How Society Works

How Society Works

Growing the Culture Locally

children, culture, immigration, religion No comments

At the core of culture is the child, wrapped in a family and embedded in a community of faith:  Faith, Family and the Child (the future of the world).

My guess is that for the next hundred years or even longer economies will churn a lot as the ever-deeper breakthroughs in physics and biology get harnessed in new technologies, “the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one” (Schumpeter, 1942).    As a particular source of income dries up many people will likely have to migrate in search of new income.  That migration will upset the stable relationships that make cultural patterns possible.

Migrants feel intensely the need for a welcoming community.  Where are they most likely to find it?  In places where people of their own faith, race, and language live.  And when they cannot find such religious and ethnic compatibility they will seek community among those who share their view of life, who share their faith and who worship as they do. It is there they expect to find those who will welcome them, treat them kindly and make them feel at home despite obvious differences.

These also are the folk they will trust to educate their children: good people who share their values and beliefs.

Such religious locales are the hothouses that grow nurturing micro cultures.  And as the world churns and migrants flow because of war or economics such new micro cultures will continue to sprout and grow into vibrant new communities.  In the United States we are used to seeing this happen in our major cities as this pattern repeats itself again and again with each new wave of immigrants.

However it is now happening across the globe wherever more affluence and work act as magnets to those fleeing violence or poverty.  Thus, even as economies churn, cultures also churn.

And most of us and our children are going to be displaced in some way by the churning of the emerging economic orders.  Migration in the US has always been, not only for new members from the outside, but also within the country, frequently by those whose ancestors came generations ago.  We are a migratory people, increasingly so.

For the world to be a welcoming place for families with children (the families that give us the future) places of worship will be the hub around which the necessary cultural patterns will emerge.

Places of worship will need to be deliberate in their “full family service” if they are to be the community magnet their new members need them to be.  Many Evangelical churches have blazed the trail in taking care of this need.    Catholic families have the same needs.  And in filling them the Church is building, parish by parish, congregation by congregation, the strands of the new culture, the patterns of support and celebration from the cradle to the grave.  Nunc coepi.

The Global Culture Each Child Needs

children, culture, religion, romance No comments

Culture is a living organism, of interconnected relationships with universal strands.[1]  Culture is a people’s way of guiding themselves through life, from conception to death and through all the critical milestones on the way to life on “the other side”.

A people distill their experience into the wise ways of elegantly celebrating these milestones — of relating with each other in definite protocols in dress, in speech, in ways of expressing joys or sorrows.  In being with each other, ways of supporting each other every step of the way.   That is culture.

And high culture is when we, from all levels of wealth and education, put music and art and poetry and drama and song and dance to these steps through life.

How much of culture would vanish if we left out romance (courtship through marriage), how much poetry, song, dance, opera, novels, drama and art.   Imagine these arts with no expression of romance.

The most exciting part of culture is the celebration of romance, from the first moment of interest in “the other” through the high drama of the ups and downs of coming closer and closer in affection, leading eventually to betrothal and marriage.   The whole community looks on and hopes — or fears.

But behind all the excitement and drama of romance — eventually — lies the baby, the new life.   The purpose of it all.  This is the quieter but stronger joy, that transforms the beautiful young woman into the strong young mother who now has a fierce purpose in life,  a purpose that also transforms her husband, the young man moving from ‘carefreedom’ to steady worker and strong protector. And with each birth together they grow in strength and love — if all is going as it should.  If they love. If they live for the other.

Thus at the center of culture — of all the weaves of its tapestry — lies the baby.  But also lies prayer, for — as all with common sense or the experience of life we all know — the help of God is needed to rise to such love (and the data illustrate it so).

