How Society Works

How Society Works

Who Guards the Guardians in the Social Sciences?

abortion, mental health, social science 2 comments

A First Things article berating pro-lifers for overstating the findings on abortion provoked this blog on free speech in the social sciences particularly regarding two-abortion related topics 1) abortion and breast cancer regarding which the First Things author incorrectly stated there is none, and 2) the effects of abortion on the mental health of the mother which the author correctly opined is often overstated by pro-lifers.

Regarding abortion and breast cancer: there is a clear connection but not for all abortions. It seems to be triggered by second trimester abortions, not first trimester abortions.  Once the biology of breast development is understood this impact make sense.  We need much more careful research (which we most definitely did not get from NIH, nor the American Cancer Society, nor The American Psychological Association). Political correctness (cultural Marxism) reigns supreme in the academy when the contentious issues of life and sexuality are in play.

For a review of the research on the effects of abortion on breast cancer, see this critique of all the major studies used by ACA, NIH and APA to make their conclusions: Induced Abortion and Breast Cancer

The better read for most folk is the summary of the article, unless one enjoys digging into extensive, detailed critiques, a tedious task for most laymen. However when publicly taking NIH to task on research negligence as happened in its infamous and stacked conference on the issue, and when taking on the APA as well, one must be careful and precise.

One of the signs of likely robust scholarship on the “natural law” side is that their controversial studies are ignored. Opponents cannot respond in open debate without giving exposure to the research.   The media, sharing many of the same prejudices, do not report them either.

The second area of study — the effects of abortion on the mental health of mothers — is mixed: There are many who are affected and many who are not. Why such is the case is likely a fruitful area of research already underway at the Marriage and Religion Research Initiative at The Catholic University of America under Dr. Paul Sullins, whose published research on this topic is worth reading.

The next stage of Sullins’s research will tease out the different effects of “wanted” vs “unwanted” abortions. The operating hypothesis is that one expects to see quite a difference in the emotional responses of the mothers.

Using the social sciences to cast light on human nature demands research care and researchers’ humility.  Before the data is in and replicated, everyone on both sides has to be tentative about his projections.  There will be many lessons for both sides.  Human nature is not as simple as we tend to make it, nor is it made in the way we often wish it were.

However, one thing I have learned in 45 years of working in this broad domain: there are extraordinarily few in the pro-choice “opposition” who are interested in the unvarnished truth, very few. But they do exist. Dr. David Ferguson of New Zealand comes immediately to mind.  But he too found great difficulty getting his (pristine) first piece of research on abortion effects published. For years he and his research team experienced almost automatic acceptance and publication in top British medical journals of research from the Christchurch Health and Development Study, one of the world’s “gold standard” longitudinal surveys. When they first investigated the effects of abortion they suddenly found their research unwelcome and blocked. In the article above, Fergusson (a “pro-choice” man) states:

These findings [of significant harm] are inconsistent with the current consensus on the psychological effects of abortion. In particular, in its 2005 statement on abortion, the American Psychological Association concluded that ‘well-designed studies of psychological responses following abortion have consistently shown that risk of psychological harm is low … the percentage of women who experience clinically relevant distress is small and appears to be no greater than in general samples of women of reproductive age’ (APA, 2005). This relatively strong conclusion about the absence of harm from abortion was based on a relatively small number of studies which had once or more of the following limitations: a) absence of comprehensive assessment of mental disorders; b) lack of comparison groups; and c) limited statistical controls. Furthermore, the statement appears to disregard the finding of a number of studies that had claimed to show negative effects for abortion. (Cougle et al., 2003; Gissler et al., 1996; Reardon and Cougle, 2002)

Such a statement in a well-regarded journal was, and still is, quite extraordinary. It reveals the anger of a truth-seeking scientist with the abuse of his beloved science. By the way, the APA publication he referred was the APA’s submission to Congress.

The situation today has not changed and is likely worse. The suppression of truth, even in reporting the research, is now a hallmark of the mainline scientific associations when it comes to the contentious issues of life and sexuality. This is a crisis within the social sciences. When scholarly exchange and critique is suppressed the science has metastasized and is destroying itself. However, it is so bad now on some topics I suspect the better-minded politically-correct social scientists will soon begin to revolt.

