society

society

Church and State: No; Government and Religion: Yes

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.

Culture and The Success Sequence

family, marriage, society, success sequence No comments

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.

Rise of the “Nones” is a Disaster for Human Capital and Education Achievement

nones, religion, society 2 comments

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!

The Widespread Impact of Marriage on 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.