However, it is a mistake to see ourselves as guardians of old cultures, though we love them and bring much of them forward with us, especially the more intimate and the deeply family forms within them.   Rather, because we live in a very new and very different world, we are called to create our new ways of guiding and supporting each other — particularly in the more public, “high-art” and “low-art” forms — that express the drama of romance to the birth of the child and all the steps that child negotiates on its journey to its own romance with the one to whom it is going to give its heart for the rest of its life… and on to death, when that child finally goes home to God Who has watched over each of its steps — from that first moment of its creation when He and two other children of His, male and female, co-created this new wonderful being: their child.

We are all called to build these new cultures— the long dance of love and service to others around us but most of all service to the one to whom we have given our heart and to the children we together have called into existence for all eternity.   We are the builders of a new culture that, interwoven with strands of modernity, will span the globe.   For all these milestones through life need a similar guidance, universally, if they are to be successfully negotiated: fidelity, purity and chastity of heart, marriage, birth, motherhood and fatherhood, introduction of the child to God and the transcendental (to which they take to like ducks to water in the very early years when it should therefore begin), wisdom from parents and grandparents about life, love, hard work, friendship, loyalty to family, friends and community, enjoyment of festivities, time for family and friends, and, as preparation for the last journey to the next life, a richness in belonging selflessly to those close by.  All these are universals.  All peoples need their own wise ways of shepherding their offspring through life, thus giving the world variety in culture because of tradition, habitat, and religious beliefs.

Protecting each other’s different ways of negotiating these steps through life is a universal and global need.  Honoring and permitting the differences is needed in a global community.  This culture building is a new twist on a task as ancient as man, and as widespread as the dispersion of mankind through history.

All over the world, in all these cultures, the same melody can be heard, sung by every child, sung to all of us but most intimately to its father and mother:  I need you both to love each other — in marriage — for without your married love I cannot become the person I am meant to be; without your marriage I cannot fully become myself.  You owe this to me.  It is my right.  On it I am helplessly dependent.   It is not only your gift to me.  It is a justice — an inalienable right — a universal right you owe me and as I cry out for it, I cry out for justice.  With all the other children of the world.

It is time to articulate this universal right of the child.  It is the core strand of the weave of every culture, of all the cultures we are called to build anew for our children and grandchildren on into the centuries ahead.

In this just love lies life.  Outside it lies death.  We are called to life — always, everywhere, forever.

[1] Slightly adapted from a speech given at The World Congress of Families, in Budapest, May 27, 2017

Death and Rebirth of a Culture

Tags: Dating, sexuality No comments

The New York Times has a circulation of one million while Rush Limbaugh has an audience of 13.5 million listeners.  Limbaugh devoted much time last week to a Vanity Fair Article on the hook-up culture among young professionals in New York City, a culture that is now driving women away from men of their own age. The male Lotharios boast of up to three different women bedded per week and the norm seems to be over 20 different women per year.  It seems some women are now seeking relationships with much older single (divorced?) men. These older men are attractive (even though marriage to them means wheeling them around in their old-age) because they treat their dates with respect and not as one-night stands to be cast off for the next pretty young thing.

Given the habits now deeply formed in these young adults whereby they treat others as objects to be cast aside, whereas most young men in most generations honored women and were delighted to have their attention.  When these New Yorkers eventually settle down how will they treat their spouses and their children when the going gets tough?  How will these women treat their husbands?  How will all of them treat their co-workers and customers?  Can good relationships ever spring from habits like these?  This is the soil of divorce, abuse, abortion, cast offs, rejection, dejection and despair.  It will implode.

What these women are looking for are men who honor them, will protect them when they most need protecting (which is when they are giving birth and nursing very young children).  But where can they find such men?  The short answer is in church.  They are there in spades though such men are likely to find their spouses there too.  NYC “Tinder Girls” don’t go to church much.  Yet.

The greatest secret in the social sciences (and it is good science) is the inherent need for men and women to worship God if they are to thrive.  The numbers and patterns are overwhelming.  There is no way that atheist or agnostic academics can hold to their conclusions and claim to be guided by science.  The social sciences constantly and repeatedly contradict them.

