Unless you are wedded, no pun intended, to a left-wing ideological agenda you know intuitively that the traditional family of a married mother and father with children works best for the children. This is simply indisputable, and we can add more recently released studies to further confirm this. One of the study’s authors said, “children appear most apt to succeed well as adults when they spend their entire childhood with their married mother and father, and especially when the parents remain married to the present day.” William Galston at the Wall Street Journal argues that the breakdown of the family is especially problematic for the black family.
Jonah Goldberg writes:
In recent weeks, a barrage of new evidence has come to light demonstrating what was once common sense. “Family structure matters” (in the words of my American Enterprise Institute colleague Brad Wilcox, who is also the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia).
And Princeton University and the left-of-center Brookings Institution released a study that reported “most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes.”
Unfortunately, the family as we’ve come to know it in most of the world and especially in the West, has for a very long time been under assault.
The French Revolution in the late 18th Century was a turning point in Western culture. The breakdown of politics and culture into left and right started during the Revolution. In the French assembly those who wanted to rid France of the king, the Church and pretty much any traditional values associated with it sat on the left, and the supporters of the king and the Church on the right. Although the Revolution as we know ended in blood and tyranny, the rumblings of the anti-tradition, anti-religion left continued in the 19th Century with Marx, Nietzsche and Freud.
This animus toward the family only picked up steam in the 20th Century with Western cultural elites arguing in their books, scholarly work, art and popular entertainment that the family was positively harmful. As with many things in culture, what is fomented at the heights of culture eventually trickles down to the hoi palloi, who then suffer for it. The breakdown of the family, and its consequences, is only one example.
So it has been a welcome breath of fresh air that almost all the sociological evidence over the last 30 years has confirmed that the secular cultural elites have been wrong, and tragically so. Marriage and family, while by no means heaven on earth, is by far the best environment to raise children, and it’s better for mom and dad too! Yet I think we must go beyond the merely pragmatic to ground our case for the family more firmly. We can do this by adding religion and philosophy to the argument.
Some contend that since we live in a pluralistic largely secular society that we can only make pragmatic secular arguments for anything in the public square. This is a completely distorted view of what the separation of church and state means regardless of how judges have interpreted the First Amendment. In fact, religion and philosophy have critical roles to play in how we order society. America’s Founders knew this full well. They would have thought it absurd that a well ordered society of self-governing people could be built on purely secular, pragmatic grounds. In fact, one of the great pieces of legislation in American history, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, states the following:
Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.
Notice that the federal government should “encourage” not “control” the “means of education.”
Remember that even though we live in a largely secular culture, the rise of the so called nones notwithstanding, over ninety percent of Americans believe in God, whatever they conceive that to be. So religious arguments for the family are not something Americans automatically reject, and are likely to be open to. The beauty of Jewish and Christian arguments for the family, and morality in general, is that they just happen to work! The reason that the sociological evidence for the importance of the family is telling us what it is, is because reality corresponds to the Bible, and in the Bible we learn that the family is not a social construct, but something grounded in the order of creation. If the family were merely a social construct, something invented by society apart from any divine revelation, then it could be deconstructed; family could mean any old thing we want it to be.
Those who take the Bible as transcendent communication from almighty God, argue that there are standards outside of human conviction and permission. We can learn what those standards are of course in the Bible, but we can also see these standards built into the “book of nature.” God has communicated a moral order in the nature of things, and in our consciences. The ancient Greeks agree. Aristotle spoke of telos in nature, that things have been created with certain goals in mind. Everything about the human body, created male and female, tells us that the complementary nature of the sexes is there for a reason. It is no accident. And it just so happens that the more sociological evidence comes in, the more it agrees with the Bible and what nature communicates. Progressive ideologues will always try to get reality to fit their Utopian mold, but it never, ever works.