The motive for this paper is not to wallow in the bad news (of which there is plenty) but to do something positive about it – in particular to pray, especially for Revival.

Every day I thank God “for the good things in the church: where there is faith in you, love for you, sincere worship, biblical teaching and true discipleship, unity and love, evangelism and outreach, prayer, spiritual and numerical growth.” It is important to realise that there is a lot of positive information about churches, especially when we remember that the media tends to focus on the negative news. Please bear this in mind as you read this paper which majors on the negative news. The reason for majoring on it is that much of it is very serious and damaging and we need to pray against the negatives and for the positives. And we particularly need to pray for revival – on a scale that happened in the 19th century Wesleyan Revival. Revival always begins with the church. I start with a positive.

The good effects of the Covid 19 crisis

One of the good effects is that many churches are using electronic communication to reach people during the lockdown and it seems they are reaching people who would not go to a church building (in normal circumstances). Obviously, it is important for Christians actually to meet together in fellowship, including for Communion. But if it is a choice between an individual having no contact with the church or being in contact via electronic media then, of course, the latter is preferable. In an age dominated by electronic communication it is important that the church uses electronic means in evangelism and teaching the Christian Faith, and in enabling people to experience Christian worship. It is likely that this increased use of the media will continue after the crisis, which is a good prospect.

Sometimes virtual reality is used, perhaps via a headset, which produces a 3D image, creating a completely immersive experience of an online church community. Then there is chatbot, an Artificial Intelligence device which can answer thousands of questions about the faith.

There was a huge increase in downloading of Bible Apps in the early days of the lockdown. One was installed almost two million times. Eden Bible Stores saw the sale of physical Bibles rise by 55%. American publisher LifeWay Christian Resources said sales were up 62% compared with last year.  Tyndale House Publishers recorded an increase too.

 

There has also been a massive increase in Google searches for “prayer” and “Christianity.” Since the lockdown people involved in online Alpha Courses have doubled in numbers.

Use of electronic communication prior to the crisis

Electronic communication was in increasing use before the Coronavirus crisis.

Wycliffe Bible Translators now have a Bible translation method – Mobilised Assistance Supporting Translation – which enables nationals, even in remote and dangerous countries, to translate the Bible into their own language. It uses computer tablets with translation software and high-speed printing. Instead of taking years translation of the New Testament can be done in months.

Church growth

Between 2007 and 2107 10% of Church of England parish churches have experienced significant growth in regular Sunday attendance. St George’s, Gateshead began in 2016 with 20 members and now has 200. 72 other new churches are growing in Co Durham.

Independent churches such as FIEC, Brethren, New Churches (e.g. Vineyard and New Frontiers) the Salvation Army and many immigrant churches have growing membership – an average of 2.4% between 2012 and 2019. However 10% of them grew at an average rate of 6.4%. They include Immigrant Churches, (mainly Black) Pentecostal Churches.

Dr Peter Brierley records that a group he calls Mainstream Anglican Evangelicals, grew from being 16% of all Evangelical Anglicans in 1990 to being 33% by 2010. Mainstream Evangelicals are also growing in other denominations.

Chelmsford Diocese plans to set up 101 new worshipping communities by 2025. Oxford Diocese plans to set up 750 new congregations (e.g. Fresh Expressions) for people untouched by traditional church. Stephen Hance, the new National Lead for Evangelism and Witness in the Church of England heads up a project to prepare 1000 new evangelists by 2025.

However, there is also bad news.

Church numerical decline

Church of England regular worshippers overall declined by 10% in the last decade. 39% of parishes reported a decline but 50% of parishes didn’t provided sufficient data. Membership of Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches is also declining. The number of Evangelical churchgoers (across all denominations) was 1.4 million in 1990 but is declining to an estimated 1.2 million by 2030.

A Gallup poll recorded that US church membership had declined from 70% to 50% since 1999.

Church spiritual failure

A LifeWay study found that only 15% of British regular churchgoers read the Bible every day. 45% read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40% only read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 20% say they never read the Bible.

A Scripture Union study of over 1,500 Christian ministries found that many of their leaders and volunteers set aside “no or minimal” time for prayer.