A side note: Google Scholar is a useful resource to find published articles in most areas. I expected to find the Fergusson article (above) there, but it is not to be found. His later articles which find lesser effects on women as they age are carried. Cultural Marxism, political correctness, may be operating in Google Scholar too, a disturbing characteristic for a much-sued “gateway” to research.

Patrick Fagan, Ph.D.
Director of the Marriage and Religion Research Initiative at The Catholic University of America
see www.MARRI.US for more overviews (by no means comprehensive) of the research on abortion.

The Most Powerful and Influential Teachers on Earth

family, fathers, marriage, mothers No comments

Last week we saw the powerful effects of two great teachers: the church and the state and the need for both to be fundamentally aligned if one is to have a peaceful and prosperous society. But in terms of power and influence, nothing compares to parents in shaping their children’s view of life and capacity for life.

From the moment of birth the mother has the capacity to orient her child positively to “reality” by making those first moments, days, months and even years enjoyable and welcoming.   Dying young soldiers often give testimony to this by calling on their mothers, instinctively harkening back to the great welcome into life even as they exit it.  By contrast, very troubled mothers can lay the foundation for psychosis if, rather than welcoming their child, they make those first experiences horrendous, and the child protectively retreats to a safer place within itself, cutting itself off from this dangerous world it has just entered.  Therapists later do their limited best to draw the person back out again.

Increasing attention has been drawn to the influence of fathers.  They shape the sexuality of their children by the way they relate to the mother of their children, for that is the primary sexual relationship in the family.  We know all sorts of other good effects such as the more they read to their children the quicker they come to read and love books.  The more time he spends with his children the more they thrive.  President Obama talked of this a number of times.

But what nobody talks about in the media is the effect of the parent’s marriage on their children.  A good marriage is more powerful than a good mother or a good father taken singly, much more.

But the most powerful marriage is the one that includes weekly worship of God.  Such a marriage is the most powerful teacher and educator of children in every measured aspect of human life.  The following is a snapshot of the national picture for the US, by family structure and frequency of worship.

Forget about Japanese schooling or German schooling or British schooling.  They are all good but don’t hold a candle to the father and mother who are married and worship God weekly.  They are the “tiger mothers” and “super dads” all wrapped up in one loving package.  They are the most powerful educators on earth.  And they can be found across the globe. But talked about nowhere.  Strange.

How Society Works: Two Teachers Who Often Clash, Sometimes Seriously

church, state 1 comment

Society has many teachers but the two biggest ones are the state and the church (shorthand for religious practice).  When they are fairly well aligned on moral issues society goes smoothly.

The Church teaches a universal morality (one that holds for all men at all times).  Reflection shows an enormous unanimity across cultures and religions on most of the tenets of morality as C.S. Lewis demonstrated in his essay “Illustrations of The Tao.”  The State teaches a state morality in the laws which forbid specific evils and protect specific goods.  Chaos comes when the state and The Tao are in conflict. Such are the clear lessons of history.

Both teach but in totally different ways.  The State teaches its “government morals” through the force it is prepared to use in arrest, judgment and punishment (from fines all the way to death).  The Church teaches by word but even more by example and most powerfully when both are combined (or most disastrously when word and example contradict each other).   Its most effective teachers are those who are obviously happy, peaceful and kind.

Both institutions have a very close relationship with evil.   The Church, at its best, inspires one to repent. Roman Catholics are quite used to this close encounter with evil in the confessional with their secret revelation and repentance of personal evils ranging from small faults to heinous crimes.  Other religions have their own form of repentance. The state, on the other hand, has a different intimate relationship with evil, in those it condemns to punishment.  For many prison is hell today, not because of the punishment, but because of their close encounter with truly evil people.

In a well-functioning society the church’s core competence is in leading individuals to lives of goodness and virtue, while the state’s core competence is in containing evil.  They both take on other tasks but these are the sine qua non of their roles in society. Thus the saint (the ‘ordinary’ everyday person of wide virtue) is the church’s best product (and its best preacher) while the brave soldier and just policeman is the best embodiment of the state.  By the nature of goodness the saint is very idiosyncratic while the good soldier or policeman are of the same mold. The first is very relational, kind and adaptive, the second are very instrumental and treat us all the (much) same way.

