In an age and society where values are relative and personal fulfillment a commonly accepted lifestyle, family life is being eroded. Ordained of God in creation, the family today is embattled by mankind’s rapid abdication of responsibility and lack of commitment to others and the Creator God.
Mankind by their incessant pursuit of self-gratification, have systematically shattered the sacred bonds of-human society’s basic institutions. Thus, formerly enduring interpersonal relationships–husband-wife, parent-child–are no longer regarded as permanent. The events of the past two decades dramatically bear this out.
Throughout the 1960s–known as the era of “enlightened” rebellion.–many of America’s young people disclaimed their parents socially and politically. In the cauldron of Vietnam and the civil rights struggle, generational hatred gained legitimacy and political justification. Many children sensed that their parents were often unwilling or unable to parent them. They felt, moreover, that their parents’ value systems were defective and indefensible.
Once men perceived how fragile human relationships could be, they scorned other relational links in the 1970s. While divorce was not new, it rapidly gained acceptance in a culture which now looked upon it as simply a natural climax of marriage–a form of personal growth. Today, nearly 40 percent of all first marriages end in divorce, with two-thirds of these occurring before the wife’s thirtieth birthday. As for second marriages, the physical, emotional and financial bankruptcy is even worse, with 44 percent of such marriages ending in the divorce courts. Given these and other dropout figures, the National Center for Health Statistics projects that one out of every two marriages during the 1980s will end in divorce.
However, even more appalling than society’s acceptance of divorce, is its growing rejection of marriage. And the long-term commitment marriage calls for is being rapidly discarded. Sociologist Elisabeth Douvan has documented that positive attitudes toward marriage declined in all sex-marital status categories in the ’70s. Indeed, 75 percent of all single women interviewed said marriage was burdensome and restrictive.
Once marriage is no longer deemed desirable, many men and women live together without the binding ties of matrimony. Self-gratification replaced the selfless giving of one to the other. Genuine love, perfectly portrayed in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, is discounted or shunned.
In the 1980s, our nation faces another great threat to family life. As children rejected their parents in the ’60s, parents are now increasingly rejecting their children. Parenthood is now perceived as a handicap to self-fulfillment (in the humanistic sense). All sorts of strategies–from abortion on the one hand to government funded programs on the other–are sought after to relieve parents of their responsibility. Ironically, as older people shirk their responsibility of caring for the young, the young increasingly reject their duty to the old. Old age is already a barren and lonely prospect for many Americans, and by the end of this century, it is likely to be even worse.