Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Why "Family" Matters

Recently someone heard me express concerns about recent "domestic partner" legistlation in various states and asked me what "was I afraid of" concerning a loosening of our sociopolitical definition of family. I was indirectly accused of homophobia and intolerance. My "enlightened" friend told me to step out of the "Dark Ages" and accept "progress".

In my first article on Social Morality I argue that a society must have tacit agreement on what is prohibited, permitted and promoted in order to prosper. These same terms apply to the issue of what we will affirm regarding the family.

A little anthropology and history may enlighten us.

Most great civilizations have had some social order regarding family. Often these were economic and political agreements for the clan to survive and thrive. In many cultures, extramarital sexuality, polygamy and even homosexual behavior were tolerated or even promoted as religiously significant.

The Jewish belief in lifelong heterosexual monogamy was a revolutionary idea in a world awash with sexual experimentation. The Christian faith reaffirmed the Torah and intensified it with the sanctification of marriage and celibate singleness.

Speaking historically, it is the Judeo-Christian belief that is "non-traditional" or "radical"!

The discipline and fidelity required for such a moral standard redirected the energies of millions toward productive, transforming labor that has made the West the envy of the world.

Please pause with me and catch what I am NOT saying so far. Yes, I am arguing for heterosexual monogamy as the best choice for the foundation of family and society. I am NOT prohibiting private activity between adults or squelching public debate. My only request is that we be honest with the evidence.

So, where do we go from here with social policy? I suggest three thoughts to guide our search:

1) There is considerable research that promotes the importance of healthy female and male input for a child to be healthy. Let's look at the implications...

2) There is a difference between permitting certain relationships and promoting all domestic arrangements as the basic unit of our culture. What will we choose?

3) Any forward course involves a recommitment to personal responsibility. The decisions to marry and have children must be positioned as positive but sobering wake-up calls to integrity and life-long commitment. Domestic failures create new generations of broken lives.

Next week - Is there hope for the Middle East?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The Future of the Family

What is a "family"?

Is it a Mom, a Dad, Kids, pets and a SUV?

Is it any multigenerational group that lives under the same roof?

Today's tumultuous political climate makes this a "hot potato" for everyone. Deeply held convictions are masked by public promotion of flexibility and tolerance.

Serious psychological research unveils the importance of positive female and male role models for all children.

So a healthy family must mean a heterosexual couple committed to each other and their children.

Hold it!! Why can't Johnny have two Moms or two Dads?

Are homosexual partnerships just as healthy for children and long-term social cohesion as the "traditional" marriage?

In my next article I will answer this directly - for now, some questions to ponder:

How we answer the question on the family is foundational for the future of social harmony and public policy. What do we do with our deep differences? Will it be considered "hate speech" to speak out against non-heterosexual partnerships? What is going to be "normal"?

Our future rests on the answers.

What About Radical Islam?

The presence of thousands of religious zealots who work for the demise of the Israel, the USA and the West is a cause for more than hand-wringing concern. On the extreme left, residual historical guilt prompts the delusion that negotiation will bring peace, if we are patient, kind and financially generous. On the right, calls for more military action or sealing the borders find a home in hearts angry that such "barbarians" would be tolerated even for a moment.

There is no simple solution to the current crisis; however, there is way forward, if the West has the courage and stamina.

Radical Islam finds a home in angry, disenfranchised and moralistic souls who want to overthrow the corrupt West and establish Islamic Law in every nation. The first thing the West must do is put her own moral and social house in order by reaffirming transcendent ethics, the importance of religious freedom and piety and calling her citizens to personal responsibility. If the citizens of Europe, Israel and the USA are in some fashion, "doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly" there is less fuel to feed the fire among the populations who feel alienated. Honest legal processes, economic opportunity and respect for God are powerful counterweights to Radical Islam.

