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God, Fertility, and Hope for the Future.

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Last week, The Upshot (New York Times) reported that women are having less children than they would like, mainly because of the worries illustrated below.

Despite the fact that we live in the biggest, most prosperous nation ever in history, our women are anxious and fearful about having children. Given their psychological and family experiences this is understandable: Most young women (and men) today come from broken families. They are afraid to take the risk of a “big exploration trip into the unknown” together. Unlike Columbus setting sail into unchartered waters, they stay onshore fearful of probable storms and occasional bad weather.

But those who worship God weekly see life differently. They are more likely to take the risk and to set sail. Though, unlike Columbus, they don’t discover new continents — they make them.

John Mueller of The Ethics and Public Policy Institute found that, globally, across religions and cultures, women who worship weekly have more than twice as many children as those who never worship.

Mueller reasons: “Personal gift of time and resources involved in worship is closely and systematically associated with the personal gift of having children for their own sake rather than for the pleasure and utility of the parents.”

MARRI graphs further illustrate the influence of belief in God on related issues: on the meaning and importance of having children, on happiness, and on fears and anxieties during intercourse.

Those who worship frequently value having children more those who do not practice.

National data shows intact married couples that worship frequently are happiest.

National data indicates that intact families who worship weekly are less anxious and worried during intercourse.

The Upshot team at the New York Times repeatedly does “almost-great” work . Had they included religious worship question and marital status question they would see a dramatically different picture. The national averages would be the same but who is afraid and who is ready to plunge forward would stand out.

 

 

With an eye to the hand that could rock the cradle and give us the world,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of the MARRI Project

Catholic University of America

Every Society Begins with Sex

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If you want to collapse a society burrow down to the sexual and begin the disintegration there. During the 1950’s and 1960’s the Frankfurt School was gradually gaining the insights that would permit this deconstruction (especially in the work of Shulamith Firestone and Kate Millett). This resulted in what can only be described as a diabolical agenda, nowhere made more explicit than in the opening ”litany” of the weekly meetings of the founders of the National Organization of Women. Their bottom line: separate the man, the father, from the family. It took them two generations (50 years), but they have succeeded: 54% of children by age 17 are without their father in their home.

At much the same time another revolution, this time a good one, was going on at the University of Krakow in Poland, where a young professor of philosophy, Karol Wojtyla was building the insights that eventually resulted in the “Theology of the Body”, and along the way was the major contributor to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” laying out the positive path forward as well as prophesying the destruction inherent in the use of contraception.

Though many fathers prevail in marriage, “the pill” has gradually undermined their position in the family, especially as their children mature into active sexual beings. Mark Regnerus’s study, Cheap Sex, summarized in his recent WSJ op-ed, delineates the profound interior moral change in men but also in women, each paying its different half of the price-tag.

In the 1960s we began to perfect the separation of children from sex. This caused great debate across religions and across the globe. Some religious leaders and philosophers disagree with the separation unworn of the evil consequences. But everywhere there was either capitulation or deep divide. Most religions and religious leaders selected capitulation. The most notable holdout though by no means the only holdout, is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. However even there teaching the audible word is never to be heard. All seem to be struck dumb. There are two sacramental vocations in Christianity: the priesthood and marriage. As the second is gutted, the first looks on silently. Though the Little Sisters of the Poor stood up against the brilliant Frankfurt School President Obama, the local parish priest cannot stand up against those in his flock who disagree with the Church, and insist on their “new moral theology” that fuses the reception of Christ into their body in the Eucharist, even as they use that same body of theirs to say “non serviam” to their vocation (their calling from the same God) to be life-givers.

So, the Marxist-Feminist revolution and the life affirming counter-revolution are in a fight to the death for the family, for marriage, for children and for fatherhood.

As long as the sexual intercourse of male and female separates its two key components — mutual orgasmic pleasure of the highest kind in creation (the unitive aspect of sexual intercourse)—from the potential generation of new life (the generative aspect of sexual intercourse that gives mankind the future, the child)—the sidelining of the average male is guaranteed.

