Beyond Religious Rigidities: Religious Firmness and Religious Flexibility as Complementary Loyalties in Faith Transmission
Definition of Terms
2. Review of the Literature
2.1. Intergenerational Transmission of Religion
2.2. Parenting Styles
2.3. Family Processes
3.3. Coding Process
4.1. Theme 1: Firmness and Flexibility in Religious Family Practices
Faith, a Catholic mother, also shared how rituals have benefited her family:We [picked] a “family scripture” [verse]. ... We used it, and we read it together every Monday night, and it would kind of help the [kids], as they went into the teenage years, with all the challenges that were there, all the challenges that are out there for kids. [The family verse] had “watch” and “pray” in it, and it really helped strengthen our children and our family.
Calvin, an African American, Baptist father, shared his stance on Sunday rituals when he said,We pray together as a family. Martin is so good about [praying] at bedtime. [He] has never missed a night, praying with the children, the boys in their room, because they’re in the same room, and then the girls. I think for them it’s routine. And for them, [those prayers mean] being a part of the family. I think that evens their day out. It’s something they’ve learned to expect, and that Daddy’s always going to be there, or Momma, to get that constancy, that consistency too.
Manuela, a Latina, Lutheran mother, shared her view on church attendance:Yes, first of all, it’s just going to church on Sundays. I mean, I think that’s a practice that my family has and it’s important. I think it’s important for my kids. [Now] there are Sundays when they don’t want to go, [but still] I said, “We have to, you have to go to church.” I mean, that’s just a practice of this family.
Charlotte, a Presbyterian mother, shared a similar story:One thing we’ve tried to do, [we’ve taught our kids], “As long as you live under our roof, you will go to church with us.” If not every single week, then absolutely, as much as possible. [That is how] we grew up. There comes a time when you move out of the house or you’re away from home, where you are going to stray, more than likely. You’re not going to go to church, but our feeling is that if we have instilled it in them for 18 or 19 years, they may stray, but they’re going to go back. ... They’re going to [come] back ... [and when they do], it will be there. They’ll know that it’s important for their family, to do the same thing.
These accounts, especially the italicized portions, illustrate firmness in religious rituals and/or observance. Next we will discuss flexibility in connection with family-level religious practices.[One of the kids] made a comment a lot about, “How come we have to go to church? None of my other friends do. Why are we the only ones?” Which we’re not. What do I say? “Because that’s what we do. We’re going to church and you’ll be better off for it. So, get out of bed [and] get in the car.”
And because we’re tired on Friday night, we don’t get to synagogue as much as we want to. And, because of other time commitments, there’s just never enough time to do as much as maybe we should for the Jewish community.
[E]specially when kids were younger ... we tried to hold (family home evening) once a week… [W]e would discuss Scriptures, principles, play a game or two, sing a few hymns, have a [treat]… I think we were pretty consistent when the kids were small, [but] we didn’t do as well as the kids got older ... [but] we were pretty consistent ... [but those were] not quite as rigidly structured as the Sunday worship service.
I’m a strong believer in [being sensitive to] circumstances... [W]hen I was younger and I had ... our babies, the time I could spend in the ministry was nothing like what I can do now. And I feel that there are many families with different circumstances. So what we excel in now, maybe ten years ago I didn’t have that luxury to excel in.... So, it changes all the time.
This family was consistent in their family practice of studying scriptures, but they were also flexible as a family on how, when, and where the study was done.We usually [read our scriptures together] in the evening and we’re either around the table or in the family room or living room, wherever we happen to be, wherever most people happen to be at the moment. And partly, we do that on purpose because we want them to feel like anywhere you go, you can read scriptures. You don’t need to go and sit at the table or do a certain thing and when we read it, we have each person read however many verses we’re going to read. Right now, we went through reading a chapter at a time and I found that we weren’t really learning much, so what we do now is we [have each family member read] two scripture [verses] each.
For Banafsha’s family, prayer is non-negotiable, but where and (with some latitude) when the prayer takes place is negotiable. Ariella, a Conservative Jewish mother, shared a similar experience about her children’s desire to perform their family sacred rituals. She said,We don’t want to delay the prayer of anybody. If they are studying, they can pray in their room and keep studying [and] not wait for the other ones because you see, we wash up before we pray. So, that was a reason, we didn`t want to make it hard for anybody. But I think that the good thing was when you go to anybody`s room, it`s time for prayer, they either have already prayed, or they are praying.
As was the case in most of the Jewish families we interviewed (Marks et al. 2017), children in Ariella’s family made it clear that some degree of consistency and predictability in religious rituals is important. Of course, when those children are older they may call on their parents to provide greater flexibility in timing and length of religious rituals if the rituals begin to compete with other valued activities in youth’s lives.We do the same rituals for our holidays and all our Sabbath activities and you know, a lot of times we have to nag them and pull them into things, but if we DON’T do something or if something is missed or if we say, “We are not going to do Shabbat,” [then] they say, “What do you mean we’re not doing it!?” [with animation] ... They’ll get mad that we don’t do it. They’re upset because it’s not the way it usually is. They get upset if we don’t hallow [the Sabbath]. It’s very interesting. Sometimes they act like we are annoying them by dragging them through the ritual but if we don’t have it there for them they get upset by it.... The religion provides a lot of strength and comfort and structure.
4.2. Theme 2: Firmness and Flexibility in Religious Beliefs
And the law we follow, as the Bible says, is “Honor thy father and thy Mother.” And I truly believe that. If you have sassy kids, don’t bring them around me because I’m not going to play.... You will treat my household as such. We are not going to change.... You are going to abide by the rules or you are not going to come in here.