The church’s competence is in growing, the state’s in protecting. Society thrives when they both teach much the same lessons when what needs to be grown is also what is protected. (Hence the deep chaos-causing nature of laws permitting abortion).

How can the two be brought into alignment?  In democracies the only way is conversion of individual minds and hearts.  In dictatorships alignment is achieved by force.  So that leaves the United States with only one way to go: conversion.   We know who the best persuaders are, but are there enough of them?  Are we growing them?

MARRI’s User-Friendly Demographic Tool

Census data, education, family structure, income, MARRI, poverty, sexuality, single parents, social science, welfare No comments

Over the next few weeks we will introduce you to different tools and resources in the MARRI website.  Today we introduce you to a tool that permits you to pick out the charts you want to see at the national or state level (your own state for instance) on a number of outcomes such as poverty and welfare.

These graphs chart the changes in the American family from 1940, just before entry into World War II,  to 2013.  This is a charting of the change in American culture over time, from one of significant belonging within the family to a culture of significant levels of rejection within the family.

You can analyze these trends by
•    The nation or by any particular state;
•    By total population or broken down by ethnic group;
•    By male or female or both combined;
•    By adult or children or both combined;
•    By outcome: family structure; education (but this not for children), poverty and welfare.

There are a total of 500 charts in the tool. All the data is from the Office of the Census, drawing on decennial census data and annual survey data.

To pull up the charts that are of interest, you click on the appropriate tabs on the dashboard.  When you click on a button it will turn either blue or gold.  Gold indicates the variable you are picking.  Blue indicates a tab is turned off.  Gold is on; blue is off. Thus if I wanted education outcomes for all adult males (only) in the state of Utah, the tabs for Utah, adults, males and education would be in gold, everything else would be in blue.

By playing around with the dashboard and you will quickly see how it works.  It may take a second or two to function as the tool is “in the cloud” not in your computer.

Occasionally you will find blanks where we do not have data for a cluster of variables, e.g. on education attained for children.

Enjoy the tool, and spread the word, particularly to students!

Quantitative Social Sciences: In the Service of the Good, the True and (Maybe) the Beautiful

children, marriage, social science No comments

The social sciences, well done, cannot but illustrate the way God made man, or the way man is designed by nature.  ‘Well done’ means methodologically well done: well informed by statistical, mathematical and logic sciences.

While man is free to choose he is not free to choose the consequences; they are built into the choices made.  The social sciences can observe his choice (e.g. the choice to abort, or to marry, or to finish high school) and the consequences that flow from these choices.  In this they illustrate some aspects of natural law in action (moral law in action) by making the connection between choice and consequences.

Longitudinal surveys (where the same people are tracked over time) are the most valuable for good social science.  In them one can observe the choice and measure the pathway the person set in motion and the consequences that ensue over time, even over a life time if the survey continues long enough.

Of course, over time myriad factors modify such pathways.   Sometimes new choices are choices that deliberately reverse pathways: by overcoming an addiction; by divorcing; even by remarrying the person they divorced!

What these instances illustrate is the difficulty of ‘PROVING’ causation, in the layman’s understanding of X choice caused Y outcome.   Rather than supporting a determinist view of man, the social sciences support a “modifiable” view of man.  For most of us this comports with our commonsense knowledge of ourselves: we can change, but only gradually in most instances.  And quick changes most often evaporate rather quickly too.  Desirable changes are growth in virtue, which happens slowly and only with repeated acts, repeated over long periods.  Bad habits can form much more quickly as many addicts can attest.

The social sciences are social – to state the obvious, but an obvious truth forgotten most of the time by most of us, especially we Americans and those who hew to a radical individualism.  Man is deeply relational and needs the support of those around him to keep doing what he does.  If we change our social environment (those we relate to) we can change our behavior more easily.  Thus to become holy some choose the company of others determined to achieve the same and enter a monastery, or deliberately choose a spouse who is intent on the same goal.

But children, the most socially dependent of all of us, do not get to choose their own company, their parents, their siblings, nor the neighborhood they live in.  So it is rare for them to rise above the average behavior of their surroundings. It is possible but it is rare. How rare: check out the bell curve.  Most are in the middle, very few at the extremes.

