Tag archives: divorce

Churches Are Sticky”: How Believers Can Help to Strengthen and Save Marriages

by Daniel Hart

October 23, 2019

Although the divorce rate in the U.S. has declined over the last few years, the raw number of divorces that continue to take place in America is still disturbingly high—an average of well over 800,000 per year. As a result, over one million children suffer the effects of their parents’ divorce every year.

Let’s not gloss over these statistics. As Dr. Pat Fagan has written, “The marriage between a man and a woman is the single most important human relationship. Period.” When that relationship is severed, particularly when children are involved, the result is often catastrophic—not only for the husband, wife, and children, but for society at large.

In an extensive synthesis of the major research on divorce, the Marriage & Religion Research Institute (MARRI) found that “[d]ivorce detrimentally impacts individuals and society in numerous ways across all major institutions.” This impact includes:

  • Family: Divorce permanently weakens the family and the relationship between children and parents. It frequently leads to the development of destructive conflict management methods, diminished social competence, the early loss of virginity, diminished sense of masculinity or femininity, more trouble with dating, more cohabitation, greater likelihood of divorce, higher expectations of divorce later in life, and a decreased desire to have children.
  • Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
  • Education: Divorce diminishes children’s learning capacity and educational attainment.
  • The marketplace: Divorce reduces household income and deeply cuts individual earning capacity.
  • Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
  • Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.

What is most heartbreaking about divorce is how it affects children. Elizabeth Marquardt’s landmark book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce presents an intimate portrait of how profoundly divorce affects the children caught in its snares, not just in their childhood years but throughout their entire adult lives.

As believers, what can we do to change the culture of divorce in our country?

The Critical Role Churches Play in Decreasing Divorce

As reported by Christianity Today, something amazing happened in the Jacksonville, Florida area between 2016 and 2018. In a coordinated campaign that involved about 50 Protestant and Catholic churches and 40 nonprofit organizations in Duval County, over 58,000 people took part in a variety of marriage enrichment events and programs over the course of those three years.

The results were astonishing. A report done by the Institute for Family Studies found that “‘divorce fell about 21 percent more in Duval County’ than in comparable counties across the United States” during the time of the marriage campaign.

JP De Gance, the head of the campaign, pointed out that what was unique about it was how it combined the forces of both secular nonprofits and local churches, who all had the shared goal of reducing the number of divorces in the Jacksonville area, which had a higher divorce rate than other comparable metro areas around the country before the campaign began. In particular, De Gance noted the “sticky” nature of relationships within church ministry compared with secular organizations:

What we later realized is that churches are the best at strengthening marriages. And the reason, using secular social science arguments, is that churches are sticky in a way that nobody else is sticky. And when you show up to your local Boys and Girls Club, a secular NGO, there isn’t a deep membership who is passionate about forming personal relationships outside of the programs that exist there. But with churches, that’s a huge part of what they do. So, if you go to a ministry at a church, you’re going to meet somebody, and they might invite you over for dinner. You might be invited back to join one of their small groups. You might be invited back for a service. You’ve got a deep reservoir of your membership passionate about forming one-to-one, life-changing relationships, which produces the stickiness that churches have over other NGO’s. So, in Jacksonville, churches made the difference.

3 Ways Churches Can Minister to Marriages

The success of this marriage campaign in Jacksonville is a great reminder of the power that we believers have to change lives and impact culture. Given its success, believers should take note of the content of the campaign and should consider imitating it in our own churches if possible. The main nonprofit partner that provided the programming of the Jacksonville campaign was Live the Life, which has excellent resources on ways to minister to engaged couples, enrich marriages, and heal marriages in crisis.

Here are some takeaways from this campaign that we can bring to our own churches to strengthen marriages and decrease divorce.

1. Ministering to and Mentoring Engaged Couples

A template for a strong marriage needs to be formed before a couple ties the knot. This in turn will make it less likely that married couples will be blindsided by major conflict that they did not anticipate years into their marriage, which could lead to divorce.

Obviously, it would be impossible to prepare for every major conflict that could arise within marriage, but there are ways to set healthy and realistic expectations for what marriage actually is and provide couples with ways to effectively navigate differences in their personalities and resolve conflicts.

One invaluable service that churches can provide for engaged couples is to implement a strong marriage preparation program. A key element of this can be to provide each engaged couple with an already married mentor couple from within the church congregation. Engaged couples can meet with their mentor couple weekly or monthly to discuss the particulars of what marriage looks like.

