Freed From Good

As a Christian I believe that various moral restrictions are intended to preserve good things.  They aren’t arbitrary or meaningless.  My society tends to want to abandon them in pursuit of “freedom,” but the result is always a lessening, a loss, a degradation.  The current decline of fatherhood is an example.  I said yesterday that our various liberations are our problem.  I mean that we have been freed from the rules intended to protect us from ourselves.

As another example, Christianity has always taught abstinence before marriage, and then marriage as life-long monogamy.  Society rejected both in pursuit of liberty, but liberty from what?

The Christian understanding was that our physical relationship was important, because it was never merely physical.  We were always more than bodies, we were hearts and minds and souls that deserved care.  Our physical relationship was just a part of a deeper and more meaningful connection between two people, which was an important connection, a help to each.  That connection took effort and time, but was enriching precisely when it was challenging.  We learned to love someone, and rewarded them by our love and rewarded ourselves by becoming loving.

Even more, every person was so unique and valuable that nothing less than a lifetime could approach a reasonable season of appreciation.  We committed to one person for life precisely because he or she was valuable enough to deserve focused, thorough, undivided attention for even longer than that.

Is it honestly better to use each other and be used by each other for pleasure and entertainment, but only so long as our passing fancy lasts?  To stay together based on whether or not we’re getting something out of the relationship, consuming other people like the various other products we buy when we think they’re useful?  Is it honestly better to assume our physical relationships are meaningless fun and our romantic relationships are a sort of temporary expedient?  Have we really risen to some point where we appreciate human dignity and freedom more?

It seems to me that we’ve sunk to the point of abandoning dignity altogether.  We treat other people like we treat our cell phones; we like them when they’re new–when they make us happy and do whatever we want them to–but we don’t want to be tied to them too long.

That’s our liberty.  We are now free to treat other people like obsolete and worthless trash.  We’re free to do cost benefit analysis on our relationships, expecting other people to benefit us while only grudgingly asking what benefit we’ll be to them.  Basically we’re free to mistreat each other, because we have freed ourselves from the standard which told us how to treat each other well.

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No Sense Putting It Off

The evidence is actually pretty clear.  Kids are significantly (and unfairly) disadvantaged (to use a euphemistic word for “hurt”) when they don’t have positive, consistent, reliable, present fathers.  The absence of fathers causes confusion, distress, distorted relationships, and large-scale societal breakdown, in addition to such a wide variety of other effects as to be staggering.

Non-partisan groups and even those partisan groups who are normally inclined to disagree with each other, all agree about this.  The research is overwhelming trending toward sickening.  It’s important to be clear too, that the research specifically discusses the involvement of a male parent, rather than a merely androgynous second parent, a void which could be filled by either sex.

Presumably something similar could be said about the necessity of a female parent, but discounting those women who neglect/abuse/murder their children, women are less inclined to be deadbeats.  That is to say, it’s significantly less likely that children would grow up without mothers, so there isn’t as much evidence for the negative impacts of not having a mother.  Thankfully, I think every person on the planet is willing to grant that mothers are important.  No one wants to find out what would happen without them.

Unfortunately, as I’ve already said, we as a society are almost eager to find out what will happen if we eliminate fathers.  We may say otherwise, but our actions betray us.

I digress.  Back to the overwhelming evidence that children need fathers, combined with the assumption I think we’ll all happily grant, that children need mothers.  Even more research suggests the rather obvious fact that children are best served when their fathers and mothers have a healthy relationship with each other.  In fact, once you add the weight of research about the damaging effects of divorce, it’s pretty clear that children’s best hope is to have mothers and fathers who have a consistent and reliably healthy relationship with each other over the course of the child’s entire development.

There’s not really anything shocking about any of this.  I mean, it’s shocking that we’ve let the problem get to the point that we have, but it isn’t shocking that the problem exists, and nobody significantly disagrees about its causes.

What’s more shocking is what we do about it.

Let me put this bluntly.  All the evidence clearly indicates that children are hurt if they don’t grow up in a committedly monogamous heterosexual family, and that society follows them into distress.  We respond by ignoring that entirely and hoping for the best.  Of course there are situations where the ideal isn’t possible; I’m not trying to criticize people if their situation is imperfect.  I’m criticizing all of us for accepting the lie that the ideal isn’t necessary or helpful.

The results are in:  denial isn’t working.  We have too many contradictory commitments.

We want men to be fathers, but we don’t want to offend women by suggesting that men are in any way capable of doing or being something which they (women) cannot do or be.  In fact we want to avoid any suggestion that there’s a difference between them sufficient to perhaps treat them differently. We certainly don’t want to suggest that the women who are mothers might in any way need the men who are fathers.

The collapse of fatherhood is exactly the product of those second commitments though.  To be blunt again, for a hundred years feminists have said that they don’t need men, that they can do anything men can do, that there is nothing special or unique about being a man.  Should we be surprised that so many men have listened?  That so many men have left women to fend for themselves, have left women to do what men ought to do, have stopped believing that they have anything special to offer.

We want children to see healthy relationship between their mothers and fathers, but we don’t want to believe that men and women might both have unique and important contributions to relationships. We want children to have families, but we don’t want to offend anyone by suggesting that they curtail their sexual impulses until they’re in some way committed to their partner.

I could go on, but I’m out of time again.  It’s pretty clear which of the contradictory commitments we favor.  The question remains: how long will we keep trying to preserve the helpful things our commitments won’t allow?  How long will we delude ourselves into thinking that maybe we can preserve social institutions which we’ve entirely gutted, like fatherhood and family?  How long until we accept that all of our supposed liberations are in fact the problem we face?

On Love (Part 1)

My culture seems to have a strange relationship with marriage.  On the one hand, we value it so highly that the thought of denying it to anyone constitutes an egregious violation of that person’s rights, but on the other hand, we think it so insignificant that we ignore it, breach it, break it, and abandon it almost as a matter of course.

The divorce rate is staggering, but we’re too indifferent to be staggered by it.  We’re occasionally chagrined when people cheat–at least enough to say sympathetic sounding things to the cheater’s spouse–unless of course the cheater was motivated out of love for Continue reading