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The Demographics of How “Godly” Are Our Religious Beliefs?

Tags: , , , child well-being, culture, family, MARRI, marriage, Pat Fagan, Pew Research, religion, Uncategorized No comments

Pew’s new report is a landmark study in the sociology of religion, which “—sorts Americans into seven groups based on the religious and spiritual beliefs they share, how actively they practice their faith, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” [1]

What are the seven types or groups? And how many are in each group?

If you want to know where you land within the seven types, go here.  For a quick overview of the difference between the types on major outcomes go here.  Here is one comparison (frequency of worship:

Keep the following relationship in mind (from MARRI’s own Mapping America) as you study the Pew report on matters family and marriage:

The chart above gives some idea of the link between frequency of religious practice and the importance given to marriage.  I note this as a reference point to keep in mind as you study the details below.

What is the relationship between Pew’s seven types and the typical identification by denomination?

As I am Roman Catholic, naturally, I paid attention to how represented Roman Catholics are “Sunday Stalwarts” (13%).  [By the way it is very easy to misread this chart: it is not the percent of Roman Catholics who are Sunday Stalwarts but the percent of Sunday Stalwarts who are Roman Catholic).  But still, for Catholics it is a poor showing indeed, for a religion which puts so much emphasis on the Mass (as the act of Redemption, and the obligation of weekly worship of God by this means).  Compared to Evangelicals they are weak in worship, even if, by the nature of being an Evangelical, one self-selects into a devout group, whereas being Catholic has (in ordinary life) as much to so with what one was born into as it has to what you intend do about it.  The biggest showing for “Catholics” is among the Diversely Devout — a strange title for you if you are “Catholic” because devout usually means a high level of faithfulness but not in this case! However, for the Pew typology the Diversely part fits it fits by Catholic norms even as the Devout part fits by Pew Typology norms.  But Pew acknowledges the shortcomings of its “clustering” techniques.  Even given my concerns the data is very helpful. 

What is the relationship between the seven types and family behaviors?

As expected: There is a decrease in impact with a decrease in worship:

What is the relationship between marriage and the seven types?

Given that the next chart does not control for age it is not all that helpful.  The biggest issue in “marriage” is the intactness of the biological parents’ marriage between their mid-30’s and their early 50’s, that phase of family life when their marriage has the greatest influence on their children’s future. From the Pew data below,  we cannot tell. 

It would be nice to figure out where the 7 types tend to fall in the different strata of family structures below. (From the MARRI collection of 5 thousand charts on family structure from the 1940’s to the present).

The most disturbing finding:

For the future of our nation, the most disturbing finding for me is the following:

From this we see a disturbing polarization outside of the Sunday Stalwarts (who have some balance on the issue).  I would be among those who would say (with a major caveat) that it is not necessary to believe in God to have good values and to be moral. I have met many such people.  My caveat: it is much easier to be moral and have good values if one practices believes in God enough to worship him in community.   I don’t trust the ‘God and Country’ type nor the ‘Diversely Devout’ to build the bridges necessary for a functioning polis or political community, which at bottom is a discourse on political morality.  And clearly the remaining groups in the Typology see no contribution from religion to morality.  Now that is dangerous! The more the Sunday Stalwarts shrink as a percent of the nation, the more polarized and the fewer bridge builders we will have, leaving more and more of the country polarized.  Reason and philosophy will have no place in matters moral!

For the “wonks”: Notes on Motivation and Method from the Pew Report

“Pew Research Center’s religious typology is not meant to replace conventional religious affiliations, but rather to offer a new and complementary lens with which to glean new insights into religion and public life in the U.S.” [2]

“The typology groups were created using cluster analysis, a statistical technique that identified homogeneous groups of respondents based on their answers to 16 questions about their religious and spiritual beliefs and practices, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.” [3]

“In some ways, cluster analysis is as much art as science. The groups that emerge will depend on both the number of groups that researchers specify and the questions that they choose to include in the analysis. What’s more, there is no “correct” cluster solution or any single criteria for deciding which solution is best. Researchers must weigh a number of factors: whether it’s clear why people are grouped together, whether the groups are different enough from each other to be analytically useful, and whether the groups are consistent with what researchers already know about the subject.” [4]

“In preparing this report, researchers tested several possible solutions – ranging from five to eight groups – and experimented with including larger and smaller numbers of questions.” [5]

“Researchers ultimately settled on the 16-question, seven-category cluster solution summarized in this report because it has several strengths. First, the solution divides respondents into a relatively small number of groups that are distinct from one another, large enough to permit statistical analysis, and substantively meaningful. Second, all the survey questions that went into the algorithm are measures of religious or spiritual characteristics, making this truly a religious typology.” [6] [1-6] From the Report.

