How Society Works

How Society Works

Cycles of Civilization

marriage, Rabbi Sacks, religion No comments

My blog today is the reproduction of part of a speech given by Rabbi Jonathan Saks in July this year.

Jonathan Henry Sacks, winner of the Templeton Prize in 2016, was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth from 1991-2013, and as such was a member of the House of Lords. He is now the Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University and the Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University, and the Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King’s College London.  I heard him speak at the Humanum Conference at the Vatican in 2014.  Here is an excerpt from his recent New York speech:

 —- We are entering one of the world’s great ages of desecularization and it is the rise of non-Western cultures that will shape the 21st century.

 

The end result is — as Rabbi Soloveitchik and Alasdair MacIntyre and others warned us decades ago — that if you lose religion from the mainstream of society, you will lose the sanctity of marriage.

 

You will lose the bond of community and you will lose the social covenant that says e pluribus unum: we’re all in this together.

 

One thing is clear.

 

Religion is not about to die.

 

The religious have bigger families and stronger communities.

 

They’re going to grow in numbers and confidence in the course of the 21st century.

 

But the secular West is in real trouble.

 

It’s re-enacting a scenario played out many times in the course of history, in Athens and Rome in antiquity, and Renaissance Italy.

 

The same thing happens each time.

 

A culture or civilization at the very height of its affluence and its creativity finds that people are becoming more individualistic. They become more hedonist. They become more skeptical of religious beliefs, and that causes a loss of social cohesion, social energy and social ideals.

 

No one said it better than a great American historian, Will Durant. As a young man he wanted to be a priest but actually became an atheist[1]. So listen to what this atheist says — and it’s unbelievably powerful. After his huge study of the story of civilization, he says:

 

“What happens at a certain point in history is that the intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and, after some hesitation, the moral code allied with it. Literature and philosophy become anti-clerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct deprived of its religious support deteriorates into epicurean chaos and life itself shorn of consoling faith becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end, a society and its religion tend to fall together like body and soul in a harmonious death. Meanwhile, among the oppressed, another myth arises and gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort and, after centuries of chaos, builds another civilization.”

 

You can view the whole speech at http://rabbisacks.org/cultural-climate-change/ . This excerpt begins at minute 46.

With an eye to the child – the future of us all.

Pat Fagan

 

[1]Fagan insert:   But in his last days Durant  received the last sacraments of the Catholic Church.:  see New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/1985/12/08/nyregion/new-jersey-opinion-the-rise-and-fall-and-rise-again-of-willdurant-truth-seeker.html?mcubz=1

 

Difference Between the Individual and the Person: Proposition

family, individuals, persons, rights of children No comments

The difficulty with sociology is that it mainly deals with individuals and rarely with persons (though Mark Regnerus’ latest book, Cheap Sex, does both).

An individual is one among many.  A person is unique – unique to those who know him and relate with him.  Thus we are unique to our mothers who tend to know us better than anyone else, at least in our early years, and likely always in our fundamental personality.  We are unique to our spouses whether blessed with a good marriage, or not.  Sometimes a special friend knows us best for we have revealed more of ourselves to them than to anyone else.

We know we have individual rights — both universal rights and political rights unique to our citizenship.  Universal rights belong to all.  Individual political rights belong to those on whom they are conferred by the polis, by the community acting as a political entity.  Universal rights cross all borders; political rights are confined within political borders, and even within groups within these borders.

But do we have any personal rights distinct from individual rights?

Strangers I meet on the street are individuals to me and have individual rights I must respect.  But they are not yet persons for me, though they are persons to others.

However they are very much persons to their mothers, in whose womb they grew, whose eyes first looked into theirs and saw their first smile of “happy to be with you”.  Most of them are very much a person to their fathers, in a relationship that might rival that with their mother, if they are blessed.  Then with their siblings if they are blessed with a happy family life. And so the circle of person-ness extends outwards through close relationships.

If I have an enemy – one who wishes me ill – that changes my sense of myself and I am a different person because of that relationship. I know evil in an intimate way.  That makes me a different person.  If I have many enemies that shapes me into yet a more different person.

