Carolyn Moynihan

Shape or be shaped: Christians in an era of marriage decline

Carolyn Moynihan
By Carolyn Moynihan
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February 6, 2013 (Mercatornet.com) - Christians throughout the West are dismayed at plummeting church attendance figures. They blame video games, or left-wing teachers, or Richard Dawkins. But perhaps the real answer is closer to home -- their own families.

Divorce, single motherhood and cohabitation have been destabilising family life in America and other developed countries for decades. About one million children in the US each year experience the divorce of their parents, and more than half the children born to women under 30 are now born outside marriage. Reproductive technologies are also adding ambiguity -- and potential fault lines -- to family relationships.

Christians as a whole seem as likely as the average American to be caught up in these trends. At the same time religious practice and church affiliation are declining. It seems obvious that these twin crises of marriage and faith are related, but what are the dynamics? Did religion decline and then marriage, or did marriage decline and then religious practice? There is research that points both ways.

Without attempting to settle this question a new report from family scholars at the Institute for American Values investigates one way in which fragmentation of the family impacts on the individual believer and therefore on churches. The report, Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith? focuses on the religious and spiritual lives of young adults who experienced the divorce of their parents.

Reviewing a raft of studies on the subject, co-authors Elizabeth Marquardt, Amy Zietlow and Charles E Stokes conclude that, compared to those who grew up in intact families, these young people on the whole feel less religious and are less likely to be practising a faith on a regular basis. Specifically:

Two-thirds of young adults who grew up in married parent families, compared to just over half of children of divorce, say they are very or fairly religious.

More than a third of people from married parent families currently attend religious services almost every week, compared to just a quarter of people from divorced families.

This highlights a very significant fact: as in all other areas of life, parents play a key role in their children’s spiritual formation and religious practice. Normally, they are the ones who take them to church, teach them their prayers, talk to them about God and answer their questions about matters of faith. Their loving care makes intelligible the belief that God is a father (the Father) and also like a mother, fostering the child’s trust in God and acceptance of his will as taught systematically by the church. Studies show that the greatest predictor of the religious lives of youth is the religious lives of their parents.

When this “domestic church” is ruptured by divorce it can therefore undermine a child’s whole religious life. For one thing, many parents stop attending church. Children of divorce are less likely than those from intact families to report that their mother encouraged them to practice their faith (about half compared with four-fifths), and even less likely (about one-third compared to two-thirds) to report this of their fathers. This does not seem surprising given that children generally live with their mother post-divorce, and also given the bitterness of many fathers over access arrangements. Still, as in other areas of life, loss of dad’s input leaves an unfillable gap in children’s lives.

And lest anyone think that the amicable divorce, in which both parents stay involved in the child’s life and minimise their conflict with each other, would be less disruptive to a child’s faith, the report finds this is not generally the case. In one study the grown children of “good divorces” often compared poorly with those who grew up with unhappily married parents. And those raised in happy, intact marriages were more than twice as likely to attend religious services compared to those from low-conflict divorces.

On the positive side, some individuals from divorced families eventually become much more religious. The report notes that “as young adults, children of divorce are surprisingly likely to feel that they are more religious now than their parents ever were.” However, the note of scepticism towards parents here indicates a reason that young adults from divorced families are more inclined to reject the church (or other religious community) of their childhood, either switching to another or describing themselves as “spiritual but not religious”.

The church response

The question begging to be answered at this point is how faith communities can prevent some of personal suffering, social chaos and haemorrhaging from their own ranks that comes from the disintegration of marriages and the increase in unstable cohabiting relationships. This is not, however, a question that the Shaping Faith report itself gives us a lot of help with. Its chief concern is pastoral responses to children of divorce and other broken families.

In this respect alone much ground has already been lost. In a national US study, of those young adults who regularly attended a church or synagogue at the time of their parents’ divorce, two-thirds said that no one -- neither from the clergy nor the congregation -- reached out to them, while only a quarter remembered receiving that kind of help.

Also, the report notes that where the underlying ideal of marriage presented to a congregation is the “companionate” or “soul mate” model (as opposed to the institutional or child-centred model) the strong focus on the couple relationship can make it more difficult to see the family as part of a religious community, and for couples to take their troubles to the pastor. More about this important subject later.