Three Short Periods That Shape an Individual’s Journey Through Life

adolescent sexuality, child well-being, culture, economics, family, family structure, love, MARRI, marriage, mothers, parenthood, religion, sexuality, society, young adults, youth No comments

Three phases are foundational to a sense of well-being throughout life: The child’s early experience of his mother, the teenager’s decision about sex and God, and the newly wedded couples agreement on suffering. The first and last involve the two most important persons in his life. The middle- the teenager’s decision -is personal, private and alone, or alone before God. All three phases shape life way into the future by shaping the individual’s capacity for the wellbeing of spouse, children, friends, family, and colleagues at work.

The child who experiences the constant attention and affection of a self-giving mother during the earliest phase of life, is blessed beyond measure. That mother is giving him a great introduction to “reality as a pleasant place to be.” Life is good, life is warm, life is full. Well taken care of, that baby is ready to take life on! Depending on the mother’s capacity, both from within herself and from the environment around her (her own early experience of her own mother, her husband, her home, her support from family and friends), she fills her child’s emotional heart- his relational “cup”- full, half-full or quarter full. Less than full means the child will have a corresponding limp in human relationships for the rest of its life– without realizing it.

In a recent conversation with friends who live in Spain we mulled the mother-child dilemma in that country where almost all married women are expected to return to work four months after the birth of the child. Many fear that moment because of the pain of leaving their child so soon. By any research calculus, four months with mother is way too little as a norm. Spain is undermining the relational capacity of its children and guaranteeing fragile marriages and difficult parenting twenty-five to thirty years from now.

It cannot but be that most Spanish children will limp relationally to some extent, but it will be hard to spot because most other Spaniards will have been similarly affected. For almost all Spanish couples — even the middle class and higher — a culture of shame exists for husbands if their wives do not work. (The poor and the working class can’t afford the luxury of such shame.) Caring full-time for children at home has become rather socially unacceptable. In Spain, the marketplace is more honored than the child. The market now significantly shapes Spanish children’s relational capacities.

The next period to shape life takes place in the inner sanctum of each teenager’s heart. Between the age of fourteen to sixteen most teenagers decide very privately which path they will walk on matters sexual – ‘adventurous’ exploration of sexual relationships, or chaste abstinence until marriage. The other decision, rather interlaced with the first, is whether they will walk with God or without Him. Should they take the both paths the wrong way, they set themselves up for much unhappiness, broken relationships, even broken marriages, thus visiting suffering on their future children and grandchildren. Some learn their mistake before they go too far down the road. Others find chaste abstinence is possible, especially with friends who walk the same path and who go to God frequently in worship. Oh this “it takes a village” helps a lot. Though chastity leads to significant prosperity and happiness in marriage and family for decades to come, most teenagers are not aware of this, nor that, though they are free to choose, they are not free to choose the consequences, that the consequences are hardwired within them.

The third period bridges the year before and after marriage. The most basic wisdom young couples need concerns suffering. Their orientation to it shapes their future. Those who expect life together to involve some suffering and are prepared to back each other up (“for better or for worse”) will survive and thrive. Those who premise marriage only on “happy ever after” (our modernist norm) are in for a quick disillusionment, one that ends many marriages. The best definition I have come across of a great marriage is “a couple with the capacity to solve an emotionally dividing problem”. Stated differently: a couple who can confront the suffering that life throws at them and figure out how to move towards a solution they agree on.

Though all the social science dots are not yet fully connected across the three periods, enough of them are to link the first period to this last. A husband and wife whose mothers “filled their cup” in infancy are much better formed to be great problem solvers together.

Which brings me back to poor Spain! It takes the national wisdom of a child-friendly culture to deal well with family, love, suffering and children. St John of the Cross, who helped reform religious and institutional life in Spain in the late 1500’s and whose writings are explored by believers of all faiths, is one of the great teachers of the connection between love and suffering. Spanish life could do with a re-infusion of his insights. Then the rest of the world would learn from Spain, for many Western nations, and many good couples, struggle, during the first phase of the child’s existence, to solve the dilemma of mother, child and marketplace.

Sex and the Triple Crisis in Family, Church and State.

Tags: Census data, children, cohabitation, culture, divorce, family, family structure, fathers, feminism, feminists, MARRI, marriage, Pat Fagan, poverty, Prayer, religion, reproductive technology, social institutions, social science, Uncategorized, women, women's health, worship 1 comment

(With apologies for the length.) As Russell Hittinger wrote earlier this year in First Things, there are three primary societies to which people most naturally belong: Our family, our religious community (church, synagogue, mosque, or temple or meeting house), and our political community (nation or state). He emphasized that all three, for the first time in history, are in deep crisis. In the past when there was a crisis in one, or even in two, the other(s) corrected it.

