Why Divorce Calls Children’s Existence into Question

Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary, has a moving and illuminating article in Christianity Today.  A sample:

Just months before my own wedding, I sat with my mom in the living room of the home I had grown up in, as she explained that divorce was the next exit on the highway of our family’s history. It had been several weeks since she had told me that her and my father’s marriage was in serious trouble. Now, she told me more: They had gotten married way too young, noting that if she could do it all over again, she would have chosen another route for her life, someone other than my father to share life with. . . .

I existed only because my mother and father had become one, creating me out of the abundance of their covenant community. Now, standing amid the debris and shock of the collision that ended their marriage, all this felt up for grabs. If I was through their union, who could I be in their division? If I was because of their coming together, who would I be if they nullified the community that gave me life? Could I be at all? . . .

I offer all this philosophical musing to underscore why divorce—which affects about 40 percent of Americans under age 21 today—is so devastating for young people. Our society assumes in conversation about divorce that the real issues are ones of knowledge and advantage. Popular psychologists and TV talk-show doctors tell us that divorce need not be a big deal as long as children know it’s “not their fault.” Such youth just need to know that Mommy and Daddy are voiding their union for their own reasons, ones that have nothing to do with them.

Further, our university-based number counters tell us that divorce should be prevented because it quickly takes away economic and social capital, so young people need structures and programs to keep them from losing their economic advantages.

God, himself in triune relationship, spoke creation out of nothingness for the sake of relationship. In the same way, in his or her beginning, every child is meant to be welcomed into the beauty of existence through the embrace of mother and father.

I don’t wish to diminish the psychological and economic impact of divorce. But if we truly are relational beings, then divorce is centrally an issue not of psychology nor of economics but of ontology—an issue of our very being. It therefore feels a little like being erased, like losing our being in the deep divide that separates our divorcing parents.

When a young person is informed of her parents’ divorce, it might be that her deepest questions are about her being: How can I be at all now that Mom and Dad aren’t together? Now that they are two, she is unavoidably divided. She has one room at Mom’s and another at Dad’s, one schedule at Dad’s and another at Mom’s. As philosopher Martin Heidegger said, we have our being in our practical way of living, in our actions. And now post-divorce, because this young person’s action and living is divided, so too is her very being. Her parents are seeking to reverse, to go back, to be as if the two never became one. But she can’t do this because she belongs (in the very material of her person that acts with and for them) to both of them.

via Why Divorce Calls Children’s Existence into Question | Christianity Today.

Prof. Root goes on to say how the Church can minister to those who have been put through this crisis of existence.   He has written a book on the whole subject: Children of Divorce, The: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being (Youth, Family, and Culture)

The Case for Early Marriage

Christians have been emphasizing abstinence, says University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, whereas they should be emphasizing marriage.  Instead, Christians are buying into the same confused ideas about marriage that the world has been assuming.

Among both Christians and non-Christians, the marriage age has been rising, from an average in 1970 of 21 for women and 23 for men to today’s 26 for women and 28 for men.  “That’s five additional, long years of peak sexual interest and fertility,” he remarks.   The fertility point is often neglected.  “Women’s fertility is more or less fixed, yet Americans are increasingly ignoring it during their 20s, only to beg and pray to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.”

He also deals with objections to early marriage.  For example, the higher divorce rate among those who marry in their teens.  He isn’t arguing for that.   He sees the optimum age as being in the early 20s.  But he also suggests how Christians are uniquely positioned to make early marriages work.

Read Regnerus’s article, which eludes simple excerpting:   The Case for Early Marriage | Christianity Today.

Parents and children are not natural enemies

An interesting observation from Miss Manners (a.k.a. Judith Martin) in response to a question from a young adult who is living with her parents and wanting to know how best to respond to rude questions (“You’re how old and still living with your parents?”):

The people who say this are HOW old?

Miss Manners asks because the generation that considers relatives to be natural enemies is aging. They grew up denouncing their parents’ values, styles of living and psyches; they left home as soon as possible and resented the expectation of telephone calls and holiday visits; and they predicted antagonism from children — their own as well as others’ — at every stage: Babies would ruin your life, teenagers would hate you, young adults would go off and never be heard from again, or, worse, come home.

That other cultures value and seek to prolong family ties does not discourage such believers from declaring generational enmity to be normal human behavior.

But things are changing. You are far from the only young adult living with his parents. And while doing so is always explained in terms of economic hardship and maternal laundry service, those are not the only reasons.

It seems that another generation of parents has reared children who become fond of them. Miss Manners keeps hearing of, and even reading about, college students who keep in frequent touch with their parents, and graduates who are frankly happy to return home, in preference to living in solitude or with yet more roommates.

So you should be hearing fewer such remarks. That aging generation is beginning to realize that if a time comes when they are no longer able to live on their own, it is their children who will decide where to place them.

via Miss Manners: Some young adults live at home because they like it – The Washington Post.

