“The American Family Is Making a Comeback”

How about this for some modern logic:

1. Families are a massive blessing to society and to individuals

2. Families are facing extraordinary pressures, obstacles, and burdens.

3. This is an ideal time to redefine what a family is.

The first two premises are taken from Michael Wear’s article in The Atlantic, The American Family Is Making A Comeback and, as Wear’s article demonstrates, almost everyone agrees with them. The fallacious conclusion is what we see going on all around us, especially in politics, the media, the judiciary, and education, but also in the business world too.

Using only Wear’s piece, let’s take a closer look at the facts and quotes supporting the first two premises in order to feel more deeply the fallacy of the conclusion.

1. Families are a massive blessing to society and to individuals

“Our current policies have failed to address this new landscape, and because of it we are inhibiting one of our nation’s greatest contributors to the public good, and Americans’ most personal aspirations: family.”

“It can be easy to miss the value of family to our nation because its contributions are so ingrained into our lives.”

“Its value can be partly calculated by estimating the cost of broken families because when Americans don’t have family to care for them, government must step in to provide those services.”

  • State and federal governments spend billions of dollars each year to care for children in foster care ($9 billion through Title IV-E of the Social Security Act alone.)
  •  There are longer-term costs for children who grow up outside of safe, permanent families as well, including the $5.1 billion the government spends incarcerating former foster-care youth each year.
  • Familial bonds help defray the costs of caring for the elderly.
  • In 2009, 61.6 million Americans gave uncompensated care to an adult “with limitations in daily activities” at some point during the year—an economic value of $450 billion in unpaid services.

“From cradle to grave, the social and personal benefits of a healthy family, and the costs of its absence, are evident.”

Every family in America is a little business … in fact, the word economy comes from the Greek word ‘oikos,’ which means home. Every home is a little economy. And when those little economies struggle and suffer … then America fails.”

“In 2009, the Brookings Institute released a study that, among other things, said if you graduate from high school, get a job, get married and then have children (in that order), your chance of being in poverty is just 2 percent.” 

2. Families are facing extraordinary pressures, obstacles, and burdens.

“Marriage is on the decline, birthrates are down, and divorce rates are high.”

“The strains on families and family formation are real, rational, and profound.”

“The old-fashioned family plan of stably married parents residing with their children remains a source of considerable power in America—but one that is increasingly seen as out of reach to all but the educated elite.”

“The average American family is poorer than it was 10 years ago.”

“Over the last 40 years changes in the workforce and growing socioeconomic inequality have conspired to stoke familial instability.”

Student loan debt is causing many to delay marriage.

“Today, it is harder and harder to be good parents and good workers for many working families. That’s a tradeoff that is neither good for our country or our families.”

“Our country—whether through tax policy or through the rhetoric of our current president—does very little to support the institution of marriage.”

“The popular conception of the American Dream is a spouse, two and a half kids, and your own house with a car in the garage and a picket fence around the yard. When we talk about the American Dream slipping away, we tend to focus on the possessions: the house, the car, the picket fence. At a time when the income of American families is declining, this makes some sense…. [But] it is a more fundamental hope that is challenged today. The people that make up the American Dream—the spouse, the children, our dearest relationships—seem out of reach for millions of Americans.”

3. This is an ideal time to redefine what a family is.

Given these two premises, we would expect some moves to support families better and some of these are highlighted in the article.

We should consider options—tax credits, interest-rate incentives, family-friendly zoning and city planning—that align America’s interest in marriage as a public good, and stability as an important factor in a child’s educational and social development, with our housing policies.

Wear commends some British moves and calls for something similar in the USA:

British Prime Minister David Cameron has recognized the new burdens families face. He recently announced that policies in the U.K. must pass a “family test,” which means “every single domestic policy that government comes up with will be examined for its impact on the family.”

