As The Family Goes

by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci

There is nothing new about seeing the well-being of the family as a prime indicator of the well-being of society. However, it is of interest a significant percentage of adults in this country concur. Recently, the Shell Oil Company commissioned Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct a poll of adults concerning their opinion as to what is the most serious problem facing the country. Nearly 60% of the respondents stated that declining moral values is the country's most serious problem. The study named the main causes for this moral decline as the following:

Families not teaching children good values 88%
Rise in drug abuse 83%
Society too tolerant of bad behavior 80%
Adult language/sexually explicit TV 73%
Pornography on the Internet 62%
Reduced influence of religion 62%

The family has been the most battered entity in our society for decades. These statistics indict that family once again. Allowing for the exceptions, it no longer can be challenged seriously that the dysfunctional family is an incubator for criminal behavior, teenage pregnancy, low educational achievement and a host of other social ills. The societal upheavals and moral confusion of the 1960's and 1970's have devastated the structure of the nuclear family. The major factors contributing to moral decline as indicated in this study are representative of the failure of society to cope with the events of the past decades that have brought us to the brink of being morally rudderless.

In the face of this challenge, the family is summoned not to give up, but to get going. Parents must recognize and appreciate the power they possess as teachers of moral values. One must live by deeply held moral values in order to teach them. Where do these moral values come from? What makes them strongly held? The secular humanist may answer these questions by appealing to social self-interest. There must be norms if a society is to function. Agreed. However, without God these norms are planted in very thin soil. If mutual self-interest were the only motivation for social cooperation, I believe that it would result, as history teaches, in a police state. The poll states that a lessening in the influence of religion is a significant factor in the decline of moral values. I assert that it is THE factor. The deepest belief that God commands us to love one another - with all of its societal implications - and that our judgment before God is based on our moral conduct lay the foundation for moral principles that are far stronger than mere self-interest. How do we ignite these truths in our society? is the question. Support for this position comes from a very unlikely source in our past, the philosopher, Nietzsche, criticized John Stuart Mill for believing that you can have Christian values in the absence of belief in a Christian God. My perception is that there is significant belief in Christ and in Christian values, but a paucity of public witness to these beliefs. The poll expressed concern about society being too tolerant of bad behavior. This infers the existence of a public conscience; a set of norms of behavior connoting civility and order; and specific moral principles and values functioning in society. Thus, concepts such as freedom and democracy does not preclude a demand for the revival of the Judeo-Christian ethics upon which this country was founded.

The modification of cultural beliefs is a prodigious undertaking. It appears that the process has begun by the recognition that it is needed. The renewed focus on a lived faith within families is the key element for success. There is a particular family from Nazareth that will provide the model of devotion to the good and of victory over evil.

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