The issue I’d like us to contemplate is not whether adult children should live at home but the observation that the  hostile “generation gap” was an artifact  of the 1960s and not a universal condition, and that children are now growing up who are fond of their parents and enjoy spending time with them. This is progress, isn’t it?

The Chick-fil-A firestorm

Opponents of gay marriage are being demonized.  Not just disagreed with but condemned, attacked, and boycotted.  That’s what Chick-fil-A is learning after the president of the chicken sandwich chain told an interview that he supports traditional families.  Not just gays but liberals and right-thinking forces of tolerance everywhere are seeking to punish the company.  The whole city of Boston is trying to keep it out of town.  But the interview and the controversial pro-family comments were not even about gay marriage, as Terry Mattingly has shown.  Matthew J. Franck explains:

The highly successful Atlanta-based restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has been much in the news these days, because president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy (whose father founded the family-owned business) apparently came out in opposition to same-sex marriage. Or did he?

Terry Mattingly of the indispensable GetReligion site, which tracks all sorts of journalistic coverage of religion, first called attention to the manufacturing of a misleading story here. In an interview with a writer for the Baptist Press, Cathy was asked about the company’s “support of the traditional family.” His response was, “Well, guilty as charged.” And he went on to talk about the company’s commitment “to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families,” because many of the individual restaurants are family-run operations, and because the Cathy family and their company believe, as Christians, in family-friendly policies. (Their Christian faith and their desire to support families account for the restaurant chain’s being closed on Sundays, for instance, a decision by which the company forgoes many millions in annual revenue.)

At no point in the Baptist Press article did Dan Cathy say a word about the issue of same-sex marriage. The nearest the piece comes to the subject is when the reporter writes, “Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family.” The immediate sequel is the remark of Cathy’s I quoted above. But who are those opponents of the company’s policies? We are never told. Is it fair to surmise the reporter is alluding to advocates of same-sex marriage? Maybe, but it’s far from certain. And Dan Cathy is not, repeat not, on the record in this story as taking any position on that issue.

This did not stop CNN and many other outlets from reporting on the “comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage.” And so a manufactured firestorm began.

via On Mau-Mauing the Chicken Sandwich Guy » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

He goes on to trace how the story grew and took on a life of its own.

But say the president of Chick-fil-A did say that he opposes gay marriage.  Is it not going to be allowed for anyone to oppose gay marriage?  Companies openly support the gay rights movement, and conservatives are chided if they consider a boycott.  But companies aren’t allowed to take the opposite–that is, the traditional–position?  Should companies be neutral about such issues in their philanthropic contributions?  If so, shouldn’t people who work for the companies or who run them have the right to express their opinions?  Should companies be punished for what their employees believe?  Should anyone or any corporation be punished for what they believe?

 

Queen Of Country Music dies

Kitty Wells, arguably the first big female star of country music (not counting the women in the Carter Family), died Monday at the age of 92.

Here is her breakthrough song, a response to Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side of Life,” in which the singer laments that a “honky tonk angel”–that is, a woman of ill repute–broke up his marriage.  Kitty, irked at that song, wrote a reply using the same tune, in which she makes the musical observation that the MAN is to blame for breaking up his marriage by his unfaithfulness and that MEN are the cause of good girls going wrong!

Kitty Wells, ‘Queen Of Country Music,’ Dead At 92 – Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV.com.

UPDATE:  I garbled the account of Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side of Life” to which Kitty Wells was responding.  The man is complaining that his wife who left him turned out to be nothing but a “honky tonk angel” and that he should have known that she would never “make a wife.”

Children as cure for the common cold

More counter-intuitive mysterious health findings:

A new study says that parents are less apt to the common cold than those without children.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that those with kids were half as likely to develop colds with that number increasing with each additional child in the household.

Yet, the study shows that a strengthened immune system is not what protects parents.

Rather, researchers say that “mental toughness” stemming from parenthood helps them to fight off the virus, reported the Daily Mail. . .

Researchers found that those people who had children were 52 percent less likely to get a cold.

Medical News Today said that the study also found that the risk of parents contracting a cold was even lower when the parents did not live with their children – 73 percent less likely.

Interestingly, when researchers controlled for factors such as immunity and exposure to the cold virus, parents still fought off the virus better than non-parents, pointing to psychological factors that may offer protection.

“Although parenthood was clearly protective, we were unable to identify an explanation for this association,” said study author Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University in a press release.

“Because we controlled for immunity to the virus, we know that these differences did not occur just because the parents were more likely to have been exposed to the virus through their children.”

The study was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

via Parents less apt to common cold than non-parents, says study.

One would assume that having kids would expose parents to all kinds of bugs their offspring bring home with them.  But that having kids reduces the number of colds?  And that the more kids you have the more protected you are against colds?  And more so if your  offspring aren’t around?  It’s hard to imagine the connecting factors.  That parents have greater “mental toughness”?  May be, but since when does toughmindedness protect a person from viruses?

Any theories about why this should be?


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