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Why We Fight for Traditional Family Values

Wednesday, 04 May 2005 12:00 AM

The co-authors of the Manifesto are Dr. Allan C. Carlson and Paul T. Mero. Carlson, president of the Howard Center, founded the Center's World Congress of Families, which hosts an annual international meeting for pro-family leaders. Mero is president of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank in Utah.

Carlson and Mero maintain that a young man and woman considering marriage must have "clear principles, open goals, and a firm course of action" that sustain a relationship. Their manifesto encourages [traditional] family life, in which generation after generation honors the values of their ancestors.

They wrote that husband and wife enter into a marriage "built on fidelity, mutual duty, and respect" and "become as their Creator intended, a being complete."

A nation of strong families is one whose citizens possess virtue and have ordered liberty. In decades past [traditional] families dealt with job losses, the painful loss of a child at birth, disagreements about child-rearing or household management. They believed marriage was expected to last into their senior years and that a strong marriage sustained the couple in bad times and in good times.

Changing economy, technology and powerful state (government) have altered the conditions under which [traditional] families flourished.

Many couples whose marriages were damaged by infidelity, before the 1970s and before no-fault divorce, remained married knowing that infidelity could bring societal repercussions. They knew infidelity was a mistake not to be repeated. Carlson and Mero noted that the French Revolution could not seriously damage the concept of the [traditional] family.

Over time, "new ideas" in a changing society, including the anti-family ideologies of Communism and Fascism, caused the [traditional] family, particularly marriage and fidelity, to suffer. Family values diminished more in the United States with the rise of radical feminism and the sexual revolution of the 1970s that balked at enduring commitment.

Carlson and Mero write that by 1980 the [traditional] family was endangered and that "Almost everywhere, abortion on demand reinforced state campaigns to discourage marriage and reduce family size. ... [W]elfare laws weakened the very foundation of social order. The number of divorces soared. ... ‘[G]ender equality' destroyed family-wage systems; the real wages of fathers fell sharply; young mothers returned to [work] with their diminishing number of children turned over to ... day care. ... Homosexuality gained status as a legitimate ‘sexual preference.' Social Security systems came to favor childlessness and to penalize larger families. Tax systems now punished childbearing within marriage, while welfare states rewarded unwed motherhood. ..."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a study, "Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the United States: Data From the National Survey of Family Growth," which sampled data from 1995 interviews with nearly 11,000 women ranging between 15 and 44 years of age.

The study reported that the probability of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within five years was 20 percent, and of that marriage being "disrupted" after ten years was 33 percent. The study also stated that 50 percent of couples who shunned marriage and cohabited broke up within five years, and that 62 percent of that same group broke up within 10 years.

Dr. Wilfred McClay, a history professor at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and author of "The Masterless Self: Self and Society in Modern America," explains that our true problem "is not serial divorce, or gay marriage, or widespread elective childlessness, or the general disregard for the lives of the very young and very old. Those are only symptoms. The deepest problem is the loss of a generally shared vision, firmly grounded in nature, of what the family is, and why our destiny as individuals and as a society is inseparable from its proper flourishing. None of the other things would be happening if our vision of the family itself were not so confused and wavering."

Lost in the controversy over issues such as homosexuality and no-fault divorce is why marriage matters. Those who truly believe in marriage and family are forced to criticize the threats to the most basic social institution. Carlson and Mero remind us what we support. Their booklet challenges us to put our best foot forward as we ready for the difficult battles that lie ahead – preservation of [traditional] marriage and recognition that human life is given by God, not by scientists and cloning.

The Manifesto, expectedly, has been endorsed by religious and pro-family leaders, including my comrades in arms Dr. Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly, but it also has drawn support from unexpected sources. The New America Foundation is a more liberal think tank: One of its senior fellows, Phillip Longman, asserted:

"In every developed nation of the world, low birthrates are leading to rapid population aging and often to steep population loss. On current trends, secular societies that don't embrace the pro-natal, pro-family values championed by this Manifesto will fade away, while societies that learn how to embrace the [traditional] fertility of the [traditional] family will inherit the Earth."

Carlson and Mero have provided a philosophical playbook suggesting thoughts and words to help us meet the opposition with the best ammunition, which is our beliefs served straight-up and expressed in a positive, unapologetic manner. We in the pro-family movement have been forced under circumstances to go on the defensive, sometimes forgetting the best and most important parts of our philosophy and beliefs.

That it is not enough simply to be caught up in the politics of the moment, usually opposing the policies advocated by our opponents, is an important message conveyed by the Manifesto. We must remind a society conditioned by the social liberalism and anti-family forces just what we advocate. Carlson and Mero have provided a useful, necessary reminder not only of what we fight for but why.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.

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The co-authors of the Manifesto are Dr. Allan C. Carlson and Paul T. Mero. Carlson, president of the Howard Center, founded the Center's World Congress of Families, which hosts an annual international meeting for pro-family leaders. Mero is president of the Sutherland...
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