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These principles of the empowerment process involve serving and being served. They are built on a foundation of unconditional love and commitment, operate most successfully in an atmosphere of acceptance and forgiving grace, and result in intimacy through deep knowledge of and communication with one another. People who have been empowered have a competence and self-esteem they can share both in the family and with their community, society, and the world at large.

Once again, God’s covenant serves as an analogy. Unconditional faithfulness and love form the foundation. Even though we deserve the consequence of our failure and sin, God offers grace and forgiveness when we fail to meet expectations. Moreover, God provides the Holy Spirit to encourage, empower, and enable us to live according to the law so that the blessing may be ours. Finally, our hope of intimacy and relationship with the Almighty One renews and revitalizes us. As we grow in this circle of covenant, grace, empowerment, and intimacy, we experience a deeper and more intense level of God’s love and of our love for one another. And so does the love within a family deepen as its members implement the empowerment process.

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Family Spirituality Nurturing Christian Beliefs, Morals,

and Values

In traditional family systems, grandparents played a central role in the spiritual development of the young. The decline of an extended (three- generation) family system changed that, leaving the isolated nuclear family solely responsible for spiritual formation. For the most part, busy modern families have relinquished to other institutions (church and school) the responsibility of teaching moral beliefs and values to their children. Without question, social institutions play a vital role in inculcating values, yet parents are the ones who are directed to “train children in the right way” (Prov. 22:6). We believe spiritual formation begins in the home through everyday interaction practices and patterns of modeling that occur in day-to-day living.

The sometimes-conflicted understanding of education regarding values is described as secondary socialization by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1966). Berger and Luckmann describe how the family is the primary socialization context for children, meaning that children learn values and morals in the family. These values and morals are oriented toward filling important roles in the community. Secondary socialization occurs when children are sent to institutions like schools for education. In modern and postmodern cultures, education is highly valued and inculcates the morals of the dominant culture. Often these dominant values are at odds with the worldviews of families and communities.

The family is indispensable when it comes to building character. How parents live out their faith in the context of the family relationship has an enormous impact. Ideas about how to facilitate this can be found in Sacred



Matters: Religion and Spirituality in Families by Burr, Marks, and Day (2012).

In this chapter, we use the term family spirituality as an umbrella concept to refer to all the ways family members cultivate an understanding of biblical truth, moral beliefs, and values in children. Family spirituality forms the value, moral and ethical, and characterological core of one’s identity. Moral values are based on underlying beliefs concerning right and wrong. Ideally, the internal formation of becoming Christlike is manifested in attitudes and behavior that are truly transformative. Although the word faith can refer to one’s religion, we use it to refer to a personal relationship to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We begin this chapter with a discussion of moral and faith development, using trinitarian concepts as a model for family interaction, and we conclude with an examination of family spirituality as an essential aspect of faith communities.

Moral Development Building on Piaget’s assumption that children reason differently at different stages of development, Lawrence Kohlberg (1963) suggests that moral development is best understood in an analogous way (see table 5 in chap. 7 above). During early childhood, moral decisions are made in terms of obedience and punishment. The child obeys rules because to disobey results in punishment. The second stage of moral decision-making—individualism and exchange—is slightly refined as the child becomes aware of his or her own individual needs as well as the self-interests of every other family member. A sense of fairness accompanies this realization, and the child is motivated to make moral decisions that show impartiality to each person involved. The capacity to think more abstractly in early adolescence moves one toward the interpersonal relationships stage. During this third stage, personal intentions and character traits are taken into consideration in terms of how they affect the relationship when one makes decisions. The fourth stage of moral development involves maintaining social order. Now a person comprehends the more complex way that moral judgments maintain social order through laws and societal responsibility. This more abstract understanding emphasizes the fact that laws exist to serve a greater social order.



However, in the next stage—social contract and individual rights—the person recognizes that social order does not always equal societal goodness. Therefore, one searches for a criterion higher than the existing social order when making moral decisions. At this point, a person moves on to the highest level of moral reasoning—the universal principles stage. Here all people are valued equally, and therefore one bases moral judgment on the principle of the greatest good for the most people. This is known as utilitarianism.

It is clear that Kohlberg’s major focus is the form of a person’s moral reasoning, not the content. His model is epigenetic in that the sequence of moral development moves forward through these stages, never skipping a stage or reverting to an earlier stage. Although stages of moral development might approximate chronological age, Kohlberg acknowledges that it is possible to “get stuck” in a specific stage of moral development and never move forward. Therefore, he reasons, only a small minority reaches the more advanced stages of moral reasoning. This model has been criticized for neglecting the research findings that females tend to make moral decisions more from a personal context rather than simply in consideration of rights and justice. In light of this, some social scientists are interested in getting beyond a cognitive approach by looking at the importance of moral identity —one’s self-identity as a morally responsible person.

The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence (Roehilkepartain et al. 2005) proposes that moral identity is formed by social influence and most importantly through relationships with others. The authors insist that moral development is not merely a reflection of cognitive ability but primarily the result of a personal relationship. These personal relationships or identifications with moral exemplars—individuals who devote their lives to bettering society—form the basis of moral identity. Moral exemplars can be famous people, such as Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King Jr., or simply people who have forsaken personal ambitions to devote their lives to the good of others. The inspirational stories of moral exemplars tell of life-changing experiences, such as serving the poor, that have transformed them (Reimer 2003). While cognitive development is certainly an important dimension of moral decision-making, the role of moral identity has a profound personal impact on a person. Having a relationship with a person of strong moral character is a transformative experience in and of itself.



Therefore, we conclude that a holistic understanding of moral development includes content, cognitive reasoning, and relationships with moral exemplars. What is important for family spirituality is that values, norms, and rules be based on biblical truths and lived out in family relationships.

We would argue that family spirituality fosters what we earlier described as differentiation in Christ (DifC) (see “Differentiated Unity: Becoming One and Retaining Uniqueness” in chap. 4). DifC emphasizes that Christians’ authentic identity comes from one’s relationship to Christ. This identity base is the bedrock from which all behaviors and relationships are built. In other words, DifC forms the basis of identity- or values-based action. Core values and meaning-making are the center of one’s identity. DifC provides the value- and-meaning system upon which one engages in value-based action. There will be more on this below.

Faith Development In his classic work, James Fowler (1981) brings cognitive development theory to his “faith process” mode. He argues that faith is always relational. There is always someone to trust in or be loyal to. Faith, according to Fowler, is an epistemological process—a way of knowing. It is a covenantal relationship between an individual, or meaning-making community, and the transcendent Other. It is important to note that Fowler squarely relates the capacity to have faith to the bonding process between parent and child:

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