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Pornography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smartphones and Technology

community, depression, family, happiness, Technology, youth No comments

Today’s two findings link the digital world with relational outcomes that no one wants: abortion and unhappiness.  The digital world is a two-edged sword.  We know its benefits, but increasingly we are getting to know it’s down-sides.  Japan, one of the most digitally saturated societies on earth, is experiencing one of technology’s noxious byproducts: hikikomori  they call it, the shut-in lifestyle of young people who have withdrawn from society in fear and isolation to live, not socially, but digitally.

Being human, we are deeply relational from the first moments of our existence and thrive on good relationships throughout our lives. We are brought into existence by the most intimate and desirable of relational activities.  We come into the world to be nursed and cuddled in an intimacy many of us, subconsciously, seek to recreate throughout life, especially if we did not get enough in infancy.  We thrive in families that spend lots of time together, supporting each other in the tasks of life.  This is made even easier for us if we live in a close community.  Add lots of intact marriages and lots of weekly worship (both deeply relational) and life is pretty good for almost all involved.  Children who grow up in these environments are much more likely to thrive in adulthood.

Life in a Jewish Family” by Edith Stein, describes just such a family life in a close-knit Jewish community. It changed how my wife and I raised our children.  Later it led me to frequently suggest to my daughters that, in their turn, they consider living close to each other, if possible, when they married and began their own families because their children would benefit from all the aunts, uncles, and cousins they would have around them.  Better still, if they were anchored in a community of worship, and best of all if they had all this and friends close by.  What gifts for all the children involved!

Charles Murray of AEI in Coming Apart and Robert Putnam of Harvard in Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis tell pretty much the same story: upper-class parents, by and large, understand the relational needs of their children and that their own marriage is foundational to their children’s future.  These parents are well educated and know the research. These upper-class parents also understand and practice the worship of God more than most!

But all this good work can be undone, even for the best of parents, should the digital get a hold on the imagination and habits of their children.

Here too, savvy elites catch on quickly:  A few years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of very wealthy and highly educated married couples. The topic was ‘the benefits to children of the time married parents spend with them’.  One of the couples recounted their smartphone strategy: every family member, including each parent, puts his smartphone into a big ceramic bowl in the foyer when he arrives home.  The phones stay there until after dinner and, on going to bed, are put back there again until after breakfast … which they all have together as their start to the day.  They insisted they knew the value of things and that the most valuable of all is time with the most important people in their lives … each other and their children.

 

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

Pat Fagan,
Director, MARRI at CUA

Marrying Young

divorce, happiness, MARRI, marriage, National Marriage Project, young adults, youth 1 comment

By Pat Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
     Joshua Kelsey, MARRI Intern

There is an interesting debate going on between Ashley Maguire and Susan Patton on whether or not to marry young.

Patton argues that colleges harbor a great number of smart men, one only grows older after college, and it is generally a virtue for women to marry young.  McGuire disagrees with Patton and uses data collected by The National Marriage Project’s “Knot Yet” Report to prove her point that women should wait until their late 20s and early 30s to get married, because the lower the age at marriage, the higher the risk of divorce.

The research does indeed show that women who get married before the age of 20 face a proposed divorce rate of 52 percent.  It drops to 34 percent for women who get married between the ages of 20-23, and even lower to 14 percent for women ages 24-26.  Women who get married between the ages of 27-29 have a 20 percent chance of divorce and women who are 30 years or older only have an 8 percent chance of divorce.  Just looking at these percentages, one would agree that women should wait until they are approaching 30 to find a life partner.

However when one looks at the level of happiness within marriage another dimension comes forth:  

The risk of divorce and the risk of unhappiness may not follow the same trajectory, according to the Knot Yet Report.  Of women who marry before the age of 20, only 31 percent say they are very happily married.  Forty-six percent of women married between the ages of 20-23 report that they are very happily married, and 49 percent of women married between the ages of 27-29 report the same.  Forty-two percent of women who marry at 30 or older report being very happily married.  But, remarkably, a significantly higher 66 percent of women who marry between the ages of 24-26 report that they are very happily married.  No other age group even breaks 50 percent in the very happily married category.

So how are we to make sense of this data?

Looking at the divorce risk alone gives us the benefit of objective concrete reality.  Happiness on the other hand is a subjective and fluid measure.

