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GUEST COLUMN: It’s a family affair

From the desk of Steve Elliott:

I will make no attempt to “make sense” of the horrific tragedy that devastated the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and has shaken our nation.

How can we make sense of the senseless murder of twenty children and seven adults? How can we make sense of one deranged individual who was in such a dark place that he shot his own mother, murdered children and then killed himself?

Yesterday, my church — like I’m sure countless places of worship — paused to pray for the families, their community and our nation. Our president spoke, on our behalf, words of comfort and support.

Now, as we move forward, efforts will be made to prevent this from happening again — or at least to minimize the risk. It will be a difficult task.

+ + A Societal Cancer

What we face is more like a cancer than a virus. Our society has turned on itself, and these mass murders are the shocking fruit. The perpetrators of these crimes now typically turn their weapons on themselves and have essentially become societal suicide bombers. As the military knows, there is no real defense against a suicide bomber who has reached such a point of desperation and delusion that his own life doesn’t matter.

Responding to this specific crisis with legislation would be a mistake that politicians will likely make.

Responding to the root cause of the crisis would be a better way to go.

And what is that root cause?

The destruction of the family.

I’m not discounting any other factors, but to address problems with our mental health institutions or virtual reality gaming or the drugging of our children or our gun laws or the media culture’s glorification of such violence and not deal with the root cause of our societal decay are vain attempts to mask symptoms.

The statistics back me up on the destruction of the family being at the center of our national crises, including violence.

Before I cite the statistics, please do not take these numbers as a condemnation of single moms or dads. There is no condemnation. Many single parents are doing double duty and raising wonderful children.

But the numbers are hard to overlook.

+ + Our Family Crisis

Consider what our family brokenness has done to society:

* 3 in 10 children grow up in broken homes.

* In the African-American community, it’s far worse: two-thirds of black children grow up with one parent.

* More than half of all babies are conceived out of wedlock.

* Of those conceived out of wedlock, 4 in 10 are aborted. And so, the cycle of violence begins.

* Of the survivors of abortion, half the children born out of wedlock end up in poverty.

Children from broken homes account for:
–63% of teen suicides.
–71% of teen pregnancies.
–90% of homeless and runaways.
–71% of high school dropouts.
–75% of all drug users.
–85% of behavioral disorders.
–70% of those in juvenile detention.
–57% of all prison inmates.
+ + Building Families in Tough Times

As you know, for the past few weeks, I’ve been on a journey of discovering and sharing lessons from a 2,500-year-old letter written by the prophet Jeremiah to Jewish exiles.

In light of the national discussion that will take place in the coming weeks, as we seek to heal and strengthen our land, I find it interesting that at the very center of Jeremiah’s instructions to exiles is an explicit endorsement of family:
“Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease” (Jeremiah 29:6, NASB).

In the midst of tough times, getting married and thinking about the future do not instinctively come to mind. Marriage is expensive. Children are expensive. Yet in Jeremiah’s letter to exiles, marriage and child bearing are central to the instruction. Perhaps this is because in tough times — at any time, for that matter — the marriage bond is the stabilizing force for individuals, for families, for communities and even for a nation. Marriage and strong families are vital to thriving in exile.

What if our government policies unashamedly focused on the goal of reducing the fatherless and divorce rates? What if our laws profoundly preferred those who get married and stay married?

More importantly, what about you and me? After all, our laws only reflect our culture.

What are we actually doing in our families and communities to strengthen marriages? Is it clear in our social circles that sex out of wedlock is wrong? Are we holding young men accountable for their actions, demanding they take their responsibility as fathers seriously? Do men face any negative societal pressure for putting children and mothers at risk for the sake of fulfilling their own sexual exploits outside the marriage bond?

Many traditional wedding ceremonies include an open acknowledgment by all in attendance of their responsibility to do whatever it takes to help this new couple in their marriage. We should take that commitment much more seriously.

Every marriage faces profound times of crisis. Perhaps your prayer, phone call or offer to babysit could ultimately help save a marriage, keep a child from facing long odds and, dare I say, spare a community from another unspeakable horror.

Steve Elliott

dad. husband. observer. media personality. pathological flyer.