The resulting downward slide into a chaos demands holding society together through deep-state anomic regulation, which gradually displaces, then banishes the humanity of the normal health-giving caress of a morally integrated culture, the universal mode of social cohesion of all peoples and civilizations throughout history. Instead we have increasingly the broken family, the broken child, the broken heart, the broken society — all achieved by separating the father from his children. The crowning insult to it all: “patriarchy” (by Marxist-feminist definition, that form of the family where the father is present), is now a forbidden word in the public, politically correct, lexicon.

Consider, however, Rene Girard’s crowning achievement, the lecture, “How does Satan cast out Satan?” (I don’t think I have ever listened to any other lecture more than twice but this I listened to over fifty times — it is so densely rich in insights). Bishop Robert Barron thinks Girard will eventually be a Father (not a Doctor) of the Church. Girard describes Christ’s mission as leading all of humanity back to God the Father, but Satan — his ever-present competitor throughout the Gospels— in darkest envy, works always to become the new “Father” who displaces the Eternal Father: “that Father from Whom all fatherhood takes its title and derives its name.” What a crowning achievement for him that today even good folk today are afraid to use the word “patriarch”.

It is time to make the title of patriarch a great vision for young men: That they grow old with their married children around them and their grandchildren happy in the marriages of their parents. That is the normal vocation of every man and woman.

A couple of weeks ago we returned after a hiatus of five or six weeks and I promised an explanation. Steeped in the sociological and demographic data on marriage, family and children I was overwhelmed by the disastrous picture which had been unfolding before me for years and felt the need to figure a way forward out of the mess deliberately created by people bent on the destruction of the family and of religion.

As already stated, the most disastrous of all developments in millennia has been the joining of cultural Marxism (the Frankfurt school and the Gramsci school of thought) with modern feminist (the National Organization of Women and the many allied organizations it has given birth to).

They have been so successful that today their allies even include CEOs of even the biggest corporations in the world: Google, Facebook, Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates. They all contribute massively to movements and programs that dismantle families and marriages (some maybe unwittingly – I think especially of the Gates and the Zukerbergs). Together these movements (cultural Marxism and feminism) quickly gained toeholds that were expanded into dominance in certain schools in Columbia University and the State Department and expanded out from there to gain the control they now have many institutions PARTICULARLY those involved in culturally shaping relationships between people (schools, law schools, judiciaries, journalism schools and major media). These are stark realities, but they fulfil the collapse from within, that Lenin demanded of the Frankfurt school. This is the reality we live in today.

So, what is to be done in this situation? Simple: Go on offense, but quietly, for the opposition is powerful and vindictive. But reality is on the side of patriarchy (again, that form of the family where the father is present, the intact family).

The movements and institutions mentioned are flying in the face of the data, and contradicting universal, observable, realities. The two great loves — of God and neighbor — make the environment in which man has always thrived. In their absence (broken and unformed marriage and falling rates of worship of God) man wilts and breaks down.

The antidotes are myriad but the task is as simple as its animating principle: Grow the good! Grow the wheat, forget about pulling up the weeds. First shore up and give confidence to those who are on the right track: Married fathers (present patriarchs) –who cannot exist without married mothers— then pastors, teachers and doctors. Simultaneously bring back the broken… the constant cry of Pope Francis. These souls know the reality of the suffering caused by the breakdown of marriage and the abandonment of prayer and worship. But many of them feel ashamed, as the recent work of Brad Wilcox and Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University is making clear. But such marginalized people have always been fertile ground for revolutions (for good or evil).