The benefit of younger marriage is that the couple can mold their characters together rather than individually, while they are still young and flexible.  If they work at it, their virtues develop alongside each other and they learn to be more harmonious as they face the formative twenties with each other.

Many questions are left unasked in the Knot Yet report:

How chaste are they (a virtue with a big impact on marital stability); what are their intentions on children (are they family focused or self-focused as they go into marriage)?  What is their education attainment and GPA?  Hard work is a good indication of responsibility and dedication — qualities needed for a successful marriage.  

Developing norms for marriage in our new mobile age is a much needed discourse and both McGuire and Patton contribute to the discussion.  The data give us clues to behavior and behavior gives us clues to habits and virtue, but the data is still a fair distance removed from this last point: character.   When a young man of great character marries a young woman of great character and they are both working on developing the necessary virtues (good habits) to make the other happy and to make family life better, then the chance of divorce is rather remote.  Add in frequent prayer and worship (not addressed by the Knot Yet report) and divorce almost disappears.  Add virginity at marriage and you have a totally different ball game.  Add natural family planning rather than contraception and the game shifts even more.   When were these the norms?  What was marital stability like then?  For those who choose to build a strong future (as opposed to pining for a distant past) the norms are the same.

Those who marry young will indeed face many hardships as the pieces of their lives continue to come together during their twenties, so the divorce risk makes sense. However, our goal is to encourage intact and happy-healthy marriage in our nation. Perhaps the answer is therefore to encourage young marriage…if four things are present:

1) Both man and woman are educated.  Research shows the lower divorce risk for couples who have gone through the stabilizing and enriching experience of higher education (college degree).
2) Both man and woman have the virtue of chastity.  Couples who are concerned with chastity—before and during marriage—tend to be dedicated to relational health, intactness, and service.
3) Both are people of regular prayer and worship.
4) The couple talks through, and agrees on, the functions of the five big tasks (institutions)—family, church, school, marketplace, and government.  Marriage and parenting will be intertwined with these institutions, and conflict regarding them can quickly destabilize a marriage.
5) The man and woman come from healthy families.   Such couples have working models for dealing with hardship and living for a greater good than self.  If they don’t have such backgrounds, they must discuss the potential baggage and bad habits (of thought or feeling) that may encumber them.

If these five factors are in place, I suggest a couple should by all means marry young.  Life is full of adversity—it is simply about which adversities to take on.  The “adversity” of starting young is a natural good.  If you have all these things going for you, then “Go for it”.  Guys: she may be gone with someone else if you wait.  Ladies: the same for you too.  If a businessman comes across a really great deal does he wait? The great deal here is character.  Does he have it? Does she?

Electric Zoo, Family Structure, and Substance Abuse

crime, family, intact family, religion, youth No comments


By MARRI Intern
A week and half before their Labor Day music festival, Electric Zoo posted a notice on their blog encouraging their participant “party animals” to “keep the positive party vibes flowing by looking out for each other.” The post advised against illegal drug use but also outlined common signs of drug abuse and included a map of where to find on-site medical facilities. While many attendees may have followed this recommendation and enjoyed their weekend, a few attendees did not. Electric Zoo was forced to cancelthe third and final day of the event due to two tragic overdoses and a number of hospitalized attendees on the first two days.
Fueling the public’s negative reaction to the Labor Day fatalities is the professional history of the Electric Zoo’s founder. One of the founder’s partner clubs in Chelsea, Twilo, was shut down in 2001 following two fatal MDMA overdoses. The fact that both deaths at this year’s Electric Zoo were also reported as MDMA overdoses has certainly made this tragedy a bitter pill to swallow. But where do we draw the line? Can we put all the responsibility on the clubs which organized and repeatedly turned a blind eye to illegal substance abuse? Surely, we cannot ignore the freedom of choice exercised by club and party attendees to partake in the use of illegal substances.
Who is to blame? Society, the clubs, the victims, their parents? The breakdown of the intact married family has many far-reaching effects, including an increased propensity to engage in wrong and damaging behavior, such as illegal drug use. Recent trends indicate that most twelfth graders believe that the availability of, and access to drugs has become easier and easier. And while we all know that drug abusers can come from every background, MARRI Research indicates that children of divorce have a significantly increased risk of crime, as well as drug use. Additionally, research has shown that the more youth who worship weekly exhibit the least hard drug use.
So perhaps at the end of the day, we are left only with the tasks of mourning the precious lives lost and of determinedly perpetuating a culture of intact families who worship weekly, engender healthy values, and raise children who choose not to turn to substance abuse.

