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Marriage, Family Life, and the Importance of Fatherhood | Daniel Love Glazer

2015-06-15 3:50 PM | Daniel

Have you heard?

I married an angel.

I'm sure that the change'll be

awf'lly good for me.

Have you heard?

An angel I married.

To heaven she's carried this

fellow with a kiss.

She is sweet and gentle,

so it isn't strange,

when I'm sentimental,

she loves me like an angel.

Now you've heard.

I married an angel.

this beautiful change will be

awf'lly good for me.

[I Married an Angel, by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart]

As I just illustrated by singing Rodgers and Hart’s song, I Married an Angel, American popular culture has long exalted the institution of marriage. The Urantia Book echoes this praise. Consider these quotes from the paper on “Marriage and Family Life:”

Marriage has given mankind the home, and the home is the crowning glory of the whole long and arduous evolutionary struggle….The family is the master civilizer. A child learns most of the essentials of life from his family and the neighbors.

 The progress of marriage itself is a reasonably accurate gauge registering the advances of human civilization.

The security of civilization itself still rests on the growing willingness of one generation to invest in the welfare of the next and future generations. And any attempt to shift parental responsibility to state or church will prove suicidal to the welfare and advancement of civilization

Marriage, with children and consequent family life, is stimulative of the highest potentials in human nature and simultaneously provides the ideal avenue for the expression of these quickened attributes of mortal personality. A true family—a good family—reveals to the parental procreators the attitude of the Creator to his children, while at the same time such true parents portray to their children the first of a long series of ascending disclosures of the love of the Paradise parent of all universe children.

 Here is one more quote, from paper 177, where Jesus is talking to John Mark about ome life.

The child must derive his first impressions of the universe from the mother’s care; he is totally dependent on the earthly father for his first ideas of the heavenly Father.

 Given these statements, it behooves us who want to promote progressive civilization to ask, “What is the state of marriage today?” The answer is “Not good.” In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Labor, conducted a study of the state of the black family. He reported that for blacks, 24% of births were born to single mothers; in contrast, only 3% of births to whites were nonmarital. Moynihan declared that the huge rate of nonmarital births was a major cause of poverty and other problems for the black underclass. He said that this was breeding unruly young males, who were prey to a “tangle of pathology:” Surly, unschooled, unambitious, drug-trading and drug-using, making a perverse cult of tangles with the law, in short an underclass.

Some commentators, including Moynihan, attributed the high rate for blacks to the legacy of slavery, but this doesn’t seem to be true. The Economist Walter Williams reports that even during slavery, where marriage was forbidden, “most black children lived in biological two-parent families. And in 1925, in New York City, in 1925 … five in six children under the age of six lived with both parents.”

The Moynihan report noted with alarm that the nonmarital birthrate for blacks increased from 19% in 1940 to 24% in 1963. And by 1975 it would reach 49%.

How to account for this increase? One factor may be the welfare system. One study, based on 1979 data, found that “a 50 percent increase in the monthly value of welfare benefits led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.”

I have a question for you: the nonmarital birth rate for blacks was 24% in 1965. What do you think the rate is now?

Pause for input from audience]

For blacks, the nonmarital birth rate is now a mind-boggling 72.5 percent. The rate for American Indians and Alaska Natives is 66 percent; for Hispanics, 53 percent; for Asians and Pacific Islanders 17 percent; and for whites, 29 percent—significantly higher than the 24% figure for blacks that was so alarming in 1965. For the population as a whole, the rate is 41 percent.

Moreover, the 29% rate for whites conceals something even more ominous: The rate for white women who are college graduates is 5%, while the rate for white women who did not finish high school is over 60%. In 2010, among the white upper and upper middle class, 83 percent of adults 30-49 were married, but only 48 percent of working class whites were married. In other words, alongside the black underclass, there has developed a large white underclass.

What are the implications of these staggering numbers of nonmarital births? Let me quote the social scientist Charles Murray:

No matter what the outcome being examined—the quality of the mother-infant relationship, childhood aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity, delinquency in adolescence, criminality as adults, illness and injury in childhood, early mortality, sexual decision making in adolescence, school problems and dropping out, emotional health, or any other measure of how well or poorly children do in life—the family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, is two biological parents who remain married. Divorced parents produce the next-best outcomes. Whether the parents remarry or remain single while the children are growing up makes little difference. Never-married women produce the worst outcomes. All of these statements apply after controlling for the family’s socio-economic status. I know of no other set of important findings that are as broadly accepted by social scientists who follow the technical literature, liberal as well as conservative, and yet are so resolutely ignored by network news programs, editorial writers for the major newspapers, and politicians of both major political parties.

