Editor's note: Today's column is a modified version of a column published on patheos.com in February 2012 called "Turning the Hearts, Re-Valuing Families."
At the beginning of another year, we want to restate this column’s purpose. The reason it is called “Why the Family” is because we take literally the last verse of the Old Testament that says that unless hearts are turned to family, the earth will be cursed.
Here’s what we believe: Turning our hearts and re-valuing our families is the only alternative to America’s demise.
Unless our hearts (feelings, attention, priorities) are turned toward and centered more on families (marriage, children, commitments), we will continue to face the individual and societal curse of the expanding social problems that are crushing America. Through addiction, crime, violence and abuse, this curse produces poverty and isolation, bloats our welfare and justice systems, and imposes oppressive taxes to pay for ineffective government “solutions.”
Our burgeoning social problems result directly from the deterioration of families and the glorifying of individual options and “freedom” at the expense of family commitment. The vacuum created by disappearing families sucks in everything from gangs to excess government. Our public and private sectors — from local officials and public education to big business, electronic media and the Internet — which, for their own self-interest and survival, should be supporting, supplementing and protecting families, instead seem to be trying either to substitute for them or to undermine them. And parents, in hot pursuit of professional and financial success, can find neither the time nor the inclination to put family first.
Social problems today threaten the demise of America as much as economic problems threaten developing countries around the globe. So great are these curses, and so turned away are our hearts, that as we chug deeper into the 21st century, there are serious questions about America's future.
Alexis de Tocqueville predicted America’s destruction from within. It is a destruction more akin to chronic illness than to instant injury: subtle and slow rather than stark and sudden. A breakdown caused not by threats moving in, but by rot spreading out.
The shiny surface of America is pockmarked by poverty, riddled by racism and gouged by gangs, guns and ghettos. The greatest, richest land paradoxically contains the most dangerous and terrifying places on the planet, places where life is cheaper and joy scarcer than anywhere in the third world.
And more subtle but just as sure, the sickness spreads through suburb and supposed stability, incredibly expensive, seemingly incurable, unfixable by courts or welfare — enlarged, expanding, spreading. Preventable and curable only at the smallest stage in the smallest organization: the family.
Individual lives can teeter for quite a while on the edge, bereft of the ties of family and the anchor of faith and values. A whole society can do the same thing. But for the benefit of the individual and the collective, the family needs to be re-valued.
By re-valuing the family, we mean three things:
1. Once again recognizing the transcending societal value of families
2. Personal re-prioritizing of our families
3. Putting values back into our families
Values are best defined as what matters, what counts, what we care about — what’s right, what’s important and what’s real. Values are more than philosophy or a pleasant placebo of belief. They are practical, practiced personal principles. They are the truest and most time-tested way to live, the single constant requirement of safe and stable society, and the key underpinning of real happiness.
Most people know, intuitively and instinctively, what real values are and what family values are. The ongoing goal of this column is to rekindle them in our society and inside our homes, thus turning our hearts, protecting our families and saving our world.