“I had a nice time. Let’s have sex.”

culture, marriage, sexuality, youth 2 comments

Maria Reig Teetor, Intern

“We must try before we make a commitment.” “Are you sexually compatible?” “How good is he/she in bed?” “Have you had sex yet?”These have become normal questions asked when you meet up with friends, go out to a bar or dinner party…abstinence is not in the vocabulary.

We live in a sexualized society, where life is measured by our emotions, feelings and sexual behavior. You only have to flip through the pages of Cosmopolitan or turn on your TV and watch L.A. Complex or Gossip Girl to understand that sex is what’s expected of you when you go out on a couple dates. 
When talking about abstinence or waiting for marriage to have sex, you think of your high school counselor, who talked about abstinence because as a teenager you aren’t ready to take up the consequences of what sex may entail, but once you’re in college or in the labor force, you’re immediately expected to sleep with your dates. 
This recently hit me, as I was sharing a drink with this attentive young man I met through a mutual friend. We were sitting at a bar enjoying a casual happy hour, talking about work, hobbies, siblings, aspirations…when as the evening was coming to an end he mentioned, “Where to next, your place or mine? Don’t worry, I’ll let you sleep over afterward.” As if letting me sleep at his house after we had sex was the chivalrous thing to do. The young man was stunned with my polite answer: “No thank you, I don’t do that.” At that very moment I was so thrown off I did not have a solid explanation to why I was not going to have sex with him.
 
I then understood that a lot of factors went into this assumption he made – it wasn’t that he was some abnormally forward or disrespectful young man. Rather, it is what society, peer pressure or his upbringing has taught him is the normal way of conduct.  But he was so stunned he called me for a whole week to try and go out again. He was searching for an answer to my no: Is it that you don’t like me? I am weird? Unattractive? I thought we had a good time? And we truly did. 
The only consequences of sleeping around that people dare to mention are unwanted pregnancies and sexual transmitted diseases, like HIV; but those are soon resolved with the notion of “as long as were safe we’ll be fine.” Which means that as long as one uses the pill, condoms or any other contraceptive method, we’re all free to sleep with whomever we desire.
I went on to wonder, besides these more obvious facts, have young people ever thought of our emotional vulnerability or the psychological damages that sleeping around might have? And the advantages of creating a solid long lasting relationship  when you wait for marriage?  
So today I wanted to skim through a few reasons why we shouldn’t give in to new era of “I had a nice time, let’s have sex” that we may have to deal with as soon as we’re on a date. 
First of all, this over sexualized culture backfires as it confuses the true meaning of love with lust. It induces people to marry for the wrong reasons. The emotional bonding that sex brings to the relationship creates a false impression of closeness between strangers and it can blind their judgment, inducing them to believe that this emotional and psychological bonding is caused by their love for one another when it’s mostly induced by their sexual activity.
Once you engage yourself in an active sexual relationship without a strong commitment, it tends to overtake the vast majority of the relationship, which means that you end up learning how to express  your emotions and feelings through your body and don’t strive to create a personal and intimate friendship which is the solid base of a good marriage. On the contrary, when there is no sexual activity, the couple is forced to spend quality time with one another, learning about their hobbies, desires, aspirations. They also learn how to verbally communicate and express what they are feeling or thinking. This will help them build up the base of their relation and when hard times come, they will not “fix the problem” by sleeping together, but by communicating. 
Another reason worth mentioning is that this culture of “fun and sex” reduces the value of our human sexuality, because it uses it as an exchange of products: we exchange our bodies for pleasure. This type of behavior reduces human dignity to a more animal way of acting. This is not the purpose of our sexuality, which is there to express our capacity of love and self-giving. 
And finally I wanted to note how by living out abstinence you are loving your future spouse, even if you haven’t met him or her yet, because you’re saving not only your body, which is an expression of yourself, but all that defines you as a person, your unique self being. Once you give yourself to that one special person, the fulfillment will be far greater than expected because it will not only be an act of pleasure but an act of complete surrender, self-giving and spiritual bonding. 
So when asked that question again, we could say, “No, I will not sleep with you, as my sexuality is not there to give, just out of mutual understanding, affection or desire. But to preserve for one person who is going to acknowledge it for its final purpose, the surrender and the total self-giving out of love and for love.” This type of surrender reaches its meaning within a profound commitment such as marriage.

