13 March 2013

In the Family Way

by Frank Turk

Yes, all right now:

Have you read the link?  Good heavens: don't read the criticism without reading the source.  What are you - Baptist?

OK, first of all: "so what?" if Newsweek somehow makes money publishing trash like that link when there is literally a gem every day (that DJP posts) here and we can't even maintain 2 Kindle subscribers who aren't members of the Johnson family.  It may be, to say the least, unjust in the "problem of evil" sense.  It is utterly evil that people will pay Newsweek money to publish paragraphs like this one:
Sitting around a table at a hookah bar in New York’s East Village with three women and a gay man, all of them in their 20s and 30s and all resolved to remain childless, a few things quickly became clear: First, for many younger Americans and especially those in cities, having children is no longer an obvious or inevitable choice. Second, many of those opting for childlessness have legitimate, if perhaps selfish, reasons for their decision.
In a feature piece which also says this (avert your eyes if you cannot abide the world being itself):

Crudely put, the lack of productive *****ing could further be *****ing the *****ed generation.
I mean: sure -- Crossway has paid Mark Driscoll to talk like that, but that was missional style back in the day.  That's what passed for cultural engagement.  You can't blame them for, well, whatever that was in the mid-aughts.

But then Newsweek has the real audacity to let this be said:
While postfamilialism isn’t nearly as far along in the U.S., American marriage is faltering—and the baby is being thrown out with the bath water. Forty-four percent of millennials agree that marriage is becoming “obsolete.” And even among those who support tying the knot (including many of those who say it’s obsolete), just 41 percent say children are important for a marriage—down from 65 percent in 1990. It was the only factor to show a significant decline. ... On the flip side of the coin, the percentage of adults who disagreed with the contention that people without children “lead empty lives” has shot up, to 59 percent in 2002 from 39 percent in 1988.
Now, look: some of you are just so-whatting already, because frankly this is post-christian America, this is in the post-Christian West, and how surprising is it that this is where we are in 2013.  In some sense, I agree with you: this is who we are in the West now, simply glad to be over the idea of families and children even if it means our death as a race or (in less hyperbolic terms) as a society.

But what is excruciatingly-galling about this piece in Newsweek is that one of the major contributors to this cultural achievement is ...  Newsweek!  Seriously: how on Earth did anyone in their offices have anything but a glowing face of red hot humiliation as they either read or composed this:
In his provocative 2012 book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, Eric Klinenberg writes that for the hip urban professionals who make up the so-called creative class, living alone represents a “more desirable state,” even “a sign of success and a mark of distinction, a way to gain freedom and experience the anonymity that can make city life so exhilarating.” Certainly, the number of singletons has skyrocketed: more than half of all adults today are single (a group that includes divorcées and widows and widowers), up from about one in five in 1950.
After they were so proud to offer this back in 2008:
More basic than theology, though, is human need. We want, as Abraham did, to grow old surrounded by friends and family and to be buried at last peacefully among them. We want, as Jesus taught, to love one another for our own good—and, not to be too grandiose about it, for the good of the world. We want our children to grow up in stable homes. What happens in the bedroom, really, has nothing to do with any of this. My friend the priest James Martin says his favorite Scripture relating to the question of homosexuality is Psalm 139, a song that praises the beauty and imperfection in all of us and that glorifies God's knowledge of our most secret selves: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And then he adds that in his heart he believes that if Jesus were alive today, he would reach out especially to the gays and lesbians among us, for "Jesus does not want people to be lonely and sad." Let the priest's prayer be our own.
As the counterpoint to this, which is their rendition of what the Bible "really" says about marriage:

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script? 
Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.
What a tawdry little lie. What an enormous act of self-deception.  Doesn't it turn out that what "of course" no one really wants is what, for millennia, kept the West in the people business at least -- and in the family business in spite of the project being full of (in Newsweek's view) the morally-callow and those looking for a last resort?

Maybe what bothers me most about this story is the actual humility of it -- the humble omission to represent Newsweek's own role in the situation.  Go ahead and search the Daily Beast (hey look: it's not my fault they asked Jerry Jenkins to name their endeavor) for "birth control" (1333 stories) or "gay marriage" (1607 stories), and you'll find that after molesting and man-handling the child-rearing social unit with both hands for years -- for decades, if you can find the old print Newsweek archives -- suddenly they have discovered that "in the coming decades, success will accrue to those cultures that preserve the family’s place, not as the exclusive social unit but as one that is truly indispensable."