A mentorship program can be mutually beneficial for both couples. It’s a wonderful way for the engaged couple to benefit from the wisdom of the married couple and also for the married couple to be enlivened and enriched by the fresh perspective of the engaged couple. It’s also a great way for married couples to volunteer and be a part of an invaluable ministry within their home church.

2. Providing Marriage Enrichment Ministries

As JP De Gance pointed out, the Jacksonville campaign “illustrated to churches that this [marriage enrichment] is a gap in ministry, and that they need to fill that gap, and that we can resource them on how to do it.”

Every marriage, no matter how strong, is a journey of learning and discovery that never stops until death. But after many years of marriage, many couples tend to fall into patterns and habits that make them lose sight of the beautiful reality of marriage. That’s why every couple needs a shot in the arm from time to time to reinvigorate and enrich their marriage.

There are many marriage enrichment programs out there that churches can implement if they choose (a few are listed below). Another option is for your church to create your own ministry—here’s a helpful guide on starting your own.

3. Helping to Heal Marriages in Crisis

De Gance also noted another important aspect of offering marriage ministries: “[W]hile the churches were running ongoing marriage enrichment, folks who have serious problems would surface at those events.”

Marriages that are in serious crisis will need more help than a simple marriage enrichment small group, weekend, or retreat. These couples may need more professionalized help than what your church can offer. But simply offering a marriage ministry in the first place can be a springboard for these couples to fully face the deep crisis in their marriages instead of continuing to put it off.

Therefore, it will be important for your church to have resources available that you can refer these struggling couples to. Here is a brief list:

Christmas Joy and Divorce

by Family Research Council

December 9, 2014

Each Christmas my wife Joy and I set up our tree and relive the memories of past years. For every year of Joy’s life she has received an ornament commemorating a major life event. There is a baby crib for year one and a Crayon box for a few years later. There is an ornament for her first car and for her college graduation. There are many “Joy” ornaments as can be expected for someone with such a cheery Christmas name. And there is one of my favorites, the one that reminds us of our marriage. Sadly many couples do not spend Christmas together. Many more use the holiday, not for sharing sweet memories but for hurtful words and unkind actions. Others spend it shuttling the kids between their broken homes.

I consider my marriage to my wife to be precious as well as sacred. When we said our vows we both sincerely understood and meant “for better or for worse” and “‘til death do you part.” A recent article in First Things on the danger of no-fault divorce laws demonstrates the sad reality for many families harmed by recent American attitudes toward divorce. The article lists some casualties of no-fault divorce including “abandoned spouses, the institution of marriage, and American society itself.” No-fault divorce gives the false impression that there is an easy way out of the difficulties of marriage. Rather than seeking to understand one another, become more loving, and to get counseling when needed, many couples simply give up on marriage. But divorce is never that simple. It affects children, the couple, and the country. A society whose basic family unit is not functioning in harmony cannot expect its political institutions to function well. A society where the marriages are not accountable to God cannot expect its other institutions to be accountable to God.

Love in marriage is a difficult thing. One sees all of the faults of their spouse. It can be easy to become frustrated and discouraged. But marriage is not about one, it is about two who have become one. No fault divorce has caused many homes to become not a place of joy at Christmas but one of bitterness and broken hearts. We must work to change the no-fault divorce culture to a marriage-is-precious culture. So this Christmas if you are struggling, let your spouse know you believe your marriage is precious and seek help. If you are happily married then I recommend going home and, like me, giving your Joy a loving Christmas hug, it will do more good than you know.

Polygamy and the Promiscuity of the Beasts

by Sharon Barrett

October 23, 2012

Have we ever considered that we might be living in a polygamous society?

This is the question posed last week by MARRI intern Maria Reig Teetor. Maria observes,

Its common to hear complaints of how horrible it is that in certain cultures and religions, polygyny is respected and normal. We hear an outcry that it attacks womens dignity and reduces them to objects. But have those who are raising this outcry ever stopped to question whether their own sexual behavior may be reducing their human dignity?

Where is the difference, when men and women in Western society embrace sexual activity with whomever they please, whenever they please, leading to multiple sexual partners by the time they are thirty?

A French intellectual writing over 200 years ago made a similar observation. Louis de Bonald was a French reactionary a conservative in France who opposed the libertinism of the French Revolution just as MP Edmund Burke opposed it in England. In On Divorce, published in 1801, Bonald wrote the following:

The union of all with all indiscriminately is the promiscuity of the beasts; the successive union of one with many is polygamy, repudiation, divorce; the indissoluble union of one with one [is] Christian marriage….