Just as men were targeted by these movements, so too men will be significant leaders in rebuilding the good, particularly leading in rebuilding the traditional family, the intact married family, the patriarchal family. Patriarch is a good term…! Abraham was a patriarch. The ultimate patriarch is God the Father, from whom all fatherhood flows. On earth, the patriarchal family is the safest place for women and for children. This is the very opposite to what feminist claim. It is also the place where women and children thrive most — and men also. It is the place of the greatest educational output, the greatest financial output, the greatest contribution to the common good, the greatest likelihood to worship God, and the least troublesome to government, while it is the greatest contributor to the tax base of the whole country. It is that form of the family which most deserves to be protected, preserved and promulgated.

More anon.

For the good of the child, the future of society,

Pat Fagan

Fathers Raising Sons to be Good Fathers

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Fathers give the gift of existence when their sperm penetrates the mother’s egg. While the mother begins nurturing her child immediately, whether the father does so depends on the couple’s “mode of living” up to that point: their own family-of-origin culture and beliefs, moral norms, and their guiding insights and beliefs on life, sexuality, family, the complementarity of the sexes and on marriage.

Let us jump forward fourteen years from this moment, when the baby has just come into existence to the time he has reached puberty and is now biologically capable of becoming a father. His father began to prepare him on matters sexual four years earlier when they had “the talk” introducing him to sex — a task the father denies to anyone else, for that is his and his alone —so that his boy knows how much he owes his existence to his father, and how and why.

Even though he was trained to honor the privacy of his mother and sister — “the talk” began the development of “awe” of females, the father made sure that his mother had her “talk” with him a few weeks ago— to introduce him to the wonders and changes of the female body once the egg accepts the sperm. Having this taught him by his mother changed his idea of girls forever.

His father then began to form his capacity for future marriage: to be an affirmer, a protector and a provider. He had earlier started the formation of affirmation of the women in his life: his mother, and especially his sisters. Now he begins to tutor him in observing and listening carefully so that he gets to know more about who the young women he meets at school and at play and to understand them as much as they permit him to. He teaches him how to be a recognizer of inner beauty. He tutors him in how to listen and how to evaluate — with kindness and understanding when facets become obvious that are not so beautiful or good. He reminds him constantly that every woman is to be honored. By teaching him how to affirm women his father is developing his criteria for selecting a wife.

Having protected him from pornography many years ago — another talk — the boy is used to battling internally with sexual temptation that images that arouse lust (making of a woman an object to be used). The boy has seen its effects on some of his classmates and how their attitude to girls changed mightily. He makes sure his sisters never associate with them. This all led him to a shocking conclusion — that in the adult world he is entering males can be quite predatory.

His father told him how he won this internal battle and still has to win it constantly (how to wipe images away from the mind immediately; what happens when a man does not and how to recover).

But his father also taught him that women too can grow dragons within —slayers of the innocent— and that he had to learn to differentiate between the young women he meets so that he could avoid the trap of a “slayer” in disguise. His son thought this a bit harsh but his father insisted that clear understanding is necessary if he is to be savvy on selecting a wife.

He further instructed him that forgiveness is possible and he tutored him in the need for it — even of the best woman in the world (the one he hoped his son would select) — for her faults and failings will emerge as his future marriage progresses out of the intense romance stage to the long phase of working close together in raising their own children. He will need a wife who will forgive him for his faults too.

He gently advised his son:

“Son, when you are ready we can talk about what your major weaknesses are likely to be so that you will be readier to ask your wife’s forgiveness.”

“When your girlfriend questions you — if she questions you — about your sexual restraint and how you pulled it off — tell her the truth – most of it comes from you and I being close – close enough to have had these conversations over the years. Most young men don’t have that experience so they don’t have the “strength of their father in this area”. You do! It is my gift to you — and to her —– and to your children — my grandchildren.”

“Find the girl who is as close to her mother and father as you are to me and your mother.”

“Choosing who will be your wife and the mother of your children is the most important decision of your life…it will shape the rest of your existence as nothing else will… except your relationship with God. But you know that already even though you are still early in learning about your relationship with Him. There is no severing the connection between sex, egg and sperm, new life and existence and God. Well there is severing but it is disastrous. Just look around and look at the data.”