Listen Newsweek: we warned you.  You laughed at us and said Jesus was a pansy and Paul was a prude, and that Abraham and David were philanderers.  You made traditional marriage out to be the sexual sand trap for the great deviants of the ages -- and now you want to call it all a mulligan and hope we can muster up our putting game for the sake of the team so that there will be a team next season?

It's a good thing the rest of us who were already laughing at you behind your backs and praying for you through tears didn't listen to you in the first place.  It's a good thing we raised our kids to love families and love each other.  It's a good thing we didn't take your word for it about Abraham, David, Paul and Jesus -- because otherwise, in your own words, well, we also raised our kids not to speak like that because it demeans something which is utterly holy and utterly indispensable for society.  Let's just say that we forgive you for doing what seemed right in your own eyes -- but we has to remind you: admitting that your math was bad isn't enough.  That wasn't your worst fault by any means.

If you've discovered that what you have actually done is condemned a civilization to death by your cavalier and banal view of what makes people possible, and teaching others to do the same, you should repent.  That is: you should admit that people are made for something other than what you made up in your own minds, and then turn to the One who made them and repent.  Some actual Penance -- in spite of my staunch Protestant theology -- on your part might do you some good.

We'll be here if you have any questions.


Tom Chantry said...

Thanks, Frank, for making me go read that and get my first real laugh of the day.

Yet what’s proven good for the Democratic Party may not be so good for the country in the long term.

Really? You think?!

Tom Chantry said...

OK, Now I have to go finish the article so I can read your post.

Tom Chantry said...

But Frank, they have a solution. The government can fix it!

Johnny Dialectic said...

Nobody reads Newsweek. Nobody's read Newsweek for years. Nobody read Newsweek when it was in print (which is why it is no longer in print). Newsweek is culturally irrelevant. It is little more than a glorified blog that has an increasing number of young writers and editors who cannot write and cannot edit (one could toss in "cannot think" but that would be piling on).

Newsweek is culturally irrelevant.

The most grating part of the piece (and there are a lot of contenders) is the phrase "the flip side of the coin." The writer conflated "flip side" (which comes from the world of vinyl record singles) with "flipping a coin" to make up a wholly meaningless phrase. The flip side of a coin can end being the very same side, precisely the opposite of the intended meaning.

This writer (Harry Siegel), no doubt, is one of the swelling mass of scribes who think "begs the question" means "invites the question." And who think it's the height of cleverness to use the word "****" in three senses in one sentence. Mencken must be on the flip side of his grave.

Pretty soon, no one at all will read Newsweek because no one will read or write. Those childless singles in the city will grunt their way toward extinction, and then Newsweek can run a story called "The New Non-Existents."

Frank Turk said...

In all seriousness, in spite of his mixed bag history here, Johnny's comment may be better than my post.


Johnny Dialectic said...

I think I had my inner Turk on. You are a phrase maker I always enjoy reading, even if I get a little hot under the collar sometimes.

But I've been wanting to rant about Newsweek for years, and you provided the perfect opportunity today. So thanks!

Anonymous said...

I will follow God's commandments about marriage because their God's commands, not because someone (even a conservative) argues that it's for "the good of society". If the problem Newsweek is bringing up is a lack of children,anyone can note that you don't need traditional-marriage model to bring children. In fact, it's the minority (under 50%) of kids in America who will never see their parent's divorce. Single-mothers can easily produce children. And polygamists can produce them even faster than we can. Lesbians can become artificially inseminated, and this might quickly become more common. And finally, Newsweek's probable point is that childless people owe people with children something, probably in the form of gov't handouts. They would no more get rid of contraception and women's "rights" to stop this problem than we would get rid of electricity to the stop a pollution problem .

R.C. said...

Plenty of praise to go around. Brilliant piece Frank. Let your curmudgeon flag fly. And Johnny spoke not dialectically but harmonically with you. One step backward, reading the Newsweek piece. Two steps forward, reading Frank and Johnny.

Tim Knotts said...

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward." Psalm 127:3

Is it surprising that we turn our back on God's blessings? We are all, by nature, enemies of His.

Robert said...

I think something we here all know, but what moste people in the US refuse to deal with is who is going to fill in the gaps as people here stop having kids. The Muslims are coming in and populating, just like they have in every other country.