Why Marriage Really Matters

marriage, sexuality, youth No comments
Eileen Gallagher, Intern
Yesterday advocates of same-sex marriage opened a campaigntargeted specifically at young people. The rhetoric and marketing skills of the new campaign are brilliant.
The war over marriage is being fought furiously on both sides, but advocates for same-sex marriage use words as their weapon and it seems inhuman to contradict them. For example, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a supporter of the new campaign, said:
“We believe in equality of opportunity rather than outcome. Most importantly, we believe that the individual and the family are the central engines in our society… It is about equality for all with no exceptions.”
On the website“Freedom to Marry,” there is a page called “Why Marriage Matters” featuring videos and stories of supporters saying these things:
“We are not here to judge each other. We are here to love each other.”
“Marriage is about showing people you’re committed to one person.”
“We wanted to get married for the same reason as everyone else, because of love, family, and making that commitment to one another.” 
The words they use are beautiful. Everyone believes in equality, love, family, and commitment. These are the roots of American and family values.
The movement catches everyone’s attention by using emotionally charged words, and now they are concentrating their efforts on the right group of people. While the formation of beliefs is a lifetime project, young people, usually from the end of their high school years and into their 20s, are especially forming their opinions and deciding what they believe in. Often children assume the views of their parents, but some do not, and others change their views on specific issues.
Topics such as abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage hit close to home in these years when many young people are “exploring their sexuality.” Those who are not themselves facing decisions about abortion or contraception certainly know people who are. This is the ideal time to try to persuade someone on these issues, because it is relevant to daily life.
The rhetoric and marketing skills of the new same- sex marriage campaign are brilliant, but their facts are wrong.
Young people are often drawn in by slogans, but they are captured by truth. Social science proves that an intact heterosexual marriage has the best results for children, and also for adults. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute shows, with social science, that there are 162 Reasons to Marry and states, “Marriage is the foundational relationship for all of society. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is simultaneously a close and a closed husband-wife relationship.”
Hard data cuts through emotionally charged words and shows the truth about marriage. Now it is time for hard data to reach the same young people that the “Freedom to Marry” group is trying to reach.

Be careful what you wish for…

marriage, sexual revolution, sexuality, youth 1 comment

Betsy Huff, Intern

The issue of the oversexualisation of girls in our modern culture is one frequently written about in both popularand scholarlypublications.  It is a concern of parentsand psychologists alike.  In 2006 the American Psychological Association released a reportregarding this subject.  The report lists the many causes of the unhealthy sexualisation of young girls, most of them pertaining to media images in television, movies, and music. It also cites merchandise that is inappropriately suited for young girls, clothing such as thongs that are sold for girls as young as 7, toys that display scantily clad women, and advertising that creates an unattainable physical ideal. The APA encourages parents and teachers to be aware of the societal messages they are sending to their children, particularly in regard to physical attractiveness and self-worth.  APA reports that one of the most dangerous ways girls sexualize themselves is through self-objectification: “Psychological researchers have identified self-objectificationas a key process whereby girls learn to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires… girls internalize an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.” 
While I agree that the media can have toxic influence on women’s body image and sexuality, particularly young girls, I do not think it is the only place of blame. The sexual revolution has had a detrimental impact on sexuality in the nation as a whole; MARRI’s Family Trend Linesreflect some of these consequences. The sexual revolution has also caused the oversexualisation of young girls. The ideals it promoted,free love, sex outside of marriage, and the uninhibited use of contraceptives to allow for a lifestyle of promiscuity minus the physical consequences or risk, have not given women freedom in their sexuality, but have only created bondage.  Choice and freedom in sexual exploration have not gained women the respect and dignity as holistic human beings they desire, nor has it given them more power over their bodies and sexuality. Instead it has encouraged a hedonistic attitude toward sex. It has allowed men to continue objectifying women as nothing more than a source of sexual pleasure and women to objectify themselves in a feeble attempt to gain joy in their sexuality that only comes from the security and commitment of a monogamous relationship.
There are women who recognize this issue and are combating the oversexualisation of women in society particularly the media. Kara Eschbach, editor of the recently created Verilymagazine, speaks of the magazine’s vision for their particular audience of young professional women saying, “We are aiming to show style that respects our dignity, instead of compromising it; to explore our relationships, not just sex; and feature thought provoking articles, not just rhetoric.”  The solution to the objectifying of women in society is to promote and protect true femininity and sexuality in the framework of strong marriages and families.  Sexuality should indeed be celebrated, after all it was created and given to us by God, but it should also be protected and cherished in the sacred context in which it belongs.