Being deeply relational we are most easily influenced when we are young. Hence parents’ concern to choose good schools, especially schools where the behavior of the other children comports with what they would like to see in their own.  Good teachers in poor neighborhoods are thus some of the most valuable people in a nation: the ones who help those parents who are trying to give their children a leg up. They are the unsung heroes of the social infrastructure.

Good parents are careful to seeks and choose modifiers of their children’s’ behavior (or more precisely), they choose the environment (the social relationships) that will shape their children’s’ behavior.

Thus good parents (along with good teachers) are the “investors” in the future. They are the ones who work to have their children surpass them, to rise further in the next generation, not only in education and income (a common desire of parents) but in virtue and strength, in love, chastity and fidelity. That is how the social infrastructure is built and rebuilt.

Thus the social sciences, in their own way, inform us about the moral dimension of man’s behavior: about good and bad behaviors (though that language is too strong, too politically incorrect for the majority of social scientists; desirable / undesirable, functional / dysfunctional are more acceptable labels).  But no matter the labels, the social sciences tend to flush out those conditions in which man thrives or wilts and the pathways thereto.

Thus they are in the service of the good and the true.  It would be nice to say they are in the service of the beautiful but even for those who love the social sciences that may be a bit of a stretch, for the beauty of good people is hard to see behind the numbers and graphs of the social sciences.  Maybe such capacities will emerge in the future, but for now readers of the social sciences will have to do with merely the true and the good.

Do We Have a Black Woman Nobel Laureate in One of Our Inner Cities?

children, fathers, marriage, mothers No comments

Children are deeply relational beings–and depending on how that dimension is fulfilled for them by their parents they become competent human beings–or not.  Nurturing relationships early on makes “being a human being” a happy experience for them.  A mother, in the very close, comforting and warm nurturance of breast feeding, the foundational experience on entering a world that it is a good and nice place to be in.  This anchors a child in reality.  If a child is cursed with this early experience being a harsh one that child will retreat into life-long psychosis or milder forms of damaging self-defense from a harsh world.

Plenty of belonging leads to plenty of thriving.  A good culture, and a good nation devotes massive energy to ensuring plenty of belonging for its children: it is the sine qua non of its continued thriving as a culture and as a nation.

The core of such a culture is the marriage vow “till death us do part”, that vow by which fathers and mothers have bound themselves in perpetual belonging so that the children who will come have total reassurance as to whom and to where they belong.  That vow gives everyone a norm and a structure around which to build a highly functional society.  It absence indicates a body without a spine.

The other end of the spectrum which has belonging on one end is rejection. The norm and the “structure” around which rejection is built is sex outside of, or before, the marriage vow.   Its results are a national and cultural wilting instead of a thriving.  Rejection comes in many forms but for the building or, in this case, the deconstruction of society, rejection deep within the family is the natural and most common consequence of sex outside of marriage: out of wedlock births where most parents eventually end up rejecting each other; cohabitation with similar results for a large portion; and of course infidelity within marriage.  Abortion also is most frequently the product of out of wedlock sex (roughly 80%).

No matter which way society goes on matters sexual there are high costs for the two different pathways.

The costs of the pathway of traditional intact marriage are high for the individual requiring chastity (see last week blog); requiring that one pushes through the difficulties of marriage, no matter the burden; requiring fidelity (and in the process, requiring continued personal struggle and growth towards an even greater maturity lasting all the way their sixties and beyond – to the end).  The demands on the individual are high — but the benefits for them, their children and society are enormous.  The price of their struggle is more than well repaid.

The pathway of rejection does not make these demands on the individual; it is premised on avoiding them, on personal autonomy and “free choice”.  But it does demand a price:  the aborting of children (and America has, in the last 75 years, aborted the equivalent of one sixth of its present population); divorce and all its attendant consequences on adults and on children; out of wedlock births and all of its consequences , which for our inner cities, are now compounding through the fourth and even fifth generation.  For society at large the price is high in more school failure and drop out; more crime and addictions, more ill health and disease; shorter lifespan; much higher health costs; much higher education costs; much higher policing and criminal justice system costs; more poverty and less income; less savings; harsher old-age; more loneliness and suicide.   Even though the individuals who choose this pathway pay their own heavy price in the longer term, the premise of this culture is “I will make my choice – others can pay for the consequences.”  At its core this sexual pathway is anti-community, anti-child, anti-marriage and ultimately anti-cultural and, ironically, destructive of the individual who chooses that route.