In contrast to the neglect of young people from broken families, a paper by Evangelical Lutheran pastor Amy Zietlow, which forms the second part of Shaping Faith, describes how local congregations can become places of refuge, nurture and healing for them. Pastors and youth leaders should work harder on providing faith role models. They should listen to those affected by divorce and provide an environment where they can question and search as they come to terms with what has happened. The church (building) itself can provide a “sanctuary” and place of hospitality for young people divided between “mum’s house” and “dad’s house”. These are all good, practical suggestions.

It is not until the very end of the report, however, that the all-important question of preventing divorce (and other forms of family breakdown) is addressed head-on. A final recommendation notes:

"One of the most profound ways that we can support children of divorce is by helping there to be fewer children of divorce in the first place. It is more important than ever for churches to reflect deeply on their role as custodians of the marriage tradition, and to engage actively in preparing and strengthening congregants and people in the community to have healthy, lasting marriages."

How? Well, a little agreement among churches on what the marriage tradition is would be a good start.

Unfortunately, the Institute for American Values itself is currently sowing confusion about that tradition by leading a campaign to embrace same-sex marriage as part of the solution to marriage decline. They are proposing as a remedy the very thing that at least some churches and other marriage advocates see as fatal to the institution and a symptom of what is already wrong with it.

The case for gay marriage rests largely on the assumption that marriage is a committed romantic relationship between two people to which sexual intercourse of a procreative character (if not outcome) is incidental rather than of the essence. In other words, it depends for its credibility on the soul-mate ideal which has supplanted the child-centred, institutional ideal of marriage -- and in doing so has contributed massively to decline of marriage in the West.

This is because the soul-mate marriage, with its undergirding of equal gender roles and economic contributions and its carefully planned births, seems to work for upscale Americans but has proved unattractive to or at least unattainable by people down the socio-economic ladder. The IAV itself in its manifesto for a “new conversation about marriage”, as it does in the Shaping Faith report, identifies “soul-mate issues” as one of the problems besetting marriage, overlooking the fact that gay marriage would institutionalise this very model.

The real solution: marrying romance and children

What is really needed, as family law professor Helen Alvare indicates in a response to Shaping Faith, is a new conversation about healing another kind of divorce -- that between the romantic couple and the children they are capable of generating.

It’s too late to begin such a conversation when a couple is about to marry. By that time (and given historically high ages at first marriage in the U.S.), men and women in the United States have been instructed over and over and over again that sex is one thing and children are entirely another…

Without “re-orienting” (early and often) what is most celebrated in American culture about what men and women do together (sex, romantic love) -- away from the couple themselves and their individual and joint happiness -- how are we to get to the place where children’s interests are privileged? In the earliest discussions of sex and life skills and vocations, then, schools and churches and families need to link the relationships between men and women to children.

Alongside state and federal governments, churches have a massive role to play in this mission, Alvare, a Catholic, observes. She adds, “It is a bit shocking, in fact, they have not played it to the hilt by this time in our nation’s marriage crisis.”

In another response economics professor Catherine Pakaluk, also a Catholic, stresses the need for churches and pastors to exercise their teaching prerogative about marriage with far greater clarity and energy. If they want to stop the damage that family breakdown is doing to individuals and the church, and start making an impact on family formation, they need to exercise “visionary leadership on basic moral teaching,” she says.

With IAV’s efforts to get conservatives and churches to embrace gay marriage as part of the solution to the decline of marriage, the task of achieving clarity on basic moral issues just got more complicated for the Christian community as a whole. Those most likely to suffer the ill effects are, again, the children.

Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License.

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Fr. Mark Hodges

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NY court lets woman refuse vaccine made with aborted baby tissue

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

NEW YORK, September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An Orthodox Christian woman has won the right to refuse a vaccine developed using aborted babies' tissue, based on her religious beliefs.

The vaccine is for measles/mumps/rubella and is required by New York City law for all schoolchildren. It was developed from fetal tissue procured from abortions, hence the moral dilemma for practicing Christians.

The woman, who remains anonymous, said her Christian beliefs against abortion compel her to have nothing to do with vaccines made using aborted fetal tissue.

"Abortion is clearly a mortal sin and is [an] abhorrent act to any Christian," the New York mom said in her petition for exemption, according to the New York Post. "The vaccine manufacturers' use of aborted fetal cells in its products and research means that I cannot associate with them or support them financially (by buying their products), for such support would make me complicit to their sin."

