I KNOW this is sensitive ground and most people avoid commenting on, but I think it is too important to the world and our own families and society to just brush it aside as another feature of a failed society.
Society in the West has become increasingly intolerant of divergent views on this issue, but it is just too important to ignore or not to take a position on the question of the role of the family in society.
I am a Christian and in my reading of the Bible, I think it makes it clear from the very beginning, that the nuclear family — a husband and wife and their children — is not a human concept, it is a part of creation and is a fundamental relationship: “A man will leave his parents and will marry a woman and they shall become one flesh.”
It’s more than a contract, it’s a binding lifelong covenant. It is in every way the foundation of a stable and progressive society.
Today, the attack on the family in the West has reached epidemic proportions as young people are being raised in single parent families and do not have any clue of what a stable family looks like. They enter relationships without any sort of legal or social binding and even children might be a complication to be avoided. Separation is easy and consensual, divorce is more common than the opposite. The question we all must answer is: So what?
I am 83 years old and just celebrated 60 years of marriage to one woman whom I met in 1960. We have two children and five grandchildren. What astonishes me is that we are such an exception in this new world. What has my personal journey through life taught me about the importance of family? There are many lessons.
First, ours was a straightforward courtship, it lasted three years and when we got married, neither of us had any previous sexual experience. In the early years this was a learning experience for both of us, monogamous as it should be, what I can guarantee every human being on the planet, is that sex inside marriage is better, more satisfying and unifying than anything else. This view is fully supported by every study that has been made of this aspect of human activity.
The other aspect of this issue is that we have discovered that the early emphasis on sex was largely driven by our hormones. Once we went through that time in our lives when hormone production has diminished or even stopped, the sex drive went with it. It is just hormones, take them out of the equation and it has no significance, so why the total predominance of this aspect in life itself. But it is part of creation and a gift to every young couple, not to waste it on superficial or temporary relationships.
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Then there is the aspect that every marriage is a contract between families. Taking a wife means that you take on her family and she takes on yours, with all its idiosyncrasies and shortcomings. In Indian society this is fundamental and in Africa, every marriage is characterised by lengthy and detailed negotiations between the two families, presided over by a third party. The payment of a bride price seals the relationship, not only between the couple but both families and the families take on responsibility for the couple and their children when they come along.
This aspect of society in poor countries provides the only social security network that works. In our world the extended family is a critical part of everyday life and I know individuals who sacrifice a great deal to support their wider family. Every Zimbabwean has the right to walk up to a relative’s home and receive sanctuary and provision. It has saved millions from an early death, nothing like this exists in the West. Stable families are the only solution.
And then there is the children, strange that this aspect of real life in the West seems to receive little or no attention. Instead, the roar of public opinion is to permit women to “control their own bodies” with abortion on demand. Sex of every description is not only permitted but lauded and paraded. Procreation is the sole purpose of intercourse between a man and a woman. If you do not want that then contraception is the answer — manage your sexuality within marriage. Do you really think that the pleasure that this gives to both parties is not part of creation, a gift by the creator? What other explanation is even possible.
The primary function of a marriage is to produce children and raise them in a secure and loving environment. I have worked with young people all my life. When I was in my 20s and 30s we were in the Scripture Union and Youth for Christ group as well as a stint with a church youth group we called “Pals”.
In all my years working with hundreds of children, I found that children from broken families, without exception, were badly injured. They underperformed, they had psychological problems, problems of self-worth and identity.
If you think that is not true, the Soviet Union experimented with taking children away from their homes and raising them in State-run institutions as new socialist cadres. When these thousands of young adults entered society they found that they were poorly prepared for life and work. They made poor leaders and lousy soldiers. The experiment was abandoned and the Soviets adopted the family as the best place to raise children, they made divorce very difficult to get. The Chinese have done the same, for the same reason.
But it is not just the children who suffer. Have you ever watched a father with his 12-year-old daughter, their mutual affection change both their lives? Dad is middle-aged and losing his hair and his young lady thinks he is the most important man in her world. He is the only male adult she can experiment with, they snuggle and cuddle and watch television together. Girls who are raised in a single parent family without a dad, will very seldom have a happy relationship with a man in their own life.
If you want to know how important father and mother are to the children, go to school sports events and watch the interchange — good families are there to shout and cheer. You can see how important it is to children on the field, even if they come last. I remember watching George Bush senior accept the nomination of the Republican Party at a convention in the United States. As he stood on the platform, a little boy, a grandchild, sidled up to him and took his hand. He was a child with a handicap, but showed no shyness or any sign that he was different. Because of that little boy Bush got my vote, a person who can earn that respect is a great guy.
Now we have the Anglican Church saying it is OK to bless same sex marriages. We in Africa have rejected that and are going to split the church, we are in the majority anyway. But what do they think they are doing? Giving credence and recognition to the crazy view that a man can become a woman or vice-versa is ridiculous. Any medical doctor or scientist will affirm that this is not possible, but the world continues to demand that we recognise what is clearly a misnomer. Schools are being asked to allow same toilets to be available to boys and girls and there are now 25 definitions of gender on an immigration form in the United Kingdom. Have we gone mad?
Every human being on earth has to explain to themselves how this small blue planet came into being in the vast expanse of space. How did life come into being? How does a tiny blob of sperm and a tiny human egg join forces and immediately come to life, everyone is unique in every way. How did the flowers come to be and why, just to give us an example of beauty? Why is Christianity the only religion that sings, in that regard what is music or art? If we cannot answer those fundamental questions then we have to accept that maybe the Bible is right and if that is so then there are fundamentals and we are better off living in concert with these.
Eddie Cross is an economist and former Bulawayo South legislator. He writes here in his personal capacity.