Rediscovering the Family

Last year, the Washington Post published a survey of public attitudes. The results were pretty dreary. Americans generally believe the country is in decline. What they worry most about, the survey found, is a sense of moral decay. And at the heart of that decay, people said, is that the family is breaking down. Well, the chickens are coming home to roost. Because, sad to say, the breakdown of the family is to some extent the outcome of deliberate decisions??of consciously embraced values. Remember the '60s, when flower children flocked to communes, telling their astonished parents that the commune was their family now? And remember the '70s, in the early days of gay rights, when homosexual couples marched arm-in-arm under a banner reading "We are family"? And then there was 1980, a watershed year, when a White House Conference on the Family ran aground because it couldn't agree on a definition of the family. Feminists, gay rights activists, and various other liberal groups insisted on a definition broad enough to include virtually every alternative lifestyle. Those days, it was not politically correct to insist on the traditional definition of a family as a group of people related by blood, marriage, or adoption. Even the American Home Economics Association came up with a mushy definition of the family as a group of people who share living and cooking arrangements and hold "a commitment to the future." Under that definition, anyone who chooses to live together for a period of time can be classified as a family. Well, as I said, the chickens are coming home to roost. After two decades of liberal contempt for the family, today we are seeing the disastrous social fallout. Divorce and desertion have skyrocketed. Family breakdown has shattered the emotional and financial security of millions of people. Especially children. A quarter of all children now live with only one parent. These children are much more likely to live in poverty. And they exhibit higher rates of negative behavior--school problems, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, suicide. Things are so bad that some respectable liberals have actually gone public saying we must find a way to make intact, two-parent families the ideal again. They're even willing to speak of the family as a "moral unit." Now, you and I may not blink at such talk: It's only common sense that two-parent families are a better place for children to grow up in. But among the intellectual elite, these are radical ideas. Ten years ago, if you said such a thing you were automatically considered a right-wing religious reactionary. But today, moderate liberal groups like the Progressive Policy Institute are turning the tide. They are saying, We (meaning, we liberals)--we were wrong. We were wrong when we called divorce and cohabitation simply alternative life styles. We were wrong when we said all lifestyles are equal. We were wrong when we said children can adapt to an ever-changing set of caregivers. Children are not adapting; they are suffering. And the Progressive Policy Institute is urging liberals to once again affirm the unique value of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. As Christians you and I can only applaud such honesty, painful as it must be. Now perhaps we can all get busy and together try to rebuild the broken nest.


Chuck Colson


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