Bedrock of Civilization: the family is the first natural society from which all other communities and nations spring, the very cornerstone of civilization.
Ann Shibler | The New American
Apr 14, 2008
The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
--William Ross Wallace
William Ross Wallace was a poet, not an historian. Yet what historian would dare dismiss his famous dictum that "the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world"? Don't the youth determine the future? And aren't they deeply and permanently influenced by the hand that rocks the cradle?
Yet the history books say relatively little about the hand that rocks the cradle or about the family, compared to other subjects such as war and politics. There is a reason for this, and it does not have to do with child-rearing or family life being less important than the topics the historians do focus on. "We must remind ourselves again that history as usually written ... is quite different from history as usually lived," historian Will Durant said in his study The Lessons of History. "The historian records the exceptional because it is interesting--because it is exceptional." But the "interesting" and "exceptional" are not necessarily what ultimately determine the kind of world in which we live. Durant continued: "Behind the red facade of war and politics, misfortune and poverty, adultery and divorce, murder and suicide, were millions of orderly homes, devoted marriages, men and women kindly and affectionate, troubled and happy with children."
As Durant suggests in his reference to adultery and divorce, not all homes were (or are) orderly. But there is no doubt that throughout history, the fundamental unit of civilization has been the family. In The Mansions of Philosophy, Durant wrote: "The family has been the ultimate foundation of every civilization known to history. It was the economic and productive unit of society, tilling the land together; it was the political unit of society, with parental authority as the supporting microcosm of the State. It was the cultural unit, transmitting letters and arts, rearing and teaching the young; and it was the moral unit, inculcating through cooperative work and discipline, those social dispositions which are the psychological basis and cement of civilized society."
The family is not just "the supporting microcosm of the State," but is also the precursor to the state, the first natural society from which all others spring. According to the Old Testament, the ancestry of all of us can be traced back to Noah and his family, and before that to Adam and Eve. Their families grew to extended families and eventually to communities and nations encompassing many communities. The purpose of a national government, therefore, is not merely to safeguard the individual citizens comprising the nation, but even more fundamentally than that, to safeguard the family--the vital cell of society, the bedrock of civilization.
Accepted through faith and reason by most, the family is not only the fundamental unit of society, but, through marriage, an institution created and ordained by God. The family is meant to be that fundamental unit--the place where the parents perform the supernatural duty of child-rearing; the place where love and life are born, nurtured, and grow: and the place where values, faith, and traditions are passed on from one generation to the next.
Ultimately, the strength of a civilization is determined by the strength of its families and family values.
The importance of the family as the place where children first receive training in speech, general knowledge, notions of God and religion, respect for the rights of others, and social duties cannot be underestimated. Inside the home, it is the family that fosters and promotes lessons of fraternity, obedience, patience, self-sacrifice, self-control, duty, and responsibility. By suffering and rejoicing together, members learn pity, sympathy, gratitude, and faithfulness. It is in the family that the inalienable value of each human life is discovered and respected.
Good habits and work ethics accompanied by creativity and ingenuity contribute to a stable and self-supporting family, teaching self-sufficiency and productivity to its members. The family creates a legal order of its own with laws and proper authority that members must submit themselves to. But the family members do so willingly, based not only on the promise the married couple made to God but also on the strong bonds of love between the husband and the wife, and the parents and the children.
Endowed with a social nature, man tends toward associations with other men in every stage of life. Some pursuits, such as art, science, and philosophy, require means that are beyond familial initiative, thereby necessitating the existence of a larger civil society called the state. The larger association develops into a permanent body for the purpose of maintaining order and for the general welfare. Family members quite naturally separate themselves from their original small social order, and participate in the new civil society, bringing with them all they have learned and experienced inside the family. It is the virtues and good qualities and practices inculcated into family members that are brought into society through non-family interactions. It is through good families' morality that society is infused with proper sustenance and moral fiber.
By transmitting to his descendants the fruit of former generational experiences, particularly unity and stability, and his moral and intellectual heritage, man assures that society will also reflect these qualities so necessary within the family structure. Just as in the family where members work together to moderate the hardships of survival, cooperation with others in the community can and does achieve the greatest technological, intellectual, economic, and societal advancements.
The state, a natural extension of the family and the community, provides the framework and shelter for the material wealth and values of life, and is the guarantor of autonomous law, self-sufficiency, independence, and sovereignty. The same force that works within the family as a regulating and ethical principle--the same force that rocks the cradle--is transferred to the life of nations and ultimately rocks civilization.
It is understandable that the severe crisis of traditional family life is fueling our overall cultural breakdown. It is also understandable why revolutionaries who wage war against God and man, and who see the family as an obstacle in their path, would work to subvert and destroy the family. Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto, explicitly called for the "abolition of the family." Both before and after Karl Marx, from ancient Sparta where children were taken away from their parents and brought up communally, to Nazi Germany, where the young were forced into the Hitler Youth, totalitarians have tried to supplant the family with the Almighty State. But try as they might, the family, though weakened at times, has never been destroyed.
Strengthening the Family
In our own country and in our own times, the family is also under attack. But we should also recognize that the weakening of the family is due not only to outside influences but also from a shirking of parental responsibility. On the other hand, if we concentrate on improving, promoting, and strengthening the traditional family, we would see a blessed change in our culture. Within the family true peace, true morality, and true hope are found, for the state and the world.
First and foremost the family, particularly its most vulnerable members, need to be guarded and protected from outside influences that are contrary to God's laws and the beliefs of the family during their most influential and formative years. It is a sacred trust that parents have received from God, and with that comes the highest responsibility.
The transmission of values and knowledge is the main purpose of education, and that too is the responsibility of the parents, regardless if they provide the education directly at home (a very encouraging trend) or place their children in a structured classroom setting. If the latter, they still have the responsibility of bequeathing to their children all the morals, values, faith, and traditions of the family, while safeguarding their children from contrary outside influences.
Of course, the nature and direction of government (public) schools is such that it is becoming more and more difficult for parents of public-school children to do this, and this is a major factor behind the explosive growth of the home-school movement, which now numbers well over a million and possibly approaching two million home-schooled children in this country. This more-involved interaction of parents and children assists the children in the transmission of family values and morals along with academic instruction; it's an effective method to reproduce the family's way of life. And this same interaction strengthens the bonds between all the family members to produce a more cohesive unit.
Another encouraging light on the horizon is the growing influence of traditional pro-family organizations--some secular, some religious-based--dedicated to preserving, defending, motivating, and equipping families with the knowledge and tools they need to remain strong. Consider, as just one example, the work of Don Wildmon's American Family Association. This very pro-active organization focuses primarily on challenging that influence that seeks to promote and glorify immorality and perversion that adversely affect traditional family values and morals. This organization works to hold accountable the media, companies, and sponsors that support or disseminate anything that would contribute to the decline of those values on which this country was founded, and which keep society and families strong and healthy.
The promotion of strong, healthy families is one of the best antidotes to the increasingly individualistic and pagan nature of our modern-day culture. It is not through consumption and self-indulgence that society will be reshaped and transformed, but the influence of responsible citizens created and nurtured in the home. Parents need to rededicate themselves immediately to the responsibilities of marriage and parenting. It takes time and self-sacrifice--love in action--in our overly ambitious and avaricious world to strengthen this most basic of institutions so utterly vital to the survival of nations. But it can be done, and in the end it will make the difference.