Christian family and the ideology of family values

Anne Kull

The attitudes of Jesus and his followers about family were ambivalent. In fact, for most of Christian history, attitudes about family have tended to be negative: Jesus was most probably not married, asceticism (monks, nuns, hermits) had a higher position and was more respected in both Catholic and Orthodox Christianity.  Like all world religions, Christianity has adapted to different social and economic formations. Changes in economic and labour relations have always been accompanied by changes in the definition of family and family relations. Even a brief look at history reveals that the mythical “Christian family” is a recent ideological construction that has little to do with actual practices over centuries. The ideology hides behind the noble aim of defending children, but displays the ignoble goal of controlling and ruling women (or other weaker individuals) and their bodies. The anti-family stance of Jesus and the majority of the New Testament is not a realistic model for today’s family as it was rooted in the critique of the family of the time and an apocalyptic worldview, but it might provide us with food for thought. Could today’s Christians, as radically as the first followers of Jesus, give the family a new meaning that would not be based on gender, economic or social hierarchy or just blood ties?