“Divorced From Reality”

Posted By on November 27, 2010

From The American Conservative:

Defenders of marriage must face some hard facts or they are going to lose their fight—and with it, quite possibly, their religious freedom as well. Federal judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling nullifying Proposition 8 in California illustrates that, unless we can demonstrate very specific reasons why same-sex marriage is socially destructive, it will soon be the law of the land….

Considerable nonsense has been written by some opponents of same-sex marriage, while some critical truths are not being heard. Confronting the facts can enable us to win not only this battle but several even more important ones involving family decline and the social anomie it produces.

First: Marriage exists primarily to cement the father to the family. This fact is politically incorrect but undeniable. The breakdown of marriage produces widespread fatherlessness, not motherlessness. As Margaret Mead pointed out long ago—yes, leftist Margaret Mead was correct about this—motherhood is a biological certainty whereas fatherhood is socially constructed. The father is the weakest link in the family bond, and without the institution of marriage he is easily discarded.

The consequences of failing to link men to their offspring are apparent the world over. From our inner cities and Native American reservations to the north of England, the banlieues of Paris, and much of Africa, fatherlessness—not poverty or race—is the leading predictor of virtually every social pathology among the young. Without fathers, adolescents run wild, and society descends into chaos.

The notion that marriage exists for love or “to express and safeguard an emotional union of adults,” as one proponent puts it, is cant. Many loving and emotional human relationships do not involve marriage. Even the conservative argument that marriage exists to rear children is too imprecise: marriage creates fatherhood. No marriage, no fathers.

Read the rest at this link.

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About The Author

Jennie is the wife of Matthew and mother of ten children, all of whom keep the household bubbling with life, learning, and levity. Jennie co-founded LAF in 2002 with Lydia Sherman and has been delighted to hear from women all over the world who enjoy their femininity and love to cultivate womanly virtues.

Comments

7 Responses to ““Divorced From Reality””

  1. EFarrer says:

    Jennie, I always find the things you post on this site so interesting. I also find it uplifting to find so many awesome people out there! I just finished reading A Return to Modesty, which somewhat addresses that father issue — more along the lines of men in committed (married) relationships, but a similar topic. I found the book fascinating. Thanks for your good work!

  2. Chicagoan says:

    Not buying it. Impregnating a woman creates fatherhood. Being a good father is a choice, just as being a good mother is a choice, Matrilineal societies (kinship reckoned through the mother, not the father) developed due to the fact that you always know who the mother is, but there may be some question about the fathe, buut DNA tests now allow us to hold fathers accountable. Yes, fathers can run away from their responsibilities. So can mothers. I’ve known traditional married moms, traditional dads, gay moms, gay dads, unmarried moms, and unmarried dads who were all terrific parents, and I’ve met people from various walks of life who disliked parenthood and couldn’t wait for their kids to be old enough to take care of themselves. We’ve all heard stories of women who keep their kids but then neglect or abuse them, and we’ve all heard stories about great dads who weren’t married to their children’s mothers. Marriage is one way of legally recognizing a family group, but I’ve known happily “together” people who successfully raised happy, healthy children without ever being married. This article is very limited in scope, and assumes a causal relation between poverty and fatherlessness that may not exist. (Are there any studies that show fatherlessness causes poverty, as opposed to poverty causing fatherlessness?) Yes, marriage does cement the father to the family. It also cements the mother to the father. It doesn’t prevent either party from cheating on the other, nor does it ensure good parenting. I’m sorry, this article is too thin. The arguments just aren’t good enough.

  3. Well, “buy it” or not, the arguments in the piece are based in historical, legal fact. Prior to “no-fault” divorce, more parents stayed married than split up. When it is made difficult for men to walk away from wives and children, more fathers stick around. It is simple fact that fatherlessness is the runaway problem today–not motherlessness. Yes, there are bad mothers out there. Yes, there are good single-parent fathers. But exceptions don’t make rules. Today, the welfare state practically pays women to become unwed mothers. After all, when the state can be relied upon for regular money and food, who needs a husband? So, yes, it can be argued that poverty causes fatherlessness almost as much as fatherlessness causes poverty. They feed each other in a vicious cycle. For in-depth studies on the decline of marriage, the increase of fatherlessness, and the results of children growing up without fathers, pop over to The National Fatherhood Initiative and The Heritage Foundation, both of which have spent years studying marriage and parenthood–particularly what has happened as divorce rates have eviscerated marriage.

  4. Chicagoan says:

    The arguments in the piece are based on highly biased interpretations of facts, from people who have a clear agenda. When I see this same thing said by a dipassionate academic- someone who is NOT connected to The Heritage Foundation or any other organization that exists to create a specific sort of change, but rather exists merely to study society- then I might lend some credence to what they have to say.

