In general, the American family has become defused. We still have traditional neuclear families; then we have single parent households, blended families and same-sex parents. There are also some extended and clan families.
One form the “clan” has taken in the US is neighborhoods. While I don’t know that I would call this a norm, it is worth recognizing that there are groups in cities and rrural areas alike, who are built around ethnicity, faith or proximity. These groups function as clans in that they share common values, build relationships and help each other. Some are a little more fluid, in that people come and go. Newcomers can join and will be welcomed. Others are more closed: People are there for life and newcomers are not accepted.
Our need for a clan is great. I am absolutely intrigued by the fact that the neuclear family was not really established until the 1940’s. By the end of the 1960’s, just twenty years later, the divorce rate was at 50%. it has not decreased; in fact, it has increased a bit. One statistic I have heard is that the divorce rate among evangelical christians is 66%. In all fairness, this could simply be because the sample group is smaller, so the numbers will look a bit different. Having said that, it is notable that being in the Church has made little or no difference in the divorce rate.
My interpretation of this is that the neuclear family system is too fragile to withstand the pressures of life, work, children and everyday demands. Couples who have the help of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends fare much better.
The Church needs this. In her book on sacraments, Monica Helwig described church as a community set apart, able to withstand the chaos of the world. Sunday Morning only won’t accomplish this. We must be involved with each other on a much more relational basis.
Even if we start by doing small things, such as calling people or greeting neighbors when we see them, isolation begins to lose its hold on us Fear melts away and we begin to build caring, loving communities. We learn that being known by others is delightful and not shameful; we find that we have time to get everything done because we have encouragement and help.
What is your clan like? What can you do to build and strengthen it?