Christian approaches refer to how Christians view and handle issues of human sexuality, marriage and the family in accordance with Christians ethics. Through marriage, the family is formed.


A) Human sexuality.

This is a sacred gift from God. It was given to Adam and Eve. Human sexuality is that which makes us male or female. It is our biological or physiological differences associated with the state of being male or female. It is part of our biological make up. Males and female have different body structures, features, appearances and biological characteristics. In terms of physical strength more men are stronger than females. Besides the biological make up, we have an emotional side, which includes our attitudes, and feelings. Females are said to be more emotional and talkative than males. Human sexuality is also in our brain and mind and it is what makes us human beings. If you look at animals they also have different physiological features based on sexual differences

B) Christian teaching on human sexuality.

Males and females are God’s creation. Men and women were created for many reasons. These are (1) to be fruitful and to multiply; and (2) for companionship. In Genesis we learn that men and women share the image of God because God intended man and woman to play complementary roles and both are equal before God.

Sex in marriage is a sign of love and it is sacred. In marriage man / and woman become one flesh. Both of them have the ability to control their sexual desires. Christian teaching forbids: sex before marriage, adultery or unfaithfulness, and other unnatural sexual behaviors like lesbianism, homosexuality or being gay, and incest. God created human body and it is to be kept holy. Chastity is encouraged while unfaithfulness in marriage is discouraged. Husbands / wives are to respect one another and give to each other in mutual love.

C) Traditional African understanding of human sexuality.

Human sexuality is highly valued in traditional African communities. It is understood in terms of marriage and parenthood. Procreation was the sole purpose of sex. Sex was to be practiced in marriage and it was regarded as another sacred duty.

Adultery was discouraged and offenders punished.

Irresponsible sexual relationships were forbidden. Virginity before marriage was highly valued. If a girl lost her virginity before marriage, she was treated with scorn and punishment. If a boy impregnating a girl, he was fined.

In traditional African society it was a taboo to discuss openly sex matters. Grandparents taught sex education to their grandchildren. Sex education was taught during initiation stages. Free mixing of girls and boys was not allowed except under supervision. Girls were married off immediately after initiation to avoid temptation of engaging in pre-marital sex. To reinforce self – discipline in relationships between the opposite sexes the African traditional society instilled the fear of supernatural curses through myths, marital status. Husbands and wives were expected to relate to each other, their parents, and in laws according to the community customs. Conflicts between a husband and a wife were resolved through intervention of relatives.

D) Gender roles

There are specific chores and duties for either male or female in African traditional societies. Roles were therefore according to gender. Boys went hunting, herding, while girls fetched firewood, and helped in cooking. At an early age, girls and boys would mix freely as they played together. Mature boys and girls however, were restricted from mixing freely witho-ut supervision by elders. But there was gender identification. The boys identified with their fathers and other male adults, while girls identified themselves with their mother and other female adults. Education. Children belonged to the community and not just to their biological parents. At the adolescent stage; 13 – 18 years education was given to the adolescents and intensified at initiation stage. Boys and girls were taught traditional rules and secrets of the society during initiation. Learning was informal. Knowledge was communicated through songs, stories and riddles among other forms of presentations. All adults acted as parents to the young ones.


Men were socialized to be superior, while women were socialized to accept their subordinate position and role. Everyone knew and accepted what he/she was culturally supposed to do.

Division of labor was based on sex. In the African communities, despite their differences, there were many common customary roles, rules, regulations, taboos and beliefs that governed the practices related to male – female relationships from early childhood to old age. These traditional African practices relating to male – female relationships existed at various levels. In all of them, man held superior positions when compared to those of women.


Old women and men were accorded respect. They were consulted for advice and counsel. Kinship system was emphasized.

E) Christian teaching on male- female relationships.

We learn that the husband is the head of the house and should love his wife like Christ loved the church. Once a wife is loved, she should submit to her husband. We also learn that both male and female are equal and co – creators with God. Adam and Eve were created to complement each other. Likewise men and women should love each other. Jesus taught that each man should have one wife and vice versa. Once married, the husbands’ body belongs to the wife and hers belong to him. If that is the case, wife and husband should avoid immorality.