I may be blessed with many loving relationships.  I may be cursed with many personal enemies.

My relationships do not make me an individual.  I was an individual before I had any personal relationships.

What I am makes me an individual.  Whom I relate with makes me who I am.  The more loving relationships I have the easier it is for me to relate with others and with myself.   The more negative relationships I have the more difficult it is for me to relate with others and with myself. Our relationships amplify or detract from our ability to harness our capacities for good.

Are there any loving relationships to which I have a “right” — relationships which the other person has a duty to provide to me?

I posit there are three.  Everyone has a right to the loving relationship of their mother in the early years of our life. And the same is true of his father.  These two beings (father and mother) brought us into existence and thus conferred all the burdens of existence as well.  And to bear these burdens, to thrive in an ordinary, basic, human way we will need their loves.

But  we also need their love for each other because without that milieu of mutual love we cannot become fully the ordinary person we are constituted to become.  Just as it would be inhuman for my parents to deprive me of the oxygen I need to breath so too it is inhuman to deny me the atmosphere of love I need to become a person capable of relating well and intimately.

And because this is a universal need, a universal situation for every newborn, it is a universal right — a most appropriate “ask”. Universally is it a most appropriate “demand” of every child, a demand of the man and the woman who brought him into existence.

In the end, the very end, the most valuable reality I bring into the next life  is the web of loving relationships I have built; and the greatest concern I will have are the bad relationships I have caused.  I am what I have made of my relationships.  In the end only love endures.  Or hate.

Father’s Sexual Rights and Duties

education, fathers, sexuality 2 comments

Many people who have absolutely nothing to do with the family are deeply involved in the sexual formation of the family’s children.  They seek not to educate them as virtuous, monogamous adults, deeply committed to their future spouses and their future children, but instead, as continuously polymorphous sexual beings at ease with what ordinary folk, for eons, called grave sins. The names and forms of these practices now multiply by the year and are even infused into the kindergarten.

But the child does not belong to anyone in the education system, not even to their most devoted teachers.   The child belongs only to the parents, just as the parents are the only ones who belong fully to the child.    And parents, through their marital relationship and their devotion, are the ones who most shape the child’s sexuality.  When children are given these two ingredients they develop into fine sexual adults.

Given the advanced revolution that is underway in many schools it is more than time for fathers to step up to the plate and claim their rights.  Protecting their sons is a natural first step. Imagine this opening to a conversation down at your local school:

“This is my boy, not yours.  I gave him life.  From my sexual act he came into existence.  From his sexual act my grandchildren are going to come into existence.  One half of the DNA in every cell in his body comes from me, the other half from my wife.  By the most complete, intimate and loving of all sexual acts my wife and I brought him into existence. This domain belongs to no one else.   I, the male who gave him life, am the one to teach him how to be a man so that he in due time with a good woman, his future wife, can bring another child into existence this way.  A quarter of the DNA of those children will be my DNA.  Nobody — and I mean nobody – has the right to come into this territory that is exclusively mine and MY BOY’s.

 

“I am the one to guide him along this path. For this task I was created.  The school had nothing to do with it. It is not your right; it is mine (and my obligation too —not yours). Except for my wife, no one else has any rights in this matter.  No one!

 

“For this my wife and I married. This is our most prized “territory”. This is our life. It definitely is not yours. Stay out! And keep your hands off my boy’s sex and off my daughter’s sex!”

 

“If we want someone’s help I will ask.  But first take care of your children and let us all see how well you are doing in shaping the sexuality of your children.  If I like what you have accomplished you will be a candidate for helping me should I need it. And by the way, that help will be for me — how to teach him.”

 

When fathers start speaking this way to school teachers, principals and boards, the good sexual revolution will have begun.  And, by the way, loads of teachers will love it!

Cheap Sex

Mark Regnerus, sex, social science No comments

Today I am an unabashed salesman.

Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, has a new book called Cheap Sex which is a ‘must’ for readers of this blog.  It is by far the best book on the intimate relationships between the sexes (from dating to marriage).  Quoting from inside the cover jacket Cheap Sex takes readers on an extended tour inside the American mating market and highlights key patterns that characterize young adults’ experience today, including the timing of first-time sex in relationships, overlapping partners, frustrating returns on their relational investments and a failure to link future goals, like marriage, with how they navigate their current relationships.  Drawing upon several surveys, in-person interviews with one hundred men and women, and the assertions of scholars ranging from evolutionary psychologists to gender theorists, what emerges is a story about social change, technological breakthroughs, and unintended consequences.  Men and women have not fundamentally changed but their unions have.  No longer playing a supporting role in relationships, sex has emerged as a central priority in relationship development and continuation. But unravel the layers and it is obvious that the emergence of “industrial sex” is far more a reflection of men’s interests than women’s.”

For a more in-depth overview of the contents see George Mason Law School Professor Helen Alvare’s review.

The four endorsements on the back of the jacket are from world renowned social scientists. Roy Baumeister, social psychologist, now at the University of Queensland and one of the world’s leading social psychologists says: “This book is utterly fascinating, sometimes disturbing, occasionally provocative, brilliantly thoughtful and always informative ….”  Brad Wilcox, renowned sociologist at the University of Virginia advises “Everyone concerned about the plight of young men in America should wrestle with the arguments in this important book.”  Linda Waite at the University of Chicago, for decades the leading family sociologist in the US, states:  “Regnerus has a breezy, likeable way of telling this fascinating and engaging story.  A great read.” And Anthony Giddens of the London School of Economics, a fellow at Kings College, Cambridge and one of the most cited social scientists alive states:  “A magisterial study of the changing sexual landscape today…. This book will become a standard work of reference in the field.”

Can one get higher praise from the world’s top scholars in one’s profession?  And keep in mind what Linda Waite said: “breezy, likeable, fascinating, engaging … a great read.” You are guaranteed a good an intellectual feast, easily digested.

This book will make a great gift for your pastor, many of the teachers in your children’s’ high school, your physician, and of course, your children who are old enough and many of your friends and family.  If you don’t give it to them make sure they get it.  And make sure your county library carries many copies of it.

But first: get it for yourself and study it.

With an eye to the many love-deprived children of the future,

 

Pat Fagan

“Post-Truth” and “Dis-easing” Facts

Census data, education, media, social science No comments

Who are the greatest natural law teachers in America?  They are ‘the whole population of America’. Their behavior and choices teach natural law in an extraordinarily clear way and they record their lessons in the US federal survey system. Simple forms of demographic snapshots of the American population teach a lot about natural law fundamentals.

One of the clearest collection of these behaviors, choices and correlates can be found in our Mapping America series but also in the work of a number of other centers such as Bowling Green University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research,  The Austin Institute and The Institute for Family Studies.

But the vast majority of the teachers of social science (university professors and their related journalists) are overwhelmingly dis-eased (ill at ease) folk when it comes to the most fundamental aspects of natural law and they suppress the data.  Though their profession is based on seeking truth from observable facts, most social science professors do not like the truths that emerge, most especially that religious worship is very good for man and society.  By and large they themselves do not worship nor practice any religion.

My grandfather, a small-farm farmer in the midlands of Ireland had a saying:  “Those educated blackguards are the worst blackguards.” In America, we might say they teach post-truth – “an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. ”

Why call these post-truth social teachers ‘blackguards’? They violate their own intellects, their own sacred things (science), and they cheat their customers (their students).  They suppress free speech on campus and in academic journals, and have violated academic freedom in hiring practices.  All this as they march to the fore on all the “hate group” issues of the moment.

My grandfather would ask “Why would any parent pay for that?”

However even in our “post-truth” era the American people will continue to teach uncomfortable truths and we will have their teachings recorded in every US federal survey completed.  The data are there for the ages, before, during and post ‘post-truth’.  The mission of the social sciences will survive this self-inflicted trauma.  It is buried in the data.

PS: ‘Post-truth’ was the Oxford Dictionaries’ “word of the year selection” for 2016.