Recently I’ve gained a glimpse into the culture of fatherless children. For the past two years, my wife Karen has taught math at a high school on the south side of Chicago. The school is 100% black and 92% of the students qualify for subsidized meals. I don’t know how many students live in fatherless homes, but in Chicago 82% of births to blacks are out of wedlock, and I suspect the percentage in my wife’s school is at least this high. Last year Karen learned that five of her sophomore students have the same father, while having five different mothers. She asked, “Does your father ever have family get-togethers?” The answer was, “No, he’s a deadbeat.”

One day a student noticed and commented on Karen’s wedding ring. Karen responded, “Yes, my husband and I have been married for 27 years.” The student said, “I don’t know anyone who’s married.” Karen asked about her grandparents. Yes, her grandparents had been married, but no one she knew in her parents’ generation.

Only 24% of parents showed up on report card pickup day. The truancy rate for sophomores is about 30%. The achievement level of Karen’s math students is, on average, several years behind their grade level.

Yes, children fare best in two-parent families. Children of single mothers commit 72 percent of juvenile murders, have 70 percent of teenaged births, and constitute 70 percent of high school dropouts.

If, as The Urantia Book maintains, “The child …is totally dependent on the earthly father for his first ideas of the heavenly Father.” [page 1922], we might ask, do children of absent or dysfunctional fathershave trouble believing in God? The answer is “Yes.” The psychologist Paul Vitz has examined the lives of prominent atheists in history. In his book, The Faith of the Fatherless, he asserts that almost all those known for their intense atheism grew up with fathers who were either absent, through death or abandonment, or seriously defective.

Let’s start with Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach was a German philosopher active in the 1840’s. Feuerbach proclaimed that there was no God. God was just a projection of human psychology. He was a major influence on Freud.

Feuerbach’s father was a well-known judge and university professor. When Ludwig was 12 or 13, in the 1820’s, his father abandoned his family and went to live with another woman, the wife of the father’s best friend. He lived with her for several years, until she died. Then he moved back to his original family. The father also had a notorious temper—his nickname was Vesuvius. So it’s clear that Ludwig Feuerbach’s father can be considered defective.

Now we come to Sigmund Freud. Freud, following in Feuerbach’s footsteps, is famous for asserting that religious beliefs are “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind….The terrifying impressions of helplessness in childhood aroused the need for protection—which was provided by the father….Thus the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the dangers of life.” But, of course, this analysis can easily be reversed. Freud himself was to write that “Psychoanalysis…daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of the father breaks down.”

Freud’s father, Jacob Freud was a religious, liberal, Enlightenment Jew, and weak in many ways. One day, Jacob was confronted on the street by someone who called him a “dirty Jew” and knocked his hat off. When Sigmund asked his father, “What did you do?” he replied, “I just picked up my hat and walked away.” This incident caused Sigmund to lose respect for his father. Moreover, he wrote letters stating that his father was a sexual pervert.

What about Friedrich Nietzsche, famous for proclaiming “God is dead”? He was obsessed with religion and repeatedly condemned Christians and Christian ideas. Nietzsche was very close to his father, a Lutheran pastor, who incurred a brain disease and died when Friedrich was about to turn five years old. The death of his father was shattering. He came to associate his father’s sickness and weakness with his father’s Christianity. Nietzsche would criticize Christianity for its morality of weakness, for its absence of what he called the “life force.” Nietzsche worshipped Dionysius, a strong pagan expression of the life force. It is easy to see his rejection of God and Christianity as a rejection of his weak father.

More recently, we have the case of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Ms. Ohair was president of the organization American Atheists and the initiator of the lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to ban prayer in public schools. One of her sons reported that he saw Madalyn pick up a 10-inch kitchen knife and threaten her father, saying, ‘I want to kill you; I want to dance on your grave.”

