Family breakdown as victory for human rights

Divorce, single parenting, and weak family values are not bad things, according to a UN official:

A leader in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has declared that the breakdown of traditional families, far from being a “crisis,” is actually a triumph for human rights.

Speaking at a colloquium held last month at Colegio Mexico in Mexico City, UNFPA representative Arie Hoekman denounced the idea that high rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births represent a social crisis, claiming that they represent instead the triumph of “human rights” against “patriarchy.”

“In the eyes of conservative forces, these changes mean that the family is in crisis,” he said. “In crisis? More than a crisis, we are in the presence of a weakening of the patriarchal structure, as a result of the disappearance of the economic base that sustains it and because of the rise of new values centered in the recognition of fundamental human rights.”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • EconJeff

    I wonder if we lived in a matriarchal society he would think so highly of it.

    I actually get the guy’s point–people are more free now. But that is not always the point. What you do with your freedom matters. If we spend it in selfish pursuits that lead to terrible outcomes for future generations, that’s not good. There needs to be a balance.

    I tend to land on the side that yes we are more free, but that means that we are more free to serve others.

  • Manxman

    Feminism being taken to its anti-Biblical logical conclusions and consequences.

  • Matt C.

    Good point, EconJeff. Freedom isn’t an end unto itself. As Chesterton put it: “Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end. Somebody wrote a work called ‘The Loves pf the Triangles’; I never read it but I’m sure that if triangles were ever loved, they were loved for being triangular.”

    The good news is that if a society can’t coexist with the family, it’s more likely that the society will cease than the family will. The latter is written onto human design; no matter how hard we try, we can’t really escape it.

  • Joe

    The worst part of this story is that I am not at all surprised by it.

  • Mary

    On top of it all, the guy is against single income households? “The economic base” that previously kept family members home more?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01763924682909630509 Orianna Laun

    It is a triumph for humanism, this is true. The order God gave Adam and Eve at creation, namely the family structure, has been eroded by sin. The “rise of new values centered in the recognition of fundamental human rights” can be translated as “write your own truth based on whatever feels good to you.”
    Question: When did having a mother and a father and a stable home life stop being a fundamental human right–or does that not count? (I’m being only partially facetious here.)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Since when were UN officials known for their wisdom?

  • http://lutheranguest.blogspot.com/ Jim

    Obviously I don’t truck with the U.N.’s position, but I’m unsure that traditional patriarchy is anything that Christians should feel obliged to defend.

    Jesus said things that would absolutely shock individuals in a patriarchal society:

    Luke 14.26: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

    Mark 3.32-35: “A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’

    “Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and brothers?’

    “Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers!

    “‘For whoever (AK)does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.’”

  • Sam

    A lone UN representative is hardly the harbinger of a new world order, but have Chrisitian communities acknowledged the sordid effects of unchecked patriarchialism? A conservative Christian blogger I admire recently made this point -

    “I’m going to be in trouble now: I believe the blindness towards the general bias against women and the actual mistreatment of women is a failure in evangelicalism that far outweighs the issue of racism. Evangelicalism has a lot of men who respect and love women as Christ did, but it also has a massive amount of men who don’t like women, disrespect and mistreat them.”

    Let’s clean our own house first.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Sam has a point (@9). If we defend patriarchy but do not even more decry its corruption at the hands of unloving men, then we (who are largely men here, no?) are “conserving” nothing of value.

    I haven’t kept an official count or anything, but I’m pretty certain I’ve seen many more comments here railing against feminism or the “liberal” destruction of the family than I have against husbands who utterly fail to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

  • Don S

    Sam @9: An official spokesman for a world institution is openly promoting the sins of divorce and out-of-wedlock sexual relations as being good things, because they are breaking down traditional family structure. Your response to this is that all of us, collectively, should be silent until every single evangelical Christian is sinless with regard to the Biblical command to love our wives.

    It would seem that such a standard would preclude us from every speaking out against any societal evil.

  • Peter Leavitt

    The biblical stuff that Jim quotes relates Christ’s view of spiritual matters, not family ones. Christ in his clear opposition to divorce and statements that he came to fulfill the moral law not to dispose of it would be appalled at this fellow, Hoekman’s, blithe dismissal of the patriarchal root of marriage that is at the heart of family life and at the root of contemporary family decadence.

    The trouble is that all too many modern “liberal” Christians lack the cojones to stand up for the vocation of fatherhood that in the long run makes for a happy marriage in which the wife and children involved are both truly loved and well served.

  • Chris H

    We may have more “freedom” but we definitely have less liberty.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Peter, wouldn’t you say there has also become a normal everyday and apathetic Christian lack of cajones toward the vocation of fatherhood?

    I don’t think it is just the “liberal” Christians anymore, the cultural neutering has reached and thoroughly infiltrated our ranks. Are Christian men with functional cajones on any endangered species list somewhere?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bryan, the fact is that many evangelical and orthodox Christians have been greatly influenced by the liberal and romantic ideas of modernity.

    That is why in my view Western Civilization is most probably on its last legs. In college two of my best teachers shared Toynbee’s view that the essentially Christian West showed signs of serious decline. At the time, being young, somewhat irreverent, and optimistic, I was skeptical of this view. Now, I understand what they were talking about.

