Survey: Christian mothers value family over their relationship with Jesus

My deist friend ECM sent me this shocking article from Church for Men blog. Please read, then read my comments below.

Excerpt:

When forced to choose their top priority in life, Christian women overwhelmingly pick family over faith, according to a survey from Barna Research. Five times more women chose “being a mother or parent” than chose “being a follower of Christ,” as their most important role in life.

These stunning survey results give us a clue as to why Christianity is so rapidly changing into a family-centered faith; why Christian culture is feminizing; and why the gender gap in many denominations continues to grow.

The researchers wrote:

[Women’s] spiritual lives are rarely their most important source of identity. That role is taken up by the strong priority Christian women place on family.

The preeminence of family was most overt for Christian women when it came to naming the highest priority in their lives. More than half (53%) says their highest priority in life is family. By contrast, only one third as many women (16%) rate faith as their top priority, which is less than the cumulative total of women who say their health (9%), career performance (5%) or comfortable lifestyle (5%) are top on their list of life objectives.

Despite the characterization of women as intricately connected to their peers, only 3% of Christian women say their friends are their top priority, equal to those who place finances (2%) and leisure (1%) at the top.

Women’s sense of identity very closely follows their priorities, with 62% of women saying their most important role in life is as a mother or parent. Jesus came next: 13% of Christian women believe their most important role in life is as a follower of Christ. In third place is their role as wife (11%).

Any other roles women identify with came in at similarly low rankings and far below that of a parent, including that of employee or executive (3%), that of church member (2%) and that of friend or neighbor (2%). American citizen, teacher and caregiver all rank with one percent each.

The researchers continue:

Perhaps not surprisingly given where they place their identity, Christian women also point to family-related objectives as their most important goal in life. Raising their children well is the highest goal for Christian women (36%). While, roughly one quarter of Christian women identify faith-oriented goals as most important (26%).

Though women consider themselves family-driven, their marriages may be suffering from a lack of intentionality: only 2% of Christian women say their most important goal in life is to enhance their relationship with their significant other. Marriage comes in below several other goals, including health (6%), career (5%), lifestyle (4%), personal growth (4%), morality (4%) and financial objectives (3%). Only goals related to personal appearance, relationships outside the home and travel come in lower than marital goals.

And I will include one paragraph from the author of the post:

While the Bible certainly endorses interpersonal harmony, Scripture is not chock-full of happy relationship advice. When Jesus spoke of relationships he usually predicted their demise (Matt. 10:34-35), or promised rewards for people who abandoned their loved ones (Luke 18:29-30). God takes no delight in dysfunctional relationships, but neither did he send his son so you could be at peace with your kids.

I have to quote that because I rebelled against both my parents in order to become an evangelical Protestant. First one in the family.

Now I have something to say about this survey data.

I get a lot of flak for my 10 courting questions that are designed to evaluate a woman’s worldview prior to any commitment being made. Men and women alike often tell me to lower my standards. The idea that the marriage is supposed to serve God has no traction with most young evangelicals today. Everything is about emotions and appearances and peer approval and complying with the secular culture. You choose a person who will improve your self-esteem and impress your friends. Who cares what their worldview is? The main things in life are happiness, health and wealth, right?

The 10 courting questions are designed to help a Christian man make sure that his wife is going to support him in serving God and making the relationship count for God. They are also designed to make sure that his wife will do everything possible to guarantee that his children remain Christians throughout their lives. The simple fact of the matter is that men are away at work most of the time doing stuff to make money. The man’s wife is the one who is going to be at home doing the more important work of making sure that his children learn about God, and can resist the culture.

The danger you want to avoid is a situation where your wife is not able to explain to the children how Christianity is rooted in reason and evidence. Your wife needs to be informed and passionate about Christian apologetics, public knowledge related to the Christian worldview and public policies that affect the execution of a Christian life plan. If she divorces Christianity from truth, then she will not be able to answer the questions of your children, or deal with their doubts, or anticipate threats to their faith (e.g. – the pluralism/relativism at the university), or help them to resist secular popular culture, or explain non-Biblical reasons for various Christian views now unpopular with the culture, e.g. – premarital sex, gay marriage, global warming socialism. And so on.