Males and females are to relate freely. But the youth are to avoid the passions of youth. These are sexual sins. There are no specific chores or duties for either male or female. Relationship between sexes should be governed by love, chastity, respect, self-control, and self-discipline. Parents are to love their children, while children are to obey and honor their parents. Parents are asked to bring up their children in a Godly way.


A) Christian teaching on responsible human sexuality.

Christianity teaches us about responsible sexual behavior. Being respon-sible means that one is exercising self control or self-discipline in matters of sexual behavior. Self-discipline is necessary when we have a relationship with the opposite sex (Read, 1 Cor.7: 9 1 Peter 5:8). It is called responsible sexual behavior, which is obedience to God’s commands.

Christians promote healthy social relationship between boys and girls, men and women, and husbands and wives. Responsible sex is between male and female. Sexual intercourse is allowed only between married couples (1 Cor.7: 3 – 5). Married couples are obliged to be sexually faithful to one another

(Heb.13: 4) adultery is condemned (exodus 25:14). Relationship between a husband / wife should be one of respect faithfulness, love, care, mercy, submission, tolerance, and forgiveness

B) Christian teaching on irresponsible sexual behavior.

There is much irresponsible sexual behaviour.

They include among others all acts and forms of: perversion, misuse, and abuse of sex, incest, rape, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, lesbianism or gay, prostitution, concubine, masturbation, bestiality and child marriages among others. These irresponsible sexual behaviors are against God’s will for humanity. Christians are to shun irresponsible sexual behavior. This is because their bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Thus whatever Christians do with their bodies, it should be for the glory of God.

Let us now discuss in brief some of the irresponsible sexual behavior; beginning with

i) Incest

-Which is a sexual relationship between people who are closely related by blood. For example, sex between a brother/sister, father / daughter. Incest is condemned in the Bible. It was punishable by death in the Old Testament. Read Leviticus 18:6 – 8.

ii) Rape

. Rape cannot be justified and it is condemned in The Bible. Rape is an act of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse without his or her consent. It is sexual violence and a crime against humanity. It is also a denial, and a violation of human rights of the victims who are sexually assaulted.

Victims of rape include boys, men, girls, women, and babies especially girls.

Rape is an expression of hatred toward the opposite sex. In traditional African society rape was abhorred and culprits were punished by death. In Kenya rape is punishable by 20 years imprisonment.

Indecent assaults or sexual abuses such as touching a person of the opposite sex without their permission or use of vulgar language are both punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.

iii. Fornication.

This is consensual sexual intercourse between unmarried people. It is condemned by both African and Christian teachings and punishment in African traditional society was by either payment of fines, stoning, and ritual cleansing. In the Old Testament, men were forced to marry the girl.

Jesus said that fornication was due to people’s evil thoughts. Abstinence for the youth is encouraged and preached.

Why do the youth engage in pre – marital sex? There are several reasons. Some of them are: sexual curiosity, proving manhood, human weakness, lack of self control, testing fertility, fear of being jilted / rejected; commercial sex for money; copying acts in the print and electronic media. Others reasons are frustrations, drug abuse, bribe to get a job, and permissiveness in the society.

iv) Adultery

– Is committed by adults who have extra marital affairs; between “married partner and another party”. Adultery is having sex outside marriage with a person with whom one is not married to.

Adultery is caused by lack of self – control, sexual dissatisfaction, and long periods of wife and husband separation, sexual dysfunction and vengeance by an initially faithful spouse who wants to be even with the unfaithful spouse.

v) Prostitution.

This is the practice of giving sexual pleasure for money or other material benefits. A prostitute can either be male or female. Prostitutes are referred to as commercial – sex workers.

Why is there prostitution? There are factors leading to prostitution. These are economic reasons such as unemployment, poverty, rejection of a girl at home, drug abuse, stress, anger, anxiety, frustrations in the family and pornography. The church condemns prostitution because it defiles the body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s sexual immorality. Read Gal 5: 19 – 21.

vi) Homosexuality/ Gay/ Lesbianism.

This is sex between people of the same sex for example; man and man (homosexuality), woman and woman (lesbianism). Homosexuality is a common practice in modern world. It is also a church problem. The Anglican Church in USA, and Canada have accepted homosexuality. The Anglican Church has gay bishops. African Anglican churches are opposing this practice.

