The Family: What it Means to America - Part 1
Not in recent political machinations, but way back in 1978, Dr. Harold Voth, then Senior Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst of the Menninger Foundation, Topeka, Kansas, spoke these words at a National Defense Luncheon:
This is a grave time in the history of our nation. Changes are taking place in our way of life and in our national character which have lowered, and will continue to lower, the vitality of our people, the quality of our institutions, and our basic values. The inevitable result is that we will undergo a progressive disintegration and possibly the eventual collapse of our democracy. When sufficiently disintegrated, forces either within our borders of a revolutionary nature or external forces will overwhelm what is left of America. The American Dream will be over.
People tend to believe that America, the invincible, will always be, that generous and stalwart Americans will always exist, that our way of life is forever safe. This is an illusion, a self-deception. An internal process is at work which poses a far greater danger to us than our dwindling natural resources, the energy crisis, our huge national debt, or the trade deficit (Voth).
The rest of his speech forcibly underscored these opening two paragraphs’ allegations. America was declining and would continue due to one overriding factor—the decline of the valuing, functioning, and sustaining of the traditional American family.
The American family had its roots not in a Puritan tradition, or Quaker methodology, or any ecclesiastical authority, but in the heart and mind of God. The values of a strong and providing father, a helping wife, and obedient children were then revealed to man.
The Family’s Biblical Roots
From the very beginning, God made a man and, seeing it was not good that he be alone, then fashioned his glorious companion, woman (Genesis 2:18-25; cf. Matthew 19:4). He made this fortress of committed love (Genesis 2:25; Ephesians 5:22-33) the authorized institution for the fulfillment of sexual desire (1 Corinthians 7:1-9), and the procreation and rearing of children (Genesis 1:26-28; Proverbs 1:8; Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Though it became quite corrupted by man, as the inspired Old Testament record attests (Genesis 4:19ff.; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; 1 Kings 11:1-4, et al.), Jesus, in new covenant anticipation, restated the original design (Matthew 19:1-12). Since then, casual observation attests to the happiness of individuals when God’s plan is followed. History and sociology attest to the strength of societies when the Ruler of nations’ (Psalm 47:8) blueprint is respected and practiced. Indeed, the Psalmist’s words apply broadly, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…”
American History’s Changes
In 2007, Harvard University Press published the findings of multiple studies in the volume, Alone Together: How Marriage in America is Changing. Their synopsis begins,
Throughout most of American history, marriage has been the social arrangement that, more than any other, provided structure and meaning in people’s lives. Matrimony served as a marker for leaving the parental home, forming one’s own household, becoming economically independent of parents, initiating regular sexual activity, and having children. Moreover, the roles of husband and wife provided scripts that guided and organized everyday activities such as bread-winning, household labor, and child rearing. Spousal roles also were core features of people’s identities. Many people did not feel that they had reached adulthood until they accepted the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood. Because matrimony was a central feature of adult life, the great majority of people in the United States married, married relatively early in life, and stayed continuously married until the death of one spouse. And remarriage following the death of a spouse (or the occasional divorce) was the norm (Amato et al. 1-2).
With objectivity, the authors then observe:
But times have changed. The growing popularity of nonmarital cohabitation, the increase in the percentage of children born outside marriage, the rise in age at first marriage, the continuing high divorce rate, and the declining marriage rate indicate that marriage has become a more voluntary and less permanent part of adult life now than in the past. Changes in public attitudes—involving more positive evaluations of single lifestyles and other alternatives to marriage, such as nonmarital cohabitation—also reflect a decline in the centrality of marriage. After centuries of being the bedrock of the American family system, marriage is losing its privileged status and is becoming one life-style choice among many (Amato et al. 2)
That objectivity is countered by Voth’s passionate plea for the necessity of strong family values:
I have worked as a psychiatrist for 30 years and as a psychoanalyst for nearly 20, and the evidence that I have seen, as have many of my colleagues, is overwhelming as regards what it takes to turn out healthy, mature men and women who can take hold of life, do something constructive with it, and embrace values, traditions, and institutions which advance the society. The crucible from which all life springs is the family. The events within the family can make or break the individual and, collectively, civilization. This fundamental unit is the building block and was the building block of all social organizations from the tribe, village, and on to the most highly developed societies and civilizations. Will Durant said the family can survive without the state, but without the family all is lost. Therefore, not only must the family survive, but its internal workings must function in ways that turn out strong men and women—not weak ones who eventually become casualties of one form or another or who may work actively against the best values and traditions of our country (Voth, emphasis mine, AR).