If your children are raised to think that Christianity is an arbitrary set of rules that cannot be debated or questioned, all in the name of family happiness and respectability, then as soon as they get to university, they will rebel. So the first priority can never be “family” – the first priority has to be truth. Christianity is not a tool to achieve happiness in the home, or respectability with the neighbors. Having family as a priority can cause questions and doubts about Christian truth claims to be swept under the rug. That works for a while, but as soon as the kids hit university, they will drop their Christian faith like a hot potato. A better idea is to focus more on truth and open discussion, and let all the doubts and questions and discomfort about being different come out in the open while the kids are growing up.

Christian men, choose your wife wisely. She has to be a thinker. She has to be a fighter. And you have to lead her during the courtship to take Christian worldview and apologetics seriously.

UPDATE: This survey made me think of this phone call – listen carefully to the mother’s response to her son’s atheism: “How dare you embarrass the family, what will the neighbors think?”. Have a listen – does this response ring true to you? 

It’s all about family (and how the family is perceived in the community), and nothing about truth. Nothing about knowledge.

UPDATE: Got an anonymous response from a husband:

I recently read your post on women choosing family over faith and I fear that I may have a wife that falls into that category. We got married when I was a very young Christian and while I am maturing in my faith, I see little to no passion or growth in her to follow after Christ (though she goes to church with me, prays multiple times a day and sings praise songs often). I have tried to gently lead her to a more intimate relationship with Christ, but nothing I do seems to help much.

He wanted advice for men in this situation, but that would be another post for another time. In the meantime, bring it up during the courting, and expect to every wife candidate demonstrate initiative and interest in bringing apologetics into the church and university – as well as mentoring co-workers and neighbors.

16 thoughts on “Survey: Christian mothers value family over their relationship with Jesus”

  1. One of your most important postings yet, WK – thanks! I used to hear a phrase growing up: God, country, family. But we don’t hear that much anymore.

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  2. That is exactly what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 7, but are they necessarily choosing family over faith or are they integrating them (a là Chesterton’s ‘What’s Wrong With the World’)?
    Also, I think that your 10 questions-piece could necessarily exclude worthy women, it seems kinda selfish. I say that as a philosophy/religion major whose wife could care less about the arguments for the existence of God and being able to refute arguments (that’s why she married me), but she supports me and makes a home for me to come home to. (Could be the reason why you aren’t married, you’re just too darned picky. Does that mean you shouldn’t choose wisely? No, it means that you find the person you can’t live without, and the person God has ordained for you, if that’s the case for your life. She may not have a master’s in philosophy or apologetics, but she could just be your wife and help meet for those other needs)

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    1. It’s the exact opposite of selfish. Selfish is when you pick a woman you like, using your criteria. Not selfish is when you ask her to serve God with the marriage. If you think it’s OK that she has no answer to defend God with your co-workers, your neighbors or to the teachers of your children, that’s fine. But don’t cloak it in piety and pass it off as a strength. It would be better if she grew to have those capabilities, it’s no virtue that she does not have them – or that you chose her in that state and with no plan to grow those abilities – especially for your children.

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        1. It’s to bring glory to God, of course. And one of the ways you do that is by having an influence around you – in the church, in the university and through the children. Children need to be prepared for the university, or they will be wrecked by the pluralism, the secular professors and the sex-saturated culture. Apologetics is how you prepare a child to have a worldview that resists what will come on them. I can do some of that but I would like a wife who can train the kids from small to know how to stand up for their beliefs and resist the culture.

          And not Masters in philosophy – just Lee Strobel books and DVDs on intelligent design. There is a lady in my home town church who teaches The Case for Christ to 50 women at a time in cohorts. I want my wife to be that woman. Tell me why you think that would be bad for God, if my wife could do that as opposed to NOT doing that.

