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Natural family under attack in society
Jim Bohenick, November 22, 2006

This week's observance of National Family Week, promoted by the Alli ance for Children and Families, coin cidentally includes our national holiday of Thanksgiving, a time when many families come together to share and be thankful for their many blessings. But the natural family, the fundamental building block of society, has been the subject of abuse, attack and neglect by forces within that society which depend on this institution for its future, ordered existence.

The natural family is a community of persons and the smallest and most intimate social unit in society. It consists of a father, mother and children. In forming this community of persons, it fosters and develops values of commitment, love, fidelity and dignity. It serves life through procreation and the subsequent protection, nurturing and teaching of children. It provides the first and fundamental level of stability and security to children. Finally, the family participates in the development of society as that foundation extending its values and virtues, and seeking social justice.

Unfortunately, the temporal distractions of this modern age combined with an accelerating decline in essential moral values have had a corrupting effect. Marriage rates are declining. Divorce rates are high. Unmarried cohabitation and a general loss of "child centeredness" have further eroded the positive influence of the natural family.

Conflict, increased violence, inadequate parental control and premature independence of children are closely associated with rising crime rates. Drug and alcohol abuse, related criminal activity and the fact that the majority of juvenile delinquents are children and young people from disadvantaged and dysfunctional families are added factors. As a result they face the despair of reduced opportunities for employment, limiting their ability to both reach their full potential and be a positive, contributing member of society.

So, what can be done to stem the tide of this methodical decline? The solutions, I believe, must come from both individuals and societal institutions to adequately address the situation.

In the near term we need to continue to address the symptoms of the demise of the natural family. Public sector funding, in cooperation with social service organizations, must reconsider and establish realistic policies and provide services that remediate the disadvantaged and dysfunctional.

Society is already spending money on this, but often short-sighted budget management reduces or disrupts funding. All too often public sector stewards of these funds ignore the "investment" component of this spending. If these intervention services are effective they would eliminate substantial "downstream costs."

Society is nothing more than the collective summation of all individuals' expression of values and virtues. Each individual must acknowledge and accept responsibility for his/her decisions and actions, and the subsequent consequences. The public sector must become reacquainted with the truth, a set of inherently good values and virtues (many of which I mentioned above), and have the courage to explicitly foster their application by individuals.

With this encouragement by societal institutions, individuals must have the desire and determination to embrace and live according to these values and virtues. For the long-term success of restoring the natural family it is absolutely "urgent and indispensable that every person of good will endeavor to save and foster the values and virtues of the natural family." AS A START, during this Thanksgiving holiday, I would ask all families to identify specifically those "things" for which they are most thankful. Think about them. Are they the products of love, commitment, fidelity and dignity? Are they fond memories of nurturing and teaching actions for and with children? Are they the good feelings of stability and safety? And are they something you want for your children, your children's children and your children's, children's children?

Are you thankful enough to do something about it, individually and collectively as a nation? Your children's, children's children will know the answer.

JIM BOHENICK writes from Lower Paxton Twp.