As Voth has predicted, the family today is seen by many of a younger generation as a failed institution. To some degree, who can blame them? Many have grown up in homes without the influence of Christ, only to watch mother and fathers fight and subsequently divorce. They have felt the lack of love displayed by permissive parents (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11), and thus entered into adulthood with no anchor, no bearings, no place to return, no hometown. The family has been abused so much as to fail them altogether. Without the knowledge of God, they simply abandon the perfectly designed institution altogether. They’ve never seen its glory. They’ve only witnessed its corruption.
Perhaps that is why many actually, as Voth predicted, fight against it.
The Opponents of the Family
Linking family with faith is axiomatic. Family springs from the origins of the universe as described in God’s word. There are, and have been, the enemies of faith through all the ages, simply because the darkness hates the light (John 3:19-21; Ephesians 6:12; cf. 1 Timothy 1:9, 10). To think those enemies are not at work in America is to fly in the face of all observation and reason.
A long train of abuses (with apologies to Jefferson) toward the family could be cited. Postmodernism’s denial of truth strikes at the very core of the Judeo-Christian system that regulates family for the world. Communism’s denial of God seems often dependent upon the state’s usurpation of family roles, rights, and responsibilities. Marxist leaders were infamous for their railings against a belief in God; their regimes have actively fought Christianity at large. Without God, their foundational answers for the origins of the universe, documents Dr. Henry Morris in his tome, The Long War Against God, are left to teach resurgent microbe-to-man macroevolution:
Marxism is a current problem in every sense of the word! In its imperialistic form, as in Russian Communism, with its effective control over many other nations beyond its Iron Curtain, it is every bit as militaristic, totalitarian, and xenophobic (with “class” substituted for “race” as the struggling evolutionary unit) as Hitler and his Nazis were at their worse. The millions of people slaughtered in promoting this class struggle in communistic nations far exceed—by a factor of ten or more—the victims of Hitler’s genocidal aggressions.
All of this is well known to most readers of this book. What may not be so well known, however, is the fact that Marxism, socialism, and communism, no less than Nazism, are squarely based on evolutionism (Morris 82-83).
Such evolutionary theory—taught in schools more vehemently over the last few generations—leaves its victims (the students who swallow it) not only feeling worthless and meaningless, but also without any sort of social grounding in a family unit. After all, according to such theory, humanity and all its associations were merely the accidental byproduct of random mutations.
Robbed of meaning, then, individuals begin to act with no morality. This is the pattern manifest of ancient Gentile societies in Romans 1. In the following passage, note the progression (or, rather, regression) from a denial of God to the continuing corruption of moral behavior, which is always to the detriment of its practitioners, and the conclusion with the final judgment of God.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:18-32).
This is the level to which a society denying God disintegrates. Family values are replaced by a veritable hell on earth. God’s plan for intimacy is replaced with all sorts of sexual perversion. God’s plan for tolerance and mutual respect is replaced with violence. God’s plan for parental care is replaced with disregard for the lives of children. God’s plan for children’s obedience is replaced with rebellion.
Once God is eliminated (atheism), truth is made subjective (postmodernism). Once truth is so disregarded, the search for an alternative to origins is engaged (evolutionism). Once evolutionism is embraced, humanism (man is his own god) is exalted. In this theory, whether springing from academics in ivory towers or the common man in the streets, morality suffers. It is subjective; each person can do his own thing. In this godless morality, the family is regarding as nothing, an ancient relic with no relevancy to the modern world. Marriage has no purpose, and cohabitation or serial one-night stands rule lives. Children are expendable, and abortion and infanticide soon follow. Violence grows (compare Genesis 6:5). And the consequences continue.
A world without God is a world devoid of family. And a world without family is a collapse of civilized culture.
[The second installment, conclusion, and works cited to follow.]