family

family

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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.

The Most Powerful and Influential Teachers on Earth

family, fathers, marriage, mothers No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Infrastructure that Donald Trump Can Do Little About

elections, family, marriage, religion No comments

The election results stimulated myriad projections for change about the political and economic future, but at the foundational levels of society, marriage and worship, nothing changed this past week.

Political elections are about who gets to control the instruments of power.  But the fundamental work of rebuilding society from the ground up — restoring marriage and turning back to worshipping God weekly — remains in a realm beyond the instrumental tools of government. These fundamentals, so necessary for a functional society, remain untouched by the elections.

And yet the need to change these fundamentals is critical if the goods of politics are to bear fruit.  Otherwise it is all for naught in the medium to long term.  One good revolution (French, Russian, Chinese or Cambodian) can wipe out a lot overnight.

Marriage and religious practice are all about “belonging” — belonging to spouse and children and to God.  But belonging is not something we can manufacture for others, and it certainly is not something government can distribute, transfer or manufacture.  Belonging is the result of attraction — a fulfilled two-way attraction.  However, and this is key, it can start as a one-way attraction.  Many a brave man has proven this by wooing, and eventually winning, the reluctant woman of his dreams.  “Faint heart never won fair lady.”   She gradually came to see how attractive he really was.  But no man (not even the most radical of progressives) has ever turned to government to help him be more attractive to the woman of his dreams.  So to where and to whom do we turn for this rebuilding, this “sine qua non” of social policy, if not to government?  Is not social policy all about government?

This is the fundamental political question for all who want to see society get back on track.  Donald Trump can wield political instruments that will affect the economy, the army, medicine and even education (to a degree), but neither he nor his cabinet can improve marriage or levels of worship through policy initiatives. Yet, of all aspects of the United States, these are the “infrastructure” that needs rebuilding.

This family belonging, which is only full of its power when it means marital belonging between mother and father, is the glue that holds society together.  This lies, not in the realm of government (except to protect or destroy), but in the realm of “the people”.  Belonging is beyond the reach or competence of government.  Sure, big government can do and has done lots to wreck it–as in abortion, in sex education that undermines chastity and marriage, in laws that removed restraints on sex outside of marriage, or in liberal Supreme Courts, such as one that would have occurred under Hillary Clinton, that injects such principles into the legal system.  But the work of rebuilding lies in the heart of the citizen, not in the powers of government.

The social infrastructure of every inner city needs to be rebuilt. It depends on the capacity of millennials to stay married, to grow when adversity hits a marriage so that they mature into strong adults rather than wimp into a rejection that damages their children. Who can do that? Certainly not the instruments of government.

We can only turn to ourselves, and within ourselves to God.  We either attract others to chastity, marriage and worship or we repel them.  We are all either walking advertisements for marriage or effective propaganda against it. People expect a deep joy (even in painful times — especially in painful times) from marriage and family: we either deliver on this in our personal lives or we don’t.  Belonging is caught by contact, by seeing it, by experiencing it up close.  By being invited in.

Belonging is a very different social policy paradigm, but it is the only one that works.

Kids Count…Marriage Counts.

children, economic well-being, education, family, Health No comments

The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) recently released its 2015 edition of Kids Count. This important annual study examines how the well-being of children changed between 2008 and 2013 in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. To get a fuller picture of child well-being, MARRI believes one must include family structure.

  • Kids Count 2015 shows numerous improvements in child well-being over the last five years, especially in education (reading and math proficiency) and health (declines in teen drug abuse and teen deaths). While these improvements are welcome news, the report also reported several declines.The portion of children in poverty and of children whose parents lack secure employment increased by 4% between 2008 and 2013. 
  • The proportion of children living in single-parent homes increased from 32% in 2008 to 35% in 2013.
  • In 2013, 34% of children in single-parent families were living in poverty verses 11% of children from married families.

For children, the first aspect of well-being is their family and whether it is intact or not.  Nothing shapes a child’s destiny as does her family. MARRI research has shown that children raised in single-parent families, as opposed to intact married families, are less likely to receive a high school degree. Likewise, children who experience parental divorce or separation are more likely to have health problems than those in intact married families. Those who grow up in non-intact married families are much more likely to be divorced or separated as adults than those who grew up in intact married families. And children from married, two parent families experience greater economic well-being than children raised in any other family structure, as the AECF report previously cited demonstrates.