Thus, as promiscuity is the union of the most imperfect of human beings, the beasts, it appears that indissoluble union, which is the other extreme, must be the union of the most perfect of living beings, men….*

In other words, sexual promiscuity reduces ones human dignity because it is equivalent to animal behavior. Promiscuity can be made more socially acceptable when covered with the veneer of divorce and remarriage, but it still fails to reach the standard of fidelity for Christian marriage prescribed by in the teaching of Christ (Matt. 19:3-9). As a conservative Catholic, Bonald believed in an indissoluble union; but as a student of history, he also believed (as MARRI research also shows) that lifelong marriage is naturally superior to other unions because it provides security for every member of the family.

Bonald, along with other conservatives of his time, thought of human society as a community ordered by the duties each member owes to all others (what Edmund Burke called a web of obligation, stretching from our forebears to future generations). He described marriage and the family as a society in itself, one that the larger human community has a duty to uphold and protect.

The French Revolution upset this social balance by proclaiming radical individualism and freedom from religious restraint (which, as Bonald pointed out, led to new divorce laws and an epidemic of divorce that he called serial polygamy). The same is true today, as Maria Reig Teetor describes:

As Pat Fagan points out, in the Western culture of polyamorous sexuality, family life is just one option among many other lifestyles. This culture treasures sexual freedom, meaning whatever is desired by the partners (two or more partners, as the case may be). It wants to eliminate religion and suppresses its public manifestations, attacking religious freedom. Ones moral code is individual and consequently relative; anyone should do as he or she pleases, not only sexually but in any arena of life (so if I need to kill an unborn child, I should have that right). In short, the idea of freedom is to have no constraints imposed on you, to have a carefree life.

The Enlightenment concept of freedom that shaped the French Revolution continues today, shaping our cultures view of marriage and sexual license. Those working to strengthen the family will find a powerful resource in writers like Bonald, who fought for social conservative principles long before the term culture wars was coined.

*De Bonald, Louis; trans. Nicholas Davidson. On Divorce (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992), 60.

The Romance Revolution: Effects on Children and Couples

by Sharon Barrett

October 15, 2012

As a fellow MARRI intern recently observed, Watch any Hollywood romance, and you might think the best reason to get married is passionate romantic love because the purpose of marriage is the satisfaction of the couple. Maria Reig Teetor describes how redefining married love paved the way for the no-fault divorce revolution. The Romantic philosophy of the 1700s and 1800s advocated self-fulfillment through experience, and the 1960s sexual revolution carried Romanticism to its logical conclusion: free love.

In past centuries, marriage had been an institution characterized by permanence. But no-fault divorce embodied the values of free love with no strings attached; now, marriage need be only as permanent as the feelings that fueled the couples initial attraction. In Maria Reig Teetors words,

With the legalization of no-fault divorce, it became clear that marriage was only about being in love. This relationship was now independent of common good, community, generosity, hard work, self-giving, children….

If falling in love is as easy as Hollywood makes it look, falling out of love and moving on is nearly that easy. While treating marriage as permanent had kept the couple accountable to the parties who are the reason for marriage (that is, children who need a committed mother and father), now the partners were accountable only to themselves. The romance revolution, by jump-starting the divorce revolution, left a wake of damaging impacts on children: broken relationships; reduced educational attainment and earning capacity; disillusionment with religion; and increased risk of crime, drug abuse, and suicide.

Another, equally disturbing trend has arisen as a result of the romance revolution: couples who choose childlessness in order to focus on their personal fulfillment. In Canada, this trend has risen so far that the 2011 census shows 44.5% of couples are without children, compared to 39.2% with children. According to the Toronto-based National Post, while the 44.5% figure is padded by empty-nest parents, it includes the growing number of Canadian women currently one in five who will never have a child. Without the burden of children, life can be less demanding and more exhilarating:

Having children used to be the point of being a pair. It was the great aspiration along with finding love everlasting a biological impulse to go forth and multiply….

No more. Gone are diaper changes and ballet classes, replaced by hot yoga and shopping trips to New York City.

But is a partnership without children as fulfilling as one with children? Mariette Ulrich, writing for MercatorNet, notes the irony of this lifestyle. Ulrich says the idea that life without kids is a never-ending joyride is as much a myth as the contention that life with children is overwhelmingly stressful, exhausting, expensive and heartbreaking.