“Though my guidance is always there for you it is even better that you learn the silence in your heart that is necessary to have conversations with Him so that you get His guidance instead. That will be your strength: Inner certainty arising from inner silence. Without that silence the only voice you hear will be your own —- a bad advisor compared with YOU AND HIM together. That is where I get my deepest affirmation.”

“The other capacity you need to have — being a provider—in some ways it is the easiest part, in others it is the toughest because of the long hours of work. But you have learned to study hard so you already know how to work hard. For hard workers there are loads of job opportunities. But you must learn to save from your very first paycheck… If you can learn to live on 90% of your take-home pay you are doing well. Better still if you learn to do it on 80%… you will never have to worry about money if you learn to live below your means… and you won’t be tempted by money if you do.”

“This will also give you time for conversation in the family that other families will not have. Money and time are interchangeable. As we conquer material nature we seem to have less time — so become rich enough to have the time you need to have many conversations in the family. Protect your wife and children by keeping out the robbers of time – of conversation – of affirmation and understanding of each other.”

“Figure out first what you want: more money or more time. And choose a wife accordingly. If you choose time your children

will thank you. If you choose money they may curse you. They definitely will wish you had chosen time.”

“If you are an Affirmer and a Protector being a Provider comes naturally.”

In turn his son will respond: “But father so few of my friends have families like this!”

How true—that is the great task that confronts the world.

How to change the environment so that every child has such a habitat (a home). Solve this problem and all the others fall in place easily. Solve the other problems first and we will destroy what is left of the environment.

It is time for men to lead where only they can… in being fathers to the full.

A Return to Patriarchy?  

children, culture, family, fathers, intact family, men No comments

“Patriarchy” has become a” dirty word” because of Marxist Feminist political correctness. If one searches for what is meant by patriarchy (or what is included in their definition of patriarch) is the intact married biological family. Marriage is seen as patriarchy! And that has become an evil to be banished. We live in insane times — literally, not metaphorically speaking.

The fullest relationship between male and female occurs in marriage. When they engage in sexual intercourse (at minimum an action at the bodily level) they have the capacity, frequently, to generate the fruit of this physical relationship: a new human being —( the one-celled zygote the first stage of all of the developing human being they have just brought into existence).

This new being is hypersensitive to the relationship between itself and its mother. This latter relationship is more intimate at the physical level than any other physical relationship in human experience.

For nine months the new being grows in harmony with his mother’s body, and its mother’s body adapts to nurture and develop the new human being within her. Once the new human being exits the womb its first experience of external reality normally is (and always ought to be) the warm embrace and the affection, now external to the womb, of the same mother. Thus the mother in those first moments welcomes her new child into the external world of human reality be first letting it experience its first external human relationship as warm, loving, welcoming and nurturing .

By bonding fast and deep and accepting and enveloping it in love and affection way, the new human being feels affirmed warmly in its new external existence. This welcoming by the mother is the most profound experience of its life because it is the first experience of the reality it will inhabit for the rest of its life in this external world. One could say that nothing is more important for this new being than that the mother be prepared and ready to accept and envelop in affection and love and nurturance, her new child so that, right from the beginning, she reassures her child that it is loved, because she knows it is made to be loved, just as she experiencing now for the first time in a most profound way, she also is made to love (as well is to be loved as deeply as this).

This exchange of deepest loves between her and her new baby will be made most possible for her by the loving attention and care of her by her husband at these moments — assuring her by his silent, attentive presence, of his personal dedication to her and their child, even as she totally attends to that child’s needs in those first moments and hours. Her deepest needs being met at this most existential of moments in her life — are made possible by a husband, who at this time has no thoughts whatever of his needs but is fully consumed by his wife’s and his baby’s needs. His reason for existing right then is to sacrifice anything and everything for the needs of these two beings who are his family, even if their existence were to demand his sacrificing his life. All men would expect that of him (even as they wish it did not have to be so at all).

Thus, the human family is a family of deepest relational needs — fulfilled by each other for each other.