Our religious beliefs—everything we chose; who our kids were allowed to play with ... where they were allowed to go, what they were allowed to partake of, what churches they could go to, who they could affiliate with. Every aspect of life was guided by our faith.
“You know, for your own security, you probably should remove your Hijab, and the girls should remove their Hijab [veil, covering].” And I think that, gaining strength from my religious beliefs, I said, “No, I’m not going to.” People have to realize I am Muslim.
Deshi: One tenth offering is not a problem in our church. We should do according to God’s words. Our faith is in God.
Jing: It is God’s grace for me to find this job. The one-tenth money is the most meaningful because it is used for God’s work.
I have a problem with gender roles [in] religion in general, so I ignore them. I don’t abide by them or whatever. Like in Orthodox [Judaism], I’m often, not offended, but it’s just that I don’t agree with the idea of having women and men separated during ceremonies. Women are not allowed on the bemah [podium from which Torah is read] and you can’t listen to a woman’s solo voice and I just don’t believe in that part of it.
Li-Fens’s argument for circumstantial flexibility resonates with Hareven and Trepagnier (2000) scholarly position that allowances should be made for the life course.We offer money at church. We all know how we should do, everyone should tithe. But this proportion should be flexible rather than fixed because the condition[s] of families are different. Those families which are in difficulties should adjust.
I certainly grew up saying God the Father [but now] there are lots of people at Grace [cathedral] who say “She” instead of “He,” and to me those words don’t mean enough that I care. I could see, I can see imagery of God as, you know, Father, Protector, Mother, Nurturer, Wind, Life. I don’t need an attachment, but I don’t object to it. So when somebody says [about] God, “He,” that doesn’t bother me.
I do primarily look to the religion; however, I look into the secular things to the extent that if it’s going to help me understand the situation we are up against [then I’ll use it].... I look at [secular materials] to see how people think.
I would read both. I would give more weight to what was said in the religious publication but I would read a lot everywhere, hoping to find [useful information]. With the kids, for example, if there’s a problem, I certainly will read the church [sources], but I’ll read other things as well.
Sometimes we even, we have tradeoffs between whether we want to have a religious view of something or have a cultural view of something. [However], for our family, the religious view is the view that we consider first. I would say it is the priority.
Teaching Sunday school to the older kids, you don’t have to take the Bible literally. The Bible ... guides us and we need to use it as such, but [we do] not [have] to live literally by it only, because with translations, things can get translated differently.
In some places [in the Bible] it says, “Above all things you should do this.” And I think some people would interpret that [as meaning ‘Do this,] even at the cost of your family.’ Like, ‘You have to go here, even if your family will not go with you,’ or ‘[Even] if this will cause major problems in your family [do it anyway].’ I wouldn’t think that God would want that to happen, but to a certain extent, depending upon your family, I would think [you need to be more flexible than that].
5.1. Firmness and Flexibility as Complementary Loyalties
a delicate balance of a firm, grounded base coupled with the flowing gentle movement of breath work together to steady the body and the mind. Too much firmness and we become like tin soldiers, easily brought down by the slightest knock or wind. Too much flexibility and we easily lose the pose or more likely, have difficulty finding the pose in the first place. If we hold too firmly to the goal of achieving a certain outcome, it will almost always elude us. Much like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. Conversely, if we are too flexible we may allow ourselves to get carried away by distractions.(Carol Le Blanc, personal communication, 02/14/2019)
5.3. Future Research: Beyond Religious Rigidities
Conflicts of Interest
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|Themes||Religious Firmness||Religious Flexibility||Integrated Firmness and Flexibility|
|Religious Family Practices||Firmness in regular worship (e.g., attend worship services weekly)||Flexibility in regular worship (e.g., go to church some weeks if convenient, engage in weekly rituals when convenient)||Consistent and firm in worship or other rituals. Some flexibility depending on situation (e.g., modify ritual to fit your children’s needs but still carry it out)|
|Religious Beliefs||Firmness in beliefs about church doctrine or practices||Flexible in beliefs and have unorthodox interpretations of many/some doctrines and practices||Know and seek to honor the religion’s beliefs and practices but with adaptations that allow religion to work for them and their family|
|Themes||Religious Firmness 335||Religious Flexibility 121||Integrated Firmness and Flexibility 61|
|Religious Practices||101 (17.4)||62 (25.1)||29 (22.8)|
|Religious Beliefs||234 (40.2)||59 (23.9)||32 (25.2)|
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Dollahite, D.C.; Marks, L.D.; Babcock, K.P.; Barrow, B.H.; Rose, A.H. Beyond Religious Rigidities: Religious Firmness and Religious Flexibility as Complementary Loyalties in Faith Transmission. Religions 2019, 10, 111. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020111
Dollahite DC, Marks LD, Babcock KP, Barrow BH, Rose AH. Beyond Religious Rigidities: Religious Firmness and Religious Flexibility as Complementary Loyalties in Faith Transmission. Religions. 2019; 10(2):111. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020111Chicago/Turabian Style
Dollahite, David C., Loren D. Marks, Kate P. Babcock, Betsy H. Barrow, and Andrew H. Rose. 2019. "Beyond Religious Rigidities: Religious Firmness and Religious Flexibility as Complementary Loyalties in Faith Transmission" Religions 10, no. 2: 111. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10020111