When defeating the British in the War of Independence American men found strength in numbers and in their commitment to fighting even to death in the cause of their country.  For the rebirth of the nation young single American men will need to find strength in their numbers by banding together to form the backbone around which the body of the nation will be able to stand up and face a future full of hope.  Young chaste men will be the saviors of the nation and its rebuilders. Us older folk have to work with them to discover ways to cause this banding together to happen, to become visible.

Imagine the scene in New York City where young professional men get together for fun and drinks — and they are all committed to chastity.  Add a bit of style in dress, a decent college education, and evidence of steady work.  How many young NYC professional women would be interested in finding such men? The place would be the hottest spot in town because the Vanity Fair article shows they need men who by their stance say “Even if the culture will no longer protect your sexuality, we will.” These are the Supermen who will save Gotham City. Without them it will become a hell-hole.  With them many Lois Lanes will step forward.  Male and female are made for each other. Without them you have no family, no future, no child. With them we have a future, a rebirth.  Ground zero is chastity.

The Emerging Culture That Will Last

children, culture No comments

Culture is a society’s way of joyfully guiding itself into the future, a future made most visible in its ever-repeating cycle of celebrations.

When you cut to the quick on that future the child emerges.  Looked at differently, our culture is our way of collectively guiding ourselves to guide our children along certain paths, as elegantly as we can, to ensure as good a future as we can for them.

Why the emphasis on elegance?  Because culture is a common enjoyment.  It is “beauty for everyone”.

Culture is a people giving themselves a little bit of heaven while here on earth: enjoying the beauty we have created for ourselves as a people.  Thus special days are celebrated as beautifully as we can: birthdays, weddings especially — a high point of culture, as are all the key steps leading up to it: the patterns of romance and of engagement.  So too are a peoples big festivals honoring its history as a people and so too are its big religious holidays made to be enjoyed (even the somber ones).

Thus we can also admire and vicariously enjoy other peoples’ cultures: the Italians as they celebrate in their very Italian way all sorts of feast days; Indians of India with very different religious feast days and holidays; Chinese in their ways, Japanese in theirs.  And so it goes on, all around the world.

There are common elements in all cultures: birth, marriage, death and funerals, courtship, birthdays, high religious feast days. They exist all over the globe for all peoples in all places.  Life has the same common “critical tasks” no matter what nation or people we are.

For us in the US the question today is “What do we celebrate together now?”  With birth a suspect thing (thanks to abortion and out of wedlock births), with romance dying (given contraception and the hookup culture), with weddings only for some and far fewer, and with the afterlife non-existent for an increasing number, lots of the reasons for elegant celebration or mourning are gone.  The building of elegance around these milestones in the life can no longer be a common project for present America.  We do not have a culture war. Instead, through shared embarrassment, we have a culture starvation.

Some of our states have even eliminated death as a stage – it has now become a choice!   But who can celebrate an assisted suicide.  Can anyone envisage great art being inspired by such?  A new Mozart Requiem that brings us deep within ourselves even as it brings us up to the heavens?  For suicide?

We are a people who no longer have a common project of shepherding the child onto a life path that leads to the “good life” (or a “good enough” life) and finally into the afterlife.  We no longer have such a common project to which to commit.  Hence we can have no culture.

But the American that will survive will build its own new culture and it will come, it can only come, from those who love bringing new life into existence, for without the baby there is no cycle to repeat.

Out of the ashes of present post-modernity will spring the new American culture – probably already well underway but not visible through the mainstream media whose energies are fixated elsewhere.  Our new America will be one with ways of moving through the stages of life with the elegance that “Joe the construction worker and his wife Jane” are quite capable of expressing when they get together with their families and friends at community celebrations.

I predict that the dominant color in the new patterns being woven into the cultural fabric of the new America, the one that not only lasts but thrives, will be  the celebration of new life, and in the tapestry of this culture the thread of the Fatherhood of God will be visible.  We will find an American way to do this.  We will be a people who celebrate four beings, the new baby, the couple who co-created this new life, and God the creator.  This is the culture that will emerge, likely already is emerging.  The logic of reality makes it so.

