As incidents of molestations, rapes and other atrocities on women and children get reported in the now omnipresent media the pressure for reactive measures like stronger policing and stringent punishment hoping that this will act as a deterrent.
With the alarmingly increased broken or unstable families (homes), banalization of sexuality, addictions , perversions etc calls for a solution that the check, reverse and cure this serious malady affecting the human kind.
Children from unstable and broken homes tend to repeat the same parental script as adults. Lack of emotional stroke from their parents leads them to seek fulfillment outside their homes and often not the right kind and often it’s late.
Religion can play a very important role today in preventing the decadence of its people. It needs to reposition itself as being a catalyst that stabilizes the human short-comings through strengthening of the family value structure, its original role as provider of peace and solace, moksha, salvation or enlightenment to individuals should be the end result of such an effort. They need to take up the role of preserving the family structure rather than focusing on evangelization. The survival of religion lies in the survival of the family.
Somewhere along religion assumed the role of being a caste or social class leveler but it has miserably failed. History shows that change in or of religion does not easily change the social order. In India, today, we have dalits among the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Buddhists, the Sacchar committee has recognized dalits among Muslims and now Christian dalits are agitating for the same privileges. Sri Narayana Guru (1854-1928) used the principle of the advaita (non-duality) to show that since every being is one in the Absolute, social discrimination has no justification or meaning. The bhatki tradition affirms that God is equally gracious to all beings, Christianity teaches that as all are children of the same Father God and share equally in the new life offered by Jesus, so social discrimination is an evil practice. Islam affirms the equality of all before Allah. Yet, religion as of now must have at the most brought in some semblance of equality on the ritualistic sphere.
Religion how has a chance to bring about changes directly in society focusing on reaffirmation of family values by offering theological perspectives and reasons and thereby support, preserve and strengthen the family value structure.
The foundation of a stable family is a stable marriage. Today marriage is reduced to a contract, and it is one of the contributory reasons for the debased society we see around us.
The definition of ‘family’ given in 1950’s by the famous anthropologist C. Levi-Strauss: “The family is the socially approved, more or less lasting union of a man and a woman, and their children (…) it is a universal phenomenon, to be found in any and every type of society.”
In the eye of law marriage is a contract. And contract can be breached, broken, become null and void. Not any more marriage is ‘more or less lasting union’. Divorces and cohabitation has increased. (Marriage or cohabitation?)
Contrast this, almost all religion says marriage is a covenant, sacred union or pavitra bandhan. The marriage vows among Christians or the Sat (7) phere of Hindus marriage has been reduces to mere rituals and its meaning and relevance and its sacredness needs to be revived.
All religion needs to focus on bringing in a balanced spiritual and practical content in the lives of their followers. One way of working towards preserving the family value structure is by introducing a ‘Marriage Preparation Course’ for prospective couples on the lines of the ones now being offered by many churches in India. The marriage preparation course helps marriageable adults recognize the challenges of marriage and family. It helps them think beyond the stereotypical concept of interaction between husband and wife they have grown looking at their parents’ marriage. The can be empowered to break the negative script that they may have acquired from their parents marriage. The marriage preparatory course also focuses on the financial reality that comes in after marriage, especially in a situation where both are earning is often the bone of contention or the beginning of troubled relationship.
Religion has to adopt a more pragmatic approach and enlighten it’s followers of the pitfalls of being too independent or dependent and focus on the need to be inter-dependent and also teach the skills to bring up children by providing them emotional wealth as an insurance from likely emotional upheavals in adulthood.
If every religion moves towards this objective of working towards mending broken marriages and homes, they will be doing a greater service for humanity than trying to prove its superiority. This way it will save itself for the right reason.
3. Religions Challenging Status Inequality by Michael Amaldoss. (VJTR 77 vol 8 (2013))
4. Vatican II on Marriage – An antidote to contemporary problems by Vimal Tirimanna, CSsR (VJTR 77 vol 7 (2013)