This is a myth of the same class as the myth that marriage is about falling in love, rather than providing a permanent home for children and a safe haven for ones spouse. Maria Reig Teetor sums it up:

…As modern love is individualistic, so is modern marriage. The soul of marriage has become myself.

Humans were designed to live in community, which involves giving to others before seeking to receive fulfillment from them. As we recognize that the foundation of marriage is in the human community, not the individual, we can begin to reverse the unhealthy effects of the romance revolution.

 

Proposing Marriage: A Solution to Child Poverty

by Sharon Barrett

September 28, 2012

As Maria Reig Teetor, MARRI intern wrote recently, social science shows a clear link between family structure and mental health. For instance, a study on child poverty found that children who grow up in poor families are more likely to develop depression and personality disorders. Maria explains:

Poor children are exposed to a wide range of risk factors that affect their social and emotional development. The environment they grow up in is surrounded by drug abuse, inadequate nutrition, crime, parental instability, divorce, maternal depression….

This environment also causes the children to externalize their emotional turmoil with behavior outbursts such as delinquency or drug and sexual abuse. In short, poverty affects children and has grave consequences.

Just as mental health disorders are linked to child poverty, so is child poverty linked to non-intact family structure. Poverty does not occur in a vacuum. Since the 1960s, marriage rates and employment rates have declined in tandem. In the 2010s we see the full-blown effects of the divorce revolution and the sexual revolution. With the devaluing of the intact family, we also suffered a deficit in human capital and an inflation of poverty rates. Original research published by MARRI explains the statistics:

55 percent of U.S. children entering adulthood in 2008 had experienced the breakup of their family of origin.

This number is even more staggering when we see it alongside the number of children living in poverty conditions in 2010: 43%. Furthermore,

Up to 20 percent of [American] children are unequipped to compete in the modern economy because of a lack of essential skills formed within the intact married family.

When this is combined with the high risk of mental health disorders, poor children are at an overwhelming disadvantage. But look closely at the reason:

Family planning policies have undermined fertility rates and simultaneously discouraged marriage and encouraged out-of-wedlock births. Among its main target group, the poor, marriage has virtually disappeared, and been replaced with serial cohabitation [emphasis mine].

The solution to the child poverty crisis is not a social program, but a simple proposal: marriage, which Maria Reig Teetor calls the strongest anti-poverty weapon. Reviving a culture of marriage can help restore the benefits of the intact family to those who need them most: poor children.

Setting the Solitary in Families

by Sharon Barrett

September 26, 2012

In her post May I have this [politically-correct, gender-ambiguous, tolerance-driven] dance?, MARRI blogger Lindsay Smith points out the problem with the recent ban on father-daughter dances and mother-son baseball games in Rhode Islands Cranston school district. Banning events that encourage parent participation undermines childrens academic well-being, because parental involvement is related to a childs academic success. Lindsay summarizes the research (further data is available from MARRIs Mapping America surveys):

On average, children from intact married families earn higher test scores, have higher high-school GPAs, are less likely to drop out of school, and have better behavior than their peers. In addition, adolescent children of single-parent families or stepfamilies reported that their parents had lower educational expectations for them, were less likely to monitor schoolwork, and supervised social activities less than the parents of children in intact biological families. Based on these findings, one can see parental involvement directly correlates with academic success.

Lindsay suggests an alternative solution to the Cranston school districts problem: instead of banning parent-child events, encourage community members to reach out to children in non-intact families, just as an elderly neighbor did for her when it came time for Grandparents Lunch Day at her school.

I propose a better solution is not to eliminate the event, but rather to embrace the child. Allow traditional families to show what love and support look like and invite a child whose mom or dad cant attend, whatever the reason.

Lindsays suggestion should sound familiar to readers who have also read the Bible. Scripture throbs with Gods concern for the widow, the divorced parent, the fatherless child, and everyone who is affected by the breakup of a family. Psalm 68:5-6 says this:

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains.

Gods people ought to take the lead in reaching out and offering a family to the solitary, whether that be a teen mother, a divorced father, a youth who has trouble fitting in at school, or simply a young girl whose grandmother cant make the 10-hour drive for Grandparents Lunch Day. Research suggests this will have a far greater impact than raising academic success levels; for instance, by sharing the love and security found in an intact family environment, it can bring out those who are bound with chains of addiction or imprisonment by reducing rates of drug abuse, youth behavior problems, and violent delinquency. Intact families strengthen society. As Lindsay Smith says, Thats something that should make us all get up and dance.