We have lots to look forward to. Culture spotting will be the new enjoyment.

“The Route to the Nasty, Fractured, Polarized and Uncivil”

caring, social science No comments

Professor Richard Weissbroud, Harvard faculty director of Human Development and Psychology in the School of Education, recently presented data on children and their parents which leaves him very disturbed about the culture we have built, including the culture at Harvard.  It is well worth watching.

When ranking personal achievement vs. personal happiness vs. being a caring person only 20 percent of our children rank ‘being a caring person’ as the highest goal — a drastic drop from prior generations.  But when their parents rank their goals for their children, being a caring person is ranked in first place by a significant majority.  However when their children are asked what they think their parents chief aspirations for them are most (60%) think their parents want them to be achieving rather than caring. Only 15 % think their parents rank ‘being a caring person’ as #1.  Finally most parents in ranking other parents think other parents rank achievement over caring.  That is most parents think other parents are the problem.  However their children see through that and most put their parents in the same place as all the other parents.

His conclusion: we no longer foster being caring.  This holds true even at Harvard for Harvard.  He concludes: “…it is one route [as to] why we are living in such a fractured, polarized and nasty and uncivil political and civil time in this country.”

Though professor Weissbroud sees the powerful and positive role of religion — which is great to see in an eminent academic — he very clearly does not want to advocate religious practice.  Instead he says we must seek a secular, non-religious way.

My conclusion:  He is a caring social scientist doing great diagnostic work who drops his science (and really becomes less caring) when it comes to intervention. Ironic.  But, as he said, Harvard has its shortcomings.  Sometimes caring takes courage.  However it would be tough, especially at Harvard.

The Universal Right of the Child to the Marriage of His Parents

children, culture, family, marriage, rights of children 3 comments

No topic has more power to transform the male-female debate, the chastity debate, the abortion debate, the divorce debate and the feminist debate than the right of the child to the marriage of his (or her) parents.

Every child has this right from the moment of conception.  The child did not ask to come into existence but was brought into existence by the action of two people, a male and a female.[1]

Without his parents’ married love and commitment the child is not going to thrive the way he should.  He is not going to reach his “ordinary” potential.  It is a pretty clear cut case of a one-way obligation.  The child is not obligated to his father and mother — at this stage of his existence.

The adults (sexually mature: as in capable of transmitting life) are the ones with obligations towards the child, towards this new person they have most seriously affected — for the rest of his existence.

However this obligation cannot be enforced by law because the marriage of the father and the mother has to be entered into freely.  It is invalid if forced. So how do we ensure this right of the child?

We do it by culture — by the cult (cultivation) of moral responsibility for sexual acts.  This new person is the main (most serious) consequence of sexual activity.  Sexual intercourse is designed to produce children.  Nature pushes that way with extraordinary force.  It is extraordinarily serious.  The onus on the “actors” is heavy and long-term.

Living cultures get that point across.  That is why they shepherd sexual intercourse into marriage.

Every child has the right to the marriage of its parents —even if the parents do not give it or withdraw it.  The right still stays.  The violation of this right does not take away the right but only makes it clearer than ever.  It is in its absence that we see the effects of its withdrawal: children don’t reach their potential – for learning and earning, for living longer, for being happy, for marrying in adulthood, even for having and raising their own children.

So where do we start to get this right restored to its proper place in society?

One obvious place to start is in the churches.

Can Christian churches teach this?

Would your pastor be willing to say so from the pulpit?  If not why not?

Have you ever heard of such a sermon?

What would its effects be – after the commotion died down and folk accepted the obvious?

Teen chastity would soar.  Abortions would plummet.  Marriage would increase.  Divorce would plummet – at least in the churches. And with all these changes a host of other great changes would follow.

I suspect nothing would have the impact on shaping the culture than a restoration of respect for this fundamental, universal right of every child.

