The 2014 Acton Lecture Series took a dramatic turn last week as we welcomed G.K. Chesterton – or at least a quite remarkable facsimile of Chesterton in the form of Chuck Chalberg, who travels the country performing in character as Chesterton, among other notable historic figures. In this presentation, Chalberg’s Chesterton speaks about America, which he thought was the only country with the soul of a church. He also addresses the state of the family–and not just the American family–past and present. His starting point–and end point– is this: “Without the family we are helpless before the state.” We hope you enjoy the performance as much as we did!
It’s easy to say that a “family can be anything you choose.” You can have Molly has two mommies, or Jaxon who splits his time between Dad’s house and Mom’s or some version of “his, mine, ours.” In reality, the traditional family is a necessary economic and sociological element of a strong society. It’s like the game Jenga: you can slide and maneuver things all you want, but eventually, it all comes crashing down.
Jonathan V. Last, writing at The Weekly Standard, discusses this “family fragmentation.” He reviews Mitch Pearlstein’s book, Broken Bonds: What Family Fragmentation Means for America’s Future, and why the family must be saved. The family – that unit of biological mom, biological dad and children – remains the “gold standard” when it comes to not only how well children do in life, but in so many important aspects of society. (more…)
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Rev. Robert A. Sirico clears away the media hype surrounding the Vatican Synod on the Family and offers an analysis of its early work. He observes that nothing about the synod “challenges the dogma of the church related to the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, the use of artificial contraception, cohabitation and homosexual acts. What it did was soften the tone of these teachings.” But things got interesting.
An early report led critics to say that it “reflected the opinion of Archbishop Bruno Forte, a special secretary to the synod and a progressive, who prepared the final document and presented it to the media.” But Rev. Sirico, president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, notes that one of the more powerful, conservative cardinals, George Pell, called the report “tendentious and incomplete.”
What is really happening at this synod is an earnest effort by pastors of the church to determine how best to encourage people to live the Catholic faith. This is no easy task. A move too far in the direction of merely repeating old formularies will not work. A move away from what constitutes the very definition of what it means to be Catholic will not only erode the church’s self-identity and betray her founder’s mandate, it will also insult and alienate many Catholics who strive to live by the church’s teachings. This is what we pastors call the art of pastoral practice.
The practice is best modeled by Jesus’ encounter with the woman “caught in the very act of adultery” (John 8: 1-11). His interlocutors somehow thought that they could drive a wedge between his allegiance to biblical law and mercy. So they cast the woman before him and demanded that he say whether she should be stoned, as the law stipulated. The tension built as Jesus doodled in the sand. Finally he replied, “Let you who is without sin cast the first stone.”
The story does not end there. Jesus turned to the woman at his feet and delivered gentle, memorable words—a message that makes the whole story an encounter of faithful mercy: “Go and sin no more.” If this model—finding the balance between justice and mercy, which are often in tension—weighs heavily on the minds of bishops gathered in Rome, that will be an achievement for the church and its pastoral model.
Read “Beyond the Hype About a Vatican Upheaval” in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).
This story has so many things wrong with it, I hardly know where to start. Apple and Facebook have both announced that will now offer egg-freezing – for non-medical purposes – for their employees (which runs at least $10,000, plus a $500 to $800 annual storage fee.)
For these companies, it means two things. One, there is a demand from their employees for such an offer. Second, the companies themselves see some benefit to this. What it sounds like is this: “It’s really not practical or productive for people to try to both work and parent during the ages when they’ll be most useful as a worker, so let’s just take care of that issue. Work, work, work…try and become a parent later.” (more…)
Having already shrugged my shoulders at our society’s peculiar paranoia over whether having kids is “too expensive,” I was delighted to see Rich Cromwell take up the question at The Federalist, pointing out what is only recently the not-so-obvious.
“Children are people, not toasters or cars,” he writes, “and deserve to be more than the product of a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats analysis.”
Alas, as we continue to accelerate in our compartmentalization and transactionalization of every area of life, we appear increasingly bent on abusing the gifts of “choice” and “empowerment” to control and micromanage that which ought to be driven by divine deference.
