…check out the helpful website by the Seymour Institute. Founded by the Rev. Gene Rivers in Boston, the Institute brings together information and tools to advocate for marriage in the black community.
I recently received a letter from a reader of my Acton Commentary column, "Marriage as a Social Justice Issue," which she had seen reprinted in modified form at Town Hall. My correspondent was concerned that I had overlooked a key fact: the lack of marriageable black men. She said, in part:
Education and the lower number of available black men are 2 major things you left out of your article. I know that marriage is important in the black community, but if every black man you meet has limited education, a criminal record and several children, what is getting married going to do, really? It is going to tie you to a man that can’t provide for you, that wouldn’t make sense. And if he didn’t treat you well, then there really is no reason to marry him.
I think the real propblem here is not that blacks don’t marry, it is that there are just not enough good black men to go around. So they screw around. Women are only human and they have needs. And if you are 30 never married with no prospects, I would imagine that over time, you get lonely, and men can take advantage of that, and they do. Very sad but true. So don’t make the single mom the bad guy here. We are not bad and plenty of us work and don’t get public assistance.
What can I say? She is correct. Put her point another way, many women may be making the best of a bad situation when they choose to have children without husbands.
My question to her, and to my readers: what can we do that would be constructive about the problem of lack of marriageable black men? Part of the problem is crime and incarceration, but that part of the problem is something neither I nor most readers are in any position to do anything about. My correspondent implied that men take advantage of the vulnerability of the woman who hopes for marriage or at least motherhood.
The reason this is important for EVERYONE and not just the black community is this: within the broader culture, the combination of feminist movement, gay rights movement and family law radicals are conspiring to make marriage a gender neutral institution. For all practical purposes, this has meant the marginalization of men from the family. In the black community, the process of marginalizing men is more or less complete. The kinds of family forms, and sexual dynamics we see there, is where the society as a whole is headed.
Cross posted at my blog.
From the new Solzhenitsyn Reader, which I highly recommend (especially if you are behind on your Christmas shopping):
Human society cannot be exempted from the laws and demands which constitute the aim and meaning of individual human lives. But even without a religious foundation, this sort of transference is readily and naturally made. It is very human to apply even to the biggest social events or human organizations, including whole states and the United Nations, our spiritual values: noble, base, courageous, cowardly, hypocritical, false, cruel, magnanimous, just, unjust, and so on. Indeed, everybody writes this way, even the most extreme and economic materialists, since they remain after all human beings. And clearly, whatever feelings predominate in the members of a given society at a given moment in time, they will serve to color the whole of that society and determine its moral character. And if there is nothing good there to pervade that society, it will destroy itself, or be brutalized by the triumph of evil instincts, no matter where the pointer of the great economic laws may turn.
In this week’s Acton Commentary, Anthony Bradley takes a look at the Spanish economy as it faces a “dilemma,” as he puts it, “simultaneously needing immigrants and seeking to curb them.” Bradley also notes that “institutions like marriage and family seem silly to many Spaniards.”
As APM’s Marketplace reports, shifting trends in Spain might claim another Spanish institution, the siesta. A variety of factors, including increasing competition with labor forces in other nations, are leading some to question the viability of the siesta system in Spain.
The siesta works like this: in the middle of the workday, beginning at around 2pm, offices and businesses close up shop for a few hours, giving workers an extended break. It used to be that employees could go home, spend some time with the family, have a meal, and take a brief catnap, returning fresh to work after the siesta concluded.
But nowadays, the lengthy commutes for urbanites makes a trip home impractical. And many workers don’t like having to stay at work until 9pm in order to get a full day’s work in after the siesta break. What once was a way to create family time is now being seen as contributing to an anti-family work environment. As Jerome Socolovsky reports, “Young parents who want to go home before 9 o’clock to be with their kids can meet with disapproval from the boss.”
One interesting thing about this story is the juxtaposition of the situation in Spain, which seems to be heading away from the siesta model, and the reality in some other industrialized nations, such as Japan, where “power napping” is becoming big business.
In his depiction of the Christian’s daily activities in Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that “the noonday hour, where it is possible, becomes for the Christian family fellowship a brief rest on the day’s march. Half of the day is past. The fellowship thanks God and prays for protection until eventide. It receives its daily bread and prays…”
It strikes me that in the rise of the Japanese power nap and the fall of the Spanish siesta, we’re seeing two extremes come together. Perhaps working 12-hour days, as is common in Japan, isn’t the human ideal. And neither is the extended break during the hottest hours of the day necessary in places where the work being done isn’t manual labor.
Appropriate rest is needed, that is beyond question. But exactly what constitutes the right amount of rest seems to be an open question, or at least culturally contextual to some extent. As Calvin observed, the moral requirements of the fourth commandment concerning Sabbath observance are universal, and include provision for “our servants and labourers relaxation from labour.” This includes the “carnal” labor of daily work, as but a pointer toward “the mystery of perpetual resting from our works.”
Update: Marketplace takes a look at the immigration boom in Spain here. According to one immigration lawyer, a major reason immigrants head to Spain is “the generous welfare system. Illegal aliens get free health care here.”
The January 2007 issue of First Things features a lengthy review of Stephen Grabill’s new book on Protestant natural law thinking (no link to the review, unfortunately). J. Daryl Charles, an assistant professor at Union University, has this to say about Grabill’s Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Eerdmans, 2006):
Grabill’s examination of theological ethics in the Protestant Reformed mainstream is utterly compelling, and it represents a shot across the bow of theological ethics, as it were. Protestants for the past 250 years have found practical as well as theological justification for ignoring or vehemently rejecting natural-law theory. And despite its bewildering diversity, there exists across Protestantism a broad consenus that rejects the natural law as a metaphysical notion rooted in divine revelation. This consensus is mirrored in the fact that one is hard-pressed to identify a single major contemporary figure in Protestant theological ethics who has developed and defended a theory of natural law.
The Charles review, titled “Reforming Natural Law,” goes on to say that Grabill “has performed a valuable service in plumbing the rich texture of Reformed theological ethics.”
For a limited time, the book is on sale in the Acton Book Shoppe for only $20.
Lawler discusses the increasingly broad push to commodify the human body, especially in the context of organ sales. Lawler writes of “the creeping libertarianism that characterizes our society as a whole. As we understand ourselves with ever greater consistency as free individuals and nothing more, it becomes less clear why an individual’s kidneys aren’t his property to dispose of as he pleases.”
I myself have written elsewhere and on another related topic challenging the “ultimate right of an individual to his or her own life” and therefore to the body. I make the case that the right of possession over one’s body is not an ultimate or absolute right in any ontological sense, given the status of our relationship to God as creator.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some more relative, less absolute, “political” right of an individual over his or her body. It simply means that libertarian rhetoric needs to be toned down and appropriately tuned to the question of the prudence of political intervention in areas like physician-assisted suicide, kidney sales, and prostitution. This would include some rather less grandiose claims than an “ultimate right of an individual.”
Ritchie gets at this latter point very well in his analysis of the typical response to “creepy libertarianism,” that is, “creepy statism.”
“To try to make an inhuman state the tool for humanizing our world is to fail to see what the modern state is. If you believe in bodily integrity, use your own body to persuade your neighbors not to sell their kidneys. And then be prepared to listen to them as they explain why they wish to do what they plan to do,” he writes.