Preparing for the Rebuilding of America (and Western Civilization)

child well-being, family, happiness, human capital, marriage, religion No comments

A few years ago I met Don Renzo Bonetti, parish priest near Verona, Italy. He is the founder of a family movement, The Great Mystery Project (“Mistero Grande” in Italian).  He said he was “forming the families who will rebuild Western Civilization after it collapses” and wished me luck with my work in the social sciences, which he thought could play its own role (rather limited) in this rebuilding.

Western civilization is collapsing very quickly — silently in Italy and other European countries, as they gradually disappear, demographically, before our eyes — raucously in US.  Our debate may be the first stage of the next great awakening.  It is not yet a response but there is a widespread awakening to the level of the crisis and a growing desire to do something about it.

The solution, the rebuilding of America, will be aided by our deepest roots as a nation, which are not in our being a particular people or race but in the ideals of freedom, articulated by our Founders as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”   But these ideals alone will not be enough to carry the day.

Many institutions need rebuilding: schools, universities, media, movies, and churches. The reform needed for our ideals to flourish again in these will never take hold without the first and most basic reform – the rebuilding of our families.

Such rebuilding of the family is most likely to happen within communities of worship, because it is there that our national experts in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are most to be found: the intact married family that worships God weekly.

Where is life most abundant?  In the intact married family that worships God weekly.  Where is death most absent? In the very same place.

Where is liberty most abundant? Where are children free? Where are women and men most free to achieve the good they desire?  In that same place.

Where are people happiest?  In that same place.  The data is incontrovertible.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness occur most in the intact married family that worships God weekly.

This is the place where the two great loves are most present: love of others and love of God.  And these loves are both the seed and the soil of the rebirth of America.  These families know what to do and they are the most likely to help. This is America’s “Great Mystery”, its great resource.

Spread the word.

 

Pat Fagan

Prenuptials for Indissoluble Marriages

divorce, happiness, marriage 1 comment

“Divorce? Never. Murder? Maybe.”    So said an Irish wife in 1986 when Ireland was debating divorce law.  Divorce was unthinkable for her generation, particularly for Catholics.  “Prenups” were a waste of time and thought.  Today is very different – even for devout Christians and for couples who seem to have everything going for them.  No one has the culture “going for them”.

Today’s culture accepts pornography, divorce, cohabitation, one-night-stands, deliberate single-parenthood, materialism, and pleasure-seeking.  (Just yesterday in Union Station in Washington DC I saw a millennial wearing a cap that said “Sex, drugs and money.”)  American culture today rejects chastity, prayer and religious worship, the Ten Commandments, God, and even children.  Marriage thrives on the “flip side” of all these.

The prenuptial I propose is not about preserving wealth but preserving the marriage to come.  It is a vaccination against that divorce which will be a high temptation even for those who have good marriages.  Our toxic environment guarantees this.

There are issues a couple should clear up before saying “I do” because there are  marriage-destroying habits they may need to drop before they set out on their life-long expedition or else they will later find out they were never really “together”.

This prenuptial inoculation should be agreed to at least a year before the marriage so that there is time to “clean out the garbage” before the great day.  If the garbage does not get cleared out then better to call the wedding off than destroy the lives of their children with a divorce later on.

Here is the prenuptial to fill in and sign after discussing the contents.  This discussion itself will be a great eye-opener for many couples, even before they embark on fulfilling the terms.

OUR PRENUPTIAL

(Click here to Download)

 

Marriage preparation is much more than taking in ideas.  It involves starting to make the changes needed to build a good marriage.

“Restoring the Culture” Confronts “The Male Problem”

feminism, gender, men No comments

Men need to do something because radical Feminism has triumphed:  Where in today’s culture do we see promoted the cultural ideal of the good male patriarch, the husband of the natural family and the ideal for all of human history of young men who aspire to be good.    The radical feminists have massively changed the thought patterns, the mores, the education, the entertainment and the legal system and left us with more and more failing men, or men “stuck” in life.   We have more and more “Peter Pans” – not by their wish or self-design but as a result of their malnourished formation.