As Cromwell concludes, constructing elaborate cost-benefit analyses based on our own humanistic and materialistic priorities will only serve to distort and diminish the beauty and mystery of procreation:
There is more to life than budgets. Children are much more than budget line items. They are infuriating, destructive, annoyingly inquisitive bundles of energetic, enthusiastic joy. They challenge you, they test the outer limits of your patience. But they also offer you the opportunity to see the wonder and satisfaction of learning to shimmy up a door frame by pressing feet and hands to opposite sides, of scoring the first goals in soccer, of feeding the dogs for the first time. It’s magnificent. As a wise friend told Blair and me when we were expecting Greer, “You will never regret having kids, but you may one day regret not having kids.”
Give it up. Stop trying to make it part of your life script. Stop thinking of kids in the terms you would think of a new toaster or minivan. Those are purchases you may regret. That’s why they come with receipts and warranties. Kids definitely do not. Kids do, though, offer you the chance to experience the exquisite pleasure of riding a go-kart on a Friday afternoon with a thrilled four-year-old, smile stretching from ear to ear. It is so choice. I recommend you have one or three and experience that exquisite joy for yourself. Trust me, you have the means.
You can listen to the full discussion here.
The conversation covers a range of topics surrounding the series, but focuses mostly on the central theme of life in exile: How ought we as Christians to think about our role in culture and society, and what does the series aim to uncover when it comes to that question?
As Grabill explains:
Exile, in the Old Testament was God’s judgment on the nation of Israel for not doing something or being something that they were called to be. In the New Testament, exile is more a state of being. It’s more like being a sojourner and a pilgrim. And you’re kind of always on the way, in between. And that’s the sense of exile that we’re really building on in For the Life of the World—that sense of that new state of being. And Christians are feeling like they’re on the outside of their culture right now. Everything is changing and things are getting all messed up. We want to capture that sense of tension and exile, but we want to take it in a…constructive way.
Mothers who have achieved success in corporate America are often asked how they balance the demands of child-rearing with those of their careers, and understandably so.
Fathers, on the other hand? Not so much.
The demands of motherhood are significant, to be sure, particularly during pregnancy and the early stages of child development. But given that men have continued to assume more responsibilities in the home, in conjunction with a modern influx of women in the workplace, one would hope that we might begin to hear such questions asked of successful men.
Here is my situation:
* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.
* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.
* I have an amazing wife who also has an important career; she is a doctor and professor at Stanford where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques, and other topics. She is a fantastic mom, brilliant, beautiful, and infinitely patient with me. I love her, I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.
Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.
A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job.
The modern age has introduced many blessings when it comes to child-rearing and child development, offering kids ever more opportunities for education, play, personal development, and social interaction.
Yet as time, leisure, and wealth continue to increase, and as we move farther away from years of excessive and intensive child labor, we ought to be wary of falling into a different sort of lopsided lifestyle — one that over-elevates other goods (e.g. study, practice, play) to the detriment of good old-fashioned labor.
As I’ve written previously, the mundane and sometimes painful duties of day-to-day life have largely vanished from modern childhood, with parents continuing to insulate their children from any activity that might involve risk, pain, or (gasp!) boredom. Given our own newfound conveniences and pleasures, we adults suffer from this same insulation and pleasure-seeking, but especially when it comes to our kids, who are entering this peculiar world in a unique stage of development, we ought to be especially attentive of the formative fruits of productive labor.
When it comes to the cultivation of character and the human imagination, what do we lose in a world wherein work, service, and sacrifice have been largely replaced by superficial pleasures and one-dimensional modes of formation? What do we lose if our children learn only to play hard or study well, without also encountering a long day’s toil on a routine basis? (more…)
Maybe you’re a parent. If you’re not and you’re a reasonable adult, imagine you are a parent.
It’s a lovely day. Your six-year-old would like to play outside. You do not live in the median of an expressway. You do not have a child molester living next door. There is no pack of dogs roaming your neighborhood. You give your son a kiss, a pat on the back, and send him out.
And then Child Protective Services comes to visit. No, really. This happened.
I was going through the piles of mail. There was a knock at the door, which was weird because no one ever knocks on our door unless it’s the UPS guy, and he doesn’t come until dinner time. Corralling the crazy barky dog, I looked out the front door window and saw a woman I did not know — and my six-year-old. (more…)
If you’re out of work and can’t earn an income, it’s easy to slide down the economic ladder from working-poor to just plain poor. So it’s no surprise that the poverty rate in America has, since at least 1970, moved in sync with the unemployment rate. During each recession we would see a spike in the poverty rate and then a decline as the economy recovers and employment levels began to rise.
But around 2010, something seems to have changed. A decrease in unemployment is now no longer enough to reduce the poverty rate. According to a new memo by the Brookings Institute,