The simultaneous crisis today in each of the three has the same cause: the sexual gone wild. The fallout within the family is now boringly evident: Most first births out of wedlock, minority of children reaching adulthood without their biological parents married, a norm of multiple sexual partners prior to marriage — even for those who worship God weekly, cohabitation prior to marriage, abortion and divorce.

The crisis in the church is related to sex as well, starting historically, with the Lambeth Conference in 1930, during which the-up-until-then universal teaching among all Christian denominations was ruptured by the acceptance of contraception in grave circumstances for the protection of the life and health of the mother, which — hardly had the ink dried on the decree — immediately morphed into (without debate) the commonly accepted moral doctrine across Protestant denominations, of the use of contraception to limit family size. By 1950 this was a deeply entrenched pattern. By the 1960’s the crisis on the same erupted in the Catholic Church with a division for many, at almost all levels of the church (but not at the top) between praxis and doctrine.

The children born to all these contracepting parents saw no logical nor practical reason to contain contraception within marriage and, taking it outside, gave us the sexual revolution of the 1960s. That revolution was not only a sexual revolution, but fostered by the cultural Marxists, was a revolution against “authority.” Many churches complied with the zeitgeist, changing, first praxis and then doctrine on divorce, abortion, and cohabitation. With the logical dominoes falling, homosexual sex had to be, and was, logically accepted. Now with multiple religious-moral options, more and more people moved their religious affiliation to less demanding denominations, ceased worshiping frequently while their children ceased worshiping at all.

The emerging recreational sex, naturally led to an abandonment of the worship of God by young adults, and to a loss of attachment to any religious community. It also resulted in the steady erosion of marriage. Thus, the crisis within the family and within religion, are the same: The sexual.

That there is a crisis in the polis – – – the political community of which we are all members – – – is now obvious in the overt refusal of cooperation by the more revolutionary party in Congress. One might say it is akin to a civil war though confined — for the present — to the realm of words (and legal actions). Civil discourse is almost impossible to find. This breakdown is most evident in the debate over the nomination of judges to the Supreme Court and to the Appellate Courts. But this non-cooperation is evident in other areas that impinge on matters sexual, most evidently so, in the issue of abortion but now even at the highest court levels of legal action in matters related to homosexuality. The most publicly forthright, organized display in Congress of a refusal to seek even minimal political cooperation was the behavior of liberal female congressmen and senators during the incumbent president’s First State of the Union speech shortly after his election. These women set themselves apart and aside by an ostentatious show of uniform dress code — white coats — so as to be visible to the nation on television, as pointedly flaunting their refusal of minimal respect when all strive to maintain some semblance of national unity. The day prior, this refusal was presaged in “The Women’s March” whose iconic headgear vulgarly forced all to contemplate the politics of rebellious sex — again with a dress code — this time, not white coats but, pink “vulva hats”.

Any part of Washington that impinges on the sexual has become a nasty place to work, nowhere more than at the Office of Population Affairs at Health and Human Services. The office that runs the family planning/sexual programs of the government. God help anyone who works there who does not comply in their minds and hearts with the radical sexual agenda. They are under intense constant scrutiny and harassment.

In sum, nothing is more contentious at universities, in corporate boardrooms, in bureaucracies, in courts, and in legislatures than the appearance of any item that impinges on the sexual. Everywhere, pollical division and non-cooperation divides the polis.

Why has there never been a crisis in all three societies ever before in history? Never before have so many in powerful places been so insane on matters of sex, family, love between fathers and mothers, parents and children.

Sex, life, love, marriage, children and God are all so intimately linked or decoupled in the thriving of man or in his debilitation, that all functional civilizations and cultures — all — have put tremendous energy, throughout all their institutions, into bringing as much harmony on the society-dependent, foundational issues. In our day instead, we have many in positions of leadership throughout the major institutions (family, church, school, marketplace and government) devoted to deliberately increasing the discord on these issues. A society so divided on these fundamentals cannot stand, as the elite leaders of this revolt understand very well, and have for decades as they worked to this point.

As always, it is the poor who suffer most, and who will suffer even more. For all family life today is much costlier, less productive and less enjoyable than it should be, but especially so for the poor — even as they are used and show-cased as victims by the same elite leaders of the revolt.

