Not the church, not the state: The family is the fundamental unit of society
What we’re about to discuss might sound like a defense for the old dial telephone or black-and-white TV.
But we’re not trying to sound like your parents or grandparents while taking what might be their side on social issues.
The world is different than it used to be. Women have careers that they couldn’t have had 100 years ago. The rise of technology has allowed even elementary school students to have an iPhone. Divorce is extremely common, with 50 percent of American marriages ending (and the number is no different in evangelical circles). Video games, pop culture, Internet, sexual liberty, cell phones – fast forward through the evolution of technology – the laughter, the fun, the beat of the music bringing you into a zone of utopia and – boom. Stop.
Did you hear that?
It sounded like somebody crying. Yes, look, there. A woman sobs on the kitchen floor. The silence of the house is a haunting reminder of her husband’s absence. A few years ago, he clicked on a link he knew he should have left alone. The link kept calling him back. Lost in this virtual fantasy, he had no moral framework left to restrain him when his secretary had that extra drink at that networking dinner and came on to him. And then his wife came home sooner than expected.
Confused by the ensuing family chaos, his oldest son justifies all sorts of rebellion. After all, Dad, his chief example of manhood, just demonstrated family is apparently not that big a deal. His daughter, just starting high school, gives herself to plenty of guys but says she will never marry. Men are pigs, she thinks, and her family as a unit is a joke. She’s pregnant now, and lies in her bed upstairs, listening to her mother’s sobs.
Do not take this example as some condemnation of our technological and social advancements in the past century. Let’s just agree that the world looks much different today than it did 100 years ago – and too often that difference causes a bad argument. Oftentimes we all think that family, and the moral compass surrounding family, played a specific role in our cultural development as a nation – but only to the extent that any other institution played a role in our modern society. We think in terms of linear progress and evolution as a society. Given the advancement of technology and science, it’s easy to see why one views social evolution as the natural way of things. But just because our world looks different doesn’t mean everything changes.
While a great deal of progress and evolution do occur around us, some things are absolute. Whether you’re driving in rush hour traffic, or along the coast on an open highway, you have a gas pedal, brakes and a steering wheel. This is because in order to properly drive, you need acceleration, brakes and steering. The principles don’t change, but how we apply them changes in accordance to our situation.
All of that to say: The family is the fundamental unit of society. And while this may seem an “old-fashioned” statement, we maintain that the family composes the acceleration, brakes, and steering wheel of any society. Regardless of the world we are now in, the old-fashioned family is still necessary and vital to our growth and preservation of virtue.
The family is the fundamental unit of society because it is the only unit that maintains the population of an educated, virtuous and productive society.
The individual cannot be the fundamental unit of society because procreation would be just that – procreation. What would happen to the new baby? Who would take care of it? How could it survive without care, education or nurturing? The baby would be just an individual, and thus would be viewed as a fundamental unit of society just like every other individual. Which leads us to the next question…
Can the church be the fundamental unit of society? No. First of all, not everybody goes to church. Those who do are divided on what defines a church. Secondly, churches were not founded on the premise of playing a vital role in the kingdom of man, but the kingdom of God. If not everybody in society belongs to a church, and churches are concerned with things outside of society, how can the church be a fundamental unit of society?
Finally, what about the state? Progressives think the state is the fundamental unit of society – it is the director of progress for all humanity. Well, the problem is that the state has to gain its authority from somewhere, and the Declaration says that government derived their powers from the consent of the governed – which is society. So how can the state be the fundamental unit of the society it’s trying to advance? It doesn’t work.
So you may be thinking, “Who cares? Why does it matter what the “fundamental unit of society is?” Because the fundamental unit of society is that thing needed for society to exist – thus it’s the thing we want to preserve as much as possible. That might seem like a “no-duh” statement, but seriously – that’s the question in place: “What is the core element of society to the point that if removed, society would cease to exist?”
We argue it’s the family. Because the family is both the cheapest and most effective institution by which we can turn a young life into an educated, healthy and productive human being. The statistics are overwhelming: the stronger the family, the greater chance of success of the child. If we take the family away, can society continue? Ask our friend sobbing on the kitchen floor.