Politics and the Church – Extrication From the Shoal Waters [Part 9]

This week we will take a look at what is going to get this ‘ship of state’ on a safe course to extricate itself from the ‘shoal waters’ it has found itself in.  The first step is to take take a look at the ‘first gift’ God gave us…the family.  Family counselors and psychologists for generations have affirmed that both quantity and quality time spent with family members are the basis for successful family life…one parent working outside the home to provide sustenance and protection for the family; the other working inside the home, nurturing, shaping, and training the children of the next generation.  In 1940 this was the practice of 60% of American families.  Unfortunately, the demands of World War II took many mothers out of the home to work in the war industries.  For some reason after the war the family started to come under attack.  It became viewed as antiquated and sexist.  Parents were encouraged to seek pursuits outside the home and away from the children.  By 1969 the percentage of stay-at-home mothers had fallen to 44%; in 1979 it was down to 34%; in 1989 it was 25% [Rose Kreider & Diana Elliott, “Historical Changes in Stay-at-Home Mothers: 1969 to 2009”, paper presented at the American Sociological Association 2010 annual meeting Atlanta, GA]; and is currently at only 12% [United States Census Bureau, “Table FG2: Married Couple Family Groups, by Family Income, and Labor Force Status of Both Spouses:2013].  Ironically, mothers who work outside the h! ome, rate themselves as better parents than those who spend full time with their children [Kim Parker & Wendy Wang, “Modern Parenthood”, Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends, March 14, 2013], but are less satisfied with their own lives.  Much of this change in the family structure may be attributed to America’s growing secularism.  Many have come to believe that the historic traditional family is rooted in ‘creation myths’ [Wikipedia, “History of the Family”, August 4, 2014].  The more that American society moves away from Biblical knowledge and acceptance, the more strongly it rejects the traditional family.

‘Secularism’, defined as an “indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations”, is on a rising trajectory in America, even among millions of ‘professing’ Christians [Frank Newport, “In US, Four in Ten Report Attending Church in Last Week”, Gallup Politics, December 24, 2013].  In 1952 some 75% of Americans said religion was very important in their lives; today that number has fallen to 56% [Ibid].  Weekly church attendance has fallen from almost half to its current 39% [Ibid].  In 1958 only 14% of Americans felt that religion was losing its influence in American life; today that number is 77% [Frank Newport, “Most Americans Say Religion is losing Influence in US”].  20% of Americans say they affiliate with no religion at all and that they are not even interested in finding religion [Pew Research Religion and Public Life Support Project, “Nones’ on the Rise”, October 9, 2012].  The ‘nones’ are the fastest growing ‘religious’ group in the country and are having a dramatic impact on the cultural landscape.  72% of them support abortion and 73% same sex marriage [Ibid].

What has this cultural shift done to the effectiveness of traditional families?  There are at least three groups where the effects on children growing up without a father and mother can be assessed;

>   Children born outside of marriage and raised in single-parent homes

>   Children from divorced homes

>   Children from homes where one or both parents are incarcerated

We will look at children from the first group…born outside of marriage, raised in single-parent homes

+   Educational attainment is significantly lower [Patrick Fagan, “Family and Faith: The Roots of Prosperity, Stability, and Freedom”, The Heritage Foundation, March 21, 2001]; almost twice as likely to repeat a grade in school; more than twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school [Institute for American Values, “The Marriage Movement; A Statement of Principles”, January 2000].

+   Young men twice as likely to end up in jail [Cynthia Harper & Sara McLanahan, “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration”, Journal of Research on Adolesce! nce 14, no.3 (2004), pgs 369-397]

+   Seven times as likely to be delinquent [Statistic from Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1988 & DivorceReform.org,”Children of Divorce: Crime Statistics”, August 4, 2014]; twice as likely to have pulled a knife or a gun on someone in the past year [Todd Franke, “Adolescent Violent Behavior: An Analysis Across and Within Racial/Ethnic Groups”, Journal of Multicultural Social Work 8 (2000), pgs 47-70, 21 September 2005].

+   Gang involvement almost twice as high [Les Whitbeck, “Predictors of Gang Involvement…”, Journal of Gang Research 10 (2002), pgs 11-26].

+   90% of the increase in violent crime between 1973 and 1995 was committed by those born out of wedlock and raised in a single-parent home [Wade Mackey & Nancy Coney, “The Enigma of Father Presence in Relationship to Son’s Violence and Daughter’s Mating Strategies: Empiricism in Search of a Theory”, Journal of Men’s Studies 8 (2000), pgs 349-373]; 75% of juvenile criminals come from these homes [Ramsey Clark, Crime in America: Observations on Its Nature, Causes, Prevention, and Control (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970) pg 140]; an increase of only 1% in out-of-wedlock births produces a corresponding increase of up to 5% in murder rates [Robert O’Brien & Jean Sto! ckard, “The Cohort-Size Sample-Size Conundrum: An Empirical Analysis and Assessment Using Homicide Arrest Data from 1960 to 1999”, Journal of Quantitative Criminology 19 (2003), pgs. 1 to 32].

+   Children in single-parent households have less family income and are more likely to be poor [Patrick Fagan, Andrew Kidd & Henry Potrykus, “Marriage and Economic Well-Being: The Economy of the Family Rises or Falls with Marriage”, Marriage and Religion Research Institute, May 4, 2011]; the average income of a traditional family is $101,000 but of a single-mother family is $35,000 [US Census Bureau, 2012 Family Income, “Married-Couple Families, All Races” & “Female Householder, Husband Absent, All Races”, August 4, 2014].

Children pay a high price for the rejection of the traditional family structure…so do single-mothers.  In such dire straits is it time to start questioning proven family structure?  Maybe it’s time to reconsider the validity of some of the “old charts”.  Maybe they are a way out.  Because I try to limit the length of my weekly “Politics and the Church” e-mail, we will continue with the next two groups that affect children next week.  Our children are our future.  We need to treat them as the critical asset that they are.

– Bob Munsey

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