Can the American Family be Saved from Extinction?

When liberal politicians finally notice the destruction of the American family, it can be said that the problem has become obvious. Here's retired New York Sen. in William J. Bennett's new book, on his 40-year career: “The biggest change in my own judgment is that the family structure has come apart all over the North Atlantic world.”

Throughout, The Broken Hearth takes direct aim at issues widely considered to be purely private matters affecting no one but the participants involved. Bennett clearly outlines the problems and illustrates the damage done by the culture's ready embrace of this moral escape hatch. He calls on individuals to accept responsibility for the social implications of their private behaviors, and on religious institutions to take the lead in fostering such personal accountability.

The media's attack on our culture and morals cannot be underestimated, in Bennett's opinion. Movies, TV and music assault our intelligence and consciences with an unending barrage of immorality, filth and violence.

Bennett finds no single answer to why the culture is breaking down, but rather sees a vast conglomeration of converging cataclysms, the cumulative result of which will be the final destruction of the family — unless these trends are reversed.

The tried and tested nuclear family, he shows, is unquestionably the best environment for the raising and education of children. While customs and traditions have changed through the centuries, this fact has not.

Cohabitation, Bennett notes, weakens the place of women in the world, renders children fatherless and encourages men to be promiscuous. It is not preparation for marriage.

Children, he points out, are better off with fathers who have died than with fathers who have divorced their mothers for, with death, children do not feel parental abandonment. Illegitimacy increases infant mortality, joblessness, homelessness, crime, educational failure, neighborhood cohesiveness and economic costs.

Those promoting the homosexual-rights agenda, he demonstrates, seek to destroy the special status of marriage and the family, and simply reduce it to another lifestyle choice.

THE BROKEN HEARTH: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family by William J. Bennett Doubleday, 2001 320 pages, $22.95

Concerning divorce, Bennett opines: “[A] sledgehammer is being taken to the American family, and there is no reason in the world why we should be expected to stand by in silence, to say nothing and above all to do nothing. It is time for the rules to be reconsidered.”

He continues, “Divorce is the elephant in the living room” that society ignores at its peril. Fifty years later, the children of divorce can still recall the pain and trauma of parental separation.

Bennett calls on churches to lead and prepare couples for marriage. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Christians have been absorbed by the culture. This must change.

He includes a notable quote from Teddy Roosevelt on the importance of the family: “There are many kinds of successes in life worth having. It is exceedingly interesting and attractive to be a successful business man, or a railroad man, or farmer, or successful lawyer or doctor; or a writer, or a President, or a ranchman, or the colonel of a fighting regiment, or to kill grizzly bears and lions. But for unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all the other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison.”

It's time for the familial and societal carnage to end; the future of our children de-pends upon the restoration of marriage and family. Precious few things impact society more than a shattered family. For this reason, The Broken Heath should be in the hands of every engaged couple — it can be a powerful aid in instilling an understanding of the importance the marital vocation to society. For the married, it is a compelling reminder of the social significance of the sacrament of matrimony.

Mary C. Walsh writes from Fredericksburg, Virginia.