In its earliest forms, the family was the originator, manufacturer, and consumer of all goods. Gradually over the centuries, the economic life has become more complicated so that the one, or both, parents have been drawn away from the home to provide the living. This is not in itself important except insofar as it defeats the purpose of the family by furnishing insufficient pay to the father, by drawing the mother into work away from family and by drawing children into work before they are reared.
These are the social functions of the family, one of which is to transmit the spiritual traditions of the society. We, as Christians, are vitally interested in this function, but we are also just as vitally as interested in the other functions, which serve to foster the spiritual growth.
The Christian is concerned with the evils that prey on the family and cause it to cease one or more of its functions. What are these? Divorce that breaks up the family completely. The causes are immaturity, no preparation, economic problems. Preventatives are marriage training, family training, better marriage laws and better divorce laws. Divorce was common in the Roman world, and Christianity stopped this trend and reversed it until the 20th century. The 20th century has seen an increase which instead of measuring the instability of married life, is just a legal expression of such instability. Many additional families are dissolved without any such formality.
The U.S. leads the world in divorces, and if the rate continues to increase, within measurable distance, one-half of all marriages will end in divorce. This will bring into being a situation equal to that of decadent Rome, and will bring along with it promiscuity, neglect of childhood and general social demoralization.
The economic pressure of working wives we must address, too. Anything that takes the wife away from the rearing of the family’s children is bad. Some conditions may exist which make this imperative. Other conditions are a weakening of some of the social functions of the family that cause economic or social goals to be put ahead of family functional goals.
Laziness or the lack of discipline, lack of teaching in the family is another problem. The tendency to let the teachers and Sunday School teachers do all the teaching and discipling is a problem. Taking the easiest way out and letting the child have his way rather than cause a scene, the failure to teach industry and the failure to teach or transmit the social and spiritual traditions is also at issue.