Would you bring it up with friends and see what they say?  What are the obstacles to getting adults to assent to this, first privately and then more publicly among their friends and colleagues?

Let me know what you think and what you find out. Comment below or email me directly at pat.fagan.marri@gmail.com

 

[1] A different essay could explore the rights of the child brought into existence by modern technologies and teams.

 

Will the South Ever Raise Real Men Again

family structure, fathers, religion No comments

Scratch anyone from the South and they bleed regional pride.  But the South is cause for some real heartburn:  It is, simultaneously, both the most religious-worshiping section of the country and the most family-broken section of the county as this map of American family structure makes clear. The whiter  the state (in color below) the less intact the family.

Think of the archetypal Southern man and strength and straight shooting (metaphorically speaking, though the other straight shooting come to mind too).  He is honest, tough, clear-speaking and loyal to his friends.  But the reality is most Southern men are not loyal to their children.  They don’t give them the family they need.  And even if there is a rifle in the back window of every truck shot gun weddings are as much an ancient memory in the South as anywhere else.

The fault may lie deep in the cultural icon of frontier American manhood with its ambivalence about chastity, especially for the single man. Out of wedlock births are common, almost normative.   Even pastors seem to think nothing of it, and say less.

We can have all the cultural debates we like about sexual norms and changing attitudes but the inescapable reality is our present patterns leave boys without fathers present, which gives us more young men without chests who are also cursed with small hearts.  And they in turn will sire more young men with even smaller chests and smaller hearts.  And their daughters: with absent fathers they will quickly find absent fathers for their own children. So we get double barreled single parenthood among their children.

Such is the reality of the white states in the map above.

The South needs a new culture, a new infrastructure: the man with a big heart who has the strength to make friends only with other men who are intent on bedding only one woman: the one each will marry, who will be mother to all his children, and who will likely bury him after a long and good life together.

Is the South capable of producing such men?  Are Southern public schools capable of shaping the minds of boys in that direction?  Even more: are Southern pastors capable inspiring young men to such strength, or are they too without chests even in their own churches.  Can any of them talk about chastity as love and strength?  Reality screams for this course correction, else the South will die a natural death — a natural cultural death.  Where are these modern strong men?  We all need their stories but young boys need them most.

All that religious worship needs to be harnessed.  Surely there are enough real men in the South to do so.

Sabbath Effects

family, religion No comments

Man is a relational being – and deeply so.  He thrives when he belongs and wilts when he does not.  One day a week, the Sabbath, can do a lot to replenish man.  The Sabbath is meant for God and family – for our most important relationships.  It is “Relationship Day” or “Replenishment Day”.

A great start is “Off to Worship God at Church” followed by family brunch followed by relaxed times with family and friends in the afternoon and, after family supper, a wind-down together in the evening.  If everyone attends to the needs of the others it will be a fantastic time (though the little ones will need much more than they can yet give).  Thus are our two great “belongings” replenished each week.

Of the Ten Commandments God only has two in the positive “Thou shalt” as opposed to the eight “Thou shalt not”.  The two “shalls” are ‘Keep holy the Sabbath day” and “Honor thy father and thy mother”.  God and family are the two big positives.  For the rest He gives great freedom — above the floor of the forbidden.  He does not tell us what to do but rather what to avoid, leaving us free to go about our unique paths in our own unique ways.  But on two issues He insists: the Sabbath and care of parents and family.   On Sundays (or Saturdays for a Jews, Muslims and some others) we take care of both.

Just as our physical body gets tired, our relational functioning gets frayed and needs upkeep and replenishment.  Hence the Sabbath.   And it is powerful in its consequences as every one of the Mapping America charts shows, on all outcomes.   Worshipping God a few times a month does not cut it.  The results are significantly less.  America may think it has become richer over the last few decades but as church attendance has dropped so too has its relational capacity, as anyone over fifty can compare and contrast.  No wonder God commands the Sabbath observance.  Human nature needs it.  Government, business and education all pay a heavy price when it is neglected.

