Unification News for May 2001
American Families: What We Have and What We Need
Dr. Tyler Hendricks
This is from a sermon given to the New Jersey Family Church on April 29, 2001.
When discussing the virtues and deficits of the family in America from a biblical perspective, it is natural to return to the reality of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. To do so provides a vast and fundamental truth, but leaves us still needing to fill in the answer to an important question. Why were families so much stronger one hundred years ago than today? What has happened in the last three generations that has laid such a terrible burden upon American social life as to leave people with only a 50-50 chance of success in marriage? What is it that has given rise to the situation in which influential voices in academia, the media, government and even churches cry out that marriage is an obsolete, unhealthy institution?
Today I will pay special attention to fatherhood. In 1968, 85% of all children lived with both parents; today it is 68%, a 17% drop. In 1968, 10.8% of children lived with their mother only, today it is 23%, a 115% rise. Of single mothers, in 1968, 0.7% were never married; today it is 9%, a 1,200% rise. The absence of fathers creates severe social problems, as noted by U.S. Senator Evan Bayh: "We spent a lot of time dealing with problems like poverty, juvenile violence [and] drugs, which are really symptoms of a deeper underlying problemóthe epidemic of fatherlessness. Rather than just deal with the symptoms, I think we need to deal with the root causes." [Fatherless New Jersey, 3] In a country with so much blessing, why are so many fathers missing in action?
What do we in America have? Why is it that overwhelming multitudes of the worldís people want to come to America and live here? First and foremost, here they can gain ownership. Here they can take personal responsibility. Here they can find the most level playing field in the world. We are an open-hearted society, a society in which ideals of brotherhood, fairness, honesty and responsibility are promoted. Where did these benefits come from? They came from God, through devout and sacrificial faith.
You might be surprised by my highlighting the importance of ownership, private ownership. Before you cringe at the term, private ownership, please realize that from Godís point of view, it means personal responsibility. So it has a spiritual importance. Ownership first is by God, and we honor His ownership by tithing. Based upon our proper way of life and offering, God protects and increases your ownership. So true ownership comes from your relationship with God and translates into your sense of personal responsibility for what is around you.
We should realize that ownership did not drop out of the sky. Late medieval and modern Europeans developed the idea of the ownership of property. Still a major problem in the developing world is that people lack the right to private ownership. They lack the legal system through that guarantees ownership. The effect of this is immeasurable, economically and spiritually as well, because with ownership comes development. With ownership comes something more: leverage. One can borrow money based upon what one owns.
I recently read the example of a chicken farmer in Africa, who cannot get a loan with which to expand his farm, because he cannot prove that he owns his house. The house was built on land granted him by the village chief, who, based upon tradition, owns the land. The man to whom the land was given, who built the house and has the chicken farm, cannot prove that he owns it. So he cannot borrow money to buy equipment and expand the farm.
The chief in such a culture is in the position of the father and the villagers are the children. It is just as in your house, in which the parents own everything that the children use. But in traditional societies, the children never grow up in terms of ownership. It was the same in feudalistic Europe. People broke down feudalism in Europe when they attained ownership.
Plymouth Plantation did not become productive until they abandoned Christian socialism and gave private citizens ownership of land and tools. Prior to that point, the colony was on the edge of starvation; its fields were unproductive and its tools were in disrepair. When they decided in 1623 to own their own land and tools, the colony never experienced hunger again. So America from early on was a society that respected private ownership.
Iíll give another example of the value of ownership, especially of land, the practice in America called homesteading. For a century the country was acquiring vast expanses of undeveloped land. Undeveloped meant that the land that had no owner, or in the biblical term, no husband. This land was made available to anyone who would go there and stake a claim. But the claim could be maintained only if the settler developed the land. Within a year they had to have built a certain standard of housing, dug a well or procured a water supply, planted a crop, and so forth. Within two years there was another measurement of development the settler had to meet. If there was no development, no investment, no value added, then ownership was taken away.