The “Miracle” Drug

contraception, sexual revolution, women's health, youth No comments

Amanda Brennan, Intern
Growing up, I have distinct memories of TV commercials featuring happy, care-free women shopping or going out with friends, while in the background a voice told of the benefits of the latest birth control pill. Though I was clueless about the advertisement itself, I was struck by one phrase: “Have only four periods a year.” For a girl nearing young womanhood, the idea sounded brilliant! Yet, something always left me unconvinced and unsettled.
When the birth control pill came on the scene in the 1960s, it was intended to be the most reliable contraceptive to date. Now, an estimated 11.2 million women aged 15 to 44 use the Pill each year in the United States, as noted by the Guttmacher Institute. Oral contraceptive pills, or OCPs, do more than prevent pregnancy these days; they have additional uses for 58% of users. The study explained that 31% of women use them for cramping, 28% for regulating menstrual cycles, 14% for acne, 4% for endometriosis, and 11% for other reasons. It is believed that 1.5 million women use them without contraceptive intentions at all. The medical world has deemed OCPs “miracle” drugs, as they are prescribed more and more each day to treat health issues. But do these pills in cute packaging deliver healing, or do they wreak havoc on the female body?
With childhood reservations still in the back of my mind, I decided to look into the birth control pill Seasonale, which reduces the frequency of menstruation in a year. I wanted to know the true effects of artificial hormones on the body, specifically the brain. Seasonale’s mechanism of action, the “suppression of gonadotropins,” stuck out to me while searching the Physicians’ Desk Reference. Gonadotropins make up two hormones needed for development and reproduction, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Their production is controlled by gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which regulates the sex steroids testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, thus, contributing to such things as male and female behaviors and maintaining a pregnancy. Usually, cells in the anterior pituitary gland of the brain called gonadotrophs emit LH and FSH, but OCPs manipulate their normal production.
In their recent article, Women’s Brains on Steroids, Drs. Craig H. Kinsley and Elizabeth A. Meyer ask, “What happens, then, when the female brain gets a significant and artificial dose of steroid hormone, either progesterone, estrogen or both?  We know what happens below the waist, the pregnancies prevented.  What happens above the neck, as this steroidal tsunami washes over the neural coastline?” They found their answer in a study featured in the Brain Research Journal that explored the impact of hormonal contraceptives on the brain at different points in a woman’s cycle. Though not detailed or large, the study found that the part of the brain controlling higher cognitive thinking abilities is affected more among women who take the Pill than among those who do not. Kinsley and Meyer point out that these changes may not always deliver positive results, since many women complain they do not feel like themselves after popping artificial hormones into their bodies via birth control pills. In the end, the authors conclude that “[t]he possibility that an accepted form of chemical contraception has the ability to alter the gross structure of the human brain is a cause for concern, even if the changes seem benign — for the moment…Like the rest of life, and like the steroid choices made by those ballplayers, there are costs and benefits.  The benefits are well established; the costs, however, are still coming to light.”
Now that the Pill is being used for more than just contraceptive purposes, people must ask if it delivers health or merely creates more problems. Rather than just blunt or prevent pain from cramping, shouldn’t a woman know what is causing her cramping in the first place? Rather than blindly take a pill that regulates menstrual cycles, shouldn’t a woman know why her body is out of whack (if, indeed, it is)? I don’t think swallowing pills that can alter brain function, even temporarily, is good medicine. Instead of turning to quick fixes deemed “miracle” drugs, we ought to work withour bodies and not against them. The underlying problems must be addressed with actual cures, not Band-Aids, as explained by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, MD, creator of the innovative women’s health science NaProTechnology.
There is more to scratch your head about than just the Pill’s impact on the brain. As MARRI blogger Katie Staudt mentioned in a recent post, a connection between contraception and the rising divorce rate (among other things) has been found. Furthermore, as high school students continue to be sexually active, more of them will turn to OCPs. As we show in MARRI’s Annual Report on Family Trends, birth control pill use by sexually active high school students rose was at 16% in. Still more young women may be taking the Pill for reasons other than birth control. If these pills can upset the normal functioning of a grown woman’s body, what impact can they have on a developing young woman’s body?
I’m left with one more question: If the use of birth control pills among young women solely for health reasons is increasing, is this not giving them the green flag on sexual activity? Well, it sure is giving them the tools for it.