However, there’s a massive elephant stampeding round the room, and it’s the utter refusal to define family in the same way as its Inventor, and also to reject all counterfeit substitutes. As even Wear notes:

For all the “pro-family” policies that progressives are putting forward none of them explicitly value stable, two-parent families over other family types

Democrats continue to show no interest in meeting Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam’s call to “stigmatize illegitimacy indirectly” through tax benefits available only to married parents.

As the costs of family breakdown become even more apparent, Democrats’ no-judgment approach may seem insufficient in the face of a demographic and sociological tidal wave.

Glimmers of hope

Wear does highlight a few conservative republican efforts to support traditional families while also helping families that face different and less-than-ideal realities. But after summarizing the American dream with a focus on the people who make the dream a dream, he concludes:

Politics alone cannot restore this hope, but it will only further fuel Americans’ cynicism if Washington does nothing to address it.

Let’s not give up the fight for biblical marriage and the biblical family. We may have lost the argument based on Bible verses. But there are going to be plenty of shocking statistics to build arguments upon in the coming years. It’s just sad and cruel to think of the many millions who will be damaged as a result of the biggest and most dangerous social experiment ever conducted.

Five Ways to Lead Your Wife

Husbands tend to fall into one of two errors. Some are too passive, others are too domineering or controlling. In Ephesians 5, Paul addresses both extremes. To the passive abdicator of responsibility, he says, “Lead your wife.” To the aggressive tyrant, he says, “Love your wife.”

Let’s focus on Mr Passive today and see if we can help him step up to the plate and start leading. Before we do so, though, let’s just deal with some objections that may already be rising about this idea of the husband being the leader.

Two Equalities

First of all we state categorically that when it comes to salvation there is no distinction, no difference between men and women. All Christians are equally loved, forgiven, and adopted (Gal. 3:28). 

Second, men and women are essentially equal. As we noted yesterday, God made us different, not to compete with one another but to complement one another. These differences do not make one gender better than the other. We must not allow a smidgeon of thought that differences mean any essential inferiority or superiority.

Even though women are weaker than men in some areas (like physical strength), women are stronger than men in other areas (like longevity and intuition). Each needs the other to perfect and complete them.

But even given soteriological and essential equality, in day-to-day living there has to be a leader, a captain of a team, a manager of a business, and a head of a home. And for that day-to-day family life, God has appointed the husband to be the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). What does that mean?

Lead as a Head 

When many of us hear the language of headship, we immediately think of our worst experiences at the hands of authority figures: a bad-tempered boss, an aggressive coach, an abusive father, a despotic minister, an egomaniacal politician, and so on.

However, we’ve got to put these images out of our minds, and think only of the head-body imagery that Paul deliberately chooses here. That changes everything. There’s a huge difference between being a ruler and a head.

A head is attached to the body, cannot exist without the body, cares for the body, and provides for the body. A ruler has no such connection, dependence, or relationship to the ruled. This leadership, then, is a metaphor of protection not of power, of salvation not domination, as Paul’s very next words underline:

For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.

Lead as a Servant

“He is the Savior of the body.” Just as Christ came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many, so the husband is to demonstrate this kind of unselfish headship in his relationship to his wife.

Lead by Listening

One of the ways a husband leads and serves his wife is by listening to her. He doesn’t assume that he knows everything, that he has all the answers, that wisdom begins and ends with him. He sees His wife as wonderful resource, as his chief adviser, as a treasure trove of insight and knowledge. He therefore asks for and listens to her advice and counsel. He also listens to her concerns, fears, and worries.

Lead by Deciding

Yes, the husband puts his wife first, listens carefully to her, takes full account of her views, and weighs them seriously, But ultimately he has to take the final decision, and accept all the responsibility for that. He must not pass the buck (or drop it) the buck stops with him in both spiritual and temporal matters.