Church theological failure

Dr John Shepherd was appointed in January 2019 as interim director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. But the previous Easter he said in a sermon “The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body….Jesus’ early followers felt His presence after His death as strongly as if it were a physical presence and incorporated this sense of a resurrection experience into their gospel accounts. But they’re not historical records as we would expect history to be written today; they are symbolic images of the breaking through of the resurrection spirit into human lives.” He subsequently released a statement seeking to give the impression that he was orthodox, saying he believed in the empty tomb. But it is difficult to see how that squares with the above statement. Did someone steal the body?

The Resonate Christian research organisation discovered that whereas 90% of Methodists believed in heaven only 56% believed in hell.  This is strange since Jesus clearly taught about Hell and had more to say about it than anyone else in the New Testament.

St Matthew and St Luke’s Church, Darlington invited local Muslims to pray in the church and told them that a cross and a picture of Jesus as The Light of the World would be covered up.

A Muslim scholar was invited to preach at a Communion service in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford.  Yet Islam denies everything the Communion service stands for. After protests, an Oxford diocesan spokesperson said the scholar would preach following the Communion Service.

Church desecration

In 2019 Southwark Cathedral hosted the London Fashion Week which featured very scantily-clad women parading up the aisle. For example, two were wearing bikinis.

Gloucester Cathedral allowed Sky to film a drama majoring on witchcraft in which one character seeks to connect to her witch heritage and a second seeks a witch to tutor a third character.

On a lesser level but totally inappropriate, Norwich Cathedral incorporated a huge helter-skelter on top of which the Bishop of Lynn preached a sermon before sliding down in his robes and mitre. In his sermon he said “God wants to be attractive to us… for us to enjoy ourselves, each other and the world around us and this glorious helter-skelter is about just that. Enjoying ourselves is a good thing to do and God will be revelling in it with us and all those people who have found fun and joy and laughter here.” Now I’m certainly not against fun and laughter but simply entertaining people who are not yet believers is not appropriate for the church.

Rochester Cathedral installed a miniature golf course and Peterborough Cathedral hosted “creative yoga” under a giant model of the planet Earth, titled “Gaia.” Gaia was, of course, the mother goddess who presided over the earth.

The Archbishop of Canterbury commented: “The first thing I want is for people not to be bored. I want them to have fun … If you can’t have fun in a cathedral, you don’t know what fun is.”

Church sexual abuse

Sexual abuse within the church has done enormous damage to the church’s reputation and the cause of the Gospel. There is a great deal of very damning evidence. For example, as I normally do, I read the Church of England Daily Media Digest (summary of secular news items related to the church) on January 14th 2020. Every item in the Digest was about serious crime amongst leaders in the Church of England:

  • Coverage of the documentary on BBC 2 the previous evening of the Bishop Peter Ball case. This was a shocking two-part documentary about the extensive and blatant sexual abuse carried out over years by a previous Bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, for which he was imprisoned. He was convicted of abusing 17 teenagers and young men – one of whom took his own life. The present Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek said “I am utterly ashamed that a so called Bishop in the Church of England committed such horrific abuse.” There was serious criticism of how the church dealt with the situation. Peter Hancock, the Church of England lead safeguarding bishop said “It is a matter of great shame and regret that the Church did not act to address the behaviour of Peter Ball at the time and that survivors were left to fight tirelessly for justice.”
  • Report of an 81-year-old former priest convicted of sex offences from the 70s and 80s in Chichester Diocese.

 

The other two items were non-sexual but very serious:

  • Coverage of a Channel 4 documentary about a former deputy church warden jailed for 36 years for murder.
  • Coverage of the discipline of a priest who had pocketed £6000 from sham weddings

Other serious matters were reported in the media during 2019:

  • “Warwickshire vicar Christopher Goble admits child porn charges”
  • “19 abuse allegations against former Bishop of Chester who died in 1987”
  • “Clergy and staff from Lincoln Diocese were referred to police in 2015 after church leaders had allegedly ‘turned a blind eye’ to claims of child abuse, an investigation has revealed.”

There were reports of sexual abuse in other denominations in 2019-2020. Here are some headlines:

  • ‘Feared’ pastor convicted of rapes which left some child victims pregnant” [This was the same day as the above Media Digest].
  • Dozens of Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing 166 children
  • Birmingham [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese let children be abused and harboured paedophile priests ‘to protect its own reputation’
  • Jesus Army will ‘cease to exist’ [because of sexual abuse].