What makes people prefer sex with the same sex? The Christian view is that homosexuality is a sign of a lack of Christian moral values. It may also be due to confinement in a prison and permissiveness in society. If it is allowed to continue, it shall disintegrate traditional African values. Because of its threat to God’s people, the Church condemns homosexuality. Other reasons for condemning it is because (1) God created a male and a female. Read, Genesis 1:28. Two, sex is sacred. Homosexuality is an unnatural relationship, which lowers human dignity. It does not provide sexual fulfillment (as traditionally).

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya.

Vii. sexually transmitted Diseases (STDs)

There are many diseases passed from one person to the other through sex. These are gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes genitalis is, hepatitis B, Chlamydia, trichonomiasis, HIV/AIDS. Let’s discuss them one by one. HIV / AIDS, This is human immune deficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) condition. Syndrome refers to many symptoms. HIV is transmitted largely through sex with an infected partner; through blood transfusion; sharing sharp objects with infected persons; and from an infected mother to the unborn child. The HIV virus destroys the white blood cells, and weakens the body‘s immune system. When the body is weak, it is not able to fight, and defend itself against infections. Persons with the virus are vulnerable and susceptible to opportunistic infections.

The signs / symptoms of AIDS are manifestations of symptoms of the opportunistic infections. Some symptoms include persistent coughs, loss of weight, oral thrush, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

Churches encourage Christians to be compassionate to HIV/AIDS affected people, and to support the infected and the affected individuals like the orphans, widows, and widowers. It also teaches against sexual immorality and against all forms of discrimination.

Gonorrhea -is caused by a bacterium called “Neisseria gonorrhea”. Its symptoms appear a4 days after infection. Its symptoms are burning sensation when passing urine; pain or discomfort in the genitals; sticky discharge or pus in the vagina or through the urethra. The good news is that Gonorrhea is curable if treated early.


Primary syphilis may show up in the form of a sore or a wound in the genitals a few days after infection. The wound heals by itself without treatment after some time. Syphilis infection may take several years about 7 years before its symptoms re appear. The symptoms of syphilis are a painless sore or pimple on the man’s penis or woman’s vulva; and swelling of the glands in the groin. Other symptoms, which may appear later, are skin rashes and sores either in the face armpits, under breasts, mouth or throat.

Herpes genital -is a sexual disease caused by a virus. It creates wounds in the genitals. A pregnant woman can transmit the infection to her newborn baby during delivery. This disease can be controlled although there is not an effective treatment.

Hepatitis B virus causes Hepatitis B. It is transmitted through sex, injections by unsterilized needles and contact with contaminated blood. The infection does not show on the genitals. The signs and symptoms of Hepatitis B include yellowness of the eyes (jaundice) due to liver damage and pain around the upper abdomen.

C) The effects of irresponsible sexual behavior.

There are many effects of irresponsible sexual behavior. They include among others HIV / AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STI), abortion; family separations and divorces, deaths, unplanned pregnancies; children living in the streets; school drop outs and psychological problems.

i) Effects of incest.

These are many. One, incest undermines the healthy relationships between members of a family as it brings shame and guilt among the parties involved. Two, incest destroys relationships within the family and can lead to breaking up of a marriage. Three, incest destroys self-esteem, self – respect, and dignity of the victim. We find that abused boys and girls end up having problems when trying to establish healthy relationship with members of the opposite sex. Four, incest can lead to pregnancy, and abortion. And as you have read in the newspapers, it can lead to infections with sexually transmitted diseases (S.T.I.’s) and HIV / AIDS. As I write, a father was jailed for life for raping his daughter and infecting her with HIV/AIDS virus.

ii) Effects of Rape.

This crime has very serious consequences and harmful effects on the victim. Rape may result in pregnancy and can lead to physical, psychological, social, and spiritual side effects. The victim may suffer (1) serious physical injuries and (2) may contract the STI’s, and HIV / AIDs. The victim is traumatized, and ashamed of self. The victim suffers from guilt, loneliness, humiliation, posttraumatic stress disorders, and depression among others psychological manifestations. Young rape victims in particular may lose trust in the opposite sex. All these sufferings can lead to suicide and death.

iii). Effects of Fornication.

