The West’s War on the Family
by BRUCE FROHNEN
For decades, now, Christians have worried about the progressive push to strip naked the public square by forcing religion into the shadows of a private sphere. Recent events have made clear that this is not the case. Everything is public and political to the secular left. All aspects of our lives are fair game in the attempt to impose a new structure of individual choice monitored by a soft despotism overseen by professionals in government and education.
The family has become the center of the culture wars because it is where people’s characters are formed. Even as our educational institutions from pre-K through college become increasingly brazen in their drive to indoctrinate young people into an ideology of victimization, resentment, and individual entitlement, many still resist the taste and comfort of progressives. Homeschoolers, parochial parents, and others still manage to raise millions of children devoted to faith, family, and freedom. And so the family, in particular, has come under assault in the name of choice, social justice, and an end to oppression.
The connection between Christianity and the traditional family of man, wife, and children is quite strong. Not only Catholics, who can look to the writings of Saint John Paul II among many others, but members of Orthodox, Calvinist, and Lutheran traditions are tied to “gendered” understandings of the family. The scriptural basis of this understanding are now, of course, considered utterly off-limits in public discourse. That being the case, their bases in moral anthropology now are attacked as “sexist” and therefore oppressive and dangerous to society and individual mental health. This, I think, poses for conservatives and Christians, in particular, the real question of our age: How do we continue to exist and lead decent lives in a culture that brands decent lives oppressive and dangerous?
At a conference I attended recently (convened to address contemporary challenges to Christian culture) one speaker faced head-on a central problem with Christian responses to our secular culture: As a rule, we do not have enough children and we do not teach them from a young age their essential familial roles as male breadwinners and female nurturers. For any Catholic, and any Christian who has taken the time to understand the fundamentals of our beliefs and traditions, it is undeniable that the sexes are different and are by nature suited to different roles within the fundamental unit of society, namely, the natural family. The vast majority of thinking Christians know this while the vast majority of secular Westerners reject it as a matter of unthinking ideological prejudice, so there really is no sense at this late date in attempting to argue over it. This is at the root of Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” proposal for Christians to concentrate their efforts on rebuilding faithful communities in the face of the cultural aggression of our public institutions.
The question remains, then, of how we are to renew our culture in the face of hostility toward our very sense of being and purpose.