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Sex, Fathers, and the Future

adolescent sexuality, Catholic, child well-being, children, clergy, cohabitation, commitment, culture, family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, men, Pat Fagan, sexual revolution, society, Uncategorized, young adults, youth No comments

The total population of North, Central, and South America is less than a billion.  Europe’s population is much less.  Africa’s population is about one billion.

In the last 100 years the world has eliminated one billion children through abortion. In other words, whole continents. World War II was a walk in the park compared to this. The US alone has aborted 58 million infants (the total  population of the US as it came into the twentieth century,  and almost the same as the total populations killed in World War II, the bloodiest war in human history.  The “body-count” in the Holocaust pales in comparison to this, US-only “body count”. Clearly, we “do sex” wrong.  Humankind has never, ever,  “done it” so wrong. 

In the US, for children who survive pregnancy and make it to birth, most of their parents cannot stand each other enough to live their lives together and raise their children to adulthood.  Slavery has returned to the US—in the form of sex trafficking.  Pornography addiction (to some degree or other) is almost universal among young men. Cohabitation is the majority’s choice despite the widespread knowledge of its bad effects. STDs are “through the roof and are now mega epidemics — having been epidemic for decades.  Motherhood is frowned upon in the academic world and most business put up with mothers only because they are forced to if they want female workers.  The list could go on and on— and that is without going near what is being taught and not taught in churches— of all denominations! 

As a society we have really lost our way.  Leaders in all institutions have lost their way or their courage. There are some who know how to “do it” but most don’t, or are afraid, and public schools and academia are not only totally lost, they lead down the wrong and debilitating path — even in the face of overwhelming data. Proof?  Just look around you.

Where do we start to rebuild? 

This rebuilding starts with men — with fathers in particular. 

The fundamental correction involves all fathers taking back from everyone else the sexual education of their sons. Mothers need to do the same for their daughters. However,  the sine qua non is that fathers become the sexual tutors of their sons, because, given the nature of males, men have much greater and difficult task to achiever bringing  their sexual impulses under total control.

The program is simple: Every father worthy of the title, wants his son to end up happily married to the girl of his dreams and wants to show him the way to pull that off.  This is what fathers do: make men out of their boys.

Now that presents a difficulty because most fathers, today, have not achieved that status or have lost it: they are single or married to some other woman.  Thus, they are quite handicapped in giving what they do not have.  However, let us leave that major difficulty to the side for the time being and focus instead on what has to be achieved: Lifelong marriage of a boy to the girl of his dreams.

As a nation— as a culture— we either go for this or we break apart into factions, because sex — at every level of social organization, from the couple to the polis— either powerfully binds us together or powerfully splits us apart. Those who do not go for the gold of lifelong marriage,  ultimately, are prepared that our nation be split into pieces.  Too strong a claim?  What happens to families after divorce?  Multiply that by millions and then by two or three generations and then you have a nation and culture falling apart.  The choice is not just and individual choice it is a political one (in the pure sense of the polis). 

How men handle their sexuality is at the bedrock level of society.  This is something the Marxist Feminists understood very well, though for nefarious applications.  

Feminists and lots of other women are clear on what they don’t want men to do sexually, and they are right!  But they are NOT clear on what they want men to DO. And without a clear destination anyone is lost. So, feminists, though correct in their attacks on predation, are totally wrong on the nature of sex. There is only one destination that makes sense of sex: Sex is meant for marriage and procreation— procreation within marriage— both entwined.  There are lots of secondary derivative purposes and benefits but these two, procreation within marriage,  are non-negotiables if we are to avoid social chaos, and if justice is to be done to every child, and if we are to be a people who want justice for every child.

Maybe the biggest natural barrier to achieving this justice is a universal fact about being male: for every man a huge portion of females are physically attractive to him— and will remain so throughout his life, no matter his marital status. Men see, and immediately register, the beauty and attractiveness of every female before they know anything else about her. And if a man permits himself to pursue that attraction to its logical end (intercourse) he can be in big trouble for the rest of his life, and worse still, he will have caused chaos in the lives of the woman, her extended family, his own extended family, and in particular, and most disastrously, will have severely damaged the children that result from that intercourse (either eliminating them in abortion or leaving them with split parents for the rest of their lives – and  the grandchildren’s  lives.

The only way that sexual attraction can be properly handled is by channeling it towards one person only — the future bride.  Finding her is a long and delicate process for which a good father is the best guide, by far.

The journey to the bride starts in childhood.  It used to start in adolescence for most of human history but now, with pornography being universally and aggressively obtrusive, it starts for boys around age seven or eight, because with his first exposure to it he is beginning to go down the right path or the wrong path.

(By the way – I am all for the death penalty for pornographers. The human suffering unleashed by pornography is so large it is beyond comprehension.)

Back to the task:  fathers now have to begin tutoring early if they are not to be too late.  By age 7 or 8 it is already urgent and assumes a good level of affection between father and son for this next phase to be successful.

The good father lets his boy know (despite his son not yet being interested in girls) that he wants him to end up as a great young man with a beautiful young wife who will be his companion and best friend for life.  Even the father who has failed to achieve this for himself can lay this out for his son. 

