Values are best defined as what matters, what counts, what we care about. What's right, what's important, what's real.
"Turn the hearts of the fathers to their children … lest the Earth be cursed."
We believe that "turning the hearts" and revaluing our families are the only alternative to America's demise.
We know those are strong words. Let us try to back them up and explain what they mean.
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 expanding economic and social problems. Ranging from teen pregnancy to drugs and alcohol and from crime to violence and abuse, this curse produces poverty and isolation, bloats our welfare and justice systems, and imposes oppressive taxes to pay for ineffective "finger-in-the-dike" government "solutions."
And since the family is the basic unit of our economy as well as our society, when families break down and households lose commitment and responsibility, the whole economy suffers.
Our burgeoning social and economic problems result directly from the deterioration of families. The vacuum created by disappearing families sucks in everything from gangs to excess government. Our public and private sectors — from local government and public education to big business and electronic media — which should be supporting, supplementing and protecting families, instead seem to be trying to either substitute for them or undermine them. Our largest institutions are creating misplaced loyalties and false paradigms that are destroying the oldest, smallest institution of family. And parents, hot in pursuit of professional and financial success, can find neither the time nor the inclination to put family first.
Social problems today threaten our future as much as they cause economic problems. So great are these "curses," and so turned away are our hearts, that as we enter the second decade of the new millennium there is serious question whether America as we know it will survive.
"Survive." "Demise." These are extreme and desperate words — words we traditionally don't use much when talking about America. We haven't been this worried about survival since bomb shelters and the Cold War slipped away. But de Tocqueville predicted our destruction from within. Illness rather than injury. Not threats moving in on us … but rot spreading out from us. Subtle rather than sudden.
And it's happening. Now.
We face a decay benignly and academically called "social problems" … so malignant that fathers rape daughters, so violent that children kill children, so epidemic that no one escapes.
The shiny surface of America is pockmarked by poverty, riddled by racism, gouged by gangs and guns. The greatest, richest land paradoxically contains the most dangerous and terrifying places on the planet, places where life is cheaper, joy scarcer than in any third or fourth world.
And we face a sickness in our economy that is academically called "recession" which robs us of jobs and widens the gap between rich and poor.
And more subtle, but just as sure, the sickness spreads through suburbs of supposed stability, incredibly expensive, seemingly incurable, unfixable by courts or welfare … enlarged, expanding, spreading. And preventable and curable only at the smallest stage in the smallest organization: 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. By revaluing the family, we mean three things (the phrase has a triple meaning):
1. Once again recognizing the transcending societal value of families;
2. Personal reprioritizing of our own individual 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, what's real. Values are more than philosophy or a pleasant placebo of belief. They are practical, practiced personal principles. And family values (and family value) are anything but a right-wing conspiracy and a political football. 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 goal should be to rekindle them in our society and inside of individual parents, thus turning our hearts and saving our families.
Often, in weeks to come, this column will suggest how various "engines" in our society, influencers like big corporations, big media and big government, can do a better job of supporting and protecting the basic institution on which they all depend.
The Eyres' three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda Eyre's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org.