All of this will have done enormous damage to the church and the Gospel. Little wonder a recent Ipsos Mori survey found that only 62% of people say they trust clergy to tell the truth. That compares with 69% in 2016 and 85% in 1983.

The homosexual issue

The Church of England bishops’ 2016 report

The Church of England bishops produced a report in 2016 entitled “Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations.” It was a typical Anglican document where the bishops wanted to avoid undermining the traditional view of sexual relations whilst giving maximum freedom to clergy to deviate from it without deviating from it! (No, that is not a typing mistake but a brief description of what the report says). It said there was little support for changing the traditional teaching but they wanted to “affirm the place of lesbian and gay people in the life of the Church.” If clergy are approached by couples wanting to enter a civil partnership “it would not be right to produce an authorised public liturgy” for the purpose. But “in contrast, forms of service may be “Commended” by the House [of Bishops] without Synodical approval [by the General Synod].” But “clergy may not use forms of service which are contrary to, or indicate any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter.” If the reader is confused that is a very sensible reaction! This is Anglican waffle at its worst. But there’s more.

The bishops went on to say “the House of Bishops has affirmed that stable, faithful homosexual relationships can ‘embody crucial social virtues’ of fidelity and mutuality. One challenge is therefore to explore how that affirmation in the case of both celibate and non-celibate [emphasis mine] relationships might be more fully articulated in our theological ethics and better communicated in our pastoral and missional practice, while maintaining the current doctrine of the Church of England on marriage and relationships. …. To maintain an unambiguous position on doctrine in this matter while enabling a generous freedom for pastoral practice that does not directly and publicly undermine it is entirely consistent with our traditions and is a perfectly coherent approach to take.” 

This report was submitted for consideration by the General Synod in February 2017 but the synod refused even to “take note” of it. In other words, it totally dismissed it.

The Church of England bishops’ 2019 report

In December 2019 the House of Bishops produced a pastoral statement “Civil Partnerships – for same sex and opposite sex couples.” This was a largely good statement which clearly stated a traditional biblical understanding on the homosexual issue. It said

“The introduction of same sex marriage, through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same sex relationships. A major study of this and other areas of human sexuality is underway (the Living in Love and Faith project). This work, which is expected to be completed in 2020, will then inform further deliberations of the House of Bishops. In the context, however, of the introduction of opposite sex as well as same sex civil partnerships, the teaching of the church on marriage remains unchanged … There is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites’…. While clergy are fully entitled to argue, in the Living in Love and Faith process and elsewhere, for a change in that teaching, they are not entitled to claim the liberty to set it aside. With opposite sex civil partnerships, and with those for same sex couples, the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged. For Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.”

There followed a huge outcry against this biblical statement. Prominent Anglicans produced an open letter which said “The Church of England has this week become a laughingstock to a nation that believes it is obsessed with sex. More importantly this statement has significantly damaged the mission of the Church and it has broken the trust of those it seeks to serve… it seems our trust has been misplaced and we feel badly let down.”

In response the bishops of Gloucester, Worcester and Reading said they were upset at the hurt caused by the statement (although the first two were involved in producing it). Other bishops responded less than positively. Then the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologised “We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.”

The Evangelical Group on General Synod divides over homosexuality

19 members of the group voted against a statement that marriage is “between one man and one woman” and that unmarried people should be committed to sexual abstinence. Some resigned from the group. 83 voted in favour.

The Lambeth Conference divided over homosexuality

Some senior overseas archbishops will not attend the Lambeth conference because of the presence of pro-homosexual bishops. In 2008 the Lambeth Conference excluded homosexual bishops (in sexual relationships) but they will be included in the next conference. However they may not bring their same-sex partners. The Bishop of Liverpool decided not to bring his (female) wife in protest. People in same-sex sexual relationships have been appointed bishops in Wales, Canada, the USA and New Zealand. The new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cotterell, has said that we need “to look again at those [biblical] texts [on homosexuality] to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then.” (He is mistaken in thinking this). He added that the biblical texts are merely “part of our story and our inheritance.” He believes it is acceptable to have a communion service for same-sex civil partnerships.

