The crisis in the family, part two

This started as a response to Julie’s very well-thought out comment in response to her first impressions of the Family Manifesto I mentioned in my last post, but they are interesting issues. She is right that the manifesto starts with a false foundation and depicts the foundation of the family as a sort of romantic love, although I believe they back away from that later. Later, this is an expression of the created order.

The biggest difficulty I had with this document is that it is a little vague and generic and there are several statements that could mean several things. I enjoyed chapter one much more. The manifesto seems to seek a governmental solution through a form of Christian activism and seems to support some form of Interfaith and the UNs ability to further these goals. Or maybe not. I’m not sure. For the moment, I’ve credited most of the specific problems with the document to an attempt to make this document appealing to humanity, not just Christians.

Is such a thing possible or even desirable? As a Christian, can we set aside religious and denominational differences to work together toward a common goal? Should we? After all, we hold that all solutions flow naturally from a right relationship with Christ. But here are a couple of quotes that are more what was in mind when I said that they are close. Close enough to discuss. And, just for your information, Chapter I also gets into the philosophical background for the ideas in our culture. Rousseau, Locke, Hobbes, etc. So you know that would attract my attention!

First, what appears to be the foundation they are going forth from. I agree with the first part and would say the second part has to do with Christ. Like I said, they are close.

The problem is not serial divorce, nor gay marriage, nor widespread elective childlessness, nor the general disregard for the lives of the very young and very old. Those are only symptoms. The deepest problem is the loss of a generally shared vision, firmly grounded in nature, of what the family is, and why our destiny as individuals and as a society is inseparable from its proper flourishing.” Wilfred McClay, quoted in The Natural Family, a Manifesto (p. 30)

The hope:

The institution of the home is the one anarchist institution…It is the only check on the state that is bound to renew itself as eternally as the state, and more naturally than the state. G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World (1910)

The reason:

A just political life also flows out of natural family homes. True sovereignty originates here. These homes are the source of ordered liberty, the fountain of real democracy, the seedbed of virtue. The Natural Family, A Manifesto (p. 6)

This is where they run into some difficulties, because they treat the family as an end, but they haven’t defined what they mean by that, yet. Today’s problems also flow naturally from the family because our families are without a foundation. And a bit tying this to America’s founding:

In his provocative book The Myth of American Individualism, the political historian Barry Shain shows that “Americans in the Revolutionary era embraced a theory of the good life that is best described as reformed Protestant and communal.” The American Revolution, he asserts, had more to do with the defense of “familial independence” than it did with quests for personal liberation. Americans of the founding era, Shain insists, were rooted in agrarian, religious, family-centric communities. These Americans saw family households as the common source of new citizens, the places where the character traits necessary to free government would be shaped, the foundation stones of ordered liberty…Ibid, p. 39

It goes back to “first principles” which the authors attempt to do. I think those of us on the more conservative side will tend to say that the first principle is Christ and until the foundation is set, the rest is irrelevant. But we can uphold a model for the world…and our churches splinter the family as much as the world.

The family in crisis

Prompted by a book I received to review (I’ll get to that when I finish reading it), I’ve been thinking a lot about the family recently. What is the family? What is its significance? Why is the traditional view of family being challenged and disrupted?

Why do people tell total strangers that they can’t wait for school to start because their kids are driving them crazy? When did our culture come to support neglect and question the welfare of children in homes where the parents wanted to be with them? Why does “socialization” involve removing a child from the bonds of his closest relationships?

Why is the state viewed as a liberator while the family is viewed as the despot?

As the pro-family movement attempts to counter these forces, why has it become so reactive? Why is it so narrowly focused on effecting policy regarding disparate issues at the state and national level?

What should we be fighting for?

The Family Manifesto attempts to lay out a unifying vision to support the family and is available for download. It is close enough to the heart of the issues that I think it is well worth the time to read and to discuss. Are any of you up for a little assignment and “manifesto discussion?” It is only 28 pages long (in the book), and I’d love to read some of your thoughts on it. While it isn’t perfect, it leaves me with another question.

Why is something written to uphold something as universal as the family so controversial?

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Maternity as a social function

Update: I just found some interesting proclamations this treaty has brought about against nations which have ratified it, including recommending the legalization of prostitution and anything which depicts women in a traditional role as mother.

This is the UN’s take on some of these accusations. (I occasionally make some attempt at “balance.”) I understand that this does not give the UN any ability to enforce anything, but our Constitution is set up such that treaties become the law of the land, unless it directly violates the Constitution. Why would this not occur in this instance? And if the fact that the UN cannot enforce this is a positive, why ratify in the first place?

And if you are against this treaty, here is a petition you can sign.

Back to the original post…

I was just looking over the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is another one of those treaties hanging around that we have signed but never ratified. Wow…it has been around for awhile. President Carter signed it back in 1980. The thought that we now have an international organization which seeks to “modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women…” bothers me a little, no matter what the goal is (Article 5a). Does that mean that “blond jokes” will be illegal under international law?

Can anyone tell me what this means, exactly?

To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.

That sounds good, but what do they mean when they define maternity as a social function? Wikipedia says a social function is “the contribution made by any phenomenon to a larger system of which the phenomenon is a part.” So maternity is a contribution to society? Maybe I’m just a little too suspicious, but I question the wisdom of having the United Nations tell anyone what the proper view of maternity is. The introduction gives perhaps a little more information about what this means, exactly, and how it is to be interpreted.

For example, it advocates, in article 5, “a proper understanding of maternity as a social function,” demanding fully shared responsibility for child-rearing by both sexes. Accordingly, provisions for maternity protection and child-care, proclaimed as essential rights and are incorporated into all areas of the Convention, whether dealing with employment, family law, health care or education. Society’s obligation extends to offering social services, especially child-care facilities, that allow individuals to combine family responsibilities with work and participation in public life.

Affordable child care is now an essential right. As is the right to employment. To health care. To an abortion. To education. And we will need to add a new component to No Child Left Behind to make sure that we educate our children to understand this properly.

Oh, I may as well end with my favorite blond joke, just in case they are deemed to be culturally discriminatory toward women:

Q. Why was the blond fired from the M&M factory?
A. She kept throwing out all the W’s.

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Mother’s Day Reflection

My mom is a neverending song in my heart of comfort, happiness and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune.
~Graycie Harmon

When I look into my newborn’s eyes, hold her tiny foot or feel her steady breathing against my chest as she sleeps, I am overwhelmed by this miracle. Overwhelmed with love. And then, sometimes, there is a thoughtful pause. There is someone in this world who once looked at me and felt the same way.

I don’t always think that much about my mother. It isn’t exactly lack of appreciation, but a general focus on my own motherhood. But the tune is always there, reflected in my own thoughts and attitudes about life, marriage, family and myself. She is part of who I am.

And no matter what kind of mother I am, I will always be a part of my children. I hope it is a part which gives strength and encouragement, faith and love. Even when they aren’t thinking about me. Kind of like my mother is for me.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Warning labels

Every so often, someone (half) jokingly wishes that children came with instruction manuals.

My little Peanut didn’t, but she did come with a warning label in the form of her older brother. Every time someone comes up to take a peek at her, he puts up his hand and says very authoritatively,

No! Babies are very breakable.