Our national fertility — a big sexual issue — is far removed from that of a well-functioning society. For instance, if were no abortions there would not be a Social Security financial crisis today, nor a looming Medicare crisis. Over the next 10 years these programs will gradually shrivel, if not suddenly implode (economists seem to lean towards implosion, barring some global reform in global currency standards). The contraction has already begun as the elderly on Medicare can tell you. And, they have already been flagged that less will be forthcoming and that they must become accustomed to picking up more of the tab (which they had pre-payed).

More than most nations throughout history, we were blessed with the freedom to choose, but we were never free to choose the consequences. Consequences are built into the nature of the choice made, into the sexual and relational nature of man, as the demographics of America — Mapping America — repeatedly illustrates.

To thrive man needs two great loves: The love of his closest neighbor (spouse, and children— sexual love in its fullest expression) and the love of God (minimally expressed in weekly worship).

Is a crisis correction possible?

Of the three societies that we all occupy, the one with the capacity for quickest reform is the religious. Despite all its bad press, some of it, and more to come, no doubt, well deserved — but by no means all, particularly the latest — a close observer will notice the pace of reform within the Catholic Church in this country. It has been gathering steam, not in a way that makes front-page headlines, but more hidden in its deeper reaches. Hopefully the same currents, driven by the same issues (dysfunctional sexuality and its fallouts), are bringing about similar reform within other denominations and faiths.

Addressing the issue of church reform, John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America, in a recent letter to the university community, quoted St Catherine of Sienna, who was the major stimulus for a reform at another time of deep crisis: “Eliminate the stink of the ministers of the Holy Church. Pull out the stinking flowers and plant scented plants, virtuous men that fear God.”

The road ahead: First the reform of the religious institutions leading in turn to the reform of marriage and the family (all freely undertaken by free adults), which reformed over time, will alter our political behaviors and lead to a reform of the body politic.

The sooner the better for every child yet to be born, every one of whom will thrive or wilt depending on how much a diet of the two great loves he is fed.

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.

Director of MARRI

God, Fertility, and Hope for the Future.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , children, culture, divorce, family, MARRI, marriage, religion, Uncategorized No comments

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

children, culture, divorce, family, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

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

Religious Freedom

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Recently, during a long taxi ride from Los Angeles airport I had a memorable conversation with the driver, a Muslim from Afghanistan.  After the usual mundane topics, we started discussing what makes for a good clergyman, then discussed confession, repentance, forgiveness and freedom.

It was wonderful to hear him talk about staying close to God, and of his need for prayer in his pursuit of freedom of heart (his often-failing struggle to become free from habits of sin, even small ones) through the help of God. This was particularly striking because a week before this, I had dinner with a public figure with whom I discussed the impact of marriage on the nation and especially on the economy.  I think the taxi-man knew more about the nature of personal freedom to do the good desired (the lack of which stifles and even kills many marriages) than did this great defender of economic freedom, who confines freedom to the level of politics.

The taximan said the clergy should not be hypocrites, complaining that some (his own religion included) destroy their effectiveness and do more harm than good. He wished they would step aside for someone authentic and said young adults making life choices about God and religion need good folk to imitate. Good clergy are essential, he said, if the millennial generation are ever to be prayerful. They are not inclined to put up with hypocrites.

This led to the nature of personal reform and the benefit of confessing one’s sins. He understood Catholic confession and, marveling at the “seal of confession”, got right to the heart of it when he said that “a change of heart” (repentance) is the sine qua non of a good confession.  Thus, he identified a universal that applies to this sacrament: the intention not to sin again.

This whole taxi experience reminded me of a passage in a ‘walking the Bible narrative’ where the young Jewish author spoke of an exchange with a Muslim woman in a bazaar in Egypt.  He asked her what was the most important lesson life had taught her.  Her instantaneous response was “the power of prayer.”

Speaking of prayer:  Our Managing Editor (who, among many things has also been the builder of Marripedia and the MARRI website) is starting on the road of life-long prayer and penance: she is entering Mount Carmel, an order of contemplative nuns. MARRI is guaranteed prayers! Pray that she be a holy nun.  May her prayers help us on the outside.

[We will resume Faith and Family Facts in the second week of the New Year.]

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.

Separation of Church and State

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I bet there is not a single person in the United States who advocates for a Church established by the State.  We have never had a federal established Church though we had a few state-level established churches in the early days of the Republic.  Thanks be to God we no longer have them. Thus, on the issue of separation of Church and State we have total national agreement and it is a resounding: No, Never.

However, on the integration of government and religion the answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’.

