Friday, 17 June 2011

Ethics and Family

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In this society, values and ethics are traditionally taught in the home. Most parents with their daily tasks found the time to instill the values that were taught to them by their parents. Nevertheless, it was the fathers responsibility to reinforce the ethical rules and values learned in the home. However, religion plays an important role in teaching values and reinforcing ethics among their parishioners and the children with each sermon that took place on Sunday. Many young people who attend church and those who strongly believe in the values that are taught by the church in some cases fell prey to those values and some families become victims. This paper will present such a family situation by revealing the facts of the family, a hypothesis of religious beliefs, and the results to adhering to certain values dictated by religious beliefs. Respectfully, this paper is not a slanderous attack on religion, but only to show how certain individuals of a family are more or less trapped in unethical situations due to their religious beliefs. The names have been change in order to preserve the privacy of the family.

First, by presenting the facts of the family mentioned in the above statement it serves only to authenticate the hypothesis raised and it offers a different outlook on how religion in its purest intent can play a role in misdirecting certain individuals decision making. It began, in the small town of Greenville, North Carolina, Jeffrey and Donna were married in a Baptist church that they had attended for most of their lives. Their parents are devoted Baptist and they were in church regularly. In this church, the pastor gave sermons on the values of marriage approximately half of the time while in the church existed. Nevertheless, the two were married and there were many instructions on having a good marriage given by the pastor and other parishioners. Jeffrey and Donna set out to begin their lives in matrimony and a two years into the marriage they have a little


girl named Terry. Two years had past and they had another child, a boy and they named him Trey. Now they are family of four who still attend church regularly.

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However, nine years has past, Terry is now seven years old and Trey is five and they seem to be healthy and very loved children. Donna began to notice however, that her husband began to change; especially in the manor of sexual affection towards her. She suspected that her husband was cheating on her with another woman, but ascertained that he spent too much time with Terry and Trey to have the time to see another woman. So, she disregarded the suspicion and she moved on. Until on morning Terry arose from her bedroom and told her mother that she was having severe stomach pains. Thinking it was a bad tummy ache; Donna delayed in taking her to the doctor. The pain got worse and Donna was forced to take Terry to the doctor. The diagnosis was horrifying to Donna once the doctor examined Terry. She has Chlamydia, he reported to the mother. The doctor needed to tell Donna that this was a sexually transmitted disease; primarily someone who is infected by the bacteria transmits it. Nevertheless, when Terry was asked who had touched her in a sexual way she replied my daddy. She explained that it happened over a period of three to four months and it was very late at night when he would sneak into her room unnoticed by Donna. Jeffrey was arrested, and sentenced to four years in prison.

Moreover, Donna became the sole provider for the family since Jeffrey was no longer part of the family. She would spent many hours a day working to support the children and utilize as much of her family members as she could, babysitting. One could almost witness the despair on her face from being thrust in this situation. It seemed was


though there was no one else who was willing to help her financially, so she did what ever she could under the circumstances. Three years has past and Jeffrey was out of prison on good behavior. Donna had allowed him to visit the children only at her mothers home. He was not allowed to take them out of the house. He and Donna began to speak more and more during these visiting sessions. Her mother pressured her into considering her lawful marriage under God. Jeffrey had promised that he was a changed man and he would not sexually assault their daughter again. Believing that her husband had indeed changed, and the fact that her mother had said that she was not performing her wifely duty which created this entire mess. Donna chose to get back with her husband. However, Jeffrey quickly moved the family to Stamford, Connecticut, where his parents resides. There seemed to be a harmonious relationship between all family members at first.

With a most unfortunate change of events, Jeffrey became very dominant and abusive towards Trey and Donna. He would violently beat his son for the slightest mistake and he was continuously punishing him. Jeffrey would verbally abuse Donna and he in many ways made her feel inhuman. However, Donna endured his abuse, because her mother and pastor had taught her that she must honor her marriage under the oath to God. She must make her home, marriage, and family her first priority under God and the church. The church will not recognize failure in any of these areas.

Incidentally, two years later, Donna began to notice that Terry always had money when Trey did not. She began to suspect that something was very wrong. One day she had left work early for home. When she got there she saw Terry in a gown which she

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found very odd for that time of day. She asked Terry the following day if her father was touch her or having sex with her. Terry replied No. Donna also began to notice that Jeffrey started keeping Terry home and he would not even allow her to go to the supermarket with her. Again, Donna questioned Terry, but this time in a forceful approach and still maintaining that if he was abusing her she is there for her. Terry told her mother that; My daddy has been having sex with me for one year and he would give me money or anything I wanted if I did not tell. Donna then asked her did he penetrate vaginally, she replied; yes, for about six months he was sticking his penis in me, but before that, he was just making me play with his penis until he came. Terry is now at the age of sixteen years old, this started when she was only thirteen. Jeffrey was arrested for the second time and he now faces many years in prison.

Hypothetically, as we observe the facts in this familys history in regards to values and ethics the questions raised are; did religion play an important role in a lot of her decision making. Although she received pressure from her mother to reunite with her husband, Donnas mother transmitted values and ethical traits she received from the church and most likely her mother. In addition, how emotionally rooted are these values and ethics implanted in her or if simply financial difficulties played a major role in her decision making? First, lets explore the financial aspect of Donnas situation by presenting a fact that may apply to her, as explained by William G. Doerner

Closely following the historical components of the sociocultural explanations is the idea of learned helplessness. Some professionals contend that [abused] women remain in destructive relationships for

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economic reasons. These [abused] wives may lack the monetary resources that would enable them to depart. They may have no place to go. They may not be able to support themselves financially. They may have young children that makes support more difficult… In short, the circumstances are such that some women are unable to exert control over themselves or their environment.

