Brian Mark Weber / Dec. 4, 2020

The Systemic Decline of the American Family

Our social fabric is unraveling, and cultural forces are keeping us from talking about it.

The 2020 election may bring new leadership to the White House in January, but the problems plaguing cities and towns across America remain unchanged.

Like a scene out of a dystopian novel, youth gangs roam the streets toppling statues, breaking windows, and attacking innocent bystanders. Theirs is a world turned upside down by a revolution devoid of morals or principles.

Yet while millions of Americans watch in horror at the unraveling of our social fabric, we tend to avoid the hard questions. It’s not that we don’t care, but maybe we’re fearful that decades of broken families really have contributed to our current state of affairs.

As Stanley Kurtz writes at National Review, “Because the family has been seen since approximately forever as society’s foundation, it makes sense from the traditional point of view that family decline would have pervasive social effects. Yet no one dares discuss it.”

We don’t discuss it because our culture has been changed in part by the unending onslaught of TV shows, movies, music, and books that mock traditional families, celebrate single-parent households, encourage a life of decadence, and reward selfish pursuits.

Across the board, we’ve failed to defend our way of life in the face of a multi-pronged attack that’s ripping apart the ideals and institutions we long believed in. These days, we’re fearful of speaking out and defending what we’ve always held so dear.

But defending a way of life is only possible if we believe in that way of life. Having been taught by our popular culture to think Western and Christian values are oppressive and destructive, too many young people want to tear down the entire system.

Increasingly, the breakdown of the American family seems to be the culprit, and Mary Eberstadt of the Faith and Reason Institute believes the loss of fathers, faith, and patriotism are to blame. As Eberstadt notes, “Some people, mainly on the left, think there’s nothing to see here. They’re wrong. The vast majority of incarcerated juveniles have grown up in fatherless homes. Teen and other mass murderers almost invariably have filial rupture in their biographies. Absent fathers predict higher rates of truancy, psychiatric problems, criminality, promiscuity, drug use, rape, domestic violence, and other less-than-optimal outcomes. Here’s another pertinent, albeit socially radioactive fact: Fatherlessness leads to a search for father substitutes. And some of these daddy placeholders turn out to be toxic.”

Eberstadt also points out that many of the extreme ideologues pushing critical race theory on the Left, and white nationalism on the Right, are products of fatherless homes. She notes that the lack of a father, or the presence of a dysfunctional father, also leads to a lack of faith in God, increased anger toward social and political systems, and sexual promiscuity.

Kurtz agrees, adding, “The ever-growing number of Americans who pursue education post-high school, and the ever-lengthening number of years during which they do so, is now driving the delay of marriage and, with it, family decline.”

It’s an interesting take on a complex issue, and collectively we’ve certainly created the perception among young people that college is the best path toward a good life. But there has to be more to the decline of families than sending kids off to college. After all, thousands of American soldiers spent years in Europe fighting world wars, but they came home ready and able to embrace marriage, family, and God.

In the end, it’s hard to deny that millions of fatherless children have been lost. It may be too late to save them, but we have the power in our hands and in our hearts to make sure the next generation enjoys the benefits of a home centered on the values that have served us so well for so long: God, family, and country.

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