Disturbing trends

The point is that, whatever the human situation, it can be successfully addressed if sufficient moral and spiritual commitment and prayerful effort are poured into it. Branding the family which does not conform to some fixed pattern, therefore, is unhelpful.

This is not to ignore those negative forces which tend to pull the family down and often destroy it. There can be no false confidence or apathy about current trends. Such phenomena as widespread divorce, desertion, spouse and child abuse, cohabitation outside marriage, infidelity, out-of-wedlock births, and drug and alcohol use not only debilitate the family; they weaken the nation's entire moral fabric. They are scourges which society must combat with all the religious vigor and social dedication it can muster.

Everyone has a responsibility in this collective task. The churches need to speak out with greater clarity on the fundamental teachings of the Bible. Government, which certainly does not deliberately set out to undermine the family, nonetheless needs to weigh the impact of laws and policies on family stability and independence. Schools need to work closely with parents in the education of children. Industry needs to reform working schedules and make other changes to accommodate the two-breadwinner family and enable working mothers and fathers to carry out their obligations in the home. The television industry needs to summon up a social conscience -- to offer programs that enhance and edify family life rather than cater to people's worst instincts (or, conversely, portray life in a prettified way).

There are some signs that all this is beginning to happen, but much, much more will be required of all religious and social institutions to help turn the negative trends around.

On the deepest level, the whole moral and spiritual tone of society needs purifying. It has become fashionable to accept "moral pluralism" -- do-it-yourself moral standards -- as something positive and progressive. In some quarters the argument is made that every individual should be free to set his or her own values and that it is the situation which should dictate the ethical solution and not an ethical standard which should govern all action.

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