    As for practically paying women to be unwed mothers… I’ve known many single mothers, and I’ve known many people who’ve been on some form of public aid. None of them are sitting around saying, “Wow, I’m so glad I’m a single mom with two kids and I’m collecting welfare! No way would I take a nice husband or a high-paying job when I can just scrape by on that government aid!” I’m not sure where the idea that hoards of people like that exist ever got started, but it doesn’t mirror any of the real-life experiences I’ve had with low-income people. (And I’m saying this as someone who has been a very low- or no-income person, collecting unemployment and getting health care through free clinics.) I have, however, known young girls and grown women who were so busy “waiting for the prince” that they never made any plans for their own future. They assumed a good man would come along and solve all their problems. Some are still waiting, and some got married young because they thought that would fix all the problems of the past, break the cycle of instability in their families, and found out too late that just having a man around is not enough. And, believe it or not, I have known women who were much happier after the divorce.

  5. Let me take another stab at this, since I obviously didn’t get across what I was trying to say. Welfare laws encourage dead-beat dads. When men are no longer held financially responsible for their own children and see the State as the provider, where’s the incentive for them to stick to the mothers of their children? NPR had a piece on this morning about the decline of marriage in America, and most of the reasons cited revealed a completely flawed understanding of marriage. One woman said she couldn’t afford the big, special “fairy tale” wedding, so that’s why she never married the father of her child (who has now left her). Marriage isn’t about white dresses and flowers. It’s about binding together two people who are then mutually responsible for the children their union produces. When it is easy to walk away (even “state-sponsored”), then men have every incentive to abandon their offspring to the State. Culture cannot thrive or even survive this way. And, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying if there are no children there is no marriage. But children are (usually) the natural fruit of marriage. Marriage has other goals and purposes outside of childbearing. We’ve covered those elsewhere.

    Finally, as for the “clear agenda” of the Heritage Foundation and the myth of finding a “dispassionate academic” — well, that’s a lost cause. There is no such thing as “unbiased” reporting. Every single researcher goes into an idea with a preconceived thesis. The purpose of the research is to either prove or disprove the thesis. And every researcher has a set of lenses through which he views facts and draws conclusions. No human being is a “blank slate” able to look at things with total objectivity. We are all influenced by our feelings, our personal standards and beliefs, our education, our upbringing, our culture, etc. This is why history is so vital. We can examine how certain ideas, theories, and practices played out, then avoid the ones that did not work and embrace the ones that have given society the greatest stability and success. Jettisoning marriage is a disastrous idea. It was already tried by “Enlightenment” thinkers and the Soviets (not to mention the Quakers and other religious groups that embraced Gnosticism). We can and must learn from the past. That’s all we’re saying.

  6. heather says:

    I also read this article many times and find it quite troubling.

    “The notion that marriage exists for love or “to express and safeguard an emotional union of adults,” as one proponent puts it, is cant. Many loving and emotional human relationships do not involve marriage.”

    Yet, the conservative Christian church would say that a loving relationship between two heterosexual adults should have marriage as the primary goal. The courting culture discourages close relationships that are not focused on marriage. You can’t have it both ways. Marriage has to be primarily a commitment between two people who want to spend their lives together. They don’t know if there will be children or not. If the couple turns out to be infertile should that nullify their marriage? According to the argument that marriage is for procreation it should.

    I also dislike the assumption in articles such as this that the primary way to make fathers care for their children is trap them legally. This implies that all men are irresponsible people who want nothing more than to impregnate women and run away from the responsibility. Some are but most are not. The article correctly states that the divorce court is a method of criminalizing fathers. Fathers routinely lose their children and are forced to pay large sums to support them even if they do not want the divorce. This is a result of seeing men as essentially evil and amoral.

  7. Heather, thanks for the comments. I think this is an issue it’s important to continue to dialog about and unwrap. There are so many layers. But most of the “layers” come from years of trying to redefine marriage, make it easier to divorce, walk away from kids, etc. We’ve got to get back to the fact that marriage is a God-ordained institution and therefore a God-given right. The State cannot create rights out of thin air. That’s why our founders talked about being “endowed by our Creator with…unalienable rights” — because those are rights the State cannot take away with a signature on a piece of paper. Because the State did not invent marriage, the State cannot define or redefine it. I ultimately think a constitutional amendment to define marriage is misguided because of this. Just because the State has defined something doesn’t mean that definition will hold. Definitions have to be based in unchanging, transcendent values or they are just opinions that can shift with time. We can’t build law on shifting opinions. It only produces chaos.

    Now, the guy who wrote the original piece isn’t saying all men are shiftless good-for-nothings who will walk away from their kids. But he is dealing with the reality of the system today, which encourages unwed parenthood and doesn’t (can’t) hold men responsible for the children they father. On the other side of the coin, the system robs good fathers of rights to their children by letting the weight of testimony weigh on the mother. I highly recommend Alec Baldwin’s book, A Promise to Ourselves, which is a heartbreaking look at the family court system from the inside. I didn’t expect much when I picked it up, but a friend strongly recommended it. It’s not just a celebrity airing his dirty laundry. It’s a gut-socking look at how the current legal system has been biased toward mothers and ends up destroying the father-child relationship that is so essential for kids. The answer isn’t to “trap” men legally on the one hand or cut them off on the other. But we definitely need to return to a system of laws that holds men financially responsible and discourages mothers from using legal force to divorce good fathers from their children. How do we do this? Let’s talk!

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