In these first moments of the new family a child is affirmed by the mother through her love, care, nursing, affection and attention. At the same time the mother experiences an affirmation of her motherhood in the satisfied response of her child to her care and nurturing. At that moment she is affirmed in her femaleness in a way she has never experienced before in her life. She feels fulfilled in her existence. That feeling of fulfillment is made possible by her having a nurturing environment around her and that environment is her loving, protecting, caring husband.

The process began with the father’s sperm travelling up to her egg – and that first stage ends with the father standing to the side loving, caring, and protecting the two — his spouse and his child. Thus, it is one of the most evil projects on earth, to pry the father apart from the mother of his child and from his child. This is a crime against father mother and child. This is a crime against the human race.

If culture is a tapestry of affirmations of the different relationships that make us human society, of relationships that can be ranked in importance and centrality, then those relationships that begin new life, the next generation of that society and culture, are the most to be treasured and protected.

That protection falls most to the father because his spouse is engaged in the intense around-the-clock nurturance of the new fetus or new child. This protection begins even before they become a family. As he selects his future spouse and as she selects him, though it is not foremost in his mind, it is deepest in his obligations even as he forms and nurtures from potentiality to reality, the relationship between him and his future, hoped-for, spouse. He protects her and their future children, by protecting all of them from those who would pry him from his spouse and his children: those enemies of the family who are set against patriarchy, for patriarchy, as used by these enemies of the family, means the married father with his spouse and his children. To these enemies every married father is a patriarch, is the one to be pried apart from his family.

If the destruction of patriarchy was the strategy of destroying society then the rebuilding of patriarchy is the strategy of rebuilding a family-centered culture.

In such a culture the woman is admired and honored especially for her motherhood.   The man who wants to “have a woman in his life” is also bringing a child into his life, for woman is most made woman in that moment of childbirth, and a man is most man at the same moment: selflessly dedicated to a project of the common good.

All human beings are made male or female for purposes of reproduction – for the purpose of the child, the next generation.   But within these very complementary differences is a common humanity. Humanity’s most common need is to belong or be understood. These are not synonyms in language but they are synonyms in human experience. We belong where we are understood and to whom we belong we most want to be understood. To be understood is the greatest form of affirmation. Thus male and female, husband and wife are most affirmed by each other when they are understood by the other.

But affirming does not come naturally to either male or female: it is an acquired disposition, skill and habit. But it is foundational to the couple and is the essence of culture. And children need their parents to be affirmers of each other.

The wife who has a man who understands her, who provides for her and protects her when she needs it is a well-fulfilled (not perfectly fulfilled but well fulfilled) woman. She will let him know her fears, and he will protect her.

Married women took to contraception because it alleviated one of life’s “dangers”: the “loss of self” in raising many children. However, there is a vast literature (and we at MARRI likely have the biggest collection of findings from that literature) now illustrating the dangers of contraceptives for many women. Frequently, one or more of her bodily functions and systems breaks down under a medication designed to suppress a woman’s fullness of female bodily maturity. A significant number of biological systems are in danger of severe injury and trauma, occasionally life threatening.

A protector husband would not want his wife to be subject to those dangers or suffer the frequent-enough consequences of using them. However, it is clear from the natural family planning research literature, that not many men have enough sexual self-control to abstain from sexual relations during the fertile days of his wife’s fertility cycle. Thus, if she does not use the pill he is a danger to her when she does not want to conceive. She then views her husband, not a protector, but as a big danger.

Thus, if a couple are to use natural family planning the husband has to be trusted by his wife, and known by his wife to be a man quite capable of the required level of sexual self-control that is necessary if natural family planning — working in total harmony with the woman’s biological systems — is to be the method by which couples choose whether to bring their next child into existence at this time in their marriage, or not.

What if their husbands were not only to be trusted but — at one and the same time and by the same level of necessary self-control — were to be the great lovers every woman wishes her man could be. That would quickly change the attitude of many women towards the pill. Both capacities: to abstain and to pleasure well are based on the capacity for self-control. The chaste man has that control in spades. Most modern men do not.