On the foundation of ownership of the land, with the first Great Awakening, Americans took ownership of the church, and within a generation of the Awakening our forefathers freed the church from the state. With the same stroke, they took ownership of the state and separated themselves from the king of England. And now we get to the issue of fatherhood, we move from what they gained to what they lost, because the king of England was their father. He was the village chief who would not allow his children to grow up and take ownership of their own.
Ownership and Spiritual Maturity
Teenagers, in my experience, have no concept of ownership. They have little interest in taking care of the yard or the house. This is natural, but it means that they are immature. Look at what happened to the garden after Adam and Eve became immature husband and wife. When God created the garden, "there was no man to work the ground" (Gen 2:5). God created man and "put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Gen 2:15) Adam did not do a very good job. It became overgrown with thorns; it turned into a wilderness. Godís curse was in actually a reality check and prophecy of what was to come from this dysfunctional family: "Cursed is the ground because of you;Ö it will produce thorns and thistles for you." (Gen 3:17-18)
This came home to me when I moved to Barrytown, which is out in the countryside. When I lived in an urban apartment, I had no concern for the grounds. Now that I live in a house in the country, I work hard and spend a good deal of money to upgrade it. I have begun to think long term, in terms of the changing seasons. I am interested in nature, in the personality of the trees. I get an enormous degree of satisfaction from the yard work. My teenage children donít. I have to order them to help in the yard. It was the same between me and my father; he had to order me to help in the yard, and I did so out of duty and hated every minute of it. It is natural, I believe. They donít own it. They are not parents yet. Ownership comes with parenthood. If we have too few fathers, it means that many men do not feel ownership of the society. Many give it up and were enticed to remain teenagers.
So when Americans took ownership, they became real fathers and mothers. They developed the land and it flourished and it flourishes yet today. America became the new Israel. Americans had a strong sense that the land was the gift of God given for the purpose of redeeming the world, of granting to the world the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (Up until the last draft of the Declaration, the third term was property; at the very last Jefferson inserted "the pursuit of happiness" in its placeósuch is the interrelationship of these terms in the Judeo-Christian mind.)
This is what we have. "This land, is mine, God gave this land to me." Exodus Note the importance of the "Promised Land" to the Israelites. Chosen status and the creation of Godís kingdom were wrapped up in the ownership of the land. The commandment with a promise, commands us to honor our father and mother, so that we may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
With ownership, we become True Parents, we realize maturity and we can settle. Even our Unificationist ideal revolves around the term "settlement," hometown, home church or family church. Each family, each home, is a church, is the dwelling place of God. This is quintessential American ideology, but it underlies all religions. Here are some examples:
Judaism: "And Judah and Israel dwelt in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon." (1 Kings 4:25)
Hinduism, Taoism: the household altar, the household gods.
Buddhism: "Supporting oneís father and mother, cherishing wife and children and a peaceful occupation; this is the greatest blessing" (World Scripture, 166)
That is what American families have. What American families need is summed up by the apt phrase of Rev. Levy Daugherty: how can you settle when you havenít arrived yet?
Judaism and Christianity teach fatherhood, and this teaching was buttressed by the tribal religions of the European peoples. The kings of Europe gave rise to the great families and great lineages. Wedded to the church, the kings were ordained of God by the bishops. Out of this misty past emerged the doctrine of the divine right of kings. Patriarchy. The divine right of kings taught that the lineage of the king goes back to Adam.
The people all are children of Adam and the king is our elder brother, then, who represents Adam our father, and who represents God and hence has the divine right. He owns everything. All fathers inherit the rights of fatherhood from the king, from their participation in the kingís lineage, the central lineage. They could stand as blessed central families. Filial piety, patriotism (rooted in the term, patrios, father, the fatherland), and on were givens. They were unquestioned. Almost. The problem is that they were racist. Each nation had their own king and they fought each other. The spirit of God moved against those kings.
