In my previous post on BLM, I claimed that the main problem facing blacks in America is the same problem facing virtually every ethnic group in our land – the breakdown of the family. It is not racism or white supremacy, but fatherlessness, that best explains the plight of blacks today. Whatever reforms need to be made in policing and criminal justice (and there certainly are some!), these kinds of reforms will not solve the problem unless the black family is rebuilt. Ironically, dismantling the nuclear family is one of the planks in BLM’s agenda, so BLM actually stands to make things worse, rather than better, for blacks.
Some might object, arguing that racism is actually the cause of black fatherlessness, and is therefore the deeper and more pressing issue. What if injustices in our legal and economic systems actually produce family breakdown? What if racism makes black family life much more difficult and vulnerable? These are good questions – and I do not deny that there are various injustices that ought to be corrected. But I stand by my earlier claim. I am convinced the basic conservative narrative on race in America holds up under scrutiny. There are many ways to prove this, but here is perhaps the most important fact to note: The black family was largely in tact and illegitimacy rates were low UNTIL the Great Society welfare program and sexual revolution transformed our culture, from the mid 1960s onward. The black family thrived more prior to civil rights than since, which tells you that the fundamental issue afflicting the black family today is not racism.
What is at stake in this discussion is not whether or not racism is a heinous sin – it most certainly is. What is at stake in this discussion is not whether or not the systemic racism of America’s past continues to have a detrimental effect on black Americans – it certainly does in some cases, even if many exaggerate its lingering effects and minimize the progress that has been made on racial issues in the last generation. What is at stake is the best way forward for those who want to see all people groups in America flourish. We cannot fix a problem unless we first properly diagnose it.
Fatherlessness among blacks stems from a number of causes, including the welfare state (which subsidizes single motherhood, resulting in its proliferation) and the sexual revolution (which detached sex from the covenant of marriage and bequeathed us abortion, which is the real “black genocide” of our day). Other factors, such as globalization (gutting industries and leading to widespread unemployment in many working class communities) and collapsing public schools (which leave the rising generation without marketable skills) are also important. Of course, many of these same ills affect whites, Hispanics, and other groups in America. Blacks are hardly the only group struggling in American society right now, though their plight gets much more attention than, say, rural whites, who have virtually no political advocates. (Do hillbilly lives matter? You'd never know it...) The pathologies among groups might differ in the details (e.g., whites are far more likely to fall into opioid addiction and suicide, whereas blacks are more likely to turn to gangs and violent crime), but there can be no question we face a widespread cultural crisis that stems especially from family breakdown.
Most of the issues the mainstream media fixates on miss the real problem. The focus on police brutality against blacks is a red herring (as Heather Mac Donald has demonstrated). Politically, blacks will continue to experience oppression as long as they keep voting for politicians whose polices oppress them (the disaster zone that is urban America is the fruit of Democrat "leadership"). There is no political solution. Looking to state to save us from our bad decisions is not a way out. At root the crisis is Spiritual, not economic or political or judicial. Where is the church – especially the urban church – in the midst of this social disaster? The gospel in all its fullness must be proclaimed. Only the red blood of Christ can save sinners, white, black, and otherwise. The church’s message of discipleship must include a renewed emphasis on family formation, the goodness of marriage and children, the roles of husbands and wives, the importance of personal responsibility, and civil and economic liberty as fruits of God’s kingdom in the world. More on this below.
The recipe for success in America is not hard. Sociologists had been studying the so-called “success sequence” for decades now. But it is hardly ever followed in urban or rural America. The success sequence is quite simple: graduate high school and get a job; get married before having kids; stay married. That’s it. That’s all that is needed. Anyone who follows this “success sequence” is almost guaranteed to live above the poverty line in America. By contrast, children born to single moms in high school are virtually guaranteed to grow up in poverty. This should not be viewed as some kind of rip off of the prosperity gospel. Rather, it is simply the wisdom of Proverbs applied to modern life. Some have tried to push back against or complicate the offensive simplicity of the success narrative, but the basic truth still holds. Yes, I realize the success sequence (in its most fail-safe form) presupposes chastity before marriage. But there is no way to disconnect a happy, fulfilled life from the moral order. Those who want to be successful, those who want to flourish, will have to sacrifice short term desires for long term goals. Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord.