We had missionaries who work with people in Israel visit our church last month. They told us that one of the trends there is that there are a lot more French-speaking Jews moving into Israel. That is because of all the persecution they are facing from Muslims there. Give the US another couple of generations and we'll start seeing the same thing happen here. The irony of this is that a lot of the Jewish community in the US seem to go along with the Democratic/liberal politicians regardless of the implications of their policies. One day the chickens will come home to roost.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Wonderful piece Frank - they deserve everything they got there, and then some.
I MUST admit, though, that when I read your piece last week which said Newsweek was in for a terrible beating for that article (which I read at that time), I thought you meant they were in for a terrible beating by the liberal establishment, for daring to suggest that the traditional family has some merit above any other alternative lifestyle one might choose.

Les Martin said...

Well said Turk-man. God bless.


Robert said...

The author unintentionally hit on part of the problem near the end of the article. More women have careers and are not going to have children because it compromises their careers.

Chris H said...

I know this isn't relating to the crux of the post (which was well-written, by the way - oh look, I did it!) but I can't describe how much I love the "merciless beatings" tag.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

This article makes me want to have a sixth child--and especially all those burkas in this post!

There was an excellent sermon I heard preached by Phil's boss. It was about the family, and he stressed what was a rather shocking statement: that singleness was one of the biggest threats to the family. Considering the number of singles who are 30-40-somethings in our church, it really struck a chord.

The chord is in the same key as this article, even though the article doesn't seem to realize how obvious the narcissism has taken hold. Selfishness is not called selfishness anymore. It's some kind of psychological self-love that gets a pass.

I've been saddened by the reality of meeting and caring for elderly people who never married and had no children, resulting in no truly loving family to care for them in their frail years. Aside from the loneliness, they leave no legacy behind.

That is the exact opposite of what God initially called mankind to do from the very beginning. But I don't think that those who are choosing to remain childless have really seen THAT side of things.

Tim Knotts said...

To pile on, there's an editorial pick in today's Wall Street Journal entitled, "Why Pet Dogs Are Just As Good As Kids, Maybe A Little Better".

Less commitment, fewer needs, shorter life. Plus, they can pretty much do everything a child can. It must be true that they're man's best friend. Too bad children aren't.

Ted Cleaver said...

So, the (admitted by the author, years old) Driscoll joke was preceded by censoring FIVE letters with FOUR asterisks, thereby leading the unsuspecting reader (who hadn't read the actual quote) to think that Mark (and the writer) employed a much more objectionable word. Was that intentional or simply Freudian?

(And before anyone starts screaming, "But Frank said to read the Newsweek article first", there are too many scenarios in which that directive would not or could not be followed to even bother enumerating.)

Frank Turk said...

The number of Asterisks have been updated because that is easier than waiting out the sanctification of a weaker brother.

Solameanie said...

Like the others, I appreciated this article very much. But I also have a strange sense of sadness at the end of it. Probably because they were clueless then, remain clueless now, and unless there is divine intervention, will remain clueless as to the real solution to the problem. I don't have high hopes for my country at the moment. While I'm an eternal optimist, I am a temporal pessimist, and that side is yelling louder these days.

Marla said...

The second to last paragraph in the original, calling people "breeders" (as if that is the only important characteristic about them) is priceless. I take some flak from my extended family about how many kids we have, but hey -- who is going to pay their SS? One can only hope us "breeders" will out-populate the "no-children-by-choice" political crowd.
Of course, it is really just another consequence of rebellion against God. I think I could go on and on about this subject, but I'll leave it at that.
God says children are a blessing, so I'm going with Him (and I keep praying and spreading the truth of the Gospel as well.)

Ted Cleaver said...

The unsuspecting reader, Mark, and I all thank you for your deference. We'll try to hurry along our sanctification so as not to be overly-burdensome to you.

Frank Turk said...

Well, at some point try not to be offended by asterisks. That's an easy baby step.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Clearly a merciless tweeting beating.

Frank Turk said...

A tweeting beating battle from a blogger with a paddle. There's a aster-hassled pastor claiming damage to his image.

And then the traditional menace who must be stopped.

Chris H said...

That sounded almost like Ogden Nash. Which, from me, is a compliment.

And your willingness to admit your menacity (menacosity? menaceness?) is the first step towards stopping you.

Nash Equilibrium said...

It cannot be purely coincidence that there is a country called Turkmenistan (Turk-menace-stan).

Kerry James Allen said...

The Nash comment was the bowling equivalent of a TURKey: three consecutive strikes. Most excellent!

Ted Cleaver said...

Second time in a week here that someone has assumed (incorrectly) that I was offended. Odd.