The English and French, and finally Russians, killed their king. Americans did the same. But when we killed our great father, we killed the root of the immediate fatherís authority. Within two generations, there took place what historian Ann Douglas calls "the feminization of American culture." The moral authority transferred from men to women. In the eighteenth century and before, the male head of the household was responsible for the religious and moral upbringing of the children. So the books dealing with this were addressed to the father. In the nineteenth century, they were addressed to the mother. By the twentieth century, we lost the notion that either of the parents are responsible for the moral upbringing of the children; the job has gone to teachers. And so, today, we have no fathers. That is what American families need.
The divine right of kings was the basis for the divine right of fathers. With what did we replace the rights of the king? John Locke developed the view that humankind did not originate from original parents, but appeared on earth as brothers and sisters, created straight from God without parents. So in the Lockean ideal, brothers and sisters reason together and create a constitution, laws they will follow that will form out of themselves a community or nation. The American founding fathersónote the clinging to the expression, fathersócreated a nation out of committees that created a constitution.
What is important to us this morning is what Locke did with fathers and mothers. Having broken down the importance of lineage, what could he say of the position of parents? Simply put, the purpose of parents is to manufacture children and the purpose of the family is to civilize those children so that they will become good citizens. (Second Treatise on Government) Any affection, any love, felt between parents and children, or husband and wife, is purely incidental. Once the children have grown up and moved away, the parentsí job is done and there is no interest by the state in them even maintaining their marriage.
When I discovered this, I suddenly realized the impact, believe it or not, of the childrenís story, the three little pigs. There is no parental responsibility for the children; they naturally set off into the big, bad world on their own to survive as best they can. The pig that builds his house of bricks and saves the others is not designated as the elder brother or sister; there is no attention paid to order of birth or gender. They live in a horizontal, genderless world in which technical skill wins the day. I never looked at the three little pigs the same. It was a big blow to my life.
It is a blow to all of us in our identity as parents. If the schools and media can enculturate our children to be good citizens from the Lockean point of view, we would need parents only to produce the children. Once the children are produced, society, starting with day-care, can take care of molding them into effective citizens and workers. But now even the task of producing children is being removed from us. If this, in the Lockean point of view, is the purpose of man and woman marrying and creating a family, then obviously we do not need marriage any longer. In fact, itís better not to marry, because men and women just fight all the time anyway. And that is where we are today.
We should be aware of the roots of the current breakdown of the family. They are deep, and they represent a trade-off. We liberated ourselves to be owners at the cost of our parents; we liberated ourselves to be kings at the cost of our kingdom; we liberated ourselves to be children at the cost of our families.
Society is in turmoil about this. In 1960, 91% of families with children were married couple families; today, the fathers of more than 19 million children have become disengaged from their childrenís daily lives, and in turn those children have become disengaged from pursuing fully functional and productive lives (Fatherless New Jersey and Beyond, p. 24). There are many positive efforts to turn these trends around. We cannot return to a divine right of kings society, but neither can we exist much longer as a society without parents and without recognizing that God does work through parents to empower the children and the culture.
So our answer to Locke is that God is the Father of Adam and Eve, and we do have divine rights as parents inherited from our parents, through lineage. But the true divine right of parents also bestows divine rights to husband and wife, brother and sister, and children. True parents will honor, protect and enhance these rights.
We as a unification community of diverse races, and national and religious origins, are gathered together by our faith that God is providing the solution to this dilemma. God is revealing the model of a family and society in which the love of parents, husband and wife, brothers and sisters, and children are equally exalted. He is the Creator of the entire family, and He has deemed it fit that the healthy society stands as the expansion of the true family.
The truth does set us free, and the teachings of the Divine Principle have liberated many families to find the way to oneness with God and each other, for eternity. I invite our guests to speak with the family that invited you about this. They will be glad to share this great revelation of Godís love with you.
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