Gradually – and differently for each son – he leads him to understand the fundamental complementarity between male and female; that this complementarity between his mother and father brought him into existence and an even greater complementarity and unity between them is needed to raise him to be a great young man.  The father reminds his son that he exists because he, his father, used his sexuality to bring him into existence!  (This is a most powerful lesson each modern boy needs to hear from the lips of his father.  Without this exchange a father is neglecting the growth of his son).  He lets his son know that his father, and he alone, is the one to guide his son in teaching about sexuality and that his son should take it from no one else unless his father says it is OK.  He even goes so far as to teach his son how to demand this as his (the son’s) right in the classroom and any other place.  He teaches his boy how to be a modern warrior — and gentleman — in these sexually hostile times.

The father paints, repeatedly, the goal of the great woman to be won over – by his son being a great man. He teaches him that in this domain “like attracts like!”  He cannot have a great woman without being a great man. It is impossible.  (At the same time the boy’s mother is teaching the same lesson to his sister).

 The father teaches his son that along the way there are many traps and snares for every man; that there always has been and always will be.  The first snare that modern boys confront is pornography — new, modern and powerful  in its intrusiveness and alluringness (that is what makes it a snare).  The father tells his son (at the appropriate time) how he combats his own temptations to look at pornography.  He does it in a way that invites the son to lean on his father for help whenever that struggle is present – and it will be.  The father promises to protect him within the home and at school but tells him he has to learn how to protect himself when his father is not around.  And he reminds him constantly that all this is for the sake of that wonderful girl he is going to win some day.  The purer his heart the stronger it will be and the more easily she will sense it and be attracted by it. And he in turn will be able to recognize a woman with a similarly pure heart – ready to give it to the right man but only to the right man and only to one man!

Anybody with an ounce of sense will agree with the above. Anyone who  does not is an enemy of children.  Harsh? Yes — but true and fundamental to a just and peaceful society.

In all my years working with couples and families, with data and research,  with evaluating programs and trying to figure out how best to help couples and families, I have concluded that nothing is more fundamental in the cycle of life and of  nations than that the father be the one to induct a boy into sexuality.  No one else.  All else is fraud — dressed up no doubt, but fraud.

Given this, I think it is time for another Revolutionary War.  This war is not fought with guns (though, if it is not won there will be a war with guns).  It is the revolution by which fathers take back from everyone else, no matter who they are (teachers or clergy),  the sexual education and formation of their boys.  

We all love appropriate battle cries, such as New Hampshire’s “Liver Free or Die”.  The one every father needs close to his heart (and on his lips when need be) is “Keep your hands off my son’s sex!”

 If we get enough fathers taking “sex ed” (it really is sexual malformation)  back out of the schools (public and private, denominational or secular) we can change America. If we don’t we lose it.  

Too simple? No, no matter the difficulty of doing it.   I see nothing more foundational than this in the cycle of human existence, handed on from one generation to the next.

(By the way, this is the ultimate reform the Catholic Church needs to rectify its own house on sexual ethics for all vocations—for marriage, priesthood, religious celibacy or single lay life.  It was the “program” proposed in plenty of time by Pope Pius XII back in the 1950’s.  It is a pity of historical proportions that Catholic bishops and religious teaching orders did not take that to heart.)

May fathers take back the formation of their sons’ sexuality from everyone else!  It belongs to no one else.  If anyone wants to do any “sex ed” let them help fathers and mothers do it  — and most of them will need help to do this well.  But any other forms of sex ed is only adding to the problem.  Proof? Just look around you. 

It is already very late.  It is time to start this New Revolution. 

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.

Society

family, role models, social science, society No comments

I have spent a life in the social sciences, psychology and sociology, yet it was not till relatively recently that I dug into the work of René Girard. Within his work one fundamental insight stands out: man is an imitator.  This flies in the face of being an American, being modern and being independent. To imitate is to be dependent on another. Though independent people never want to be seen as dependent, this is a major shortcoming, especially when its power is not constantly taught.

It is extremely powerful.  We imitate those we trust, even in small things and even when we don’t know much about the people we rate as trustworthy: In an art gallery we are more likely to go to paintings looked at by others whose  faces seem trustworthy than to pictures looked at by those whose faces don’t seem trustworthy. This happens without our realizing it. The example of those we trust is powerful. We have yet to harness this power of imitation to mold the human soul.  It phenomenon is worth cultivating.

We could help those in society who are being left behind by teaching them, not what to do, or how to do it (evaluation data shows that does not work) but, instead, whom to copy.

Children from the inner-city have few-to-no examples of children who grew up in their neighborhood and made it to college, or who got married. Without others to imitate they cannot imitate. This is the great poverty. Today, many of our inner-city poor have a material well-being way greater than the middle class of the 1960’s, but their real poverty has grown much deeper. Congress suffers the same poverty  and all the mega-social agencies (HHS, HUD, DOE, DOJ, CDC) spend their behavior-improving-money uselessly (and the data show it so, again and again), because of the absence of an abundance of good examples.