Some of these are having children out of wedlock; feelings of distrust, guilt, and hurt; contracting STI’s and HIV/AIDS; loss of self-respect; early and forced marriage and abortion.

iv). Effects of Adultery

Christians teach against adultery because it is against God’s commandments and can lead to divorce, abortion, STI, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, murder (death) and psychological problems

v) Effects of Prostitution.

It can lead to break up of marriage, and family. It lowers a person’s dignity and can lead to unplanned pregnancies, school dropouts; infections such as STI’s and HIV /AIDS and improper use of family resources.

vi) Effects of homosexuality.

It is a threat to procreation. It promotes loose short-term informal relationships and therefore promotes HIV / AIDS. Homosexual couples are prone to HIV/AIDS infections because of having many partners; although this is changing in USA where homosexual couples are being married in churches.

vii). Effects of Sexually transmitted diseases

HIV / AIDS effects are numerous. They include recurrent illness due to opportunistic infections. There is also stigmatization. Some individuals have feelings of guilt, anger, denial and depression. The sick persons have to look for extra finances to care for their health. They have the burden for medications, and special diet. HIV/AIDs has no cure and leads to death like many other diseases. Parents die and leave their children as orphans.

Gonorrhea effects are many. The disease damages a woman’s fallopian tubes leading to infertility; and a man’s epidydymis leading to sterility. An infected expectant mother can infect her newborn baby with gonorrhea. The disease may affect the eyes of the unborn child causing blindness. Gonorrhea can also cause inflammation of joints, the heart and liver.

Effects of Syphilis are damage to the heart, brain and the nervous system. This disease can lead to madness and death of the victim. If a child is infected while in the womb, or during birth, the brain maybe damaged. The child may have either physical deformities or the infected mother may give stillbirths.

viii) Effects Herpes genitals.

Infection can cause severe brain damage; cancer of the neck of the womb. If a woman is pregnant, the disease can cause death of the baby. The wounds and sores expose the sick person to HIV /AIDS infections.

ix) Effects of Hepatitis B.

This disease damages the liver and may lead to death of the infected person. It has a vaccine, but not treatment.

viii. Other consequences of irresponsible sexual behaviors these are death, unplanned pregnancies, children living in the streets, school dropouts and psychological problems related to irresponsible sexual behavior. These include among others: stress, depression, self – pity, withdrawal, aggressiveness, and violence.

Stress is the response of the body and mind to any situation that exerts pressure or makes demands on a person. The intensity or pressure experienced determines the level of stress. Some of the signs of stress are: anxiety, worry, and drop in performance, chest pains, mood swings, rebellion, ulcers, heart palpitations, and fatigue and guilt feelings.


To avoid stress, it is suggested that individuals should accept that one is stressed; identify sources of stress, rest, exercise, listening to therapeutic music and talk to a counselor.


This is an acute mental disorder. It is also a state of hopelessness and low spirits. Depression can be mild or severe. It has physical, emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms. Let me caution you that it is only a medical doctor who can know if one has a depression or not. We are told by doctors that signs of a depression are: persistent headaches and chest pains; loss of appetite; too much appetite; loss of memory; insomnia i.e. lack of sleep; weight loss or gain; nervousness and mood swings; low self-confidence; suicidal tendencies and self-pity. Other signs and symptoms are loss of libido (sexual desire); poor performance in school and in work places; hopelessness; loss of interest in ones activities; hypertension and high blood pressure

D) Irresponsible social and human behavior.

There are social and human behaviors that are contrary to Christian life. These unacceptable behaviors are abortion, and divorce.

Abortion is termination of pregnancy before the foetus is capable of independent life. There are two types of abortions. One is spontaneous abortion or miscarriage. The other is induced abortion, which is deliberate and illegal in Kenya. Induced abortion has been debated in Kenya. The main question is should abortion be legalized or not. This is because abortion is legal in some European countries.

Why do mothers seeking abortion? There are many reasons, which are known only to mothers. These are one, pregnancy due to rape and incest. Two, if the mother believes that the unborn child will be a burden. This may be because the baby is conceived outside wedlock and the mother lacks economic resources to take care of the baby. Another reason maybe that the mother is in school and she cannot look after the baby and conti-nue with her education. Three, medical personnel may abort a deformed foetus or in order to save the life of the mother if it is in danger.