This sort of male is the one who is needed if we are to have a culture-building sexual counter-revolution. This time it must be the men who lead.

Affirmers, providers and protectors of women —men who provide for their wives and children, understand them deeply in a way no one else ever has, which gift of understanding yields the companion gift of unity between them, and to have such sexual self-control they have children when they want to and avoid conception when they are not ready for another child together; and lastly, she has greater sexual satisfaction that most women only dream of (and eventually forget about as unattainable from men).[1]

To achieve this quality a man must learn:

  • To communicate well (to listen deeply so as to understand well, and thus affirm where affiration is most needed);
  • To provide sufficiently (get enough education to work at the job he is prepared to do to bring in the income his wife will be happy with);
  • Become a man of sexual self-control so that the pill is not a temptation for either of them and his capacity to satisfy his wife is what both dream of.

If the culture is to be restored we must learn how to grow men like this.

Most ordinary fathers ensure their sons are capable of being providers. However, on the other two necessary capacities (the capacity to understand and affirm; and the capacity for sexual self-control at the level discussed above) most ordinary fathers do not develop these capacities in their sons, or even broach the topics with them. Thus, it behooves men to begin this change in capacity-development as soon as possible.

The most fundamental skill needed to achieve all three is the first: the capacity and skill to communicate a deep understanding of the other person (and of oneself). This is the key skill to everything else. And this capacity is quite developable!

Men skilled in communicating and affirming can mentor other men in acquiring the same capacities. Overtime a cascading network of mentoring men can have huge effects.

Women will notice the difference. Such men will be so valuable to them and the need for contraception will dissipate.

Pornography

abstinence, adolescent sexuality, child well-being, children, community, culture, D.C., elections, family, fathers, pornography, Technology, youth 1 comment

Recently, for a talk in Chicago to parents of high school boys, I had to update my knowledge based on a 2009 review of the effects of pornography. On this issue the world has changed a lot in less than ten years: the use of pornography has escalated and the effects are alarming.

The most telling effect, I think, is the epidemic of erectile dysfunction (ED) among men.  For all of human history this was mainly an older man’s problem.  As recently as 2002 the rate of ED for men aged 40–80 was about 13% in Europe. By 2011 rates reached 28% for men aged 18–40. As reported above, a 2014 cross-sectional study of active duty, relatively healthy, 21–40 old males in the US military, found that one third (33.2%) suffered from ED.

Unaware of these changes, for the last year or so I had thought that the drop in high school students’ rate of sexual intercourse was good news and that, since 2007, abstinence ideas were winning, but given the above data, all of the causes may not be good news. Increased pornography use among teenage boys, resulting in decreased interest in girls, may be the cause. This also serves to put in context a disturbing experience I had a few weeks ago while driving through a wealthy Washington D.C. suburb during rush hour: I noticed (as must several other drivers waiting for the traffic lights to change) a 12-year-old moving along the sidewalk, intently looking at his smartphone in one hand while his other hand was engaged in self-abuse.  I had not yet reviewed the new research on the prevalence of pornography viewing and was quite taken aback.  No longer.  At age 12 he was already so addicted to porn and had no shame.  The average age of a boy’s first viewing of pornography has dropped to 10 years of age. Fathers be aware.

75 percent of porn-watching is done on smart phones.  25 percent of all internet searches are for pornography.  Tablets and computers make up the rest, computers being the smallest percentage. The average length of stay on a porn site is about 10 minutes. 70 percent of US college students watch porn — alone, with others, or in couples.  45 percent of women now accept it in their relationships.  10 percent of women refuse to view it themselves but accept it in their husbands or partners.

A decade ago women viewed pornography at about one sixth the rate of men.  Today, depending on the country, it varies from only one third the rate of men (US) to one half (the Philippines and Brazil).