The Consequences of Instability: Children and Same-Sex Divorce

by Sharon Barrett

September 24, 2012

In my previous post, I asked this question:

Cohabitation and divorce both have significant negative effects on child well-being. Since marital instability is a commonly reported cause of divorce, should we place even more children at risk by legally redefining marriage to include same-sex partnerships?

The bisexual element in most same-sex households compounds the natural mutability of many same-sex relationships. Such instability is a strong predictor of divorce. Additional unforeseen consequences, however, arise from the unique circumstances that surround the child in a same-sex household.

A child enters a same-sex household via adoption, artificial reproductive technology, or one partners previous heterosexual relationship. When the relationship breaks up, who has a claim to the child: biological parent, donor or surrogate, or adoptive same-sex partner? What about the same-sex partner who never adopted the child because the other biological parent would not release his or her rights or the partners new boyfriend or girlfriend, who is helping raise the child?

While these situations may sound exaggerated or hypothetical, they could become legal reality in Californiaunder the triple-parent bill SB 1476, currently awaiting the stroke of the governors pen. In her article, Why Californias Three-Parent Law Was Inevitable, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse documents the 2011 case that motivated state senator Mark Leno to propose the bill.

Melissa, the mother in In re M.C., was bisexual, like most of the same-sex parents surveyed in 2012s New Family Structures study: in 2008, after becoming pregnant by a man (Jose), she married a woman (Irene) and subsequently gave birth to a daughter (M.C.). When Melissa was sent to prison and Irene hospitalized, Jose requested custody.

Custody was denied, however, because under Californias Uniform Parentage Act the man to whom a mother is married when she gives birth is the childs presumed father. Irene, though not a man, was counted as M.C.s presumed mother despite the fact that she had lived with M.C.s mother for barely a month and had not adopted M.C. Rather than give the child to her father, the court placed M.C. in state custody so that she could be awarded to Irene at a later date.

Even without the problems of cohabitation and divorce, a child being raised by a same-sex couple inevitably has more than two parental entities involved in his or her life. Either they or the courts will determine how they may share access to that child. As Dr. Morse observes,

 

We cannot count on private agreements among the parties to solve all problems and manage all disputes. A subset of these cases is going to end up being settled by the family courts. Therefore, not only does same-sex parenting create an impetus to triple-parenting, it creates an impetus for state involvement in the ongoing management of these complex relationships.

The redefinition of marriage and the redefinition of parenthood that must accompany it creates a legal quagmire. As more disputes like In re M.C. enter the courts, more children are likely to be divorced from their parents and from the natural definition of family.

The Consequences of Instability: Child and Same-Sex Partnerships

by Sharon Barrett

September 21, 2012

In a 2004 New York Times opinion piece, Professor Don Browning of the University of Chicago said this of same-sex parenting: [W]e know next to nothing about its effect on children. Large-scale studies unmarked by major flaws simply had not been conducted, in part because same-sex households are a distinct minority in the United States. As of 2005, fewer than 0.4% of American children lived in households headed by same-sex couples.

Eight years later, what do we know? Same-sex households are still a minority, according to the New Family Structures Study. The NFSS highlights two other salient facts about these households: (1) many are poor and/or minority households (associated with increased risk of divorce), and (2) almost all are, technically, bisexual households. Typically, one parent moved in with a same-sex partner after divorcing or separating from the childs other biological parent.

In other words, most people entering same-sex relationships have already experienced instability in their sexual and emotional life. Giving a relationship the sanction of church or state wont infuse it with a stability it doesnt possess.

Not only have many persons in same-sex relationships suffered from the instability of a previous relationship, same-sex partnerships are naturally more tenuous than man-woman marriages. As I noted in a recent post on the MARRI (Marriage and Religion Research Institute) blog:

Man-woman marriage is built on a peculiar other-centeredness; it demands that two people who are polar opposites learn to live together. Paradoxically, this tension helps create stability. By nature, a same-sex relationship lacks this tension.

What are the consequences of instability? The first is easy: cohabitation (often with multiple partners) instead of marriage. In Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, and other nations that legally redefined marriage between 2001 and 2006, only a fraction of homosexuals took the option in some cases, only a fraction of a percent. In Massachusetts and Vermont, the story is similar. Across the United States, a large body of research indicate[s] that few homosexual relationships achieve the longevity common in marriages.