The “success sequence” is important because it cuts through both standard liberal accounts of poverty (which tend to focus almost entirely on perceived systemic injustices, such as discrimination in the workplace) and (quite surprisingly) many conservative accounts of poverty (which tend to focus almost exclusively on individual choices and responsibilities). The missing ingredient in accounts of poverty on both ends of the political spectrum is the irreplaceable importance of the natural, nuclear family. The reason the “success sequence” does not get much play in mainstream media and culture is because it demands a sexual ethic that is, to put it mildly, unpopular. We have normalized fornication and the unwed motherhood that so often results. Chastity is always the elephant in the room in these discussions. But Proverbs makes it clear that one common consequence of fornication is impoverishment. So what we are seeing in our culture today should not surprise us. When sexual ethics crumble, so does civilization. As marriage goes, so goes the culture.
Anthony Bradley has disputed the “black fatherlessness” narrative:
Most black kids are not "fatherless." This is true: 70% are born to unmarried mothers, 59.5% of black fathers live with their children. So can we please stop saying that black kids are mostly fatherless? Unmarried fathers ≠ absent/uninvolved. Data > myth. https://t.co/HfOtkKmG12— Anthony B. Bradley (@drantbradley) August 20, 2019
But Bradley’s tweet misses what is actually happening, at least in the full picture (not that a tweet could capture it anyway...). The data can be quite slippery, as various studies show. To say that a father “lives with” his children doesn’t really capture the reality since family situations (especially in in urban America) are so often fluid. If we ask how many black children grow up with a father in the home for eighteen years, it falls well under 50%. Besides, even using the data Bradley cites, an astounding 40% of black kids do not have dad in the home at all. That translates to thousands and thousands of kids. It is a crisis of epic proportions, even on the most optimistic interpretation of the data. Further, the 70% black illegitimacy rate matters because marriage matters. Even if dad is “around,” if mom and dad are not united in marriage, the kids will lack stability (which derives from a father’s love for the child’s mother, drives consistent fatherly discipline, and so on). I appreciate that black fathers are often very involved in their kids' lives, even if they have not married the mother. Some involvement is better than none. But downplaying this crisis is, as Larry Elder puts it, "whistling past a graveyard."
Bradley is much closer to the truth in this tweet, when he urges dads to go home and hug their kids:
This was too much to Tweet so I made a video. This is specifically for fathers of middle school & high school boys. They need you more than youth programs/groups. Here’s the data on this: https://t.co/3Sn1ywnhW0 pic.twitter.com/XeA8dng545— Anthony B. Bradley (@drantbradley) July 1, 2020
And also this tweet, where he rightly and wisely points out that fatherlessness is not a race issue per se; it is a crisis that cuts across racial lines:
I'd recommend you watch the local news less and read more data. The consequences of not being fathered well has nothing to do with race. Nearly every school shooter Columbine had an absent father. https://t.co/FRmW7u1Uwg— Anthony B. Bradley (@drantbradley) August 20, 2019
White kids who lack fathers struggle just as much as black kids without fathers. Our social disaster is color blind. All that to say: Marriage is a “social justice” issue if there ever was one. Marriage is our greatest weapon in the war on poverty. Those who are interested in helping the poor must be committed to the institution of traditional, natural marriage. We must be committed to the work of encouraging family formation and preservation. We must be committed to the role of men as bread winners.
This is just nature. It is God’s creation design. It’s Genesis 2 and Psalm 128 and (to be honest) every civilization that has ever existed for any length of time. The only reason we have to debate the importance of things like fathers is because we live in a culture of idiots. Banal, obvious truths like “parents matter” or “marriage matters” are treated as either profoundly insightful or as controversial because our culture has so blinded itself to reality. We have adopted dangerous anti-natural, anti-creational ideologies. But our ideologies cannot trick nature. We cannot fool our own design – our own biology and psychology are what they are. We are wired for family life, for monogamous marriage, for parent-child bonding.