Christian’s view of abortion as murder (Exodus20: 13). This is because abortion interferes with the mother’s body, and destroys the baby. Christian view is that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

God is the giver of life and He alone has the right to take it away. Abortion carries with it stigma and the effects mentioned above make Christians condemn abortion.

E) Effects of irresponsible social and human behavior.

Effects of abortion are infertility, ectopic pregnancy, destruction of a woman’s body parts; fetal malformation; risk of the mother bleeding to death and destruction of uterus. Other effects are that the mother may experience in future still births, miscarriages, risk of barrenness; failed abortions leading to deformed babies and psychological problems that we have discussed. These are stress and depression.

Revision questions

  1. Explain the T.A. understanding of human sexuality
  2. Explain Christian attitudes towards human sexuality
  3. In what ways is sex abused in Kenya?
  4. Why do you think minors are defiled or sexually abused in Kenya?
  5. Explain the Christian teaching on male/female relationships
  6. What is the Christian teaching on responsible sexual behavior?
  7. List the different types of irresponsible sexual behavior
  8. Explain the Christian teaching on irresponsible sexual behavior
  9. State the effects of irresponsible sexual behavior



A) Definition of marriage.

Marriage is a binding legal union between a man and a woman who agree to have a lasting relationship as husband / wife. Marriage partners choose each other. In some cases, senior member of the family and church influence the choice of a marriage partner. When marrying partners agree to marry, they are joined in church and they become husband and wife. Marriage is thus a covenant in which the partners give themselves to one another.

Marriage involves other members of the community hence it is a social and community affair. Marriage is a permanent union. Marriage is a community requirement in which everyone in the community participates. Each person is expected to undergo marriage because it is a rite of passage. Marriage gives a person, a high social status and prestige in the community.

Marriage is also a covenant between a man and a woman that should not be broken. Two people are joined in marriage in order to procreate and perpetuate the community. Once married, a couple is allowed to have sexual relationship, and companionship. Marriage is an expression of and fulfillment of mutual love and comfort. It enhance unity; social prestige, and respect in society. Purpose of marriage is sexual fulfillment; cultural and social requirement; obligation to build a family; and procreation although children are a gift from God.

Forms of marriages

There are many forms of marriages. There is a marriage ceremony organized as a symbol or mark of the union between a man and a woman. These marriages ceremonies are either civil, or religious. The main religious ceremonies are Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Sikh among others. We also have African customary ceremonies many of which are polygamous. Christianity does not allow polygamous marriage.

Secular approaches to marriage.

In the modern world, some people choose not to marry for personal reasons. Some people have children without getting married while others opt to have a marriage without children. Husband and wife are equal. Monogamy is practiced for economic reasons. In some families’ women are the heads of the family. Choosing a partner is an individual act and not communal. In marriage traditional qualities of a good wife such as industrious, honesty, and hospitality are not considered. The modern society values external beauty, financial status and social status. As a result, there is a high rate of marriage, separation, and divorce. At times young people fail to be married in church. There is no formalization of marriages. These marriages are called “Come-we-stay” arrangements.

Gender issues in marriage. The wife is subordinate to the husband but had rights. Marriage did not end with death of the husband. The wife was inherited by one of her husband’s brother. This is widow inheritance / Levirate marriage. She could also refuse to be inherited but remained married to that man even in death. The wife could not marry outside the family because of dowry. There was dowry payment to parents. If a wife died, the man would marry the sister of his dead wife. This is surrogate marriage.

Those who did not marry were considered “lesser humans”. Young people were prepared for marriage during initiation, which was witnessed in a public ceremony. During marriage, couple makes vows to each other. The ancestors are invoked to bless the marriage.

Factors that lead to a stable, healthy and successful marriage

People are different and they understand their roles differently. Here am giving you a few suggestions.

Discuss with your study companions and come up with other suggestions.

One important factor is mutual responsibility by the couple. This occurs if there is mutual consultation with each other in decision-making. Two is forgiveness of each other. Three is good treatment of each other especially with equal respect. Four is sharing scriptures together. Five is giving love and respecting each other. Six is having a faithful sexual relationship and lastly being open and honest.