  • Chris H

    Sam, perhaps this mistreatment and hatred of women comes from the breakdown of the patriarchy. Abusive husbands and fathers are inexcusible for sure, but are they the bigger problem or is it passive men? My contention would be that passivity breads abuse.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bryan (@14), I’m sorry, but you’ve inadvertently made reference to the Spanish word for “drawers” twice now. Just so you know.

    And Peter (@12), si no tienes los cojones para decirlo en inglés, ¿porqué piensas que está bien decirlo en español?

  • Booklover

    I had to look up “cajones.” Just go ahead and say “balls” so that we know what you are talking about. :-)

  • Sandi

    I am encouraged that this discussion has moved to the heart of the matter. Missing Christian men. I have counseled Christian youth for over 20 years. I have found this to be the number one problem within Christian households. No ‘real’ Christian headship. These men faithfully attend church each Sunday, but in general, Christ does not rule their hearts. If they desire to lead, they have little or no mentor available. This tragedy is now being passed to the next generation. I see many young Christian women who tell me that they see no difference between the Christian young men in their lives and the non-Christian young men. WHY IS THE CHURCH SO AFRAID TO REALLY ADDRESS THIS ISSUE?????

  • Booklover

    I, too, think many Christians are as much to blame for the breakdown of the family as anyone. We have succumbed to materialism just like anyone else. Wives have become a source of a paycheck instead of childbearers and nurturers. Divorce is as common in our households as in nonbelievers’. The same probably goes for out-of-wedlock births.

    In fact, I daresay this selfish individualism may have even started with some factions of the church–those factions that strayed from covenantal “family-oriented” theology to individual decision theology. Bite my tongue.

  • Sam

    I can’t read minds, to be sure, but it seems to me that some of these comments, while agreeing that the church should first take the beam out of its own eye, still come uncomfortably close to identifying the problem as, of course, women. “It’s because women work, women don’t stay at home; a passive man is worse than a man who beats his wife.”
    Incredible.
    Fellas, women are the not the problem.

  • Peter Leavitt

    todd, simply due to the lack of elegance and manners stating the earthy English word and a preference for the more subtle and elegant Spanish word. Have you any objection to the basic argument, or might you be a smitten romantic liberal involved in the dream guessing of modern liberalism?

  • Sam

    Don S @11.

    You got it. Let’s keep our mouths shut a little more often about others and look at ourselves. Given that Christians largely ignore the mistreatment and disrespect of women within our own ranks, we reek of hypocrisy when we condemn the things unbelievers say about “family values.”

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Sam, So if we criticize men in the church for not fulfilling their vocations as faithful husbands and fathers, we’re still atacking women?

    I don’t think your trying to understand Chris H.’s comments deeply enough.

    How manly of you – good job.

  • Sam

    Bryan @24. Or perhaps I read them too well.

  • Sam

    Bryan @24. I should have added, if I failed to understand the deeper meaning of Chris H.’s comment @16, let him correct me.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Peter (@22), there is no more “elegance” or “manners” involved in saying an inelegant word in a different language. That you, like the Norman elite before you, happen to find Germanic languages unsavory, preferring the would-be “subtlety” and “elegance” of Latinate languages, doesn’t change the meaning. I hope you won’t mind if I continue this comment in my guttural English.

    But never mind the bollocks, here’s the point: I already made my “objection” back in comment #10. Of course, you continue to blame “liberals” (one wonders if you can do anything else), while completely missing the point that “conservative” men have also failed to “stand up for the vocation of fatherhood”, even if they are testicularly laden — and they do this by failing to love their wives fully. Indeed, in the less-than-glorious history of the patriarchy, wives were often treated as little more than property or baby-making machines.

    Now, you may call me a smitten love-struck lefty for thinking so (indeed, I’m fairly certain you will, though if you need to resort to French to do so, I’ll understand), but I stand by my point, secure in the knowledge that loving one’s wife fully — not abusing her, not disrespecting her, not even thinking less of her, but taking care of her and putting her needs before one’s own — is quite literally what husbands are called to do. By Jesus.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m just joking around here, Sam, I think you and I and Peter and Chris H. are mostly in agreement that American Christianity has pervasively so followed after the false gods of the culture that in most corners it has lost its voice. You criticize us Christians because we (as a body) are not living in such a way that lends credence to our message – is that what you’re trying to say? Is this why you are responding to the Christian drumbeat you think you’re hearing in this post for manliness, toughness, and muscular certitude as opposed to passivity?

    Even though we jokingly speak of cajones and such, I don’t think re-masculinization is really what I’m after. We don’t need to re-masculinize the church. That would skew it in just as weird a way as it is skewed today. We need Christ at its center – and Him to recreate both men and women by faith through the forgiveness of sins. Christ will build His body as He draws us to himself.

    That forgiveness is what really re-makes strong families for both man and woman alike.

    Ignoring sin always tears families apart. Which is probably what you were trying to get at and which is a point I think really speaks well to the heart of this blog post. This UN official seems to be living in denial of the evils plaguing our society and so much so that he calls good evil and evil good.