Life is not that hard: Men and women should marry, then have kids, and stay married. Maybe easier said than done, but the design God has given us is not hard to grasp. Moms should be at home with little kids if all possible. Dad acts as protector and provider for the family, while mom nurtures the little ones. As boys get older, moms let go, and dads make sure the process of turning the boy into a man – into a real man who knows how to take responsibility for himself as others – is brought to completion. But only dads (or other strong, involved men) can do this in a boys’ life. Single moms (and weak, effeminate men, or absent, disengaged men, or tyrannical, self-serving men) cannot.
If you want to see what happens when dad is not around, look at our inner cities, with rioting, looting, and general lawlessness going on today. Or just look at the NBA, where you have full grown men making millions of dollars but whining about everything in sight. Why? Because most of them were raised by moms with no strong father in the home. They are great athletes, but often weaklings as far as masculinity is concerned. Or look at much of rural America, where family breakdown and addiction are producing a culture of poverrty that mirrors our inner cities (with the exception that many of the impoverished have lighter skin pigmentation).
Liberals tell us that we are obviously a racist, sexist society because blacks do not have the same life outcomes as whites and men make more money than women. But this begs the question: It assumes racism and sexism are to blame when there are other factors involved. For example, the wage gap between men and women largely goes away when we control for the different life choices men and women make, choices that frankly align with our created procilvities. For the races, opportunities and resources might still unequal in various ways in part because of past history, but study after study shows the greatest inequities by far are tied to family structure. Our culture is faced with a choice: We must decide between doing what is natural/creational (marriage and family life) over and against pursuing ideologies of equality (e.g., feminism, BLM, etc.). The natural is at odds with the equal -- at least our modern sensibility of equality. We cannot have it both ways. Our cultural ideology of equality is at war with the way God made the world, so something has to give. (Obviously, there is a proper kind of equality: "All men are created equal...." Men and women, blacks and whites, all share equally in God's image. We should therefore have equality before the law. But today's progressive want a different kind of equality -- equality of outcome. As Jordan Peterson has said, "Because humans are born with different capacities, if they are free they are not equal, and if they are equal they are not free.")
How, then, does racism relate to fatherlessness among blacks? We could debate the consequences of slavery, black codes, Jim Crow, redlining, crime and incarceration rates for black men compared to other demographic groups, and so on, endlessly. But keep in mind what we have already seen: Despite far worse forms of racism being present in American society prior to the mid 1960s, the black family was generally intact and illegitimacy was rare. In other words, the black family survived Jim Crow and redlining. It has not been able to survive the welfare state and the sexual revolution. The stats prove it. In that sense, statism's acidic effects have been worse than racism's.
Beginning in the Reconstruction Era and up through the 1960s, many, many blacks flourished despite being excluded from mainstream America. They were not given opportunities so they created their own. Who can look at the life and work of, say, Booker T. Washington and not be filled with admiration for this man who is undoubtedly one of the greatest Americans our country has produced? Think of the herosim, work ethic, and courage of Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks; think of the intellect and inventive power of George Washington Carver; think of the soaring rhetoric and glorious ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. The black community in America produced some amazing men and women during incredibly difficult and turbulent times. One reason these blacks in America thrived under very trying circumstances is because the black family was strong. But what about today? Far too many black children grow up without a father and without the benefit of married parents. The results are clear, and they are all around us.
Fathers matter. Black fathers matter. All fathers matter. Kids who grow up without a father are more likely to live in poverty as both children and as adults; far more likely to drop out of school; far more likely to end up as criminals and in prison; far more likely to engage in fornication, alcohol and drug abuse, and other forms of risky and immoral behavior; far more likely to suffer from depression or other mental illness; far more likely to engage in self-harm or commit suicide; and so on. The stats on what happens to kids (of every ethnicity) who grow up without a dad are astounding – more than the that, they are damning.
