CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Family: Worth Standing Up For

Jan 15, 2003

The family is the first and most important institution created by God. It precedes the state and all other divinely ordained institutions. Because of its central importance in the divine scheme, it is no wonder that it should be under ferocious attack. Indeed, the family is taking a battering today that is almost unprecedented.  This newspaper has long documented the assaults on the family.

How can we turn things around? The first response is that with God nothing is impossible. It certainly looks like we are entering a new dark ages. But social trends are not irreversible. Indeed, history shows us that these trends ebb and flow. Who knows whether a revival-lead transformation is just around the corner? We must all work and pray toward that end.

On a more specific level, there are certain things individuals can do, families can do and governments can do. Individual believers can first of all ensure that they are living a life of integrity. Too often this is not the case. Too often Christians simply follow secular trends. Thus divorce rates among church folk are often no different than among unbelievers. If we want to see the moral free-fall checked, especially in terms of the decline of marriage and family, then individual believers need to model to the world what those institutions should look like.

And families are called to do the same. Married couples need to provide a model to the world of what a biblical marriage is meant to be. And Christian families should be shining like lights in the dark secular world. Our lifestyle is as much of a witness as any amount of preaching.

In addition, individuals and families can get involved in the culture wars. They need to plug in with groups like the Festival of Light, Salt Shakers and the Australian Family Association. They need to raise their voices against those forces seeking to tear down marriage and family. They need to learn how to write letters to newspapers, participate in talk-back radio, lobby politicians, and get involved in local government. Indeed, to be salt and light means we need more Christian politicians, school teachers, judges, journalists and artists.

Finally, governments can play a role. Perhaps the main thing governments can do is simply to let families be families. They need to stop usurping the role and functions of families, and empower families to do what they do best. But other areas can be considered. Family-friendly tax policies need to be initiated. Mums should not be bribed into the workforce and penalised if they choose to stay at home. No-fault divorce needs to be reconsidered. And the legal push to grant any and every type of relationship the same status as heterosexual marriage needs to be resisted.

More specifically, all State and Federal governments should establish an office of the family. All government policies should be subject to a family impact statement, and judged accordingly. Genuine equity in such areas as child care should be implemented by means of a voucher system, by a child tax credit, or some other means. A national education program, highlighting the benefits and importance of marriage and family, should be developed for our nation’s school system. And as an ultimate pro-family measure, the sanctity of life should be affirmed for all people, from the unborn to the elderly.

These and many other measures can be considered. But first we must understand the invaluable significance which the institutions of marriage and family offer to societies, to individuals, and to our children. Until that truth sinks in, we will not take the necessary corrective steps.

The words of Simon Leys nicely encapsulate this challenge: “The family has stood as the most enduring and successful experiment in the entire cultural history of mankind. . . .In the history of the civilised world, no substitute has ever been found for the family.  Any society that allows it to disintegrate, or endeavours actively to destroy it (as we are now doing here) does it at its own horrific risks and costs. . . . That such a matter of common sense could become now a subject for challenge and debate is a telling sign of the times.  Chesterton said it well: when common sense ceases to be common, a society is in terminal decay.”

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