Marriage & Family

Quick revise

Attitudes have changed towards marriage, divorce and homosexuality

  • Most have sex before marriage. Socially acceptable for people to live together unmarried.
  • Age to get married has increased and not many get married in church.
  • Increase in reconstituted families. Civil partnerships introduced (2004)
  • Divorce now accepted as part of normal life

Reasons for the changes

Cohabitation and Marriage

  • Contraception made sex safer from pregnancy
  • Christianity lost its influence


  • Law made it easier and cheaper to get divorced (1969)
  • More equal rights. Women can no afford to support themselves

Family Life

  • More divorce means more remarriage
  • Social acceptance of unmarried mothers = more single parent families


  • Changes in the law make it easier to be openly homosexual
  • Scientists have shown that homosexuality is probably genetic = not a choice
Family Life

Christians believe

  • Family members must take care of each other.
  • They must bring up children to be good citizens in a loving and caring environment.
  • They must take care of the elderly and sick members of their family.
  • They must take care of each other in good times and in bad.
  • ‘Honour your father and your mother’ (One of the Ten Commandments)
  • ‘If anyone does not take care of his relatives, especially the members of his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ 1 Timothy 5:8
  • ‘Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents always, for that is what pleases God. Parents, do not irritate your children, or they will become discouraged.’ Colossians 3:20-21

If Christians want support in their family life, they might join the Mothers’ Union. You do not have to be a mother – or even a parent – to be part of the Mothers’ Union. They provide:

  • Babysitting for single parents
  • Counselling groups
  • Support for new parents
  • Prayers for families.

Muslims believe

  • Muhammed had a family and Muslims want to follow his example
  • The family is where children learn right from wrong
  • Children are seen as a gift from God
  • Quran states that the family is created by God

Pre-marital sex, adultery and Cohabitation (sex outside marriage)

What do the Churches say?

  • Adultery is banned in the 10 Commandments
  • For Christians, sex (procreation) is an act of love and commitment and should take place within marriage.
  • Many Christians believe that restricting sex within marriage is in the best interests of society, children and the individual.
  • The Roman Catholic church forbids pre-martial sex and sees it as a grave sin. So for a Roman Catholic couple considering marriage cohabitation is not an option. Bible forbids pre-marital sex.
  • Some Christian groups e.g. Protestants, recognise that times have changed and are prepared to accept Cohabitation if the couple intend to marry.

Islam and sex outside marriage

It is wrong because…

  • Quran condemns it.
  • Shari’ah law says sex is only for married couples
  • Sex is to have children who should be raised by a married couple
  • Adultery is condemned in the Quran


Natural methods

  • couple need to be in a long term relationship. Do not prevent STIs
  • Natural Family Planning (NFP) – monitor woman’s fertility cycle so she knows when she is most fertile and so does not have sex on those days.

Artificial methods

  • Many types. Do not need to be in a long term relationship. Some prevent STIs from spreading.
  • Barrier methods e.g. condoms. Stop sperm meeting the egg.
  • Hormonal e.g. the Pill. Stops women from producing an egg.
  • Others e.g. coil or morning after pill prevent fertilised egg attaching to the womb

Catholic Attitude

  • do not accept the use of artificial contraception because it would prevent the act of sexual love being open to new life.  Allow NFP.
  • Casti Connubii (1930) banned Catholics from using artificial contraception
  • 1951 – Pope Pius XII says Catholics can use natural contraception

Non-Catholic Christians

  • Allow all contraceptives as long as they are to limit the family size.
  • Christian’s who accept the use of contraception in marriage argue that there is nothing written in the Bible forbidding it.
  • The Church of England accepts the use of all forms of contraception by a married couple and it allows the couple the chance to enjoy sexual love but choose the best timing, and size, of their family.

Muslim attitudes


  • ‘Do not kill your children for fear of want.’ Quran
  • Sex is for procreation (contraception stops this from happening)
  • Some contraceptives abort the foetus (seen as murder and not allowed)
  • Muslim duty is to have a large family


  • Teaching of ‘coitus interruptus’ Muhammed
  • God would not want his followers burdened (a large family would be one)
  • If woman knows she will die if she gets pregnant then it could be classed as suicide

Muslim lawyers state that abortion is different to contraception


Christian attitude to Marriage

Christians believe marriage was part of God’s plan from the start

  • ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife and they become one.’ Genesis 2:24 
  • Jesus confirms this teaching in Mark chapter 10.
  • Married love needs to be a reflection of God’s love, which is permanent, life-giving and faithful. In the same way, couples need to stay together, to have children (if possible) and to remain exclusive to each other.
  • Christians believe that marriage is the correct environment for sexual relationships.
Hindu attitudes to Marriage
  • Marriage marks the transition between two stages of life that of the student and the householder.
  • Marriage is viewed as being for life and as being a religious or spiritual event.
  • Traditionally couples have been of the same varna and marriages arranged, often through consulting horoscopes.
  • It is increasingly common (especially in UK) for couples to find their own partner.
  • ‘Let man and woman, united in marriage, constantly exert themselves, that they may not be disunited and may not violate their mutual fidelity.’ (Laws of Manu, 9:102)
The Purpose of Marriage (Hinduism)

Marriage is viewed as a Gift from God which serves the following purposes.

  • To allow the couple to have sex.
  • To join two families together.
  • To allow the couple to share love & each other’s company.
  • To produce children.
  • To enable fulfillment of the householder stage of life.
The Hindu Marriage Ceremony

As with all aspects of Hinduism, marriages can be diverse.