The second is obvious: divorce. In the past, same-sex couples who got a slice of the marriage pie immediately wanted their share of the divorce market. In South Africa, couples who were first to wed under a 2006 law also won the race to divorce court only a year later; two Toronto lesbians who wed in 2003 separated after only five days, petitioning successfully in 2004 for a judge to overturn Canadian law so they could divorce. Or take Los Angeles, where 2008s historic first same-sex couple divorced this summer although they had been together for 18 years! Lest we think these cases are exceptional, of the same-sex couples who did marry in Sweden, males were 35% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples, while lesbians were up to 200% more likely.

Cohabitation and divorce both have significant negative effects on child well-being. Since marital instability is a commonly reported cause of divorce, should we place even more children at risk by legally redefining marriage to include same-sex partnerships?

Cohabitation: Everyones doing it?!

by Family Research Council

August 30, 2012

But, mom, everybodys doing it?!

It might have been your favorite childhood expression as you lobbied for that new toy or extra handful of cotton candy.

But for todays millennials its an underlyingif unstatedreason why so many decide to pack up their belongings and move in with their significant other.

According to the CDCs March 22, 2012 National Health Statistics Report, cohabitation (before first marriage) has risen significantly over the past 25 years and contributed to a delay in first marriage for both women and men.

Bloomberg.com reviewed at the data through a personal finance lens in their article, Living Together Trumps Matrimony for Recession-Wary Americans. Quoting theUniversity ofVirginias Brad Wilcox, the article noted that In todays economic climate, many young adults are reluctant to pull the trigger…. They may be unemployed or underemployed or not know what the future looks like. Theyre hedging their bets.

But the cohabitation-trend isnt limited to the younger generation. According to a new study, more and more Americans over age 50 are choosing to live with their partner instead of getting married.

If everyone is doing it, why discuss the trend; or to put it bluntly, who exactly cares?

Since the creation of marriage itself, the Christian tradition has clearly taught that sexual intimacy outside of marriage (and cohabitation, by definition), is a step away from the holiness and commitment that God intends for his people.

Modern Christian leaders, therefore, wrestle through their role in how to council church members or other believers who are cohabiting, but desire to marry. Last September, Christianity Today invited various Evangelical leaders to weigh in on the question: Should Pastors Perform Marriages for Cohabitating Couples?

But the questions surrounding cohabitation continue, even in the public space outside of our churches. In an April NY Times Opinion piece, clinical psychologist Meg Jay warned that far from safeguarding against divorce and unhappiness, moving in with someone can increase your chances of making a mistake or of spending too much time on a mistake.

Earlier this month, Huffington Posts Women Blog highlighted offered the following: Cohabitation? 5 Questions To Ask Before Moving In Together. The author offered no moral qualms about cohabitation but, throughout her piece. noted the inherent obstacles to a successful move, considering how many couples do not survive that first year of living with one another.

Does cohabitation matter? On Thursday, August 30 marriage expert Mike McManus revealed the myths and risks of cohabitation and offered solutions for your church and your community.

Everybodys doing it, never saved you from the childhood bellyache. It may also fall short when it comes to more adult decisions.

Click here to view the video recording.

Digging for our Roots

by Robert Morrison

April 20, 2012

There was a blizzard on the East Coast in early 1977. That surely helped keep tens of millions of Americans housebound during the airing of the made-for-television dramatic series, Roots. Author Alex Haley scored a hit with his countrymen as he told the compelling story of Africans stolen from their homes, crammed into slave ships and dragged across the Atlantic in chains. The story of black Americans is a vital part of the enduring national fabric.

I thought of that series often as I attended the Genealogy Fair at the National Archives this week. Presenters from the Archives staff guided hundreds of amateurs and professionals who flock to these conferences inWashingtonand around the country.

There was great excitement about the recent release of the 1940 Census. Can there really be a hubbub about getting into musty old government forms? Yes. For these family tree surgeons, there is.

The 1940 Census is the treasure trove of information about an America we would hardly recognize. America was poorer then, to be sure. Millions of us were still without indoor plumbing, without electricity. Millions of us had never visited a dentist. Draft boards would be shocked in many instances by the poor physical shape of young men who had gone through ten years of Depression.