Sound cultures build the Sabbath observance into the rhythm of society.  Dying cultures let it fade.

There have been experiments, mainly in totalitarian regimes, to alter the frequency and spacing of what had been the Sabbath.  But human nature tends to pull back to the fundamental rhythm of once a week.

Man is free to choose but he is not free to choose the consequences: they are built into his choices.  Even his physical DNA side needs the right relational nourishment — The Sabbath with the family.  And the social sciences make this so very clear.

Dear Immigrants: Welcome to Your New Home, Especially If You Are from Africa, Asia or the Middle East

family structure, immigration No comments

Though there are many reasons to welcome immigrants to our country you can now add mental health to the list.  Children of immigrants, on average, have better mental health than the children of their new home/destination country.  Within that group, children of intact married families do best.   The largest, multi-nation-of-origin and nation-of-destination study finds that the intact married family whose members are close and supportive of each other has higher mental health than the average mental health of their destination country.  Asians, Africans and Middle Easterners all outscore the population of their new homes (England, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden).  Though Latino children have better mental health, on average, than children of their new home there is strong evidence that family intactness and cohesion is lower in Latino families than in the other immigrant groups.

Given that the US is now, predominantly, a culture of rejection within the family it is to be expected that intact immigrant families are also mentally healthier than the average US family.

It would be good to find out if immigrants to the US from Asia, Africa and the Middle East have greater family intactness than Latinos and if they also have higher mental health scores.

This European study underscores the fragility of the Latino family, which I, like most others, had always thought meant a strong family culture, at least when they first arrived in the US.  If a young teenager does not have confidence in his family he is less likely to have confidence in himself.  For leaders in Latino community the lesson is obvious: strengthen marriage.

Man is made to belong in family and thrives when he does, no matter what the color of his skin or the culture from which he comes.  It is nice to have the social sciences illustrate a universal law of nature.

The Right of Children to the Marriage of their Parents

children, marriage, parents, rights of children 3 comments

The right of children to the marriage of their parents is foundational to religious practice and to strong cultures.

This much-neglected right of children is critical to the future of nations.  It is a natural right, not a politically conferred right. It arises from the order of nature. It rests on justice, for without their parents’ marriage children are condemned by them to a lesser life. Parents are also condemning themselves, at minimum, to lifelong guilt.

When acculturated the effect of this life is to increase chastity and marriage among young people, reduce (almost eliminate) out of wedlock births, reduce abortion rates massively, and similarly reduce divorce rates among parents.

Aside from the love of God I can think of no other phenomenon that can deliver such powerful consequences.  The child draws our better natures forth from within us.  In every aspect of our lives, the child can transform our potential into reality.   The child even causes adults to turn (or return) to God.

But this right now gets universal silent treatment.  In public discourse, it is absent. In rights discourse, it is absent.  In the classrooms of universities, law schools, high schools, middle schools and even of seminaries it is absent.  Most debilitating of all, it is absent in churches, synagogues and mosques.

But we all need it. Every baby born needs it to thrive.  Every teenager needs it to help motivate sexual control; every dating couple needs it so that they can freely cross the winning line of marriage; every married couple tempted by divorce needs it, so that they repair their marriage and grow in the strength needed to be lifelong spouses.  Children make adults of their parents.  They draw them out of themselves and on to heights of virtue they would not attempt without their children.

The nation’s future needs it because in its absence it is growing citizens without chests.

It is a right that cannot be enforced by government directly, for marriage must be freely chosen.  Therefore the institutions of religion, family and education must be to the fore in teaching and thus “enforcing” this right.

Slowly and steadily, the nations with such a culture will survive and thrive. Those without it will wilt, be overcome and disappear.

It is powerful in its consequences. It is foundational natural law, and reminds me my high school headmaster’s favorite quote: “The wheels of God grind slowly but they grind exceeding small.” Or as Richard Feynman put it:  “Nature cannot be fooled.”