Seven is African traditional qualities of a good wife who is described as: hardworking, fertile, morally upright, generous, kind, obedient, humble, clean, beautiful, polite, warm hearted and hospitable. Eight are the qualities of a good husband, which are described as: being able to provide good leadership in the family. Other qualities are being aggressive, wise, brave, courageous, responsible and good property manager.

B) Christian Teaching about Marriage.

Christians teach that marriage is sacred and that it is a divine institution, which is ordained God. God started it when he created Adam and Eve. Marriage should therefore be monogamous and permanent as God protects marriages. The woman should submit to the husband who is told to love the wife as Christ loved the church. Church teaches respect of each other.

Marriage is complete even without children as it is between a male and a female. Marriage is not obligatory and it ends when one partner dies.

Christian’s preparation and approach to marriage

Christians organize youth seminars, and rallies to teach the youth how to choose marriage partners and how to treat wife / husbands; care for the children; behave towards in laws; acquire wealth (men); and head a family. Youth are taught to avoid sexual intimacy before marriage. Those intending to marry are encouraged to go for pre marital counseling. During counseling, they are informed that love is the most important bond of unity in marriage. Church encourages partners to go for HIV /AIDs test before. Marriage ceremony is conducted in church

Choice of a marriage partner

There are many ways of identifying a marriage partner. One is arrangement by parents. If not one can make an individual decision and choose a wife or husband. Two is through an intermediary or third party. In African traditional polygamous marriages, the first wife identified a wife for her husband.

Girls would be given out to a chief as a gift

C) Courtship in African Traditional society (A.T.S). Courtship varied from community to community.

Courtship is the period between engagement and wedding ceremony. During courtship premarital sex is forbidden. Girls and boys dressed with bracelets and rings. Courtship was important in A.T.S. This was because the man and woman who were girls and boys got to know each other better before marriage. It was a period when girls/boys were instructed in family life education. It was also a period for linking the two marrying families. The couple had time to learn about one another’s character, and know their families. It is a symbol (sign) of the girl’s presence in her home (maternal home). She continues to live with her own people.

The families and clan had an opportunity to check if the marrying couple was related and if their clans were acceptable to the parents. Courtship gives time to the two families to negotiate and pay the bride wealth or dowry.

Bridal Wealth, dowry, bride price are all expressions of partnership. The family of the man pays dowry to the family of the woman. Some churches disregard bride wealth, while others encourage it. Dowry is paid in different forms. The girl’s family decides what it wants. Will it be livestock (poultry, pigs, camels, cows, goats, and sheep), beer, grain, jewellery and clothes among others?

Importance of dowry

It acts as a compensation for the girl’s labor and seals the marriage covenant. It is a public expression of appreciation for the coming of a new wife/mother into the man’s family. It promotes friendship and cements relationship between families. It shows commitment and seriousness of the future husband. After dowry payment, the woman belongs to her husband.

A ceremony is carried out depending on the community. Bride price payment is accompanied by marriage ceremonies. Lastly dowry helps in maintaining peace

Traditional African approaches to marriage preparation. Polygamy is one husband, married to many wives. Polygamy is allowed by the African traditional religion because it occurs if the first wife is barren; ensures that all women have husbands; prevents infertility; provides extra labor in farms. A polygamous man has a higher status because many wives symbolize wealth.

Children are important in a marriage because they promote social status of their parents. They cement a bond of unity between husband / wife. They are a source of labor, and wealth. They are heirs to the family wealth

They provide security to the family.

Divorce is legal dissolution of marriage. Christians allow divorce because of specific grounds. Divorce was rare in African traditional societies. Divorce is granted under circumstances of: adultery, witchcraft, laziness, cruelty and disrespect of wife.

In the contemporary society, divorce is sought after or allowed because of: unfaithfulness in marriage or adultery; domestic violence; misuse of family resources; childlessness; in-law interference and alcohol abuse.

Legal reasons for divorce

According to the laws of Kenya, divorce is allowed under the following reasons; adultery; if a man deserts his wife for more than 3 years; if a partner becomes insane; and domestic violence for example, physical, and psychological torture.

Christian teaching about divorce

Christians discourage divorce because marriage is a permanent status.

