The War Against the Family
Chalcedon Report No. 371, June 1996
The modern age has long seen a war against the family based on Enlightenment and statist premises. We now see it emerging from the Christian community.
More than four decades ago, in a retirement area, I saw its clear outlines among the elderly. Too many retired to build lovely homes designed for two people only. They were open in their desire to have no children or grandchildren visiting or staying overnight. But Dorothy and I both saw such people weep in their nursing home beds because none or few come to visit them. Of course, they had moved often hundreds of miles from their children; they had made them unwelcome in their new homes; now they felt sorry for themselves because they were neglected!
These were all good evangelicals, but their faith was a shallow one which placed appearances above true faith. One sickening event involved a kindly and wealthy man with an evil wife; retirement made life unbearable for him. Because divorce was “unthinkable,” he committed suicide, staging it as an accident. All his friends thought this a noble act — and continued to enjoy his wife’s hospitality.
More could be said of the irresponsible behavior of that generation of the 1950s; I cite them to illustrate my premise that the revolt of youth in the 1960s began with the anti-familistic and egocentric attitudes of their pious grandparents. When the youth of the 1960s declared, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” they were rejecting first of all their own parents and grandparents. It is true that the campus radicals mainly came from radical families, but it was also true that on the fringes were youth of “Christian” families.
By the 1970s, parents, on retiring, were often sporting a most shameful bumper sticker: “We are spending our children’s inheritance.” They meant it, too. In a beautiful Western mountain ranch, a young man was taught the history of the place from the day a forefather first settled it. He loved every foot of that great domain. But his father sold it, offering to give his son an education at the university of his choice, or nothing. The son, a rancher at heart, took nothing and became a ranch hand. The parents spent a fortune in travel and entertainment.
Another case from 1995: the family business was sold, but not to the son, who had offered to pay his parents their annual income, or whatever percentage they wanted, for life. It did not matter to the parents that their fine son was deeply hurt.
The family is in trouble because too many members, young and old, are indifferent to it. It is not at all surprising that many sons and daughters want their parents far from them. If they have had an antifamilistic statist education, this is natural. Television, films, and popular culture have taught that parental love and concern is interference. The attitude is, stay away, but leave me your money.
But the family is an inescapable part of life. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks, intensely hostile to the family, tried to create a new order for human incubation. The result was a dramatic debacle. The Western world is creating a like debacle with its hostility to the family. Too many people grow up viewing parental love and concern as interference. There are too many instances where parents, who did all they could to help their children get an education and start their life’s work, are now either forbidden to see their grandchildren, or the children have relocated at the other end of the country. Were the parents “domineering”? In the instances familiar to me, this has not been true. Rather, the children have been demanding of one thing after another while insisting on their “freedom.”
This is an urgent religious concern as well as a social one. We must remember what God declares: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exod. 20:12). God tells us that the promise of life is essentially connected to obedience to this commandment. St. Paul reminds us of this fact (Eph. 6:1–3) but urges that fathers avoid provoking their children to wrath and “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Social decay begins in the family, and it is now far gone. Given the priority God gives to the family, the church and Christians are derelict in failing to stress that priority.
The evil temper of our time has made fatherhood anathema to many. It is well to remember that it is a chosen title of the Almighty: Our Father.
Topics: Family & Marriage