And there are many other notable atheists that fit the pattern of having a father who died with no good substitute or else aroused hatred in their children. These include Schopenhauer, Voltaire, David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, and Albert Camus. The story is similar with prominent political atheists: Stalin, Hitler—whose father beat him regularly and died when Hitler was 14, and Mao Zedong.  And the so-called “New Atheists,” Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett also fit the pattern of having a defective father.

On a lighter note, let me relate an incident from my own parenting experience. Some years ago, when my daughter was eight years old, we planned to spend several days visiting friends in Kingsport Tennessee. My wife asked me to oversee Rachel’s packing. Rachel had a new child-size suitcase, colorfully decorated in red and blue. I asked her to see to her own packing. As we were about to leave, my wife asked whether I had supervised Rachel’s packing. I told her not to worry, that I was sure the suitcase was properly packed. When we got to our destination, lo and behold, it turned out that Rachel had packed her toys, but no clothes whatsoever. My wife was not pleased. This incident shows that, at times, even a generally attentive father can be defective at times.

If we compare the ideals of family life enunciated by The Urantia Book with the reality of contemporary family fragmentation, we find ourselves shaking our heads and wondering, what in the world can be done?

To begin with, each one of us can strive to manifest the highest values of marriage and parenthood in our own lives. If we do so, we and are children will be blessed.

But what about for the society as a whole? In terms of fragmented families, I’ve described a great divide between the educated upper class, whose rate of nonmarital births is not alarming, and the less educated, lower class, whose rate is catastrophic. Yet, even the upper class may be suffering from what Arnold J. Toynbee called a “schism in the soul” that he named as a sign of the forthcoming collapse of a civilization. Toynbee characterizes this “schism in the soul” as comprising a collapse of self-confidence, a lapse into truancy, a rejection of the obligations of citizenship, a vulgarization of manners, the arts, and language that are apt to appear first in the ranks of the lower class and to spread from there to the ranks of the elite.

Examples of this “schism in the soul” are legion. Here is one illustration. In the late 1990’s, Sports Illustrated published an article, “Paternity Ward,” about the profusion of children fathered by NBA players with single women. The authors listed several concerns that this behavior raised:

  • Did the “distraction of unplanned fatherhood and paternity suits” affect the athletes’ performance?
  • Did the “temptations” of the NBA lifestyle encourage sexual irresponsibility?
  • Did women target athletes in order to obtain large child support payment?
  • How should judges determine proper child support?
  • And last of all, how would a child “deal” with having a father he or she might hardly know, except for an occasional glimpse on television?

It is noteworthy that the question of the child’s welfare is the very last question raised.

In the Victorian Age in England, the upper class succeeded in propagating its code of morals and behavior among the rest of the population. In America today, the elite, while mostly maintaining their own traditional code, are loath to put this code forward as a model for others. 

Charles Murray believes that the elite is as dysfunctional in its way as the lower class is in its way. Individually, its members are successful, but they have abandoned their responsibility to set and promulgate standards.

A number of attempts have been made to address the problem of fragmented families. In 2002, the Federal government initiated three sophisticated experiments designed to improve the relationships of unmarried low-income couples who had a baby. Without going into details, I will simply say that an evaluation by a Policy Research organization found that the programs showed no improvement in family structure. Of course a variety of programs can or may be tried. Mitch Pearlstein, in his book, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline, examines many of these efforts. He concludes that the most successful attempts are paternalistic or religious. He quotes the principal of a Catholic elementary school who said her school’s mission was “To manifest God’s love to every child.”

We need a new Great Awakening, a spiritual awakening that will inspire the upper and lower class alike to return to the traditional values of marriage, faith, industriousness, and honesty. To the extent this happens, we can realize the blessings described by William Bennett, in his book The Broken Hearth:

The blessings that come to us through marriage and parenthood—I speak here of the deepest kind of human fulfillment—are immeasurable and irreplaceable and…incomparable. We live in an age in which we are continually being torn away from that which is priceless and enduring. This means that ours is the task of reminding ourselves, and each other, not only of what we have lost but of what, when it comes to marriage and the family, is still ours to regain.

Let us not despair. The Urantia Book tells us that “The family occupied the very center of Jesus’ philosophy of life—here and hereafter.” And on the last page of the Book, we are told, “Be not discouraged; human evolution is still in progress, and the revelation of God to the world, in and through Jesus shall not fail.”


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