  • Peter Leavitt

    tODD, re: #10, while some men attempt to cruelly dominate women, that is far from the true meaning of patriiarchy or the role of the male head of the family. You might reflect on the following post from Beth on the Touchstone blog:

    If marriage is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church, it is quite clear that Christ leads and the church submits — but look at how that happens. Christ sacrifices Himself, yes, but He also most definitely leads and we are constrained to obey. But His leading is out of love for us and for our good and we respond to that love in joyful submission to bring glory to Him; only in that submisson can He make us fully the selves He intended us to be when He created us.

    Nothing on this earth delights me more than when I see this worked out in a marriage, like that of my parents, which has lasted 63 years now. There is nothing of “you submit, you slave!” about my father, nor the cowering doormat about my mother. My father leads lovingly and my mother submits joyfully, and they are beautifully the unique beings God made them to be, working in unity with Him and each other to reflect the love of their God.

    I have come to see that this equation of sinful terms of dominance/superiority and cowering/inferiority with biblical leadership and submission is the worst deceit of our time

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Yes, Peter (@29), I get that — that’s part of what I was talking about before.

    But I still do not get the impression that you understand how “conservative” men — manly men, if you will (and I assume you will) — have mucked things up at least as much as “smitten romantic liberals” have, if not more so. And they have done this by failing to live up to the standards we’re both talking about.

    The manly conservative men so often muck things up in God’s name — which is all the worse — as if it were God’s will that they be jerks to their wives. You talk of “cruel domination”, and as I noted before there has been that. But far more often the patriarchy has produced husbands who simply don’t care much about their wives — they ignore them, don’t care much about their opinions on things, think they’re silly, and so on. Or they yell at them when they’re angry (or drunk). It’s ever so manly. And pretty traditional. Just not very Christ-like.

    So when you rail against limp-wristed liberals for their recent damages to fatherhood, try and consider also the few millenia of sinful, but conservative, men who’ve also lousied things up as far as the perception of fatherhood goes. Men who’ve made the idea of patriarchy — that is, male leadership in the family and society, whether for good or ill — so repulsive that many people would prefer the horrors of modern society to it.

    Or you can just pretend that back in the “good ol’ days” every husband was loving and did what you said and every wife happy … and simply marvel at how we’ve come to where we are.

  • Peter Leavitt

    tODD, fallen men and women will be capable of poor behavior in any social order. The issue is whether the contemporary liberal order that dominates with men like Hoestra who praise the virtue of divorce and children born out of wedlock is better than the traditional Christian order where men have a serious obligation as husbands and fathers to lead from Christian love and women and children have an obligation to submit to this lead joyfully, as Beth remarks above.

    Serious Christians from St. Paul to C. S. Lewis have seen the wisdom of men heading families in a firm, loving way. Some liberal friends of mine effectively do the same, though they would never admit it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD,
    “The manly conservative men so often muck things up in God’s name — which is all the worse — as if it were God’s will that they be jerks to their wives.”
    what is “manly” or conservative about being a jerk to your wife. These things are not synonymous. A jerk is a jerk, lets not get him confused with manly.
    As for the breakdown of the family, it is a terrible thing for society in general, especially for the children raised up in that. It has the effect of destabilizing children. I have a hard time believing it is just coincidence that 9 out ten men in my Jail Bible Study, were raised without fathers. This is not a good thing for society or the individual.

  • Chris H

    Sam, I’m not sure if you understood me or not. My contention is that the domineering, abusive, dictator of a husband, while inexcusable, is a much smaller issue when compared to the passivity of men.

    Are women to blame? In a sense yes, in so far as feminism is concerned. Feminists have been standing with a clenched fist demanding men abdicate their leadership for 200 years, which men have been in large part willing to do. So there is plenty of blame to go around.

    But my bigger point is this, partriarchy is not the problem! It’s a lack of it. Passive men are doing more harm to families than abusive men have ever done. Furthermore, passivity will breed much more abuse than a society that upholds a proper patriarchy.

  • Chris H

    tODD, I would argue that what you describe is not a problem of too much patriarchy, but a lack of it. The husband that you describe is a model of passivity leading to passive agressive abuse, leading to all out physical, emotional, and verbal abuse.

  • WebMonk

    As a outsider to this discussion, might I suggest that y’all get on the same page. You guys have wildly differing concepts of what “patriarchy” means or implies. Ditto with the “conservative men” that are mentioned back and forth.

    It’s really hard to have a discussion when using the same words to mean different things. I don’t know that a common set of meanings would bring agreement, but it might help the discussion to be a bit more precise.

  • Rose

    We need a taxonomy of developmental family tasks. The lowest classification would be a family characterized by abandonment of the weak, old or young. This is what we have now with abortion. A higher functioning family would have an intact marriage that welcomes children and provides care for the old and extended family. The popular taxonomies of Bloom, Havighurst and Erickson are exclusively focused on the individual. They neglect the family, God’s social organizing principle.

  • Rose

    Peter (#31), Another good resource for Bible study is John Temple Bristow’s “What Paul Really Said About Women”.


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