There is no room for divorce. Church discourages divorce because of its adverse effects. Some denominations allow divorce if there is adultery. God hates divorce. Married couples should remain faithful to each other

Effects of divorce are strained relationships, children suffering psychologically, and experiences of rejection. A divorcee faces social stigma, rejection, and isolation. If parents separate, they create single parent families. These families suffer from economic hardships and feelings of failure and inadequacy.

E) Celibacy as an alternative to marriage.

Celibacy is a Latin word “Coelebes” meaning bachelor. Why do some people fail to marry? There are many reasons. Some of these are to pursue education leading to delayed marriage; and career demands (workaholic). Other people are discouraged by examples of failed marriages. Other reasons maybe economic independence, poor health, HIV /AIDS, mental illness, parental interference and disappointment from past failed relationships. This happens if parents do not approve a partner.

Revision questions

  1. Explain the traditional African understanding of marriage

2, what is the importance of children in traditional African society?

  1. What is the Christian teaching about marriage?
  2. What is the importance of courtship period in T.As?
  3. Why are many people opting for celibacy?




As society grows and changes, the family grows and changes. As a result, there are several types and practices of the family. In this lesson, we shall discuss the traditional family as it is practiced in the Bible, the traditional African societies and some Christian families.

The family

What is a family? Family is the basic social unit of human society. This basic unit is extended to include relatives bound together by blood, marriage, friendship, and adoption. They are all members of the family. In Kenya, there are many types of families.

A) Types of families

i) Nuclear family is parents and their children. .It is father, mother, and children. There is an increase of monogamous families or nuclear because of urbanization as rural youth come to towns in search of white-collar jobs. Migration to cities by people of different tribes has led to pluralism. Education, high cost of living has led to the death of the African culture, which required men and women to marry many partners to produce many children to defend their tribe.

Advantages of nuclear families are many. One, the man is able to give undivided attention to one wife and children. Two, there is sharing of mutual love, and peace in the home. Three it is economical to manage one family. Four there is little competition for attention, less strife, quarrels and stress. Five, it is easier to monitor the behavior of a few children.

ii) Polygamous family – Father, mothers, children. These types of family have disadvantages in modern Kenya. Modern society is a cash economy. Thus if a man has many wives and children, they may lack basic necessities like food, shelter, education and clothes.

iii). Single parent family – one parent, and children. Single – parent families are created by several circumstances. One is by parents separating. Separation of parents is due to several reasons. These are for example, one partner going to another country and failing to return to his or her country and family.

Two, a single family is created by divorce. Divorced parents may decide not to marry again. Three is when one parent refuses to marry. This happens when a girl gets pregnant and the boy does not marry her. Four is because of death of a spouse. The remaining parent may decide not to remarry. Five is when some mothers decide to have children without marriage. This may not be correct as there is no research to suggest it. Six is imprisonment of one partner for a long time. One parent is left looking after children because one is in jail.

iv) Extended family – father, mother, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins. This is the common family type in traditional African communities.

v) Children led family. This happens when parents die and the 1st born takes care of brothers and sisters including cousins.

vi) Grandparent headed family. The HIV/AIDs epidemic has introduced this type of family where grandparents take care of their grandchildren due to the death of both parents especially the mother due to HIV / AIDS disease. This scourge has made many children orphans. In other cases parents go for further studies abroad and leave their children with their parents.

B) Traditional African family values and practices.

In African societies creation of a family is through marriage, and subsequent procreation. Family is viewed as a sacred institution in African society. The African traditional family includes the dead (ancestors), the unborn children and the living.

An African traditional family has obligations and duties. These were

(1) offering sacrifices to ancestors,

(2) Pouring libations; and

(3) Giving the dead decent burials

(4) Providing basic needs to their children

(5) Bringing up children to be morally upright individuals.

Further to this, the African traditional family is responsible for the upbringing, caring, and protection of its children. This is demonstrated by the nuclear family, which provides necessities required to meet and satisfy the economic needs of its members.

The African traditional family is expected to participate in communal activities. Work in the family was divided according to age, gender and social status. Each family member worked for its basic needs as well as the welfare of the community.