Truth, in love.

abstinence, Christianity, MARRI, youth 2 comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) recent video stated that “[e]ighty percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex” and “almost a third of evangelicals’ unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.” This is a staggering statistic, and one which raises some serious questions. Adelle Banks from the Huffington Post sought to address with her recent article. Most central of all, what should the evangelical response be to this erosion of chastity and rise in abortion? 
Evangelical Leaders have stated that “abstinence campaigns and anti-abortion crusades” are not having the same effect anymore. Furthermore, Banks claims the Christian youth are frustrated by the way the church has handled the issue of sex. One can hear that premarital sex is wrong, but that is not satisfying in a culture that is constantly conveying it is good to have sex before marriage. One Christian young mother stated, “The Bible says not to do it, but I think, for most people, they need more than that.…We want to know why. And most of the time folks aren’t prepared to answer the question why.”
 
One answer can be found in the social and medical sciences. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s 162 Reasons to Marry contains numerous studies that show those who wait to have sex within marriage are the most fulfilled sexually, emotionally, physically, and even materially than other marital statuses. However, while this truth must be presented, it must also be done in love. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, a woman who was caught in adultery is about to be stoned by her accusers, a punishment fully merited under the current Law. When confronted as to whether this punishment should be carried out, Jesus stated, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (NASB). While He had every right to, Jesus did not condemn this woman. Similarly, we might be “right” in our statements to others, but be wrong in our message. However, the truth, when presented in love, will make the difference we truly seek.

To Rebuild Society, We Should Rethink our Foundation

crime, culture, family, news, Pat Fagan, social institutions, youth 1 comment
By Julia Polese, Intern
On February 13th, New York Times columnist David Brooks examined the current trends in sociological study that have displaced economic and cultural determinism as the primary explanation for the weakening of the American social fabric. He explains that regardless of the origin of social disorganization – job loss, government growth, or abandonment of traditional norms – it continues through the generations. Disruption causes more disruption and weakening social fabric within certain communities can be tied not primarily to sweeping moral decay or the recession, but to sociological factors on as small a scale as a child’s attachment to his parents. “It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies,” he writes. “The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.”
 
This trend points to a third route between the extremes of building the Great Society and subsidizing atomization. Sociological studies in the past several decades regarding crime and reasons for delinquent behavior have largely drawn from Social Control Theory, outlined by Travis Hirschi in 1969. In his seminal work, Causes of Delinquency, Hirschi broke with the preceding scholarly consensus by claiming that both delinquents and those who have not committed crimes share the same disposition to delinquency, but what differentiates them are their social bonds and relation to conventional society that constrain their baser passions. The sociologist named attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief as four essential aspects of a person’s development. Deficiency in one or more of these values can weaken one’s social bonds and, as many subsequent studies drawing from Hirschi’s theory have shown, lead to delinquent behavior. The key to social disruption is breakdown in relationships.
Brooks writes that in order to “rebuild orderly communities,” orderly people need to be cultivated. While the columnist proposes sometimes using the government to build “organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly,” these structures do not have to be created by tax codes and mandates to provide individual incentives to behave. Rather, the family structure can provide such an incubator for responsible citizenship. As the fundamental “orderly community” and basis of civil society, the family shapes a child’s belief in the norms around him, his attachment to others, and involvement in and commitment to the community.
 
“Social repair requires sociological thinking,” says Brooks, and the sociological data consistently has revealed the significant role the intact family can have in reweaving the disintegrating social fabric. However, sociological thinking must be done within the correct paradigm. Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, states that “Sociology done well cannot but reflect the way God made man.” A correct anthropology in light of our state as fallen creatures must inform attempts at “social repair.” Sociology is reflective, but cannot be fundamentally reparative. Repair begins with grace from outside us that constrains our passions and reorders our will to what is good. The family is one means of such grace, and the data cannot help but reflect the goodness of this first structure.