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          1. I’m not disagreeing one bit, WK, our culture is slipping into the abyss, not because women aren’t versed in apologetics, but because men, supposedly godly men, have neglected, okay let’s be honest have disobeyed, the command of God to be the spiritual heads of their households (something Chesterton touches on as he peels the onion of society). So, I think the best answer to the question is, if marriage is something you desire, a woman who will encourage you to be the man God has called you to be.

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  3. WK,

    This is another great post.

    It mirrors an issue I was addressing in my overlong comment about your recent blog on Jennifer Roback Morse and her speech at Harvard.

    My issue with Morse is reflected in this blog about Christian women putting family over faith. In both this blog and Morse speech, especially the Q&A, the problem as I see it is a lack of female humility that comes from the fall.

    Women’s push for family often reflects the way the family – specifically children – serve as a extended part of the mother herself. Her prioritization of “family” often is merely a de facto prioritization of self.

    On the other hand, focusing on Christian faith requires a nearly constant tearing down of selfish impulses.

    I suppose this survey merely serves as one of the countless examples of Biblical truth – women need their husbands to lead them in faith.

    So, yes, our churches are letting us down by catering to women’s desires.

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  4. Thanks for sending me the link to this, WK! Unfortunately, it matches my experiences. Serious Christian mothers seem more confused rather than actively rebellious when it comes to priorities (some women, of course, may be actively rebellious), but they do seem to prioritize parenting over Jesus; one young mother told me that she’d been a Christian for years but admitted she’d never actually read a whole chapter of the Bible. But studying God’s word so that we are equipped to do His will and so that we are corrected when we inevitably wander off course is critical!

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  5. As a young mother, I’ll chime in here.

    There is so much pressure on women when they become mothers. You guys don’t realize this because it isn’t the same for men. Fortunately, it is a season of life.

    When mothers prioritize their children over God is it selfish? Yes, but not in the insulting and simplistic way an above comment says. It’s not an extension of self so much as it is an incredible bond and love for these little people. We simply can’t bear the thought of harm coming to them. This is how God so lovingly designed us. Otherwise, We would not go forth and prosper because being a parent to small children is incredibly difficult.

    Now, to prioritize them over God? Of course that is a sin. However, I’m certain that each of you commenting here had prioritized something over God- whether it has been money, television, fame, praise. You have prioritized SOMETHING over Him at some point because you are human and flawed. To say otherwise is a lie.

    So, rather than chastising and berating these women who believe, I’m sure, that they are doing God’s work, perhaps you might consider lovingly leading them to Him and encouraging more time spent in the Bible?

    Certainly, I’m sure you would have appreciated the same humble and living spirit when you have been a little lost.

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    1. Also, how is raising a family NOT a faith based goal? Are we not to bring our children up in the Lord through everything we do?

      This survey and your response are both very inflammatory.

      I feel as if this survey was done simply to sir up dissertation, which the Bible warns us specifically against.

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      1. Pat, both of your comments are spot on. I, for one, REALLY needed to hear them, and I hereby consider myself fully rebuked by everything you wrote here. My eyes are opened. Thank you for having the supreme courage to post them, and God bless you, Sister!

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    2. Pat,

      Although my comment might be seen to you as “unloving” that was not the intention. You are correct that mothers struggling with prioritizing their children should be “lovingly [led] to Him”, but this begs the question as to whom should be doing the leading?

      The Bible clearly states in Ephesians that it is a husband’s job:

      “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.…”

      My comment was not directed at you or any women per se. I wrote it to remind men and husbands or how critical their role is in the faith of their wives. Both the Fall chronicled in Genesis and the above passage from Ephesians explain how husbands and wives must work together to keep themselves in their entire family in faith.

      What is interesting to me is that you don’t mention your husband. You only mentioned your children. Assuming you have a husband, it is his duty to lovingly keep you washed in the Word.

      Again, my comment was directed to men and husbands, not the Christian women that WK’s post shows are struggling in their faith.

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