Estimates of production range up to 4.2 million websites (12 percent of the total sites worldwide) with 420 million web pages. Every single day, worldwide, there are more than 68 million search engine requests for pornography (which is 25 percent of all search requests).

What are the negative effects for those who become habituated and especially for those who become addicted?  Changes in brain size (diminished); the younger boys start the greater the effects on their brain, and the more difficult to overcome the addiction; men see women as sex objects not as persons, have greater interest in pornography than in the company of women or girlfriends; they suffer increasingly from erectile dysfunction, become more aggressive in their relationships with spouses or partners, are more likely to believe the ‘rape myth’ (that women enjoy being sexually abused), and progress to more and more deviant pornography to attain sexual arousal, leading in turn to greater sexual deviancy;  teenagers will be more likely to engage in same-sex sexual activities. It is no wonder that American young adults and college students are less and less interested in marriage and may be on the way towards the “Japanese disease” of widespread withdrawal from interest in sexual matters among 30-year-olds.

This is a calamity of monumental proportions.  Combined with contraception and abortion, we now have a ‘society-collapsing’ conception and practice of human sexuality.

Given the borderless nature of the internet, pornography is difficult to control.  However, there is not a nation on earth for whom its effects are not massively deleterious.  This is one public health hazard on which the governments of the world should cooperate.  Without that cooperation it cannot be stamped out. And, given the rate at which porn movies are made, the industry would have to be a major source of the sexual exploitation of women, with probable links to sex-trafficking.

In the meantime, savvy parents — and even savvy teenagers — will switch to dumb phones.  Giving a teenage boy a smart phone is installing a porn-shop in his pocket… and a very alluring shop it is too: cheap (free) porn, immediately available, and anonymous. In ten minutes a teenage boy can see more and more beautiful undressed women than the greatest sultan harem-owner in history ever saw in a lifetime. Who could resist?  Not many.

One father, a friend of mine who took great care in introducing his boys into a gradual and full understanding of male sexuality and its foundational role in marriage, came up with a savvy way of helping his boys avoid pornography:  He told them that, if any boy at their school showed porn to them on a smartphone, they had his full permission to grab the phone, smash it on the ground, stomp it into bits, and then tell that classmate to have their father call his father. One can imagine their glee but, so far, they have not had the joy of following through.  Their school now forbids smartphones during school hours on school property.  Maybe the practice will spread. ‘Dumb phones’ work fine for communicating with parents, family, and friends. The world is different when dumb is smart!

Parenting

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Recently, I led a group of young parents in a case study designed to teach them how to handle a three-year-old when he is throwing a temper tantrum.  The parents in the case study were dealing with their first child and made several typical mistakes: one parent spanked in anger and one parent denigrated the other in front of the child.

We dissected the case: what happened, what went wrong, what they needed to do in the future, and how to get there.  Towards the end of the session we gained a bird’s eye view when someone pointed out that the underlying issue was one of trust.  The whole episode came alive again with new energy as we analyzed the case from that perspective.

The case parents were trying to form a habit of restraint in their child so that they could trust him to practice restraint in the future.  When he demonstrates that he can restrain himself their trust in him will grow.  If he does not learn restraint, however, they will trust him less.

Ironically, to achieve this level of formation in their child, they need to be able to trust each other to “do the right thing” when disciplining their child.  Though they agree on what Johnny needs to do they do not yet agree on what each of them needs to do. In this situation they cannot trust each other yet.

This problem will be solved when they can agree: “You can rely on me to do this in this situation.  And I can rely on you to do that in this same situation.”  When they can both look each other in the eye and each say this to each other the ground beneath them has shifted. Not only has trust been restored, but the foundation of their marriage has grown and they have learned how to deepen it.  When they have solved a string of problems in this way they are well on their way to being great parents and a great couple because they have learned how to grow trust.

No matter what way they discipline their child he will turn out strong because they know it is all about trust. “Johnny, you can rely on me to do this for you.  Can I rely on you to do the same for me?”  Johnny learns many good habits but, more importantly, he learns the value of being trustworthy.