The trends toward greater and greater fatherlessness are very disturbing. “According to the Census Bureau from 1960 and 2013, African–American children who lived in single-parent homes more than doubled from 22% to 55%. The same research showed that white children from single-parent homes tripled from 7% to 22%.”
Thomas Sowell has tracked the decline of the black family in America since the 1960s in much greater detail, so I quote a summary at length here:
Sowell’s research shows that “the particular culture or ‘human capital’ available to a people has often had more influence on their economic level than their existing material wealth, natural resources, or individual geniuses.” Even factoring for economic differences and severe social disadvantages, examples of a vibrant black family institution in America’s are too numerous to ignore.
- In the 1890s, there were four public high schools in Washington D.C.; one black, the M Street School/Dunbar High School, and three white. In 1899, Dunbar averaged higher standardized test scores than students in two of the three white schools. From 1870 to 1955 Dunbar repeatedly equaled or exceeding performance on national standardized tests…
- Every census from 1890 to 1950 showed that black labor force participation rates were higher than those of whites.
- Prior to the 1960’s the unemployment rate for black 16 and 17-year olds was under 10 percent.
- Before 1960, the number of teenage pregnancies had been decreasing; both poverty and dependency were declining, and black income was rising in both absolute and relative terms to white income.
- In 1965, 76.4 percent of black children were born to married women.
So what changed the equation?
By the 1960s, American society was riddled with generations of “white guilt.” In reaction and repentance sparked by Dr. King’s nonviolent civil disobedience and the systemic introspection of social norms by whites, Americans overcompensated with sweeping entitlement programs under President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and by turning a blind eye to accountability on longstanding values and principled behavior within the African American community. While affirmative action and desegregation jump-started social change, the unintended consequences of shifting the cultural incentives upside down were ignored.
This caused what Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called “defining deviancy downward.” And with Civil Rights Act of 1964 giving legal credence to making any sort of behavioral judgment toxic, the cultural glue that held together the African-American family was fundamentally changed.
This destabilization has created turbulent neighborhoods that have devastating costs to children ranging from poverty, educational deficiencies, violence, crime, drugs, and a culture of victimization and entitlement.
Basic developmental psychology tells us that boys and girls growing up without fathers and stable homes are overwhelmingly more likely to lack self-discipline and personal responsibility than children growing up with married parents. The economic, emotional, and spiritual guidance that two parent families provide are the cornerstones of effective family institutions. Without that stability, institutional collapse is eminent.
The statistics since 1960 support this analysis.
- Between 1960 and 1964, blacks were rising into professional and other high-level positions at a rate greater than the five years following passage of the Civil Rights Act.
- The 1960 census showed the first signs of a decline in black marriages, with acceleration in later years.
- Since the 1960s the black labor force participation rates have been lower than whites and unemployment rates for black 16 and 17 year olds has never dropped below 20 percent.
- In 1980, 31 percent of all black first-born children were born to teenage mothers.
- By 1992, 54 percent-of all black children were living only with their mothers.
- From 1990 to 1994, 77 percent of first births to black women were premarital.
- In the 1980s and 90s, an absolute majority of those black families with no husband present lived in poverty.
- By the 2000s, 75% of blacks with a high-school degree or some college were not married.
- In 2005, Black people accounted for 13% of the total U.S. population yet they were the victims of 49% of all the nation's murders; and 93% of black murder victims were killed by other black people.
- Less than half of black students graduated from high school in 2005.
- In 2009, 73% of black children were born to unmarried mothers.
- In 2012, blacks in New York constituted 78% of shooting suspects and 74% of all shooting victims even though they are less than 23% of the city’s population. Young black men in New York are 36 times more likely to be murdered than young white men.
- Today, black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic males of the same age combined.
- In many urban areas, the black illegitimacy rate is well over 80 percent.
- The national unemployment rate for blacks is over 13%, nearly five points above the average for all Americans. And black teen unemployment is over 40 %.
The good news is that things can be turned around because a thriving nuclear family is at the heart of African-American tradition.
First, we must acknowledge that well-intentioned social have uprooted traditional cultural incentives and legitimized an entitlement attitude that is counterproductive and harms children.