Kids Count concludes, “With the right investments, we can provide all families and children with the opportunity to reach their full potential and, in the process, strengthen both our economy and our nation.” MARRI suggests that the most needed investment, for every child, is an always-intact married family.

Pope Francis: The Family is Key to Our Environment

environment, family, Laudato Si, Pope Francis No comments

Marriage and family are the necessary foundations of the road towards a sound ecology and away from environmental degradation, contends Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Laudato Si.

Quick verification test: What major nation is the most abusive of the environment and of children? China, by far on both counts.

In Laudato Si Pope Francis indicates that only by protecting the family, the first environment every child encounters, will society experience effectual progress:

I would stress the great importance of the family, which is “the place in which life—the gift of God—can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life.” In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings. (Paragraph 213)

Pope Francis contends that man’s hardened heart, and the society it has produced, has profoundly damaged the environment. While Francis grapples with ecological issues, he primarily laments the decrepit human environment wrought with selfishness, insensitivity, self-gratification, and irreligiosity. As MARRI research has found on so many non-environmental issues such as the economy and health, environmental reform must first address the foundation of all human interaction, the family, “the basic cell of society,” (paragraph 157).

In society today, premarital sex, divorce, and cohabitation have massively depleted our human ecology. In the United States, only 46% of 15- to 17-year-olds have been raised by their married biological parents, and only 17% of black 15- to 17-year-olds have always lived with their married mother and father. At a vulnerable age when children should learn forgiveness, self-control, and love of neighbor, they instead experience rejection from their very own parents.

Although the majority of single and divorced parents selflessly dedicate their lives to ensuring that their children are guided by love of God, love of God’s law, and love of God’s creation, the average child raised in a broken family is deprived of the gifts of life in some way.  Slowly but increasingly, recent generations have been made “wound-bearers” by their parents and have to fend for themselves in ways not meant for children.  They are being hardened to life and to their surroundings.

But there is hope. A revival of the intact married family will imbue children with the love and care that all children ought to receive in order to reflect it back onto their environment. MARRI data shows that children raised in intact families are more social, exhibit less aggression, and practice better self-control than those in non-intact families, all necessary for salvaging the biological environment.

East Meets West

family, history, TV No comments
By Henry Potrykus


In a previous whitepaper, we described research that shows TV negatively affects family formation and family intactness. Here we want to report on a new, similar study  that shows Western television contributes to declining fertility rates.

In “Television Role Models and Fertility—Evidence from a Natural Experiment” two German econometricians looked at the effect of Western German programming on East German family formation over the Cold War.

During the first years of the Cold War, East Germany (GDR) was rather insular.  For the purpose of the study it isn’t important if the GDR was behind a physical wall; what matters is that Western TV reception was rigorously streng verboten (forbidden): There were campaigns to tear down West-facing antennae found on East German homes.

With the arrival of the Honecker government in 1971, things changed.  Détente arrived.  With it came Western TV showing East Germans the ‘Western family ideal’:  no kids.

Well, not all of East Germany saw this change.  Dresden was a black-out zone – not because Westerners didn’t want to reach it, but because of physics: The signal didn’t propagate all the way over there.

Throughout these changes, East German TV was comparatively pro-child.  Though women were still expected to be part of the economic-industrial machine, family was portrayed in a deliberately positive light.

So, we have a natural experiment:

Our German econometricians use the fact that Western TV “turned on” in the GDR in the 1970s, and that it never really got to Dresden, to show that Western TV reduced family size wherever it went.

Although their study is not (yet) as complete as the one we described in the whitepaper, it is another rather clear indicator that our role models out West affect who we become – or don’t become, in this case.  They affect us negatively when it comes to the fundamental ordering unit of society: the family.

With these important empirical studies, perhaps that old debate over whether programming affects us (negatively) is closer to settled.  Since there is still no shortage of zero-population growth-types around, whether this effect is pejorative may still be controversial.  One thing is sure: with the incipient decline of European nations (including Germany), fewer and fewer of their people will hold the opposing view.  Double entendre entirely intended.