Because we are a democratic Republic we have government by the people, and because all people live out their lives somewhere along the spectrum of religious beliefs at the individual, family and community levels it is impossible to discuss how we govern ourselves and shape our ‘polis’ without discussing and accommodating ourselves to each other’s type, level and practice of religious beliefs. The radical opponents of religious belief and practice are afraid of such free discussion because, though they all claim to believe in science, they are afraid of a scientific debate on the benefits of religious practice to the formation of a good citizenry.  At bottom they are afraid to debate and thus do all in their power to make sure the science does not get into the discussion.  They close it by insisting on the shibboleth of “Separation of Church and State”, a shibboleth because there are no proponents for that cause.

Because religious practice is so beneficial to society it ought to be much more a part of our political discussions. For instance in the Congressional discussion that led to the big, intrusive and expensive initiative called “No Child Left Behind”, on which billions were spent, there was no discussion of the impact of religious attendance on education performance, even though it may be the single biggest variable to effect educational outcomes, and is accessible to all who want it, and is (for the state) an option that costs them nothing.

As readers of this column know, all federal surveys that measure the frequency of religious practice constantly point out that those who worship weekly are, on average, the best citizens in the nation on every measure of concern in public policy, on every measure that makes for a good ‘polis’.   The same surveys also point out that those who worship little to none, on average, are the worst citizens in the United States on all the measures of greatest concern to good government.  This is what science says.  Thus, religious practice ought to be a key component of public policy discussions.  Not only do we have too little discussion of the benefits of religious practice in political debate, we have virtually none.

It is time to begin to change this, and not leave the field to the opponents of religious practice.

Many who give up on faith in God say instead they believe in science.  But they are unfaithful to their faith.  Science points out that the practice of religion is, on average, massively beneficial for those who practice it.  The academy, by and large, is the most anti-scientific community on this issue.  How massively ironic this is. And how indicative of the level of the crisis in education that all are beginning to realize with the academy’s handling of freedom on university campuses.

It is time for citizens to simultaneously affirm the separation of Church and State with a resounding no, while affirming an integration of government and religion with a resounding yes.  For the good of the nation, for the future of our polis, it is time to go on offense.  And George Washington in both his Inaugural and his Farewell speeches makes the same point.

Human Capital

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Human Capital drives material and financial capital, across all the economies of the world.  That is why Harvard ranks so high: it “puts the best finishing touches” to the highest human capital it can lay its hands on (young people with high scores – who tend to come from good families) so their graduates can make the most of the future material and financial resources at their disposal.

 

But what is the source of human capital?   In three words: great long-term relationships.

 

The most fundamental of all relationships is that between our parents.  Nothing shapes the person as does his parents’ marriage (or lack of it).  Asian Americans have the most enduring marriages — and the highest achieving children in the US.

 

Some would contend — from the data — that one’s relationship with God is even more powerful and fundamental.

 

But really the question is: “Which comes first: the chicken or the egg?”

 

In the strongest families both relationships are present and the longer they are present the better the result – in all that the sciences measure.

 

The closer these relationships are, the stronger they are.  Close relationships, with God, spouse or children, demand care and nurturance. Ask any husband.  Ask any wife.

 

This is love – not romantic love, but enduring love.

 

The source of human capital is love: love of God and love of one’s closest neighbors: spouse and children.

 

The more generations these relationships have been in place the deeper and stronger the human capital.

 

That is what makes for Harvards, and economies and civilizations.  Love.

 

Thus, Africa is a growing civilization (religious practice is growing fast) while Europe and the US are diminishing civilizations.   The first is growing love more.  The latter are depleting love continuously.

 

Fifty to a hundred years from now the great migrations will be into Africa not out of it.

Religious Unaffiliation

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The media tends to report the rise of ‘nones’ as if it were a neutral development, a phenomenon far from the case.

According to Pew Research Center (May 2015): ‘ Religious “nones” – a shorthand we use to refer to people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular” – now make up roughly 23% of the U.S. adult population. This is a stark increase from 2007, the last time a similar Pew Research study was conducted, when 16% of Americans were “nones.”’

Were analogous depletions happening to the financial and economic systems, all sorts of alarm bells would be sounding.

However from what we have learned again and again about the positive benefits of religious worship on adults and children this rise portends (and the adjective is deliberate) massive costs over the coming decades.  Health and longevity will be harmed (even as applied biology gives more benefits), the educational attainment of adults and children will be less than their religious peers, family fracturing will increase, addictions will increase and crime will increase.  These are all the natural consequences of the absence of a necessary human good.  Just as calcium is needed for strong bones religious practice is needed for good citizens.  The monetary costs of extra burdens will be enormous.

George Washington summed up the importance of religion to the new nation with particular eloquence in his Farewell Address:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness — these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, ‘Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?’ And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Truer words were never spoken about modern America. And what a source!