A macro cost/benefit comparison between the two pathways leads quickly to a “slam dunk” winner.

Because these two different pathways demand very different cultures and, ultimately, very different political orders, we pay another price: civil strife and a growing gap between those who hold to the first pathway and those to the second.

Trying to make these two pathways work together causes one to daydream about solutions such as political geographies that permit one culture to work and pay for its way and the other to work and pay for its way.

But in such solutions one pathway would have to give up its foundational premise “I make my choice, the state (meaning everyone else, all the taxpayers) can pay for it.”  If the rejection pathway had its own political order and geographic community structures they would have to shoulder their own costs, and five minutes reflection by anyone, liberal or conservative, shows that is not possible for they would be bankrupt within a generation – in twenty five years or less.

But within that dilemma lies the seed of reform: achieve more and more ways of making folk of the second pathway aware of the cost to themselves and their children.   I bet that most single parent grandmothers in the inner city wish their grandchildren could take the “belonging till death us do part” pathway, the pathway of faithful marriage, even if they cannot see the way for that to happen.

It is from such grandmothers that the seeds of a “belonging America” can sprout.  On these issues no one has more authority, for they have the authority of suffering and pain, the authority of the victimhood of their grandchildren – should they learn how to harness it.  Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan of Belfast started the healing in Northern Ireland by harnessing similar suffering among mothers.  Is there a Betty Williams in one of our inner cities who could say for marriage in America what Williams, in her Nobel Laureate speech, said for peace in Northern Ireland:

“A deep sense of frustration at the mindless stupidity of the continuing violence was already evident before the tragic events of that sunny afternoon of August 10, 1976. But the deaths of those four young people in one terrible moment of violence caused that frustration to explode, and create the possibility of a real peace movement. As far as we are concerned, every single death in the last eight years, and every death in every war that was ever fought represents life needlessly wasted, a mother’s labor spurned.”

Can the price that our American children are paying, particularly our inner-city poor children are paying, draw forth that brilliant Black grandmother hidden somewhere in one of our cities?  That grandmother has a moral authority no one else can aspire to … and hundreds of thousands will follow should she give proper voice and they can begin the end to our American stupidity.

The Most Important Chart (Phenomenon) in all of the Social Sciences

divorce, pre-marital sex, sexuality, social science No comments

By now, regular readers of Faith and Family Findings are familiar with the data on family structure and its impact on everything important to a functioning society.  On every outcome measured, for adults and children, those in an intact family do best on all the positive outcomes we desire for ourselves and our children (education, income, savings, health, longevity, happiness, sexual enjoyment, intergenerational support) and have the least incidence of all the negatives we hope never afflict our children (crime, addictions, abuse both physical and sexual, poverty, illiteracy, exclusion, ill health, unhappiness, mental illness, lack of sexual fulfillment).

Thus family structure is exceedingly important to society and a return to intact marriage is a sine qua non for a nation or for families set on rebuilding themselves.

Given that, consider the implications of the following chart on the intactness of marriage at the end of the first five years of marriage:

What this chart shows is the probability of intactness of family after the first five years of marriage– given the number of sexual partners of the spouses have had in their lifetime. Using rounded numbers:  95% of those who are monogamous, that is only one sexual partner in their life time —i.e. only their spouse–95% are still in an intact marriage after the first five years. But for the woman (national average) who has had one extra sexual partner other than her husband (almost always prior to marriage) the percent drops to 62% and with two extra partners it drops almost to 50%.  Thereafter it plateaus.  For men it takes five sexual partners to reach the same level of breakup.

When I first saw this phenomenon in the 1995 data (the above is 2006-2010 data) my immediate reaction was “Those Mediterranean cultures that had chaperoning during courtship knew something about human nature, family life and intergenerational stability.” They ensured Mediterranean family was on the three-love diet.