In addition to 3000 years of legal and moral insights, the West also has two other powerful weapons in her arsenal: democracy and economic opportunity. With the exception of the modern, secular state of Turkey, there has never been as Islamic democracy in its 1500 year history. Whether by accident, exhaustion or divine illumination (or all of the above), all branches of Christianity have repented of their historic wrongs and no longer promote intolerance or violence as a means of propagating their message. The demise of Communism opens the door for a new expression of ethical capitalism. If people are called to responsible behavior AND given economic opportunities, there is less kindling for Radical Islam's pyrotechnic terrorists.

The third facet of this plan is intelligent, strategic military action free from ideological or religious jargon and focused on bringing the perpetrators of terror to justice. All nations who love democracy must unite in this strategy. Israel-bashing is fruitless - the survivors of The Holocaust are not going to keep negotiating with groups dedicated to their destruction. The West faces a new Nazi-like threat and, like the 1930s, she must decide to either appease it with wishful thinking or oppose it with moral and military strength.

As we debate freely (and isn't is wonderful to be able to do so?) the policies of governments, we must take personal responsibility for our attitudes and actions and realize that hundreds of millions of ordinary people can turn the tide if they will find the courage to do so.

The future of freedom depends upon us.

Next week: The future of "the family"

Please email comments to: ckself@verizon.net

Monday, September 15, 2003

After the Post-Modern

For nearly a generation, "post-modern" has come to describe a mind-set, a world-view that captures the hearts of the generations after the Boomers. "post-mod" is a catch-all for a range of ideas, feelings and movements for the under 40 crowds.

In order to be post-modern, one has to be reacting or responding to the "modern". Here are some ways of capturing the post-modern ethos:

The modern world believed in unlimited progress through science and technology;
post-moderns enjoy the benefits, but no longer worship at the altar of Progress.

Moderns were skeptical of traditional religions and rigid moral strictures;
Post-moderns want spirituality without religious absolutes.

Moderns extolled the virtues of individual freedom unrestrained by anything but "love";
Post-moderns are just as chaotic, but they are searching for community.

Moderns saw the values of the West - democracy, capitalism (modified by some socialism when there is $$ around) and freedom - as a beacon of hope for the "Third World";
Post-moderns are more likely to look to the "Majority World" for better or complimentary values.

The contrasts are many and meaningful - but why is any of this important?

We are currently embroiled in an epoch-determining debate about the ideas, morals and values that will determine the future of the global community and every culture and nation that is part of the tapestry of humankind.

The Boomers continue to echo the cliches of the 1964-1974 (the "free speech" in Berkeley to Watergate era), determined to undermine anything akin to "traditional" moral and religious values, especially Judeo-Christian ones. The generation represented by the Clinton Presidency champion themselves as revolutionaries...But they are actually "modern" conservatives, trying to keep old conflicts alive in order to stay in academic, cultural and political power.

The generations under 40 are often swayed for a brief time by this rhetoric, only to realize that they have been left nothing to stand on as they confront unprecedented crises and opportunities.

To quote Bugs Bunny, "What's up, doc?" What is next? Are we destined for more polemics between the "radical right" of talk-radio and the "liberal left" on NPR and PBS? Must we choose a world choking in SUV exhaust or confined to hydrogen-powered scooters? Do we seal our borders or allow a new nation to conquer the Southwest USA?

What comes after the current post-modern fad?

Let me suggest three rules for the coming debate - if indeed there are thoughtful persons willing to discover solutions beyond the current public posturing.

First, we must face all issues directly and refuse to revert to the tactics of the personal insult and the sweeping generalization. Not all proponents of universal healthcare are against capitalism and not all pro-life advocates want to return to the "coat-hanger" days.

Second, values matter and the debates about ethics, morality, the nature of the family and personal responsibility are important. Social cohesion rests upon shared "first principles." In the USA, those principles are found in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Third, the way forward may include looking back sometimes. Ancient pathways properly distilled for the 21st century provide rich resources for reflection.

Over 2,500 years ago a prophet asked what was expected of a good person. His answer?

"Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly..."

Maybe this is what comes after the post-modern.

Next week: Confronting Radical Islam