Re-valu-ing the Family Part Three: Family as the “CRUX” (continued)
by Richard and Linda Eyre

The family is the nucleus, like the center of an atom or the core of a tree, making everything else possible, providing the building blocks of procreation and nurturing from which all else is formed.

Some see the world geographically — continents and countries, latitude and locations. Others see it politically — groups and governments, ideas and ideologies. Still others see it economically — haves and have nots, producers and consumers.

We see the world concentrically, centering with the most personal and radiating out to the most societal. The crux or core is the family, surrounded by the concentric encircling rings of the voluntary, private, and public sectors.

The family is the nucleus, like the center of an atom or the core of a tree, making everything else possible, providing the building blocks of procreation and nurturing from which all else is formed. The voluntary or community sector or “second ring” includes neighborhoods, churches, clubs, and all other elective elements that encompass and link families. The private or business sector or “third ring” is the economy, the goods and services and enterprises that both sustain us and employ us. The public “fourth ring” is government on all levels — all that our taxes pay for.

In an ideal society, the outer three rings protect, support, and supplement the core of families. In our current situation they squeeze it, supplant and substitute for it, and sometimes undermine and destroy it.

D’Toqueville said, “If America is ever destroyed, it will be destroyed from within.” The warning is simple and frightening but by no means new: America’s most basic institution, the family, is breaking down. This breakdown is the direct cause of steep increases in social problems: crime, violence, gangs, teen pregnancy, drugs, poverty, spouse abuse, child abuse, suicide, depression, homelessness, bankruptcies, latchkey kids, juvenile delinquency, school dropout and declining test scores, etc.

If you doubt that thesis — if you’re unconvinced that American families are breaking down as never before and that our burgeoning social problems are the direct result — we will seek to convince you of the cause and the effect and the connections between them.

If you already believe the thesis (or once you do), we will try to explain why it is happening and expose the “culprits” of misdirected larger institutions and commonly accepted false paradigms. It is not until we understand what is happening and know who to blame that we can become part of the solution. Once we grasp why things are the way they are and why it is critical that we change . . . we will each find our individual ways to do so.

This generation — our generation — those who are now raising children, running companies, creating media, making laws, teaching, writing, voting, consuming — the adults of this world as it learns to start each new year with a “2” — we are this nation’s last chance. If we continue to ignore (or take an aspirin for) the symptoms and if we fail to understand or combat the cause, the America we have known will not exist for our children. But if we recognize and restore priorities of families and values, we can rescue our own happiness even as we turn aside the forces that would destroy our children’s future.

The famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead, said: “People keep trying other things . . . and returning to the family.” When (and where) families are valued and prioritized, societies have stability and safety, and the larger institutions of the private, public, and voluntary sectors have vitality and values. These larger institutions may be linked by common interests, politics, economics, or even noble purpose; but families are linked by genetics and by physical and spiritual unions and commitments.

If we define “decline” as diminishing priority, commitment, and values, then the family has declined more steeply over the past three or four decades than at any other time in history. But today, there are signs of family resurgence — and just in time, because the family is America’s last, best hope. We are beginning to recognize the social and personal prices we pay when families fail. We are waking up to the reality that the happiness we all seek is more dependent on family relationships than on any other factor.

Never has there been a time with more rich potential for the flourishing of strong families . . . because we are, today, more capable of choosing the priorities and the places where we will focus our efforts and our energy. Yet the paradigms of materialism, media, and mixed messages blow us off course and spin us in currents of missed opportunities and ultimately meaningless pursuits.

But the “macro” of America’s survival is not the chief motivation for reprioritizing the family; rather it is the “micro” of personal joy. Joy is best defined not simply as happiness, but as the deepest experiences and feelings of life — as the very purpose of mortality — having as much to do with pain as with pleasure. Families are the epicenter of emotional experience, proving and allowing higher, more selfless levels of love, and deeper, more teaching levels of pain. We need our children as much as they need us. We are completed by them. They are our most lasting joy source. They should be our most welcome burden.

This earth, and our lives upon it, are about families. In being both children and parents as well as brothers and sisters, we learn life’s most valuable lessons, feel life’s deepest emotions, and are given life’s richest joys.

Today’s core challenge is not to make the family more like the world, it is to make the world more like a family. Every social problem of this country can be solved and every value of this country can be saved . . . one family at a time. The alternative is the continuing escalation of every conceivable “social problem” . . . those things that scripture calls the curse.

In next week’s installment, we will discuss the curse.


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