Second, we must stop ignoring bad behavior and choices in the African-American community. Discriminating between proper and bad behavior as a legitimate judgment, it is not discrimination or bigotry. Basic psychology tells us when you are allowed to get away with and are rewarded for bad behavior; you reinforce and get more progressively worse behavior that harms children…
Lastly, the African-American community, with or without the civil rights “establishment,” must acknowledge and demand that the family is, and will forever be, the originator and primary transmitter of social capital -- values and character traits -- that enable children, on becoming adults, to seize opportunities and become productive citizens. Toxic role models that guide children into a culture of destructive behaviors must be challenged.
In short, if the family structure is a primary predictor of an individual’s life chances, and if family disintegration is the principal cause of the transmission of poverty and despair in the black community over the last 50 years, then family integration will stabilize the institution and offer children hope.
This analysis is exactly right. The lack of financial capital among blacks today is a direct function of the loss of social capital. And that loss of social capital is largely due to the breakdown of the family structure.
What is it that is devastating the black community today? Many in our current climate would say the main issue is racism. But sociologically, cultural pathologies are linked closely to poverty. And poverty is linked closely to the structure of the family. Government subsidies (by which the left buys votes) has created a permanent underclass of people by subsidizing fatherlessness and unemployment.
Prior to the Great Society, the rate of illegitimacy in the black community was relatively low and families were intact. And as economist Thomas Sowell points out, the poverty rate for African-Americans fell by 40 percent from 1940 to 1960—just before the “Great Society” welfare programs. Today, the illegitimacy rate is over 75%, which is devastating—by virtually all accounts.
Imagine a society that is completely racially homogeneous; thus, racism is not an issue. Further, imagine that over 50% of the children in that society are born out of wedlock and grow up without a father's consistent presence in the home. That society will face all kinds of problems; indeed, it likely to be in shambles before long. Racism will have nothing to do with it. The break down of family order will. When it comes to social flourishing, the family is a critical component. We cannot play fast and loose with God's rules for sex and hope to thrive. There will always be consequences for violating God's design.
Some (e.g., BLM) think we can replace family structure with something else. We can raise children in a "village" context. But this is false. We cannot simply replace the divinely ordained, natural structure of the family with a collective of some sort. The family, consisting of a husband and wife and their children, is not arbitrary. It is suited to our natures as creatures made in God's image and will always be irreplaceable. We can never successfully substitute an alternative artificial structure for God's natural ordinance. We cannot remake reality or human nature to fit our ideology.
What then of white privilege? No doubt, any majority group in a multi-ethnic society will enjoy certain advantages, and this should not be viewed as a matter of injustice automatically. There is no other society that has successfully blended as wide a variety of ethnicities as America -- and this is largely because of the influence of the Christian gospel on American culture, with our "melting pot" approach mimicking the church's integration of Jew and Gentile in the New Testament. To the degree that whites in America have certain cultural privileges, they should be grateful. Of course, they must also see they have corresponding obligations and responsibilities, as is the case with anyone who accumulates any sort of wealth. Of course, we should also insist on equality before the law for all people, regardless of skin color -- and American has not always lived up to this ideal, quite obviously. But what passes for white privilege these days is mostly a myth. There certainly are forms of privilege in our society but most of them have little to nothing to do with skin color. There are privileges that come with having a high IQ, having incredible athletic ability (and living in a culture that allows it be monetized), having physical beauty, and so on. But the greatest form of privilege in our society (and any other) is family privilege. It is the privilege of growing up with a mom and dad who are married and involved. Whatever we might say about white privilege, family privilege is much greater. Again, fatherlessness is not a black problem per se. It’s bigger than that. Saying “fatherlessness is the main problem blacks face” is not making a comment on blacks, it’s making a comment about nature, about the family, about our creational design and the way much of our society has departed from it. Fatherlessness – family breakdown – is the main practical problem the whole of our society faces. Illegitimacy, divorce, dead beat dads, baby mamas —however you want to describe it, whichever facet you want to focus on – this is the issue. Just read J. D. Vance’s brilliant Hillbilly Elegy and you will see family disintegration is just as disastrous for white kids as black kids. (I also recommend as a worthy follow up to Vance's book, Tim Carney's excellent Alienated America, which chronicles the plight of the white underclass.) White society is “coming apart” almost as rapidly as black society has. The white marriage rate is slightly higher than that of blacks and the white illegitimacy rate is slightly lower, but the trajectory is the same.
