Family and change

However, some traditional values have, in fact, contributed to the problems that have always plagued the Indian family – problems such as wives being deserted, domestic violence, child abuse, female infanticide, dowry, and abuse of daughters-in-law – so returning to “traditional family values” cannot serve us well in all respects.

Christians and Criticism of Culture: God’s plan for family differs in many ways from that prevalent in South Asian culture. The Bible judges all cultures, because it is God’s word for all people. No culture is perfect, and people must change a cultural custom if it does not meet God’s standards.

Cultural behaviours are fine when they have no moral implications; however, if cultural customs lead to morally unacceptable outcomes, like casteism, that will not allow a fellow human being to be treated as an equal, then Christians must speak against it, and work against it. Judging women as less valuable and their wishes invalid, treating daughters as unwanted, or discriminating against them in food, health, education, value and love in the family, is morally unacceptable. Unjust family customs call for change

Jesus as the Example for Cultural Change: Our example, Jesus, rejected much of the culture of His time. Jews did not eat with non-Jews or associate with people they called sinners, but Jesus disobeyed, eating with people said to be unclean (Mark 2:15-17, 14:3, 18-23). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “It was said… but I say to you…” (Matt 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). He was explaining to His followers that they could go against their own culture. It is the task of Christians in each nation to understand the culture and follow Christ in saying graciously, “But I say to you…” All of us can work to change family structures and patterns that damage both families and individuals.

Suicide: South India has a higher rate of suicides per 100,000 people than anywhere else in the world. The four states are estimated to have 50,000 suicides a year, approximately 137 a day. In most of the world, three men commit suicide for every one woman, but research on young people in Tamil Nadu found that two young women commit suicide for every one young man. Suicide was the reason for the death of 50 to 70 per cent of young women who died. An Indian women’s group in London said, “The high instance of suicides among Asian women is linked to abusive practices within Asian families.”

Beulah Wood, a Partner with IS NZ, is an author, editor and lecturer. This article has been excerpted from her latest book, Families in the Plan of God: a Theology for South Asia, which addresses the needs and problems of the South Asian family and culture. For more information please visit the Resources section on our website