Chastity and monogamy are foundational to the intact married family, and thus to the prosperity and success of a nation.  Hence my conclusion that this chart is the most important chart in all of the social sciences.

A culture of monogamy is critical to a thriving nation or a thriving culture.

A culture of chastity is foundational to a culture of monogamy.

Thus the cultivation of chastity is central to a robust nation and a robust culture.  Chastity is an old term but now out of favor even among Christians, given the impact of political correctness i.e. cultural Marxism. However it is the accurate label for the virtue or strength behind the data.

For the impact of monogamy at a more causative level check out the work of JD Teachman on Google Scholar  or his CV and you will be able to thread the impact of monogamy in an admirable corpus of cumulative scholarship that is one of the great contributions to research on the family.

Though the above chart is purely correlational – it is demographically descriptive of America, of what is happening between our couples who get married.  One chart cannot prove chastity is causative (go to Teachman and others to tease that out) but it sure indicates where causal strength (or weakness) can be found.

With an Eye to the Children We Never Knew: The Bloodiest Century By Far

abortion No comments

Roughly the equivalent of one seventh of the world’s present population has been killed in the womb of mothers over the last century.  (1.01 billion abortions vs 7.4 billion population)

In the US the proportion aborted is even higher: the total number is roughly the equivalent of one sixth of the present US population.  (58 million abortions vs 324 million population)

Government policy is the single biggest cause of this – by far.   The cases of South Africa and Poland demonstrate the historical rise (or fall) of abortion after the legal introduction (or elimination).

These are some of the biggest take-aways from the release of the most comprehensive and most carefully constructed database of abortion statistics for the world over the last century:  Abortion World Wide Report (2017). This PowerPoint by authors Thomas W. Jacobson, M.A., and Wm. Robert Johnston, Ph.D., gives a good overview of the massive report that upends the World Health Organization’s and the United Nations’ contentions on the data.  The debate on good statistics and reporting that this report ought to trigger will be interesting, though when good data is on the side of life and love “the opposition” tends to ignore it rather than bring attention to it by contesting it.

The Different Sexual Signals of Different Baby-Making Cultures

rights of children, sexuality No comments

All children have the right to the marriage of their biological parents because without it they will not become the persons they could have become.  This however is more honored in the breach than the observance.  There are exceptions but they are few; and that paucity proves the rule.

Many today disagree with this statement of this universal natural right of the child. Not because it is not true, but because they claim their own adult rights trump the rights of their biological children.   Such ‘rights claims’ make for different communities–communities that differ in their “baby-making life scripts”–and the induction of their children into these scripts.  That induction, though it starts in infancy, becomes very serious at puberty.  It is then that sexual signals and what they convey regarding “baby-making” life scripts becomes an intense topic of discussion for all: for the teenagers, their parents, their pastors and their teachers.

Different cultures have different life-script sexual signals but all have signals.  And different sexual signals indicate different cultures and the need for boundary marking and honoring of those borders.  The response to such signals is one of two:  “I am part of your community” or “I am of a differing baby-making life script community”.  When the response indicates a difference then the respondent in turn expects “OK, and I respect the difference.”  Should that happen there is comity, should it not we have the beginning of tyranny at an interpersonal level.

Today more flash points between modern communities or subcultures are arising. Radical individualism is not only forming its own very different culture and baby-making communities, but increasingly is adopting a non-accepting attitude to differing life script communities.

This totalitarian attitude is even more dangerous because the social science data repeatedly demonstrate that the intact (monogamous) family that worships weekly is the most socially productive on all measures, and the further one moves away from that “best model” the weaker the children produced.  Thus the radical individualism turned totalitarian is in danger of destroying the best, that which is most deserving of protection.   And the first duty of government is to protect the good and the innocent, which clearly includes the intact married family that worships weekly — in community. It has very clear and different sexual signals.

America protects the radical individualist communities and cultures. The issue of the day is whether it can it protect its older communities and cultures as well as the new immigrant communities who have many of the same “baby-making scripts”.