Just as plants thrive in the right conditions so too do boys thrive if born into a good ‘patriarchal’ family in which the father leads by loving and educating his children (just as his wife does in her way).  Young men today are victims of an environment constructed over fifty years of sustained, intense, focused and savvy work by the feminist movement.

Feminism has altered every major institution in the nation: the churches and seminaries, the academy and doctoral programs, the courts and the law schools, the media and journalism schools, medicine and medical schools, government bureaucracies at all levels, teachers unions and education schools, national and state curricula for grade schools, high schools and colleges; the major educational publishers, librarian unions and public library books for children down to pre-K levels.

In all these areas one theme dominates: all women are victims everywhere and all men are the victimizers, fathers of families in particular.   (Next time you are at the library go to the children’s room and review the books to see how the father in the family is treated—made to look like an incapable fool and dispensable to a family).

Feminists care not a whit that boys have fallen behind on virtually every educational measure of importance.  If Title IX had any meaning every penny would now be spent on helping boys and young men catch up on girls and young women.

Current sexual mores have deprived most children of the benefits of the intact married family life with their parents (by age 17 only 46% of American children are living in such a family). The sexual discrimination against boys is massive: they are deprived of their biological adult male father in their home. Imagine how feminists would be howling if the reverse were true—if girls were deprived of their biological mothers in similar numbers.  The effects are logical and very visible: relatively more and more weak men.

Sexual abuse of children is “through the roof” and pandemic among welfare families in the inner city, which renders them incapable of intact family life in their adulthood – the desired outcome for radical feminism.

Feminism is aided and abetted by modernity’s intellectual habit of denial and dismissal of reality and realities:

In education, the data are convincingly repetitive: the intact married family that worships God weekly yields the best results. However, most social science professors are in full denial of this and refuse to entertain even the discussion of it even though religious attendance may be the single most powerful variable in increasing educational performance. Virtually no one knows this.  Least of all parents and teachers.

Likewise science is increasingly ideological (i.e. at the service of the dominant power interests be they corporate, feminists or political ideology).  Academic freedom is a thing of the past.

In economics and government: the denial of debt accumulated and the continued living on national IOU’s by federal, state and city legislatures has huge effects on young men whose burdens of too-heavy education debts stops many from thinking of marriage because they cannot be a provider.

In constitutional law all the major reinterpretations are the fruits of radical feminism.  Our families have suffered immensely in the new legal regime.

Good men have to take the initiative in their own hands and begin to assess their predicament: how boys and girls – their children, are affected.

The solution will have to be a masculine one (it cannot but be so). Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Men and women do best together when they complement each other.  Men have to find their way back to Mars.  Though it will be different from John Wayne’s America, manly men of all cultures recognize the strength (or weakness) of other men no matter their culture.  Masculine strength is manifest in their willingness to suffer in order to provide for their families and to protect their communities.  On matters of family men are very different from women.

It is time for a new revolution – founded on the justice due a good man and founded on the need to rebuild the culture that each child needs, a culture that honors good men and especially good married fathers. The way out of this mess will be very different from the way into it.  It is time for men to begin to assess the present and explore future options.

Chastity and the Future of the First Amendment

chastity, children, culture, family, religion No comments

The family is the most sexual of all organizations. But given the sexual chaos of modern times, new families who want to succeed in their task of child-raising must quickly find a community of other families of like mind.  They are most likely to find such families at their place of worship if the sexuality taught there is a family and child centered sexuality.

The data show (see chart below later) that central to family sexuality is an ethos of chastity, necessary for marital unity and stability and out of which flow myriad benefits.  Without chastity the family is no more a thriving family than a monastery without celibacy is a monastery.

Chastity is now central to the public argument for religious freedom because such families need their freedom of association and freedom of action to raise the next generation to live the same strong family life.  They need freedom to teach their own way of life: marriage till death do us part, and raising their children to do the same.  Much as the Amish fought and won their freedom of association and way of life, so too other religious communities are now finding they too must fight and win a freedom which they had assumed was theirs without asking.  It had been so.  It is no longer.