Given the massive disruption in trust that the US is experiencing in all its institutions (family, church, school, marketplace, and government) it seems that fellow citizens who are opponents on so many issues need to begin their discourse with: “You can rely on me to treat you with respect in our conversations.  Can I rely on the same from you?”   Without a “yes” there is no point in having the conversation. With a “yes” the ground has shifted— a brick has been laid in the infrastructure we need most: trust.

If we adopt this habit a lot will change. Is there anyone in your orbit with whom you need to practice this?  A spouse?  A child? A relative?  A co-worker? A neighbor?

 

With an eye to the child, the future of America,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director of the MARRI Project
Catholic University of America

Family Structure

children, family structure, love, marriage, religion, violence No comments

Man thrives when he is loved, and needs love most especially when he is young so that he grows straight up and is not bent over by the burden of neglect.   A mature adult grown on love is then capable of giving love in more abundance, 10-fold, 50-fold or a 100-fold. When such a man or woman becomes a father and mother they can now give love and begin the cycle again.   As we have seen again and again, those in the intact married family are those most likely to give in abundance, not perfectly but in most abundance.

Therefore, the society of the future that will thrive most is the one with the most children growing up with the most love.  Thus the basic model of the thriving society is one that has more along three axes, the two axes of love and the axis of more children.  The more society worships, marries and has children the more it thrives — in everything.

The reverse model gives us much less good and much more weaknesses when there is less marriage, less worship and less children.

But with this negative/reverse model we are beginning to see that we get much more than “just less”.

Mary Eberstadt, in her recent critique of emerging patterns of violence across campuses  and other places in the US, is getting quite close to Rene Girard’s insights on the role of violence in society, and in starting new civilizations.  From the ‘almost-lynching’ of Charles Murray at Middlebury College earlier this year to the many similar incidents which have multiplied since then, she is highlighting an emerging violence new to our society, one that Charles Murray points out is going unpunished.  Professor Marsha Kinder of USC seems to suggest we are at a tipping point in saving or losing our society.

Going back to our reverse/negative model it occurs to me that what we are really seeing are the noxious weeds that are growing in the advanced de-Christianized section of America which is now in search of the new idols it needs to make America newly ‘sacred’ in its own terms.  In a very Girardian manner campus society (students and professors) is acting-out basic instincts of violence and hatred, testing their new “theology” as they search for victims to be successfully blamed and sacrificed.

Society’s laws, which attempt to contain violence, are undergirded by religious beliefs in turn undergirding the moral code that informs that code of laws.  Christianity, over the centuries, not only gradually contained violence but unmasked it through the Crucifixion. In that event the totally Innocent Victim was sacrificed but in so permitting Himself to be murdered overcame and exposed, for all future citizens of the world, the evil nature of violence and in the process made all innocent victims His closest collaborators across time and place.

There is a new rage loose in America that any rational person fears.   Should our leaders fail to contain this violence it will likely end in the murder of an innocent victim somewhere.  The violent part of America will continue to seek its “evil victim” who, by definition, is innocent in the eyes of Christians, but guilty in the eyes of the haters who marshal a Christianity-based victimology to condemn this ‘culprit’.  Cardinal George saw this phase  coming some time ago, when he reiterated and republished his lesson a year before his death:

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

According to Girard all other cultures got their start with a foundational violent event, the murder of an innocent victim in which all the onlookers partook.  If successful in making the victim “guilty” the mob’s hatred is assuaged, and the event becomes sacred to their history.

The ‘reverse/negative model’ fills the vacuum with hatred. Keep an eye on the emerging raw hatreds and violence, the noxious weeds that fill the vacuum created by generations who worship God less and less.  This is very new phenomenon in America and the nation’s rescuers will have to be endowed with a special genius.

Chastity and Freedom

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.

Culture and Human Nature

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

Growing Local Culture

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.