New York State Department of Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia concluded in the woman's favor, explaining, "The weight of the evidence supports petitioner's contentions that her opposition to the MMR vaccine stems from sincerely held religious beliefs."

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Christianity has always opposed abortion, from the time of the New Testament.  The Bible teaches that from conception, the womb holds a human person, calling pregnancy "to be with child" (Isaiah 7:14). Many biblical individuals are explicitly described as called or known from the womb, such as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-5), Isaiah (Isaiah 44:2;  49:1), Job (Job 10:8-12), Paul (Gal. 1:15), and John the Baptist (Lk. 1:15). The New Testament also condemns abortifacients (Galatians 5:20;  Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, 22:15).

Other early Church documents condemning abortion include the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Apocalypse of Peter, St. Athenagoras's writings, the letters of St. Clement of Alexandria, the Apostolic Constitutions, Tertullian, Hippolytus's Apostolic Traditions. Additionally, every early Church council says likewise. 

Every ancient Christian leader unequivocally wrote that abortion, without exception, is against Christian belief and practice. Those who wrote extensively on the topic include St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine, St. John the Faster, and the sixth worldwide Great Ecumenical Council (691).

This conviction continues to the present day. The Congress of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America stated, "The Orthodox Church has a definite, formal, and intended attitude toward abortion. It condemns all procedures purporting to abort the embryo or fetus, whether by surgical or medical means. The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder, that is, the premeditated termination of the life of a human being.  Decisions of the Supreme Court and state legislatures by which abortion is allowed, with or without restrictions, should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life."

Thus, New York admitted that the woman's beliefs were in line with her religion.  Nevertheless, pro-abortionists say the First Amendment's assurance of the free exercise of religion should not include parents choosing whether to vaccinate their children.

Pro-abortionists sharply criticized the decision. "If we allow people to opt-out of vaccination, it puts other people's children at risk," says Sharon Levin of the pro-abortion National Women's Law Center.  "I think this decision is just one can in a crate of a can of worms that have been opened since the Hobby Lobby decision."

Levin was referring to Hobby Lobby's legal attempt to opt out of Obamacare's mandatory abortion/sterilization/contraception coverage, which violated the family-owned and operated corporation's religious convictions.

Yahoo Health writer Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reports that undercover Planned Parenthood videos "have pushed questions regarding fetal tissue-based biomedical research to the forefront."

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore / Flickr
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‘It’s absurd’: Rand Paul blasts Kim Davis’ jailing over gay ‘marriage’

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By Ben Johnson

ASHLAND, KY, September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has been arrested and taken to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples this afternoon. After repeatedly refusing to give such a license to gays and lesbians, a federal judge found her in contempt of court and sentenced her to jail time rather than assessing a fine. 

As she was escorted out of the courtroom to jail, homosexuals began chanting, "Love won! Love won!" 

As the scene played out, her U.S. senator, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul, said the decision was unwarranted, violated religious liberty, and would further polarize the country on the issue of same-sex "marriage."

"I think it's absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty," Sen. Paul, R-KY, told CNN. "If you want to convince people that same-sex 'marriage' is something that's acceptable I would say try to persuade people" instead of using state force.

He also warned such heavy-handed tactics would backfire on LGBT activists. "If we're going to use the federal government, and we're going to get involved in every state and locality, you know what's going to happen? It's going to harden people's resolve on this issue," Paul added. "There's going to be no open-mindedness on this."

"I think it's a real mistake to be doing this," he said.

He said if state force continued to be exerted against Christian believers, "I think what's going to happen as a result of this is states and localities are just going to opt out of the marriage business completely."  

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning - a George W. Bush appointee and the son of former moderate Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky - had ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples but was repeatedly rebuffed.

"The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order," Judge Bunning said in issuing the arrest order. "If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that's what potentially causes problems."

Bunning ordered Davis imprisoned, rather than imposing a fine, because he said her fellow believers would take up a collection and pay her fine. 

Similar tactics were applied when Christians who refused to participate in same-sex "marriages" tried to raise funds via crowdfunding platforms.

Paul's rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination - Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio - have also voiced their support for the now-incarcerated Davis. 

"We should seek a balance between government's responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions," Rubio said yesterday. "There should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office."

But her opponents say they demand nothing unreasonable of her. ACLU attorney Heather Weaver said, "Its not making someone a martyr to ask someone to do their job and follow the law."

Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina have agreed that clerks who have deeply held religious beliefs must enforce the law. Christie underscored his resistance to finding any accommodation for public officials.

The prospect of jail does not frighten Davis, a born again Christian, who says iron bars cannot separate her from the Savior Who dwells in her heart, nor does prison compare to the punishment that she believes awaits should she participate in legitimizing sin.

"I've weighed the cost and I'm prepared to go to jail," Davis told Fox News yesterday. "This is a Heaven-or-Hell issue for me and for every other Christian that believes. This is a fight worth fighting."

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Hundreds of thousands of people join the 'Manif pour tous' march in Paris supporting natural family in 2014.
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Alarmed report details Sexual Left’s agenda to defeat surging European family movement

Gabriele Kuby
By Gabriele Kuby

September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The world-wide operating Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is the intellectual activist centre of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) which presently governs Germany in a coalition with the Christian Democratic Party under Chancellor Angela Merkel. As their publications and conferences reflect, the FES pushes for same-sex “marriage,“ reproductive rights, biotechnology, sexual diversity, gender equality, and sexual education. It also publishes reports with the intention of “naming and shaming” individuals, organizations, parties, and networks which work on behalf of life and the family.

The FES’s latest publication takes an international approach, describing anti-gender activists and actions in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Titled Gender as Symbolic Glue: The position and role of conservative and far-right parties in the anti-gender mobilizations in Europethe report was published by something called the Foundation for European Progressive Studies – “with the financial support of the European Parliament” and the Budapest branch of the FES.

The authors are alarmed over the growing resistance to ‘gender politics’ seen at the grass-roots level (e.g. La Manif pour tous movement in France and Demo für alle in Germany) and expressed in referendums held in several countries across Europe. In addition, they cite the opposition of political parties at the local and European levels, and the ‘anti-gender’ declarations of Bishop’s Conferences. What is seen as a dangerous development by the sexual left is really a testimony to the success of the pro-life and pro-family movement in Europe. The authors say:

Anti-gender movements want to claim that gender equality is an ‘ideology’, and introduce the misleading terms ‘gender ideology’ or ‘gender theory’ which distort the achievements of gender equality … This phenomenon has negative consequences for the legislation on gender equality.

The Symbolic Glue report then provides “policy recommendations for the progressive side to stand up against fundamentalist political activism.”

The individual country reports on the “reactionary backlash” against gender politics in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia give a good overview of the situation in each country and the positions of the conservative and right-wing parties. In contrast to previous publications from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which tried to defame and stigmatize conservative individuals as right-wing radicals, bigots, and family-fundamentalists, the Symbolic Glue report largely refrains from such slanderous language. In fact, the authors sound worried that conservative activists are acquiring dominance in public debates, and are influencing party politics and legislation by: 

  • coining the terms “gender-ideology” and “genderism”;
  • giving “scientific” evidence against “gender ideology”;
  • mobilizing at the grass-roots level through “fear-managing language”;
  • making use of “authoritarian themes” such as the polemic against the French schoolbook Tous à poil (All naked);
  • creating “moral panic” that “allows socialist officials to be accused of … jeopardising the future of society”;
  • re-articulating “parent-power” or parental involvement in “promoting the parents as actors of the restoration of authority and traditional values at school”;
  • the “gradual subordination of educational institutions to Christian conservative worldview, carried out by local authorities in cooperation with the Catholic Church and religion-based organisations”;
  • utilizing “hate-speech towards Gender Studies” (as an academic subject) and relying on “freedom fighter rhetoric”;
  • pointing to the EU as a “cultural coloniser”;
  • leading successful constitutional referendums for defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Symbolic Glue also analyses the deficiencies of the sexual left. It is difficult to say whether this self-critical stance is a tactical device to arouse sympathy and motivate people to engage in the anti-anti-gender battle, or whether it is really dawning on the authors that anti-gender movements can have “grave consequences not only to women’s and LGBT rights but to the emancipatory promise of the Left altogether.”

The sexual left, according to the authors’ own evaluation, seems to be missing ‘symbolic glue’. They see:

  • “difficulties of building an ideological response to conservatives”;
  • “lack of public campaign against the anti-gender discourse”;
  • “the inability to articulate a progressive agenda in the concrete experience of “ordinary people”;
  • the counter-reactions of leftist parties to the anti-gender mobilisation being “one step behind those of extra-parliamentary forces”.