Lead by Delegating

A good manager doesn’t do everything himself. He knows how to delegate, and he does so in a way that brings out the best in people and helps them to flourish. As Jay Adams put it:

A good manager will look at his helper and say, “She has certain abilities. If I am going to manage my household well, I must see that every last one of those gifts is developed and put to use as fully as possible.” He will not want to quash her personality; rather, he will seek to bring it to the fullest flower.

The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil

The ever-unpredictable Camille Paglia continues to garner headlines with her anti-feminist feminism. In The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil, Paglia criticizes “wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses” which she says are usually just “oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.”

Such misplaced focus, she says, obscures “the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder.”

Too many young middleclass women, raised far from the urban streets, seem to expect adult life to be an extension of their comfortable, overprotected homes. But the world remains a wilderness. The price of women’s modern freedoms is personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

I can’t see any man getting off with these words – which seem to shift way too much blame onto women, especially the many who have suffered sexual violence without any provocation from their side.

However, some of Paglia’s words have a resounding ring of truth about them, especially her pinpointing of the naive view of human nature that many young people grow up with, leaving them totally unprepared for the wild “wilderness” that is this world and fearfully unaware of the “constant nearness of savage nature.”

Where’s the sense of evil?

She traces this dangerous innocence to the lack of a profound sense of evil on both the right and the left. She says right-wing conservatism sees evil not as something inside of us, but as something “out there,” something they identify with “a foreign host of rising political forces united only in their rejection of Western values.” But she reserves her most withering criticism for the left:

The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.

She concludes with a final swipe at university academics, campus bureaucrats, and government regulators who deny sex differences are rooted in biology and who think that stronger administrative measures “can and will fundamentally alter all men.”

No Solutions

Paglia is a social critic, not a social constructor. As always, she’s good at the take-down but not at the build-up. She sees the problems, but has no solutions. She (unwittingly?) shares the Christian view of human depravity, but rejects Christian salvation. So why pay any attention to her words?

Well, as Christians, we can surely build on Paglia’s common grace observations about human nature and the human problem.

We can highlight how it’s not just Christians who see the inherent savagery of the human heart, and the accompanying fragility of civilization.

We can use her words to show the superficiality of modern responses to human evil – on both the left and the right.

We can warn about how vulnerable our society is without something greater than humanity to restrain and change the human heart.

We can prepare our children for the wilderness by teaching them about the nearness of savage nature, not only in others, but in themselves.

And above all, we can demonstrate how the Bible not only agrees with Paglia’s tear-down but also offers a rebuilding plan – both for individuals and our society. We have a solution, THE solution, that not only civilizes but saves.

Completing not Competing

When two different things work well together, we say they complement each other, they fit one another, enhance one another, perfect one another, and complete one another.

Take nuts and bolts for example; they are usually made of the same material, but they are quite different to look at and have quite different roles. However, for all the differences, they work perfectly together in connecting and strengthening materials.  

One without the other is pretty useless, and two nuts or two bolts are equally useless. But a nut and bolt complement one another. They don’t compete with one another, they complete one another. 

When we look at the nut and bolt, we don’t think one is superior or inferior to the other, we just see different designs for different but complementary purposes. We don’t try to make the nut into a bolt or vice versa; that’s just a waste of time and effort. And when we see them working well together, we may want to compliment the inventor of this complement. 

Complementary Voices

Or take four singers all singing the same song with the same notes. That can sound quite pleasant. However, a composer comes along and with his trained ear can sense that each voice has it’s own unique sound. He therefore trains them individually to sing different notes – one is a soprano, another a bass, and the other two are alto and tenor.

Then he brings them all together again and what a transformation. Although they are now all singing different notes they complement each other and the harmonious result is far more beautiful than before. They don’t compete with one another but complete one another. 

We don’t think of one being more important or superior to another, we just hear each voice suited to its own role. The bass doesn’t try to be the soprano or vice versa – that just doesn’t work. We listen with pleasure and praise for the composer, and leave paying compliments to the arranger of this complement

Complementary Genders

When we come to men and women, we clearly see how God made men and women quite different. Sure, we all have eyes, ears, mouths, etc., but we are different in many other ways – physically, emotionally, cognitively, and so on. And these differences are not a problem, they are the solution. The differences are not accidental but intentional.

