Structural Change of Chinese Family Observed by a Christian Writer

By CCD contributor: Li Daonan, December 01, 2016 02:12 AM

File Photo(Pixabay)

Fourteen years ago in 2002, a murder occurred in Zhaoyuan city of Shandong province. A man killed his daughter and son-in-law. The couple was in the USA and the daughter was a student. The man asked them to buy a house and provide money for his own son. The couple couldn't afford it. The man killed them when they were sleeping.

The case shows the traditional family structure in China in an extreme way, which is the authoritarian patriarchal structure. Four generations living together is the ideal model of the structure. In this kind of family, a male like father would be the only authority. The eldest son presides over the family affairs.

Ba Jin, a famous Chinese writer in the modern times wrote about the story of young people's rebellion against the authoritarian patriarchal family in his book The Family, Spring and Autumn .

The production efficiency was low in the history of China. Nowadays the amount of material resources we produce per day has exceeded that of several decades compared with the past. Disasters like drought, flood and famine were still in the memory of many aged Chinese.

Faced with limited resources and huge population, the conflict among family members was doomed to arise. The most efficient way to allocate the limited resources and eliminate the conflict is the authoritarian patriarchal structure.

In order to gain resources, people would work in groups. However, authority matters most in the allocation of resources because it can avoid competition inside the group. The group linked by blood relationship is less likely to separate from each other. So our Chinese like living and playing with family members. When we want to have a good relationship with others, we also like simulating kinship with them.

The tradition of authoritarian patriarchal structure is hard to be changed. Nowadays the government still favors the tradition when making laws. The court also tends to support the parents' interests when judging some cases.  Children and parents don't have the equal rights.

 In fact, the conflict between parents and children has never stopped. The struggle against the authoritarian family serves as teaching material by negative example. However, if the external environment does not change, the authoritarian patriarchal family structure won't change.

 With the development of modern industry, the wealth of our society has gained a lot and the lack of resources has been worked out. The original distribution model is doomed to be replaced. The parents will not easily give up the authority.

In Matthew 12: 46-50 When Jesus spoke to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside and wanted to talk with him. He stretched out his hand to his disciples, and said they were his mother and brothers. They do the will of his Father in the heaven.

The traditional Jewish family also applies authoritarian patriarchal model. Jesus made a demonstration showing that every individual has specific power and obligations inside the family. The authoritarian family model emphasizes the obedience of the children and ignores their rights.

Jesus tells us to face God as an individual so that our independent personality can be established. We shouldn't believe in God just because Abraham, Isaac, or Kind David believed him. We should never believe in God just according to our fathers' will. Christianity is a personal belief. Jesus said that we should worship him with a genuine heart and seek independent religious belief.

 In Matthew 19: 16-22, a young man came to Jesus and said: "My goodness, what could I do to achieve eternal life? "Jesus said to him: " I am not the goodness. God is the only goodness. If you want to have eternal life, you should observe the commandments in the Bible. Don't murder, commit adultery or steal. Don't make false testimony. You should honor your parents and love others as yourself.

And the young man said he has controlled his own behavior according to the commandments all above. He asked what else he could do. Jesus told him to sell his properties and give out his money to the poor. Jesus told the young man that he would have treasure in the heaven if he did so and followed Jesus. The young man left with sorrow because he was rich.

The story tells us that we should be independent financially. The young man is rich because of his parents. However, when Jesus asked him to give out his money to the poor, he hesitated. His wealth is inherited from his parents. Jesus wanted him to be independent from his parents and return to the arms of God.

 It is difficult to separate from an authoritarian family. We have to pay a high price. So Jesus said in Matthew 10:36 that man's enemies were family members. We could see how intense the struggle between the individual and the authoritarian family was.

 Jesus did not neglect his obligation to support his parents. When he was crucified, he also entrusted his mother to the disciples he trusted.

 Jesus has proposed a totally different concept of filial piety, which is built on the equality between parents and children. They are equal in front of God.

The concept of Jesus can only be fulfilled today. The biggest problem we are facing today is no longer the crisis of living, but the individual development is. We always consider a lot about our development and how to live a better life.

The city is now open to all individuals. So people in the rural area could find many ways to earn bread in the city.

A rural family no longer relies on the amount of labor force. Not everyone in the family has to be a farmer. They could feed a family in different ways instead of waiting for a harvest.

The redistribution of wealth is no longer decided by authoritarian parents. The industrial civilization and the modern market provide equal transactions among family members. The habit of several generations living together was broken up. People tend to live in small groups with an economic core.

The history is evolving according to Jesus' teaching and predictions. There are still many obstacles in the development of the history such as authoritarian patriarchal structure. The authoritarian family no longer exists while the authoritarian parents can be seen everywhere. Some parents force their children to attend the test of civil servants. Some children were forced into a marriage. Some women would beat their daughter-in-law.

The struggle against authoritarian patriarchy is a long way to go. Economic and spiritual independence are key factors. It's observed that Christians are struggling getting rid of the ruling of authoritarian patriarchal family and the patriarchal church, since both of them are against the teaching of Jesus.

Translated By: Emma Ma

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