“GLOBAL FLIGHT FROM THE FAMILY”

That’s the headline of a Wall Street Journal piece last weekend, reporting the startling demise of the family as we know it, not only here in the United States but in Europe and Asia as well. “All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. . . . Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth” (WSJ February 21-22, 2015, A11). Consider these statistics: •  As of 2013 according to the Centers for Disease Control “40% of babies in the U.S. were born outside of marriage.” •  The Census Bureau for 2014 estimates that “27% of all children (and 22% of ‘White’ children) lived in a fatherless home.” •  A 2011 study reported “just 59% of all American children (and 65% of ‘Anglo’ or non-Hispanic white children) lived with married and biological parents as of 2009.” •  In Europe “the probability of marriage before age 50 has been plummeting for European women and men, while the chance for divorce for those who do marry has been soaring.” •  In Belgium “the likelihood of a first marriage for a woman of reproductive age is now down to 40%, and the likelihood of divorce is over 50%. This means that in Belgium the odds of getting married and staying married are under one in five.” •  In Europe “the proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four in Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three.” •  “In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%.” •  In Japan “about one-sixth of Japanese women in their mid-40s are still single, and about 30% of all women that age are childless. Twenty years hence 38% of all Japanese women in their mid-40s would be childless, and an even higher share—just over 50%—would never have grandchildren.” •  South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong—the statistics mirror those above. •  Even in less affluent Muslim-majority societies “a flight from marriage within the Arab world is in process,” indicating “high levels of income and educational attainment are not preconditions for the new family revolution in those spots on the globe it hasn’t reached.” And who will suffer the most in this social revolution? Our children and our aged. The WSJ report concludes: “Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But . . . it is far from clear that humanity is prepared to cope with the consequences of its impending family deficit, with [its] increasing independence [from] those traditionally most dependent on others—i.e., the young and the old” (emphasis supplied). A global shift from sacrificing for the sake of others to caring only for one’s self. Must it come to this? The Old Testament ends with this provocative prophecy: “‘See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents’” (Malachi 4:5-6). This prediction of a global movement to repair and restore the family clearly presupposes endtime forces bent on destroying the divine edenic ideal of the nuclear family. The statistics are sobering, but God speaks a “last word” into the crisis. Could you and I become part of that restorative “last word?” Could we by our compassion and proactive care for the young and aged be instrumental in God’s effort to save not only the most vulnerable, but to save the family itself? Clearly, we can’t just sit here and do nothing, can we? So what shall we do?

Comments

What a sobering article. The statistics are rather overwhelming, but, I fear, not as overwhelming as the toll that these decisions will have on the lives of so many people around the globe. As to the question, "What shall we do?" First, those of us who are married need to be more dedicated than ever to making sure our relationships with our spouses rock! But this should not be in secret. Scripturally the two become one. Healthy marital unions need to be seen as much as possible. We need to be open about all of the positive benefits there are to being married, but, this is only backed up with good examples. (See previous.) We, as a church, need to not be so silent about sexuality. So many statistics show that frequent married sex is the best, healthiest and safest. We need to talk about it in and out of church, but first the couples in the church need to be living it so they can talk about it from experience. We need to talk as a church (speaking specifically about the Seventh-day Adventist Church) about how difficult we make it for our young people who want to refrain from sexual activity until marriage, but don't want to wait until they are out of college to do so. I'd love to see one of our colleges or universities establish a Marriage Scholarship specifically to financially assist couples who fall in love on campus and choose to unite their lives while still students. What statement would that send about the commitment to Godly-marriage? Will any of this make a dent in stemming this tide? Perhaps not. But, as you say, clearly we can't just sit here and do nothing.

Dr Nelson's comments started a chain of thought. I wondered about what the various sources think of as family. For how long has the 'normal nuclear' family - 2 hereosexual parents with 2.3 children actually been normal? I do not know much about American social history but was there not a time quite recently when a family would comprise three generations living together? Certainly, I can remember from my African childhood the very common situation when a family comprised a man and his several wives and their respective children all living together in relative harmony. Maybe that is closer to the old testament examples, when many of the great men of history were actually younger siblings within an extended family. I am not advocating 'plural' marriages nor the discarding of tired relationships but simply raise the question - what is a normal family?

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