God made men and women different in order that they would complement each other, work better together than apart. They don’t compete with each other, they complete each other. 

They differ physically; they differ in the way each thinks, feels, and relates; they differ in their roles and responsibilities. And yet because God deliberately designed the differences to help and perfect the other, when these differences are accepted and celebrated, both the man and the woman flourish and thrive. Neither is superior nor inferior to the other, and neither is suited to the roles and responsibilities of the other.

Even in sinless paradise, God saw that man was incomplete while alone. With great wisdom and skill He made the first woman, Eve, not to compete with Adam but to complete him (and vice versa). God did not design another man for Adam – that would not have solved the problem, but simply doubled it. He created a woman, and when Adam immediately saw how she complemented him and he her, he complimented both her and the one who made them so complementary.

Let’s all of us praise God for His gender design skills, and cooperate with His plan rather than substitute our own. If married, why not ask, “How can we better complement each other?” or if unmarried and yet hoping to be married, “What areas should I develop, in order to be more complementary to my future husband/wife?”

Check out

Best Book Deals

Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley ($0.99)

I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thom Rainer ($2.99)

The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word by R C Sproul (FREE)

Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Ian and Larissa Murphy ($2.99)

Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs ($0.99)

How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator by Joe Carter ($0.99)

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table by Tim Chester ($0.99)

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons (9Marks) by Thabiti Anyabwile ($0.99)

The Power of Christ’s Resurrection by Richard Sibbes ($0.99)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain ($2.99)

The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter by Ian O’Connor ($2.99)

Best Blogs
Most Pastors Don’t Talk About Mental Illness

The Secret to a Happy Life | R C Sproul

Husbands, Hold Your Wife’s Hand | R C Sproul Jr.

How To Get Things Done: Time, Energy, and Mission | Tim Challies

10 Types of Thinking That Undergird Depression-Anxiety | Brad Hambrick

Learn More in Less Time | Books At A Glance

Want To Be Happy For The Rest Of Your Life? Have A Big, Cheap Wedding

The Ten Commandments For Using Modern Media | Challies Dot Com

What is Discernment?

The Shepherding Seminary | Gentle Reformation

BCC Weekend Resource: Counseling After a Suicide | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

Get Alone Undistracted

The Celebrity Pastor Problem: From Mars Hill To Me | Am I Called?

Best Videos

A Story of Grace
This is such a beautiful testimony. I loved the ending especially.

Beautiful Chemical Reactions
Yes, really.

Huge Fog Bank Rolls Over Lake Michigan

2014 World Public Speaking Champion
Looks like a well-deserved title.

A Feature Length Documentary on The Life & Legacy of Scotland’s Reformer

This from a friend in Scotland:

2014 marks the 500th anniversary of John Knox – the dynamic and controversial man who led the Reformation in Scotland. To mark the occasion, we are making a full length documentary. The title comes from Knox’ famous prayer: ‘Give me Scotland, or I die’ and the film would retell the engaging and dramatic story of Knox and explore the relevance of the man and of his Reformational message in the 21st Century.

You can read more here and also contribute to the funding of the film – $4000 remains to be raised.

Murdo Macleod, the producer, is the son of a pastor friend of mine in Scotland. Here’s a little about Murdo:

Murdo has a 1st Class Honours degree in Pure Maths at the University of Glasgow. He went on to do a second degree at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) where he completed a BA in Digital Film and Television. Previous short films which he has worked on have won awards with BAFTA and with the Royal Television Society and have been screened at film festivals around the world, including Beijing, Toronto, Chicago and London. He launched Trinity Digital earlier this year as a means to provide film and video resources particularly to churches and Christian organizations.

If you are interested in giving more than $500, please contact Murdo directly via the contact form here.