What kinds of reforms need to be made to policing and criminal justice? I will limit myself to a couple of examples (more could be offered). Just as teachers' unions make it difficult to fire bad teachers, police unions make it difficult to fire bad cops. The result is that some policemen who shown a tendency to be too rough or possibly even corrupt keep their jobs, sometimes with disastrous results. Ticket quotas (sometimes referred to as "productivity goals") are also a problem. While systems differ, and not all police forces have quotas, some of what drives the perception of systemic racism among police is the quota system which requires police to write a certain number of tickets in a specified time frame. Often police will target poorer neighborhoods when they need to catch up to quotas because it is easy to do so; the poor are generally "low hanging fruit" when it comes to writing tickets for minor offenses. While conservatives are not likely to jump onboard with the view that police are systemically racist (since the data does not back up that claim on any wide scale), they would be very likely to get onboard with a call to end the quota ticketing system.
So if you love black people and want to see blacks in America flourish, what can you do? Samuel Sey has tweeted:
If you love black people, don’t support Black Lives Matter.— Samuel Sey (@SlowToWrite) July 2, 2020
They support two of the most destructive things against black people today: fatherlessness and abortion.
Abortion and fatherlessness has destroyed more black lives than racism has—and BLM is enabling that oppression.
This is a good start. Churches must pour themselves into discipling men who can take responsibility for a family. Churches must teach on marriage and marital roles. We must denounce those who want to “smash the patriarchy” and instead focus on building better patriarchs. As Fredrick Douglas said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” We must stop demonizing masculinity. Sure, there is such a thing as toxic masculinity – just as there is such a thing as toxic femininity. Sin can twist anything in God’s good creation and make it toxic. But the need of the hour is for men who are unashamed of being men, and who can taken on the manly roles God has assigned to them. We need more masculinity, not less.
Thus, we need to encourage and support fathers. Divorces are initiated by women 80% of the time because they often have a financial incentive to end their marriages. (For all our culture's talk about equality, our current family law structure certainly treats men unequally compared to women!) We should reform divorce laws, eliminating no-fault divorce. We should stop subsidizing unwed mothers, such that it is financially lucrative for them to have multiple children with multiple men – provided she marries none of them. As George Gilder pointed out years ago in addressing this problem, we get more of what we subsidize. According to Larry Elder, after Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” program went into effect, social workers went around door to door in black communities, letting young women know that the government would give them a check for each child they had, provided they did not marry the father. This wickedness must end. We have reformed welfare many times in the last 50+ years, but never addressed this fundamental issue. The welfare system is still anti-marriage and anti-family.
The mantra of manhood is "protect and provide." These are basic functions a man performs for his family. We need to honor men as men when they fulfill their manly responsibilities. But instead, we have welfare laws that undermine a man’s responsibility to provide. We have gun control laws that undermine a man’s responsibility to protect. Modern liberalism is at war with men. We need to support men in fighting back against these policies.
We obviously have to push back against the Black Lives Matter movement, as Sey indicates. The BLM movement offers nothing to black men. Katy Faust points out,
The BLM core statement of belief mentions black mothers, black families, black parents, and even black trans women. Yet nowhere does it mention black fathers, even though when black fathers have access to their children, they prove to be more involved parents than their white and Hispanic counterparts.
