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The Family
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Ted Williams
By Ted Williams

Lost - Marriage in America?“The family is the corner stone of our society. More than any other force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitions, and the values of the child. And when the family collapses it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale the community itself is crippled. So, unless we work to strengthen the family, to create conditions under which most parents will stay together, all the rest-schools, playgrounds, and public assistance, and private concern-will never be enough.” --President Lyndon Johnson

Neither American political party has taken seriously the destruction of this bedrock institution. If one were to listen to political pundits and the mainstream media, they would be convinced that the greatest threats to the American way of life are a rise in gas prices, suicide bombers, and a market that is recovering from a mortgage crisis.

Yet the family, as Lyndon Johnson realized, is the cornerstone of our society. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that all of our efforts to affect change are contingent upon the success or failure of this entity. The United States has the world’s highest divorce rate at slightly over 50%. Close to 40% of all American children are born out of wedlock and close to 70% of all African American children grow up without a father. Poverty rates among two parent families are five times lower than in single parent families, and 82% of all prison inmates come from fatherless homes. In fact, when comparing all racial and ethnic groups, poverty rates are identical (6%) in 2 parent families. (1)

This truth receives little attention in our current political wars over the funding of government programs, but its significance is so great that it bears repeating. When families remain intact, poverty is low among all groups, regardless of ethnicity.

Furthermore, consider this telling fact: After all of the educational research and innovation, after all of the dollars spent on technology and accountability, the number one factor determining the academic success of a student still is the same as it was two hundred years ago; parental influence. Teachers, administrative innovation, and money spent on technology, are all secondary to the substantial role that parents play in supporting education.

Given this trenchant reality, you would think that the unrivaled resources and energy of the American government would be channeled to strengthen the families. Candidate Obama pledged to expand the child care tax credit, support flexible work scheduling initiatives, and expand the Family and Medical Leave Act. While he has accomplished some of these goals, his work around this critical issue has fallen short of the kind of visionary and comprehensive action necessary for the crisis we currently face. Consequently, President Obama, while acknowledging the problem, has largely ignored it. Furthermore, his recent statements in favor of re-defining marriage will have untold deleterious social consequences.

FamilyWe need bold leadership that will push marriage and family-centered curricula in the public schools, continue and expand marriage and parenting initiatives through the Department of Health and Human Services and the faith-based community, challenge the media which increasingly undermines marriage as an institution, expand family leave provisions, and strongly fight against efforts to re-define marriage in our culture.

The Puritans understood something we do not today. This nation must fully embrace the role of supporting families in the fulfillment of their critical social responsibilities. In fact, the Puritans expressed such great concern that men could lose their families for infractions such as not attending public worship, wild and sinful living, and dereliction in fulfilling parental educational responsibilities. Their vision for a prosperous and peaceful society relied heavily on the moral and civic socialization that could only occur through the structure of the family. Cotton Mather, an influential Puritan minister and political figure, stated in 1679 that “most of the evils that abound amongst us proceed from defects as to family government.” He believed that with weak families, every social ill known to man would be exacerbated. Unfortunately, his predictions have clearly come to fruition today.

While I know it is unpopular in our current political climate, I still believe in the wisdom of the world’s bestselling book. Before establishing any other social institution, God establishes the family. He gives this institution a very clear purpose “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.” He also gives families a clear mandate. “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Children ultimately suffer when adults fail to protect this institution. As simplistic as this direction may sound, it is clear that the front lines of social change are not in the halls of Congress, but in the nation’s living rooms.

The current political leadership has largely disregarded this glaring crack in America’s foundation. Unfortunately, as any architect will acknowledge, with a crack in the foundation, it is only a matter of time before the entire building crumbles.

(1) 2009 US Department of Health/Human Services Poverty Threshold Chart
(2)Morgan, Edmund The Puritan Family, Harper Torch books, New York, 1944
(3)Malachi 2:15
(4)Proverbs 22:6

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