Christmas has always been a season of Hope, especially for children and most especially for young children. We invest so much in our children, trying to make them happy, secure and successful. But new statistics have shown how our secular lifestyles are threatening their future, the future of society.
As Christians we are not supposed to lose sight of the larger picture. How is it then that we have so easily swept the problems associated with broken marriages under the rug?
For years we have grown accustomed to consider Consequences rather than Cause and have allowed our society to indulge itself in self satisfying righteousness.
As a nation we have systematically excluded God from the center of our lives, gradually losing focus of him and his plan. We are complicit in the slow erosion of our Faith, complacent in lifestyles that seem to reward our wants.
It is too easy to live in the now, believing that we can put out all the fires as they erupt – the little fires that do not interfere with our distracted happiness.
During this past Christmas, many noticed a change in the air, a renewed vigor that was unmistakable. It showed itself in an increase in our Christmas greeting, in a renewed recognition of the feast we celebrate.
There is Hope, like the first signs of spring, when the winter silver sun gradually gives way to warm and comforting rays. There is a palpable recognition of a renewed liberty that may free us from intellectual subjugation and political correctness.
Could this be an opportunity to examine the cause of our major problems in society – to exchange views with others and hopefully find cures?
God did not create us with a herd mentality like the animals. He designed us to be able to think for ourselves, with the help of His Holy Spirit. If it were otherwise he would not have chosen twelve very ordinary men as his Apostles.
Surely our primary objective in life has to be Salvation. If that is correct, then would not a Christian society support marriage? Is this not the teaching of Jesus? Is his narrow path not the easiest, most joyful in the long run?
Our future has always been invested in our children so maybe we should examine the environment that we have created for them.
We live in the richest country in the world, but have the highest debt rate for any developed country. We have the most expensive education and healthcare systems per head of population and the highest poverty rate, by far, of all first world countries, except Romania.
Meanwhile more and more of our children are growing up in a vacuum, offspring of single parent families that neither have the time, patience or resources to rear them.
In 1960 73% of all children were living in a family with two married parents in their first marriage. By 1980, 61% of children were living in this type of family, and today less than half. One third, over 15 million, of American children are living without a father. Five million more live without a mother. (US Census).
This lifestyle eventually results in severe and lasting consequences. In 2013 married couples with children earned an average income of $84,000, while single mothers averaged $26,000 with more than half living in extreme poverty at incomes below $9,900. Single parent and especially fatherless families have a major negative impact on the social and emotional development of children. They are much more likely to grow up suffering from juvenile delinquency and lower intellectual abilities. Poverty means they cannot afford clothes, shoes, cell phones, and other consumer goods that allow them status and dignity among their peers. It also means living in rundown neighborhoods with high crime rates, low-quality schools, and few community services. (Lifesite News, Single Mother Statistics – September 17, 2016)
Single parents find it difficult to function effectively. They are less emotionally supportive of their children, have fewer rules, dispense harsher discipline, are more inconsistent in dispensing discipline, provide less supervision, and engage in more conflict with their children.
In addition a child’s living arrangement changes with each adjustment in the relationship status of their parent. One study has found that over a three-year period, about 31% of children younger than 6 had experienced a major change in their household. The most recent data shows that 16% are living in what the Census Bureau terms “blended families” – a household with a step-parent, step-sibling or half-sibling. Living in a “reconstituted” family increases the risk of developing behavioral problems still further.
These children often suffer emotional problems such as anxiety or depression, and many have “conduct disorders” such as aggression. Losing contact with fathers is one of the most painful outcomes of divorce. (Martin Beckford, Telegraph, Social Affairs Correspondent and Paul R. Amato, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Demography, The Pennsylvania State University).
The future has no silver lining – without fundamental change. Children of single parents carry the same traits into their own parenthood, increasing their disposition to be inept parents likely to divorce.
Though the long-range consequences could have enormous implications, many liberal thinkers have ignored the causative factors. They direct public attention towards new social policies and divert funds to overcoming behavioral issues.
Feminists believe that conservative thought is an attack on the moral right of women to choose, pursue careers and raise children on their own. (The Consequences of Single Motherhood, Sara McClanahan, Summer 1994).
There is an explicit warning from God for those of us who ignore harming our children: Matthew 18:6: “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
On the other hand we are encouraged to protect our children: Matthew: 18:14: “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.” And to nourish them: Matthew 10:42: “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Jesus took every opportunity to show his love for children and promised us great rewards for looking after them: Luke 9:47-48.
The Bible tells us repeatedly in His Word how all children are a gift from God. Every single life, every single child, is a reward and blessing. Whether they’re bringing parents pride and joy, or whether they are teaching us how to be more patient and forgiving. Children are a gift from God and a source for the growth of His Kingdom here on Earth! (Bible study tools.com )
When I was researching this article I delved into early studies about primitive and aboriginal societies. Prior to the advent of civilization such societies were described in idyllic terms, with their demise blamed upon civilization’s constant thirst for land and resources.
Primitive people had no established marriage as all females had male partners and the children belonged to the tribe. This allowed death to occur without disturbing the welfare of the tribe – people were interchangeable.
More recent studies of the actual “lost tribes,” of the world in which we live, paint a less than idealistic picture. Primitive people live in constant fear of the elements, disease and natural dangers up to and including death by wild animals. Their lives are stressful in the extreme and old age does not exist.
It is easy to highlight the consequences of broken marriages, to plot the relentless pathway to self destruction. How are broken children supposed to form a successful cohesive society if they do not have the skills, character and discipline that they are supposed to develop in stable families?
We know that Jesus is the answer, but we have systematically been excluding him from the equation. There comes a time when we must stop to reflect upon our actions. Surely we have reached a Turning Point where we understand that we have to support marriage.
Could we take advantage of the current moment to initiate bold measures in support of marriage? It is imperative that all Catholic men and women realize the gravity of the situation and become motivated to attack the problem at the roots – our own marriages. None of us are immune, for we all have examples within our own families. We cannot do this on our own.
The papal exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a timely document in which Pope Francis recognizes and explains, in easily understood language, our current predicament. It is supposed to be read, especially by married couples, and those proposing marriage. It blends the full spectrum of human nature within marriage with the profound plan of God and joins both human and divine Love into a comprehensive, contemporary conjugal journey for life.
Pope Francis does not dwell upon the destruction caused by our secular influenced human nature, but upon the recognition that putting God at the center of our lives, from the beginning of our lives, releases us into a realm of Peace and love where we are free to flourish through the gifts of God’s abundant graces.
Amoris Laetitia urges Bishops and Pastors to develop the expertise and support programs required to accompany those considering marriage and married couples on their lifetime journeys. Amoris Laetitia could be the most important family reference manual for our future, for our salvation.