The conflict With Secular America: In the Family

By Randy Blackaby

A rapidly growing segment of American children are growing up without parents. Not since the end of the Civil War has the United States had so many orphans. But today’s children have not lost their parents to the devastation of war but to radical feminism, humanism and a morally devoid secularism.

Divorce, bastardy and socialistic welfare, all condemned in the scriptures, have joined to so profoundly assault the home that the so-called “traditional” family has become the anomaly.

The secular view of divorce is that it is as often as not inevitable, completely normal and often good for everyone involved. Virtually all stigma and sanctions have been removed and divorces are treated like coldsa temporary discomfort to be “recovered” from in time.

About half of all marriages in this country today end in divorce.

Approximately 25 percent of all children born today will do so without the benefit of their parents being married. More than 60 percent of black children will face life as an illegitimate.

Socialistic programs have eliminated the perceived need for fathers because the economic support role that God assigned men (1 Thess. 3:6-15; 1 Tim. 5:8) has been supplanted by government welfare payments that encourage illegitimacy.

Biblical patterns for the family are scoffed at by feminists and other social radicals. There is talk of “redefining” the family. The word “choice” has become the euphemistic battle cry for those who would elevate personal selfishness to the same plane as moral standards.

The traditional or biblical family structure virtually has disappeared from television, replaced by images that seek to normalize the deviant. The last episode of “Murphy Brown” this year showed its star having a baby out of wedlock. The event was portrayed as wonderful and the absence of a father as irrelevant.

If we disregard for the moment the radical feminists who believe marriage is only a tool of male domination and focus on mainstream America we still find an all too popular consensus that marriage is not that important and that immorality is an anachronistic concept in the ’90s.

But God teaches that truth is unchanging (Ps. 100:5) and that man is not able to direct his own steps without divine guidance (Jer. 10:23). We are further taught that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12).

These biblical truths are powerfully supported by the social and moral results we are seeing in our nation as everyone does what is right in his own eyes.

Just look at what the destruction of the family has done for us.

Children in single parent homes are six times as likely to be poor as those in traditional families.

Children with only one parent are two to three times as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems.

Statistics show these same children to be more likely to drop out of school, get pregnant as teens, abuse drugs and be in trouble with the law.

Youngsters with only one parent or living in step families are much more likely to be victims of sexual abuse at the hands of boyfriends or step dads.

Numerous studies find that divorce has fueled the growth of an underclass. The numbers are astonishing. The pro-portion of children in poverty increased from 15 percent in 1970 to 20 percent in 1990. Half of single mothers live in poverty, compared to 10 percent of married couples with children.

The negative effects of ignoring God’s pattern are also seen in education, or the lack of it. Educational spending in constant 1980 dollars has more than doubled since 1960 but nearly every measure of school performance has dropped.

Educational failure obviously is not primarily a matter of insufficient investment but rather is based on emotional impairments brought about by the absence of parents and turmoil in the home. Schools now look more like emotional emergency rooms than instructional centers. Larger and larger investments of time and money are placed in stabilizing kids damaged by broken homes.

Not disconnected is the fact that teenage suicide has tripled in the past few years. In fact, while mortality figures for the U.S. population as a whole declined 23 percent in the 1960s and ’70s, death among white children 15-24 years old increased more than 16 percent. Death by homicide rose 232 percent. And the numbers among black children are worse.

Juvenile crime is skyrocketing and becoming more and more violent. Nationally, more than 70 percent of all juveniles in reform institutions are from fatherless homes.

“Children raised in virtual isolation from human beings, though physically intact, display few recognizable human behaviors,” concludes Barbara Dafoe Whitehead in an extensive article about the family in The Atlantic Monthly entitled “Dan Quayle Was Right.” We are seeing the truth of this every night in the news.

Weaker parent-child relationships are leaving latch-key kids more vulnerable to negative influences, ranging from the perversions they see on TV to the peer pressures of the gangs they join to fill the void in their orphan existence.

Whitehead points to the potential destabilization of our democratic society by these shifts away from biblical standards when she says, “The family is responsible for teaching lessons of independence, self-restraint, responsibility and right conduct, which are essential to a free, democratic society. If the family fails in these tasks, then the entire experiment in democratic self-rule is jeopardized.”

The secularists in our society are aware of all these tragic statistics, declines and decays. But they boldly assert that returning to biblical patterns is not the answer but rather more social tampering.

So you hear almost every day about the great need for “affordable daycare.” It is sadly ironic that just as the last of our old orphan homes are being phased out in favor of real (foster and adoptive) homes, the secularists are devising a new form of institutional care for a new kind of orphan.

But day care is doomed before it begins because the most critical determinant of child well-being is the bond between parent and child. God, of course, knows this and thus commanded both mothers and fathers how to do their respective and coordinated parts in raising children.

Urie Bronfenbrenner, a psychologist at Cornell University, has written that the essential requirement for healthy human development is that “someone has to be crazy about the kids.” God puts it even more simply in Titus 2. Mothers are to love their children and fathers are to rule and set the right example for them.

But the opponents of biblical standards keep the conflict alive by disavowing any connection between family structure or parental failures and the present problems of our youth.

Kenneth Keniston’s view, espoused in 1977 in “All Our Children,” is still as popular as ever. He wrote, “There is nothing to be gained by blaming ourselves and other individuals for family changes. We need to look instead to the broader economic and social forces that shape the experience of children and parents. Parents are not abdicatingthey are being dethroned, by forces they cannot influence, much less control.”

However, anyone who gives the American family a good examination today can see that selfishness (the root of all sin) lies at the heart of family destruction.

Divorce and remarriage are justified in the name of personal freedom and growth. Feminists abandon the home to seek personal fulfillment and achievement and status in the work place. Biblical morality is deemed too restrictive for individual happiness.

The concept of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others is virtually unknown in the secular society.

But if there is a silver lining in the battle between the gospel and secularism it is that God’s ways are glorified when the results are surveyed. By every measure of true individual and societal success and happiness, people were much better off (and are better off) when God’s design and rules for the family are observed. And, the misery we see devastating our nation’s families today is profound evidence that God knows better than we do how we ought to live.

“The secularists in our

society are aware of all these

tragic statistics, declines and

decays. But they boldly

assert that returning to

biblical patterns is not the

answer but rather more

social tampering.”

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 3, p. 7-8
February 3, 1994