When there are no good examples to imitate how do we break the cycle of bad choices made?

Stories abound of good folk who befriended those in need. But good folk don’t present themselves as examples to be imitated but rather are noticed as quietly go about helping. Those who receive the help and those who see the helping often get more from the example of their well-lived lives than from “the help”. I remember a Maryland pastor telling the story of his wife as a young girl. Her family was totally dysfunctional.  All her siblings were in jail.  She, however, was able to take a different path because of a kind couple who lived a on her street. With her parents’ permission, they took her in every weekend and brought her to church with them on Sunday, dressing her up for weekly worship. Those Saturdays and Sundays spent with that couple opened her eyes and she saw what life could be. The seed was sown and she cultivated it throughout her teens and into adulthood.

So how can the single mother break the cycle of single motherhood for her daughters? One way is to find single mothers who have raised daughters who married successfully and imitate them.  How can the absent-father break the cycle of father-absence for his son? They find single fathers who have raised sons who married successfully and imitate them.

But for the inner-city poor these examples may be so infrequent as not to be noticed (only 9% of African American seventeen-year-olds in SE Washington live with their married biological parents, 91 % have a different example). How do we help them?

Netflix could get creative, could do great good with all the profits they are making. Uplifting human-interest stories are always enjoyable. They can make the careers of scriptwriters and directors. Masterpiece Theatre, if it pulled off something like this would bring a totally new meaning to its name.  Bill and Melinda Gates, concerned that their spending may not be achieving as much good as they hoped, might invest in true stories of bravery and goodness and love giving birth to a stronger generation.

In a way, we all have this task of finding, and making known those hidden people who have achieved the worthiness of being imitated in their family life. We need others to imitate if we are to go forward to our next level of being better.  We all love a good story, especially one of rags to riches (and most especially from family relational rags to family relational riches).

Write Netflix or Masterpiece Theatre or The Gates Foundation.

Separation of Church and State

religion, religious freedom, social science, society No comments

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.

The Success Sequence

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Culture and the child are interdependent. Another significant recent report by Professor Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia makes the case, yet again, in a study for the American Enterprise Institute.  Both the parents and the child benefit if the child is born after the parents get married.

“Even millennials from low-income families are more likely to flourish if they married before having children: 71 percent who married before having children made it into the middle or higher end of the income distribution by the time they are age 28–34. By comparison, only 41 percent of millennials from lower-income families who had children first made it into the middle or higher end of the distribution when they reached ages 28–34.”

But seeing that the overall culture and cohesion of the US has significantly decreased, where do young folk go to imbibe the culture that guides them on these paths of human flourishing?  They need to find local mini-cultures, communities where the traditional elements of strong cultures are present and strong: married families, children, worship and prayer, all tied to happiness, neighborliness and mutual support.

And where will they find those local mini-cultures?  My grand-daughter and her mother were at a nearby parish for a soccer game and found the families there to be fun and involved and both hoped that some friendships might be nurtured.  However, they also found those local families to be so engrossed in each other they were not concerned to invite others in.  But behind the “exclusion” was the presence of a strength: local families taking intense care of each other.

In this mini-community, my daughter witnessed what the early Christians were known for: “See how they love one another!”  Local communities like that are needed to help those lost but looking.  It is important that those in such solid communities spot and welcome those who are seeking to join. (By the way, my granddaughter is doing fine: she has plenty of friends and her family is a member of a vibrant parish).

Our culture will be rebuilt one house of worship at a time.  By feeding the universal and fundamental need-to-belong, even financial benefits gradually accrue. The success sequence for millennials (one could say the sexual success sequence) is much the same as it has been for generations.

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!

Marriage and Society

economy, family, society, United Nations No comments

Two weeks ago I made a presentation on The Family as The Agent of Economic Development and the Fundamental Safety Net at a conference at the United Nations that was sponsored by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission, The Pontifical Council for the Family, and The UN Alliance of Civilizations.  I set the stage with the framework of the five basic institutions of society: The family, the church, the school, the marketplace, and the government. Each institution has its basic function or task within society; for family it is the sexual, for religion it is reflection, for education it is learning, for the marketplace it is production, and for government it is protection.

The presentation illustrated how society, in each of the five institutions, benefits from marriage. A sample item will serve as a brief synopsis of how marriage influences the economic marketplace. 

According to the Survey of Consumer Finance, the median income for the “married always intact” family is $82,270 while their net worth is $546,944. Both figures are substantially higher than any other household structure, whether married step, cohabiting intact, cohabiting step, separated, divorced, widowed, or never married.

Furthermore, when one seeks to discover what the contribution is from marriage to the general tax pool the data show that married couples contribute a staggering 40% more than two single individuals identical in all ways to the married couple even while they benefit from the tax deduction received for being married.  More data and analysis on this subject will be released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute in the coming months.

This doesn’t even begin to look at myriad other impact such as the economic impacts of divorce or the marriage premium effect on male income.  But is only a small glimpse of the widespread influence of marriage on the five basic institutions of society. To read the entire presentation or to get a copy of the PowerPoint used during the presentation, please visit http://marri.us/un-holysee.