressures hits and they leave the woman and the kid all to themselves. You have a very interesting blog. We should have lunch some time.


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