One thing I will be eager to learn from the 1940 Census is the state of the American family. There was no no-fault divorce then. Lets all remember Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic candidate for President. It was Dukakis and his colleagues in liberal social experimentation who pushed hard for this liberal reform. The former Massachusetts Governor and his allies can claim credit for the millions of broken homes and impoverished mothers and children across America. If you seek the monument of elitist, post-moral governance, look around you.

I once read an article in Washingtonian magazine written by a realtor. He said divorce was driving up the home prices in the Washington metro area. Then, he added this poignant detail: A house is more than a house; its a home. And he had not been to a closing on a home in years where the woman was not in tears.

A home is where memories are born and, in these cases, where dreams go to die. So lets hear more about the conservatives and their supposed war on women.

The 1940 Census will show us, no doubt, what former HHSAssistant Secretary Wade Horn has taught us: That on the eve of Pearl Harbor, fully 89% of black children were born to married mothers and fathers.

Somberly, I realize that 420,000 of the young men who are listed in the now famous 1940 Census will not be listed in the 1950 enumeration. They will lay down their lives for this country in the intervening years in World War II.

My seatmate, Deniece, at one of these genealogy sessions in an open-air tent is from New York. She took off three days from her work with the New York City Department of Education. She had been in foster care as a girl. My new friend is searching for her family background. She tells me how a girl friend included her in her familys reunions. My new friend goes on to tell me about the institution of black family reunions and how she had been included as if shed been born into that family. Theyve been gathering on family land in South Carolina for fifty years.

I quickly learn that Deniece was born in Brooklynas I was. As my Dad was. And he, too, was in foster care. From these studies, I hope to learn how it came to be that my fathers father changed the family name from the German-sounding Mouritzen to the anglicized Morrison. Was it, as my father always joked, to avoid a process server? Or was it to escape the fierce anti-German prejudice of the 1920s that caused sauerkraut to be renamed liberty cabbage and led some states to ban the teaching of German language.

In addition to Census records, there are immigration and naturalization records, a rich source of information about families. Entire workshops are dedicated to combing through these and in the process you learn that, except for the Indian tribes, everyone was an immigrant at some point. If your ancestor was denied entry, their appeal will be on record somewhere and you can learn volumes from these.

Military records are vast. I learn a lot from Ancestry.coma for-profit firm that supports all these Genealogy Fairs at the National Archives. Already, I found out that I had a North Carolina ancestor who fought in the American Revolution. One of my distant relatives in 1929 dug up the facts for his application to join the Sons of the American Revolution.

[The Mormons are most active in genealogical research. Thats in large part because of their theology, which I obviously do not share. But its a useful service for the rest of us. Ill probably take advantage of some of their extensive resources. Theres a family history center in nearby Kensington, Md. Or, I can go online at www.familysearch.org.]

When I tell them where I work, people at the Genealogy Fair obviously think this may be a new group to help them dig up family roots. Family Research Council does not, I tell them, assist individual families to search their ancestors.

I might have said: Family Research Council exists so that your descendents will be able to have ancestors. I mean that seriously. Many of these sessions are run by folks you can guess are liberal. They just have that bright and irreverent PBS manner about them.

I wonder how many of them stop to think: if the liberal project in America succeeds, will there even be families to research a hundred years from now?

For example, birth and marriage records are essential. What does abortion-on-demand tell us about births? Would people willingly kill an unborn child if they knew who that childs ancestors were? Chances are, that unborn child is descended from heroes and pioneers at some point.

Marriage records are all about husbands and wives. They have been about this for centuries before Thomas Jefferson supervised the first Census in 1790.

Todays liberals want to overturn all of that. Will we start recording Parent No. 1 and Parent No. 2? Why not Parents 3 and 4? Why list any parents at all? Maybe we will get to specify the bar scene from Cheers or the cast of Seinfeld. Not that theres anything wrong with that.

In 2008, George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley spoke to a crowd at the Newseum, just a few blocks away. He acknowledged that critics say allowing men to marry men and women to marry women will lead to polygamy. Im for that, he said, and was wildly applauded by his liberal audience.

Edmund Burke is rightly revered as the father of modern conservatism. He said it well in the 1790s. Those who have no respect for their ancestors will have no regard for their descendents. The Founders of this republic were conservative about family formation. They sought the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. We are that posterity.

Prior to this week, I had not understood how genealogy can be our ally in Americas great culture clash of today. But now I do. There is a whirlwind coming. And those trees that put down deeper roots will better withstand it.

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