  • All Hindu weddings are carried out by a priest.
  • The bridegroom and his family come to the bride’s house and are welcomed.
  • A silk cloth is held between the couple by the priest and various songs of blessing are sung as the guests throw rice over the couple.
  • The father gives his daughter to the groom asking him to live a good life in dharma (his moral duty), artha (the earning of money) and kama (the enjoyment of life).
  • The groom’s mother gives a gift to the bride.
  • Prayers are said as the groom offers gifts to the sacred fire (Havan) to encourage fertility.
  • The vows are taken. ‘I hold your hand in the spirit of dharma- we are both husband and wife.’
  • The bride steps on a stone to represent the stability which marriage will bring to their lives.
  • The couple take seven steps around the Havan as laid down in the Law of Manu. The first step is for food, the second for strength, the third for wealth, the fourth for happiness, the fifth for children, the sixth for sustenance and the seventh for unity.
  • The couple look at the sun (or the pole star at night) to be blessed.
  • The couple receive blessings from the priest.
Breakdown of Marriage

Marriages break down for a variety of reasons.

  • Money problems
  • Infidelity
  • Unemployment
  • Incompatibility
  • Cruelty

All Christians accept that it is sometimes necessary for marriages to break up when they cannot be fixed – this is known as ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’.

Christians can turn to organisations such as ‘Marriage Care’.

  • They offer guidance for couples who are planning to get married
  • They also provide help, support and counselling to those who are having difficulties in their relationships.

Christian beliefs

  • Christians recognise that not all marriages work and that some people will want to end their marriages. (Jesus allows it for divorce so he recognises some situations are severe enough for divorce)
  • Some orthodox Christians and liberal Protestants will permit divorce if they think it is the most loving thing to do. (Choose the lesser of two evils, better to divorce than live in hatred)

Roman Catholic Church

  • Does not accept divorce. (Jesus said it was wrong in Mark’s Gospel)
  • If a marriage has broken down, the couple can live apart but they must remain celibate and never into a sexual relationship with anyone else. That would be adultery (banned in 10 Cs)
  • In few cases they are permitted to have an annulment.

Muslim attitudes


  • ‘The most hated of all lawful things.’ Muhammed
  • Lots of family pressure due to many marriages being arranged
  • On the Last Day Muslims judged on how they treated their children (divorce harms children)


  • Quran and Shari’ah law allows divorce
  • It is the ‘lesser of two evils’
  • Marriage is a contract with clauses outlining what happens in divorce

Hindu attitudes

Hinduism disapproves of divorce. It can be considered as a stigma socially and the more traditional a Hindu the less likely they are to divorce or re-marry.

One of the Laws of Manu teaches that a wife must respect even an unfaithful husband.

Despite this the number of divorces both in India and in Hindu communities in the UK is increasing.

However, divorce is permissible if there is cruelty or if after 15 years of marriage no children have been produced.

  • The Roman Catholic Church does not allow remarriage.
  • The Church of England teaches that marriage is for life. If someone wants to remarry, it is allowed at the priest or vicar’s discretion – for example if that person’s previous partner was unfaithful.
  • Some other Protestant Churches believe that it is not death that ends a marriage but the death of the love between the couple.
  • The Roman Catholic Church allows annulment in certain cases.
  • Annulment is a statement that the marriage never took place – the vows were not meant.
  • For example, if the couple intended not to have children and used contraception, or if one member of the partnership did not understand the vows.


Christian teachings

  • Catholic attitude
    • only homosexual RELATIONSHIPS are a sin. Homosexuals should be celibate. Condemns homophobia.
    • The Bible forbids same sex relationships. (Leviticus 18:22)
    • Everyone is a child of God.
  • Evangelical Protestants
    • Homosexuality is a SIN. Hold prayer meetings to cure homosexuals.
    • Romans 1:26-8 says that those who do unnatural things with someone of the same sex will be punished.
    • Believe that Christ can remove all sins including homosexuality
  • Liberal Protestant attitude
    • Lifelong homosexual relationships are acceptable and welcomed. Priests can be homosexual but must be celibate.
    • Jesus’ teachings focused on love, so should be accepted
    • Bible needs to be reinterpreted for today’s society

Muslim teachings


  • Condemned in the Quran and by Muhammed
  • Only form of lawful sex is between a married man and woman
  • Sex is to reproduce. Can’t happen in a homosexual relationship


  • Islam is a religion of tolerance
  • All God’s creation.
  • People are born homosexual. God obviously wanted them to be this way.



Question 1

“It does not matter where Christians get married, it is the ceremony that is important.” - Do you agree?

Give reasons for your answer, showing that you have thought about different points of view.



  • The wedding is just for a day, the vows are for life.
  • God is everywhere so the vows can be made in his eyes wherever you are.


  • A church is the appropriate place for a wedding as it is God’s house.
  • Marriage is a sign that God is a part of the relationship and so it should be in the setting of a church.

Question 2

Give two reasons why a couple might not be allowed to get married in a church.

  • One or both of them might be divorced
  • They might be too closely related
  • They might be a homosexual couple
  • They might not be Christians
Question 3

Explain how the wedding vows might affect the life of a couple.

  • They might take time to remember their vows in difficult circumstances.
  • They don’t believe in divorce and so would try hard to remain together.
  • They would remember that they said they would be open to children.
  • They might reflect on what it means to love within a marriage.
Question 4

Describe what Jesus taught about divorce.

  • In Mark Jesus says no divorce is allowed
  • In Matthew divorce is allowed in the case of adultery.