Where Have All the Families Gone?

Most who read this will have been a member of what has been known as a “Nuclear Family,” consisting of a Mom and Dad and usually at least two children.  The family of four was a post-war phenomenon that flourished from 1950 to the mid 1960’s, a “golden era” of prosperity in the United States when two parents and “2.5” kids lived usually in a family dwelling in some quiet suburb.  One word that defined that neat little family was “togetherness.”  This cozy family arrangement, sociologists tell us and experience and observation has confirmed, was short-lived and replaced by fractured families that have majored more on self-fulfillment than holistic family well-being resulting in a major cultural shift that has had devastating effects upon our society in general and upon our societies’ most vulnerable, its children, in specific.  Adults in today’s world marry less, marry later and divorce more often.  In 2012 one author noted there were more households without any children than with; and not infrequently many homes have more pets than offspring. Affluence has afforded us larger homes, bigger yards and more space for isolation.  The big family clans that gathered on special days such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are pretty much history.  And, it is self-evident our nation is not the better off for it.  There are too many reasons to enumerate in this brief statement, and it is not the purpose of this preacher to analyze societal shifts, but it would do all of us well to contemplate the impact these changes upon the family fabric have meant to our lives, especially spiritually.

Children are reared to become independent adults as soon as possible.  Elderly parents can too often look forward spending their last years in an institution which is designed to make sure they have their medication and meals on time, with limited social interaction with either family or friends.  It is not a pretty picture.  Sometimes adult offspring, who are marrying much later if at all, of necessity move back home and live in the basement of their parent(s) but often as an appendage rather than a vital member now of the transformed family or household.

The churches we attend reflect all of the morphisms.  Churches have also changed.  Once “togetherness” was what we relished and our most cherished moments of any particular week were the hours spent with one another in worship with those of like precious faith.  The current Covid-19 crisis has made us aware that though we miss those family meetings with the folk of faith, we can go nine or ten weeks and survive without them.  The internet has provided us with a valuable tool and through this medium we have been fed and led by not only our pastor(s) but others whose messages we have tuned in to as we have enjoyed a smorgasbord of spiritual culinary.  We can attend our classes while the kids can plug into zoom youth meetings.  At first, we felt somewhat cheated because of the lack of “fellowship,” but after weeks and weeks of this unprecedented church life, we are now wondering if the spiritual thaw will ever come that brings us back to the warm oneness that characterized the household of faith of the past.

So, homes are in flux as well as churches.  No one can anticipate what the face of the future will look like.  The family will survive as will the church; but in what shape?  It is a sobering question and one that bears thoughtful consideration:

“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

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