Although this statement may offer some insight to the plight of Donnas situation, does it really answer the question or questions asked? For the most part, it may explain in some degree, why her mother would prompt her to return to her husband. However, we must now turn our attentions to religious beliefs in the attempt to satisfy the question of religion in Donnas decision making. When determining the aspect of religion and the values instilled by its teachings, Schaefer, and Lamm reveal

Religious beliefs are shared conceptions of what is good, desirable and proper that arise out of religious faith. These values govern personal conduct and may have direct impact on the social institutions. For example, religious values regarding marriage will influence patterns of a family life in society---perhaps by discouraging couples from seeking divorce.

Now that we have credible explanations for each question asked, can we formulate an answer that is not only coherent, but generate critical thought into Donnas situation. Especially, a clear understanding, of why she would make the decision to return to her husband.

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Analytically, in order to confirm why Donna would make the decisions she did, we must look into the background of the religion and how it content is applied into her family developmental structure. It is common of many families in the south who are Baptist to regulate their children through religious teachings. These teachings consist of family rules, ethical conduct and preservation of relationships under the word of God. Although, there are more aspects involved in religious teachings the three previously named are of important in Donnas case.

The aspect of family rules and the teaching of religious beliefs begin immediate at a very young age. The parent will begin to instill certain values once they feel the child can comprehensibly receive the information being taught. They will have the child intend church regularly and convey the daily message given in the sermon once they reach home. Furthermore, the message is inter-twined into shaping the thoughts of family and how a family should be and/or remain cohesive. Secondly, it is the ethical conduct enforced by the parents and the church into the child which solidifies the nature of family and worship are conjunctive in the eyes of God. Lastly, there are a wide range of topics taught in regards to relationships, but lets focus on marital values dictated by religious beliefs. Many southern families believe that when two people get marriage, it is an institution under the rights of God and that there is no stronger union in comparison. The Baptist teach that once married a child must forsake all but the one he or she has married and that no other relationship be placed before the marriage. Even the parents must take a latter position within the scheme of their childs marriage. Moreover, it is taught that no wrong can break this union and no situation greater than the one sanctioned by God. The

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last phrase of marriage vows, till death do us part has significant power within the Baptist religion and provokes many of the decisions made by spouses in difficult situations, particularly women.

Retrospectively, as we looked at how religious belief and values taught in the home it can be stated that it played a significant role in the decision making of Donna. She chose to return to her husband despite the unspeakable abuses he committed upon her and the children. Donna was conditioned by the church and the religious beliefs of her mother to reunite with her husband as well. She also looked at her mothers marriage and wanted the same conditions to exist in her marriage or she would have failed in her mind and in the eyes of her mother, the church and more importantly God. Her decision was never based on the love she once had for Jeffrey, but the reinforcement of ethical conduct, the teachings of family and the religious beliefs surrounding relationships. These were the deciding factors in her decision making. However, there is one principle that would apply to the decisions made by Donna, Divine Command Theory, (Act so as to conform ones conduct to the commands of God) as explained by Laurence D. Houlgate. This opens a forum for critical thinking and answers whether we should judge her decision to reunite with her husband. One most understand that religion has been a major influence in many of the institutions in our society, such as law, education, the sports and in our family homes. It is rooted deeply in the fabric of all we every social structure.

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In conclusion, given the facts of Donnas marriage and the abuse she and her children suffered by her husband, it would be that any other person in her situation would have made a different decision based on their values, ethics, and religious beliefs. In many cases, Donna and I grew up in the same family structure and we are a very close unit. However, I could not conceive of why she would reunite with he husband and our relationship suffered for that reason. Furthermore, we grew up with the same religious beliefs, but our values are completely different due to her mother/father teachings and my religious teaching which was not so consuming. This aspect made it difficult for me to understand her decision making. It is apparent, that my perceptions involving religion created a abstract view-point of how religious beliefs can govern how we run our lives and dictate some of our decisions. Although, we shared the same religious beliefs, her family unit is fanatically religious. Donna was subjected to religion throughout her cognitive learning period and it was the fundamental basis of why she returned to he husband

This class has given me a broader perspective on how and why people will do the things they do and make certain decisions. I have a better understanding that within a family structure that each member transmit different values to their own children and there would be many sets of values and ethics within the entire family tree. More importantly, one member does have the right to discredit the others value or belief system if it is different from theirs. Critically speaking, I have rethought my previous position of Donnas decision and I have determined that she made the best decision she could make for her and her children. It is with respect for her and her plight that based on what she


was taught, the belief system that governs her movement through life will be different form my own belief. As a child, I often heard the phrase, God bless the child that has

his/her own and may be this applies the sets of ethics when searching to apply values taught in childhood.

As the facts would provide, one would think that finance played a role in her decision. However this is far from the truth. Her religious beliefs are fundamentally sound and, it became the guiding forces; to the answers she needed for herself and her

children. Donna was always taught the God would make a way when times were hard and she relied on that aspect when reuniting with her husband. She put her trust in the criminal justice system, along with the pressures of her mother and the church; that God had changed Jeffrey.

Respectfully, this course has opened many new channels in the way I look at applied ethics and values in this country. Sometimes, we look at other cultures and it is easy or readily understandable to accept some of the things they do, but we are quick to be alarmed when there is something within our own culture that we feel is unethical or deviates from our set of norms or values. I say this with open eyes, that in order to move forward, it is crucial to understand the diversity of values and ethics, even in the same family tree. It is somewhat hard to swallow that values may differ within the same family tree, because there is a pre-set thought that our Grandparents are responsible for the beginning of all things that we learn and pass to our young. However, those values become diluted from generation to generation and there is a sort of conformity of value and ethics with the changing of time. With this new knowledge, I concede.

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