The ultimate intention of the authors is to cure “progressives” of these deficiencies. But it is good that they also let conservatives know how they want to achieve this. 

Indeed, it is difficult to convince “ordinary people” of the notion of gender theory, and that the traditional identity of man and woman are restrictions on human freedom that must be overcome by voluntarily choosing one’s gender identity according to one’s feelings. Since the authors supply no definition for the concept of gender identity, we have to refer to the Preamble of The Yogyakarta Principlessince it is one of the rare places where a definition is given:

‘Gender identity’ … [refers] to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

The solution to the incompatibility of gender theory with common sense – rooted in nature – is apparently to drop the concept of gender entirely. "Using the concept of gender as a technical category in the long run can be more self-destructive than useful while encountering this new political challenge." The progressives intend to move away from a “framework of identity politics” and reclaim the “real leftist values, using the language of solidarity” by “creating a counter-language, which reflects the emotional-fear language of the rightists.” Furthermore, “Instead of putting the emphasis on ‘human nature’ or ‘traditional values’, progressive actors have to take advantage of other aspects of ‘common sense’:  us/them distribution of power and wealth. Defining political antagonism is a pathway to hegemony.” The authors recognize that the opposition is composed of hard to control grass-roots movements and, therefore, advise progressive actors and left-wing parties to “strongly connect to grassroots [sic] organisations, local and individual initiatives.”

Furthermore, the public is to be provided “with concrete information about gender studies and policies through academic conferences, articles and statements from gender experts.” But in addition to conferences and a public dialogue between feminists and Catholics in order to “ridicule the anti-gender campaign”, an “e-learning course on … gender equality”, developed in Slovakia, is recommended as “best practice”, targeting administration staff, students, and the general public.

The authors of the Symbolic Glue report also sound somewhat startled to see a “paradigm change in science as we know it.” They describe the science they know as the “post-modern turn of modernity … where science became a moral and normative category acknowledging the positionality of the knower. This approach also questions the subject-object division and brings in new symbols, new myths and redefinitions.”

It is worth noting that with the exception of Andrea Petö who wrote the Epilogue, the report’s authors are all young women who belong to the “millennial” generation born around 1980. Several of them are in the process of obtaining a Ph.D., so their academic formation took place during the last ten years. This is precisely the period during which “gender studies” was established as an academic subject at the universities. (In German-speaking countries there are more than 200 professors for “gender” or “queer studies”, nearly all of them women.) “Gender studies” was and is a wide open door for female careers and a booming market for jobs.

These young women only know a “science” which is subordinated to the aim of effecting a political change in society – and academics is seen as an instrument for serving the cause of feminist and LGBT-interests. This so-called “science” has completely severed the academic commitment to the search for truth – which is – or was – the moving force behind the unfolding of European culture.

In general, Gender as symbolic glue, which was published by a foundation with a certain scientific claim, does not show the slightest intention of dealing with arguments on their merit; it just wants to pillory the enemy. Twenty-three individuals – perceived as enemies of the sexual left – are presented in an “Index” at the end of the book. (Wasn’t there an aversion to Catholic “indices” among enlightened liberals?)

In the end, the report says more about the weaknesses of the gender identity movement than about its opponents. The young authors must feel that their ‘intellectual house’ is built on sand, otherwise they wouldn’t express such worried dismay over the opposition they are facing. After all, international institutions like the UN and the EU – with their sub-agencies like the Fundamental Rights Agency and European Institute for Gender Equality – and national governments, with the superpower U.S. leading the way, as well as global corporations like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, and global NGOs like IPPF and ILGA, to name but a few, all with billions of dollars at their disposal, are on the side of the gender identity activists in this cultural war.

So why are these young women worried about the opposition of twenty-three people and a few comparatively tiny organisations with extremely small budgets? The answer is simple: Because they feel that the truth is on their side.

Gabriele Kuby is a sociologist, international speaker, and author of Die Gender-Revolution – Relativismus in Aktion, 2006, and Die globale sexuelle Revolution – Zerstörung der Freiheit im Namen der Freiheit, 2012. Both books have been translated into several languages and are referred to in the Symbolic Glue report. Die globale sexuelle Revolution will be published in the U.S. by Angelico Press in the fall of 2015.

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