The Rector's Weekly Column

Rev. Victor H. Morgan


 

                 "There is strong evidence that the institution of the family, not only in the U.S. but throughout  Western civilization, is at a crisis." While these words seem very contemporary, they in fact come from an editorial printed in the March 24, 1947, issue of Life magazine.

                   Knowing of my interest in artifacts of the '40s, a friend gave me this magazine last week. Initially, I scanned it  for advertisements and pictures, but my attention soon turned to this three-column editorial.

                   It revealed at least four things. First, people in those days were not averse to reading and following a sustained argument in a rather lengthy piece of writing. The same could not be said for today. Bullets and sound bites are about all the modern man can sustain.

                   Secondly. the situation we face today in Western society has been a long time coming. Dr. Carle Zimmerman, Harvard sociologist, is quoted in the editorial as saying:

                   "Evidence indicates that our middle-class family system has reached its maximum demoralization (or will very soon) . . . If left alone the family system will break up before the end of the century . . . ." Seventeen years into the new millennium it seems what Zimmerman saw in 1947, has happened.  

                   Thirdly, this is not the first time in history that disintegration has occurred. According to Professor Zimmerman, the Western family collapsed in Greece about 300 B.C. and in Rome about 300 A.D.  Both times, he said, the manifestations were the same: (1) almost universal corruption and disregard of the marriage agreement; (2) vanishing birth-rate; (3) denigration of parents; (4) juvenile and adult delinquency.  

                   Finally, the solutions the author of the editorial  proposed were surprising and helpful. After exploring changes in public policy that might turn the situation around, he said that each of these had been proposed, in one way or another, by the Caesars in the last two centuries of the Roman Empire.

                   "They may work now. They didn't work then,"  he wrote. Then, more optimistically, he went on to say that we have resources the pagan Romans didn't have: "The strongest foundation of Christian society and the Christian family is a Christian conscience and a Christian heart."

                    The author's analysis still stands. The problems we face do indeed merit the attention of those in  government and public service, but tax benefits and fiddling with laws are of limited value. Something more is needed.  

                          Only Christ can change human hearts. Only Christ can quell selfishness and engender self-giving love. Only Christ can turns houses where multiple people live under the same roof into havens of blessing and peace. Let us seek our help from Him.  

                          ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain-glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The Rev. Victor H. Morgan is rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Blue Ridge.


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