The African family had well-stated and practiced values. They were:

(1) respect for family members

(2) Providing responsible parenthood, which is the process of bringing up children to become all round or self reliant persons

(3) Educating children in all aspects of life. Parents and the extended family members helped their children to develop intellectually and cognitively.

The family taught children physical skills. It also gave children confidence to appreciate their physical strength. Children were taken through a rigorous physical curriculum of games such as wrestling, swimming and running to develop their physical strength. Children’s bodies were nourished thoroughly.

They were served good and nutritious food, which improved their muscle strength.

Children were taught social skills. They learnt how to behave towards adults, peers and grandparents.

They developed social skills since parents allowed them to socialize and interact with other children, grandparents and the community. This made them grow socially, emotionally and psychologically.

They had a curriculum for teaching and training in traditional African religious values, family matters, moral and social values. This teaching of children started from an early age. The teaching method used was observation and practice. Parents taught by being good role models. They were expected to model desired values and family practices. Children were taught how to relate with one another as brothers and sisters. Parents were to show tolerance to children. These values show that African parents understood their parental roles and responsibilities.

These values were sometimes; exploited by the irresponsible family members or specific individuals.

This exploitation encouraged dependency, leading to conflicts, competition, hatred, and jealousy.

Christian parents are expected to train their children to know God; be self -disciplined, and follow the Christian way of living. Another duty is to provide basic needs to their children.

Christian understanding of the family

Among Christians, family is sacred and instituted by God. Read again about the Christian teachings about marriage.

Role of children in the Christian family A Christian child is expected to obey parents, honor them, and respect parents. This is one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God.

Parenting styles

a) Dictatorship /authoritative / autocratic – the parents is the final authority, imposes decisions

b) Permissive or liberal style – also referred to as “Laissez faire” the children do as they want

c) Democratic style – parents discuss with their children on family issues. This is the best style.

Problems related to family life today

Families are faced with numerous problems such as:

a) Children abuse – sex assault, beating

b) Domestic violence – abusive language, frequent fights, emotional abuse

c) Diseases e.g. HIV / AIDS epilepsy, autism.

d) Children with special needs, blindness, deafness or those with mental challenges, motor co – ordination (Autism)

e) Separation, divorce

f) Childlessness

g) Single parent families – economic hardships

h) Misuse of family resources, economic crisis

i) Affluence – a lot of wealth

j) Unemployment, underemployment

k) Retrenchment – lying off of some employees in order to reduce the workforce

l) Mismanagement of family finances

m) Alcohol and drug abuse

n) The generation gap

o) Poor relations with in-laws

p) Cultural and religious differences

  • Traditional African approaches to problems related to family life today

1) Individuals were prepared for challenges of family life right from childhood

2) Adolescents, initiates were given family life education

3) People entered marriage knowing that it’s a lifelong union

4) Rules were clear to govern marriage relations

5) Polygamy helped reduce unfaithfulness

6) There were no single parent families. Members lived together reducing loneliness

7) Widows / widowers were encouraged to marry again

Traditional brew was taken in moderation

Christian’s approaches to problems related to family life today

1) Christian families are obliged to live according to Christian principles and values such as mutual respect, self discipline, understanding, honesty, faithfulness, love and forgiveness

2) Premarital counseling is carried out

3) Church holds regular seminars and conferences on family life matters. Love and respect for each other. Christian wife to submit to husband who is head of the family. They are taught to take each other as complementary and equal partners.

4) Women are encouraged to form participate in church organizations e.g. mothers union, women’s guild where they learn roles of being a wife, mother, and a woman.

5) Some churches offer advice to families on management of their families. They are encouraged to have investments.

6) Breadwinner is encouraged to write a written will

7) To improve the parent – child relationship churches offer guidance and counseling to the youth

Christian parents are advised to set positive role models to their children

9) Parents are encouraged to be open and promote effective communication with their children

10) Churches in case of serious family conflicts such as child abuse, domestic violence, advise legal action.

11) Churches organize youth seminars where they talk about drug abuse, premarital sex, negative peer pressure and media influence etc.

12) Relevant information is passed through books, pamphlets, magazines, media FM, TV etc.

13) Some churches welcome unwed mothers

14) Churches provide health services, guidance on HIV / AIDS

15) Some churches care for widows, orphans widowers and the needy

Revision questions

  1. State the different types of families


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