In May my wife and I sold our house of 12 years. We loaded our possessions into a storage unit and started the search for a new home. We viewed countless houses online and visited twenty-plus places in person, in search of a home that ticked several boxes we had in mind. The volume of choices was at times overwhelming and the fear of making the wrong decision was front of mind. Thankfully we found a home in July that we are excited about.
During this experience I thought about the central place that choice has in the modern person’s existence. Starbucks. Relationships. Schools. Jobs. Churches. The list goes on. Will I make the right decision? Psychological research tells us that when people have too many choices, they are more likely to be overwhelmed and even regret their decisions (google the “jam experiment”).
In my recent book on millennials in Canada, a key finding is that older influencers (e.g., parents, teachers, coaches, or religious leaders) often put a range of choices on a platter before young people – some with minimal repercussions and others with substantial life implications – without helping them to discern well amid the choices before them. What does a good decision look like from the choices available? This scenario can be a terrifying and confusing one for millennials.
One takeaway when writing this book was the possibilities for churches to serve as hubs of intergenerational activity … where old and young interact, as depicted in this statue of “The Monolith” at Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway, and older influencers help millennials to discern well as they make life decisions, both large and small. This seems to be one sign of a flourishing congregation; older influencers who take seriously the call to pass on the faith from one generation to the next, to come alongside millennials, to listen well, and to develop leaders. In turn, I suspect older influencers will be mutually enriched by their interactions with millennials.
Dr. Catherine Holtmann, Director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research and Associate Professor, Sociology Department at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, NB
Care is a value to which religious people commit themselves. It is based on the belief that all of creation is fundamentally good and brought into being through God’s love. Christians believe that we live within that love and care is one of many ways we participate in and express the love of which we are a part.
The desire to care can arise out of emotion – we want to care about other people, animals, places or causes as an expression of our feelings of love. Yet care is also a faith commitment – we engage in practices of care beyond our self-interests. This is evident in religious teachings about marriage and family. In religious marriage ceremonies, couples publicly express their intentions to care. Wedding celebrations are also an opportunity for members of the faith community to (re)commit themselves to caring for the newlyweds.
Couples care for each other and for their families through the physical, emotional, and spiritual giving of themselves to others. In their roles as mothers and fathers, they bear, nurture and provide for the needs of children. Their care ensures that young and old are supported in facing the world every day. Care is expressed through daily activities such as grocery shopping, the preparation, serving and sharing of meals, doing the dishes, doing the laundry, arranging for and getting people to medical and dental appointments, helping children with homework, listening to problems, encouraging those who are struggling, sharing good news, inviting people over for a visit, offering a bed for the night, helping neighbours, and celebrating milestones, feasts and holidays together.
Mothers and fathers are role models for their children’s practices of care and they do so in gendered ways. Patriarchal religious traditions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism, tend to promote gender complementarity through emphasizing women’s roles in caring for families through unpaid work at home and men’s roles in caring for families through paid work in the public sphere. Yet social scientific research on the lived religious practices of couples, including my own with Christians and Muslims, show a more complex picture.
Couples’ practices of care are deeply impacted by the realities of the labour market. Dual income families have become the contemporary norm for all social classes. Contract jobs with few benefits have replaced full-time employment in many sectors, putting stress on individuals and families. The economic vulnerability of families is compounded by the lack of affordable child care, public transportation and housing, as well as the inflexibility of work schedules. Many women bear a double burden because despite sharing responsibilities for the family income, they spend significantly more time than men doing unpaid care work. They are also more likely than men to be the victims of family violence.
It is estimated that at least three out of ten women in Canada have had an experience of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Whether or not the violence between husbands and wives is expressed as a maladaptive way of coping with social stress or individual pathology is debatable but its impacts are not. The harm that results from violence in families to women and children is extensive. Religious men who perpetrate violence often have histories of victimization. Women of faith feel intense shame and guilt when their efforts to care for their families are thwarted by financial abuse, psychological manipulation, cruelty, rape, and neglect by their spouse. Yet there is little or no mention of family violence in most religious congregations.
For those who experience the pain of emotional, physical or sexual abuse by someone who claims to love them, it is difficult to listen to religious leaders speak about the value of care and self-giving without the acknowledgment of the ways in which abuse makes it so difficult, if not impossible, for women to care for themselves or their children. Nancy Nason-Clark refers to this as a “holy hush.” Are you interested in breaking the silence?
The resources available on the RAVE (Religion and Violence E-Learning) website [www.theraveproject.org] can help religious individuals and congregations learn more about the problem of family violence as experienced by women and men of faith and how to respond appropriately.
The Millennial Mosaic: How Pluralism and Choice are Shaping Canadian Youth and the Future of Canada
Reginald Bibby, Joel Thiessen, and Monetta Bailey
There are many (mis)perceptions about millennials these days. But what does the empirical data suggest? This newly released book offers a reading of Canadian millennials on a range of topics from hopes and dreams, to fears and concerns, sexuality, family, religion, and more. What stands out is that overall, millennials are not terribly different than previous generations of young people, with some exceptions (e.g., views on sexuality, use of technology). Further, the opportunities and barriers that millennials confront are directly linked to the social environments they are exposed to (e.g., family). This is a valuable read for parents, teachers, and church leaders alike.
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