culture marriage and family

“Privatizing” marriage is not the answer

“The cause of sexual freedom, meaning the legalization of same-sex marriage, abortion on demand, and unlimited access to contraceptives, is advanced under a single overriding principle, that individuals should be free to do whatever they want with whomever they want so long as all participants are consenting adults.  If that’s not freedom, what is?  It might be the opposite of freedom actually.” Janie B. Cheaney, Bedroom Politics

We see an inverse relationship in the last 50 years, particularly in the West — as the institution of family weakens, the need for and intrusion of government – welfare and criminal – increases.

Robert George reminds us, “Liberty is valuable not so much for its own sake as for the sake of something larger, namely, human excellence or human flourishing. And … liberty is sustained—if it is sustained at all—by virtues that themselves must be transmitted by healthy institutions of civil society, beginning with the marriage-based family and communities of religious faith.”

Marriage is a civil right and a civil institution.  The State’s interest in it is and always has been promoting the creation and nurturing of the next generation. See here.  Jennifer Roback Morse explains in Privatizing Marriage Is Impossible:

Marriage is society’s primary institutional arrangement that defines parenthood. Marriage attaches mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. A woman’s husband is presumed to be the father of any children she bears during the life of their union. These two people are the legally recognized parents of this child, and no one else is. The grandparents are not; the former boyfriend is not; the nanny who spends all day with the kids is not. These two hold their parental rights against all other competing claimants. This is an intrinsically social, public function of marriage that cannot be privatized.

You might reply, “Dr. Morse, your understanding of marriage is all about parenthood, and not about marriage itself. Not every marriage has children, after all.” And it is perfectly true: not every marriage has children. But every child has parents. This objection stands marriage on its head by looking at it purely from the adult’s perspective, instead of the child’s. The fact that this objection is so common shows how far we have strayed from understanding the public purpose of marriage, as opposed to the many private reasons that people have for getting married.

If no children were ever involved, adult sexual relationships simply wouldn’t be any of the state’s business. What we now call marriage would be nothing more than a government registry of friendships. If that’s all there were to marriage, privatizing it wouldn’t be a big deal. But if there were literally nothing more to marriage than a government registry of friendships, we would not observe an institution like marriage in every known society.

God created a man and a woman to create and sustain new life — not two women or two men. Two moms don’t equal two dads. If you don’t believe in God, substitute “evolution”. Either way, it’s not by happenstance that it takes one male and one female to create a child. It also takes one male and one female to have the best opportunity to raise a happy and productive child.  The state should not incentivize adults to deliberately create a child for purposes of raising the child without a father or without a mother. Those parts aren’t interchangeable.  Children, particularly boys, need fathers.  This isn’t just a point of theology or natural law, but is also demonstrable.

The pathology of fatherless homes in the country is staggering. Beyond poverty, there is an overwhelming connection between young men raised in fatherless homes and violent crime. Dr. Loren Moshen of the Nat’l Inst. of Mental Health analyzed US census figures and found the absence of a father to be stronger factor than poverty in contributing to juvenile delinquency. A group of Yale behavioral scientists studied delinquency in forty-eight cultures around the world and found that crime rates were highest among adults who as children had been raised solely by women. Dr. Martin Deutsch found that the father’s presence and conversation stimulates higher performance at school. John Hopkins researchers found that young white teenage girls living in fatherless families were 60 percent more likely to have premarital sex. Dr. Armand Nicholi’s research found that an emotionally or physically absent father contributes to a child’s low motivation for achievement, inability to defer immediate gratification for later rewards, low self-esteem, and susceptibility to group influence and to juvenile delinquency. We should be doing everything in our power to make sure children are raised by a mother AND a father.

Weakening the family inexorable leads to greater poverty, more crime, and poorer education.  These pathologies in turn lead to more government.  While it seems counterintuitive, the more the state supports and encourages strong families, the less prone we will be to larger and more intrusive government.

By Christ Ranger

God is great!

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