Freedom of Community: Next Frontier in Societies that Work

community, religious freedom No comments

In happy families members belong to each other and know and enjoy the belonging. But family life gets even better when the family belongs in a community of its own choosing, a community it likes and one where it feels it belongs. In the United States, and across the globe, the task facing governments increasingly is to find solutions that permit co-existence of communities of different religious and moral norms.  Most people derive a critical component of their personal identity from their membership in their community of choice (Israeli Jew, Palestinian Christian, Hispanic Catholic in the United States, gay activist in Ireland, an Evangelical in Texas, an Amish farmer in Pennsylvania, a Muslim mother in Dearborn Michigan, a Hassidic Jewish father in New York, and so on ad infinitum).

The struggle for individual freedoms is often really a struggle for freedom of community life.  The United States, which is the most successful experiment in political freedom in the history of mankind, now must solve for itself (and demonstrate to the world at large) how to solve the problem of freedom of very different communities within modern complex market-integrated societies.

The U.S. has a rather checkered history in the struggle for freedom of community.  It never got it perfect, but it keeps on trying to adjudicate between the ideals of freedom and the totalitarian temptation, a temptation given into many times in its history. Its first indulgence was in the constitutional protection of slavery, which denied freedom of marriage, family, community and religious practice to African-Americans brought to this country by force.  Native American communities suffered even worse treatment at times.  Coming to America does not make political saints out of immigrants, even Founding Father immigrants.

Another great totalitarian temptation, the impetus to deny freedom of religious community, did not triumph as much, but has remained a permanent presence. Despite the monumental achievement of the First Amendment, Catholics and Jews suffered a lot. In the first part of the 1800’s the Know Nothings as well as the dominant Protestant ethos of the time imposed a different religious education on Catholic families.  This lasted through the mid 1900’s when prayer was banished from public schools (not the preferred ending). This corruption in education of the American ideal of religious freedom metastasized early into the Blaine Amendments as new states were added to the Union, amendments that, to this day, distort family and community freedoms in many state constitutions. American Catholics, however, were prepared to pay the price of their freedom of community: they built their own school systems so that families could raise their children in the norms and ethos of their own faith communities. That struggle and that cost continues to this day.

Despite giving into the totalitarian temptation repeatedly through its history, the cornerstone American belief in freedom has triumphed repeatedly in other areas, even in matters of community.  An iconic example is the successful constitutional battle of the Amish to live their faith-community lives as they see fit.  This example may well be the template for the future of America.

The Amish community has clear behavioral boundaries that everyone can easily recognize. Though it makes high demands on its members the rewards are evident in its thriving viability. It does respect freedom, including freedom of family, religion and community of its own members. Young Amish adults have to choose to opt in or out of the community after a time of reflection and even experimentation outside. It does not impose its beliefs on neighbors. By and large an American attitude of “live and let live” operates on both sides of these community boundaries. Amish are very different but they are good citizens, happy to respect the existence of very different moral/religious communities around them because their own community borders and boundaries are respected.

Attaining this type of respect of the boundaries of moral communities is the great global problem of our day. People differ on what they believe is right or is wrong, particularly in matters that interface with family, sex and religious beliefs. With increased migrations from diverse religious and ethnic cultures this problem is intensifying not only in the US, but also across the globe.  In the United States it also takes on a rather unique configuration: the boundaries between traditional religious-value communities and newer, more morally relativist communities are in dispute, with sexual-morality-signals being the strongest markers of boundaries between these different communities.

These sexual-signal-markers indicate revered cultural, yet personally intimate practices on marriage, birth, abortion, contraception, divorce, adoption and education of children.  All people become quite agitated if their community way of life is threatened at its boundaries.  It is one of the deepest sources of intense energy (of love or anger, even rage) in human nature.  It is this dimension of freedom — freedom of community — that our generation of Americans is now called to solve if our nation’s historical experiment in freedom is to continue to unfold positively.  Furthermore, the whole world needs to see how we solve this problem.

Without freedom of community one does not have individual freedom. We all need our freedom to marry, to have family, and to live in communities of our choice in our legitimate ways of conducting family, church, school, marketplace and government at the micro levels of local community.  The Founding Fathers fought for this.  Our generation has to fight for it again and insist on a government that protects (rather than violates) our liberty to do good for our families in the legitimate ways of our own communities.

The United States started as a federation of states, to continue it must become also a federation of cultural communities that undergirds the founding structure of the Union.

Pat Fagan

(To be continued)