If the BLM agenda is so sinister, why do so many Christians seem to fall for it? BLM is a stroke of marketing genius. It puts forward a slogan, "black lives matter," that no decent person can disagree with, while concealing its true agenda which has little to do with helping blacks as blacks and instead furthers the aims of the sexual revolution (dismantling the nuclear family, protecting abortion, promoting transgenderism, etc.). Here is the issue: Our own compassion is being used against us. BLM progressives are like the bad guy in a movie who has been caught by the good guy but grabs a woman to use as a human shield because he knows the good guy is too good -- too compassionate -- to shoot her in order to get him. It is really a form of manipulation, gas lighting, even blackmail. BLM has cleverly made it so that opposition to socialism, the sexual revolution, and he breakdown of the family (all planks in the BLM platform) can now be regarded as racism. But this is insane. When Christians are accused of racism for not aligning themselves with the progressive politics of the BLM movement, we should push back because the charges are utterly ridiculous (and indeed reversible -- it is the anti-racists who are actually racist). Christians have to remember the wisdom of Proverbs: the mercies of the wicked are cruel. We have to expose the evil works of darkness for what they are. We should not fall for BLM's counterfeit compassion.
We challenge BLM for the same reason we denounce the welfare state -- they are both subversive of God's family-based design for human life. Today, millions of single moms are essentially married to the state (and many who are not married to the state are married to the corporation -- but that's another issue for another time). The state has become a surrogate husband and father for many women and children, compensating for the families its own policies have crushed (or prevented from forming in the first place). We must rebuild a culture of marriage, in which husband and wife are honored roles and offices. We must rebuild family culture in way that cherishes children and makes the destruction of unborn babies an unthinkable horror. We must rebuild a family-friendly economy, in which red tape is not allowed to stifle entrepreneurship and growth, especially in urban areas. We ought to promote school choice for parents, since competition among educational institutions will only improve the quality of learning our children receive. We ought to promote law and order policies that protect our cities from business-destroying and economy-destroying acts of rioting and looting. And so on. Pro-family, pro-freedom policies will helps us all in the long run.
All of this means reworking how we view society. A certain strain of classical liberalism, influenced especially by Thomas Hobbes' notion of the social contract, which views the individual as the basis of society, has become the dominant view in modern America. We no longer think of ourselves in terms of webs of relationships, such as households. Instead, we view the isolated, atomized individual as the basic building block of society. When the Obama administration wanted to prop up the benefits of Obamacare, they put together a video called "The Life of Julia." Throughout the video, Julia navigates the challenges of life all by herself -- well, by herself with some pretty substantial help from the federal government. No family members or friends appear with Julia in the video. As far as we know, she has no parents, no companions, no church. Julia's needs are covered by Uncle Sam. Her government-provided health care provides check ups, treatment, and of course most especially birth control. When Julia decides she wants a baby, there is no mention of marriage, much less a boyfriend. But the government is there to take care of her (and now her baby) at every step along the way. That's the promise of the welfare state: cradle to grave security. A omnipotent centralized government caring for isolated, detached individuals.
Against all of this we need to recover the importance of family. Every individual since Adam and Eve, after all, has a mother and father. We are attached to others from conception onwards; to think we can detach ourselves from these relationships (like Julia) is foolish. The household is not an artifice; it is built into the fabric of reality. Marriage is not a human construct; it is a divinely designed institution that pre-dates the fall of man into sin. If we only think of ourselves as individuals, we quickly devolve into viewing politics through the lens of special interests groups, and we end up pitting men against women, blacks against whites, and so on. But what we need are social and economic policies that respect God's divinely ordained institution of the family -- an institution of universal value to all ethnic groups and both sexes, an institution that meets the need for human companionship, an institution that meets our craving for faithful sexual connection, and an institution that creates and the best and most secure possible environment for children to grow.
In the end, again, our real crisis, of course is Spiritual, not economic or political. That means the church has to be central to our solution. But that forces us to reckon again with the question raised above: Where is the church in all this? Why are so many urban churches almost completely lacking in men, especially young men? What is the church doing to form and sustain Christian, covenantal families? How is the church promoting marriage, as the antidote to a great deal of sexual temptation, loneliness, and poverty? Ultimately, this is the answer: Jesus and his gospel. But the gospel does not abolish nature. It restores nature. And so when the gospel takes root, we can expect it to bear fruit in the form of restored family life.