If we want our religious freedom we have to be able to make the argument for teaching chastity as a way of life, not as a “risk reduction strategy”.  Chaste family life is easy to defend in the public debate because it is far superior to all other ways, by any measure of human thriving.  Teenagers (who have yet to experience life and learn its hard lessons by experience) need to understand that there are lifelong consequences for “sowing wide oats”, as the most important chart in all the social sciences makes clear:

They need to be very familiar with the data (with the lessons of life experience) that the totally monogamous couple (only sexual partner ever: their spouse) is the least likely to divorce – by far. And that one third of women who have had only one other sexual partner (normally before marriage) are likely to divorce within five years, and that those who had two such sexual partners (other than their husband – again most likely before marriage) have a fifty percent chance of divorce within five years — and that half of their children will be raised without their father present.

Chastity may be difficult but it is central to a family-centered life.  And it is also central to justice for children.  There is no free lunch on this issue, not for teenagers, adults nor for society itself.

If churches and parents do not make the strongest case possible for the chastity-based family (and on its fruits and benefits it is an easy case to make) they will not get their religious freedom.

The rest of society may think such families are weird (despite the data) but they will likely respect them for the path they have chosen.

The future of the First Amendment rests on the freedom to teach the centrality of chaste family life.   We will not win I if we are ambivalent or shy.

Malleable Human Nature: The Black Hole of Culture

child well-being, children, culture No comments

A most remarkable essay has just been released, Three Necessary Societies  by Russell Hittinger of the University of Tulsa.  It will likely be referred to repeatedly in years to come as people unwrap its implications.  Among many other issues, Hittinger draws attention to the frightening prospect of the simultaneous serious weakening of all three of the necessary societies needed by man: the family, the church and the polity (civil society, including government).

Hittinger underlines the cause of this simultaneous weakening in the now-deep-seated anthropological assumption that man’s nature is malleable. This assumption shapes the ethos of our day.  It is no wonder then that culture should evaporate.  If culture is a people’s way of acting together to help each other through life, particularly through the important tasks and through the tough periods, the wise practice of those who came before us make little sense if we can shape our nature and our trials and tasks into whatever form we like.   If we can remake marriage, the sacraments, our sexuality, our obligations, our most sacred relationships, even our God who needs guidance on how to do these well.

The implication for families is that cultural support will become very small, and very local.  It will exist only where others we associate with hold to a view of human nature as a given, a nature with potential strengths that need to be cultivated and predicable fault-lines to be guarded against.

In the anthropology of malleable human nature taboos make no sense.  There is no “massively forbidden” act, there are no fundamentally destructive practices, such as abortion or sexual perversions.  Of course if the child is not the ultimate purpose of sexual intercourse anything is permissible.

Set against this is the fact that family life is fragile, as our age has taught us.  There are attitudes and acts to be guarded against if one is to have a strong family.  It was a great comfort for our great grand-parents when the culture did a lot of the guarding and said a lot of the “no”s.  It is the burden of modern parents that they have to do all the explaining, repeatedly, to teenage children tempted by the license of modernity.

One fall-out of the evaporation of culture is that parents are left, more and more, to their own devices in raising children.  They have less support around them.  Culture operates on many different levels in supporting parents: it contains deliberate overt acts, and others that are “just the way it is always done”, still others that are preconscious and subconscious.  Taboos are powerful unconscious cognitive mechanisms that forbid, normally something people are unaware of and beyond consciousness.

Given the erosion of taboos, one of the first tasks of young newly married families is to find other young families with whom they want their children to grow up and the schools likely to have the children they would not mind their own children marrying.  Once married, how quickly the child becomes the center of action for the young married couple and that child’s own remote, future romance and marriage begins to shape the parents’ thinking.

In the absence of an operating guiding culture the newborn child forces parents to begin the construction of culture for themselves.  The child is at the heart of culture, the purpose of culture.  All eyes are on the child for he and she are the future, even the everlasting future, “For of such (little children) is the kingdom of heaven.”

 

Pat Fagan, PhD

Director of MARRI at The Catholic University of America