Other denominations

David Hull, chair of Methodist Evangelicals Together, commented on the Methodist Conference resolution supporting same-sex marriage which is likely to be finally approved at the next conference. When asked if he thought people will leave the denomination if the resolution is approved he replied: “I’m urging people not to leave just yet. I’m urging people to stay and to make the case for remaining faithful as long as we can. I don’t believe in division within the body of Christ but I do believe that we need to stand firmly on biblical teaching and so what I will be doing is, when asked the question, whether I continue to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the Methodist Church, if it changes I will have to say no at that point.” But other evangelical Methodists have said they will remain in the church. (You can see my papers about the Methodist statements on same sex marriage at Critique of Methodist study guide on same sex-marriage report and more extensively in Critique of Methodist report on homosexual relationships).

St Silas, Glasgow and Westhill Community Church, Aberdeen have voted to leave the Scottish Episcopal Church over its acceptance of homosexual practice.

Churches Together in England is facing serious division because a woman in a same-sex marriage has been appointed one of its presidents.

On the other hand, William Love, Bishop of Albany in the US Episcopal Church is being disciplined by the denomination for not permitting same-sex marriages in his diocese.

Gender issues

In July 2017 the Church of England General Synod voted to welcome and affirm transgender people. Trans people with gender recognition are already able to marry in Anglican churches and they can offer themselves for ordained ministry. In 2018 the bishops produced a document on pastoral guidance as to “how to use the rite of Affirmation of Baptismal Faith in the context of gender transition.” It said that “elements including water and oil can be used with the prayers and makes clear that trans people should be addressed publicly by their chosen name.” Then “As a central part of the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith the minister lays their hands on the candidate or candidates, addresses them by name, and prays for them.”

However there was a strong reaction against this guidance. Several senior clergy say they would refuse to conduct such services. They included the Bishop of Wakefield and the Bishop of Maidstone who said the Church of England needed to consider the theological basis for the “unconditional affirmation of trans people”. The Bishop of Blackburn who chaired the committee which produced the guidance eventually said that it “both highly divisive and theologically and pastorally questionable.”

One clergyman said “The Church of England would be declaring liturgically on behalf of God its acceptance of the claim that someone who is biologically male is in fact female or that someone who is biologically female is in fact male.”

Later an open letter signed by over 1600 clergy and lay leaders called for the advice to be reconsidered because it was an apparent “rejection of physical differentiation between male and female” which as well as being an “almost universal biological reality” is also “the basis of the Church’s understanding of Christian marriage.” They also said it was a misuse of the Baptismal liturgy.

In 2019 my wife wrote to the two archbishops asking if they could make a statement publicly disapproving of children being encouraged to consider changing sex, but she received waffly replies.

Conclusion

It is encouraging that there is an increasing amount of electronic communication by churches, including in evangelism. More people want Bibles and there is some church growth.

However there is serious numerical decline and serious spiritual weakness (many Christians not praying or reading the Bible very much). There is serious theological error – interfaith compromise, lack of belief in fundamental truths such as the resurrection, lack of belief in hell. Then there are the serious moral errors – very serious sexual abuse (including by clergy), widespread undermining of the traditional biblical teaching on sexual relations, and inappropriate action about the transgender issue.

The church desperately needs a major revival which will revitalize spirituality and promote holiness.

Tony Higton

Transexualism

I have for a long time objected to the superficial propaganda word “homophobe” which implies those who believe homosexual practice is wrong are afraid of homosexuals. But now we have the equally superficial propaganda word “transphobe” to describe those who have genuine concerns about aspects of the promotion of transexualism.

It is important to keep a sense of proportion about the number of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people. The Office for National Statistics discovered that 1.3% of people say they are homosexual or lesbian and 0.7% say they are bisexual. The Equality and Human Rights Commission research found that 1.3% of British people are in some way transgender or gender variant. In the US the Williams Institute found in 2011 that 0.3% of the population are transgender. Yet, the dominance of concern for the rights of transgender people as of homosexual people, seems to be seriously out of proportion.

Nevertheless, the fact these groups are a tiny minority of the population does not mean that their needs are unimportant. For example, in 2014 a survey showed that 48% of transgender people under 26 had attempted suicide compared with 6% of all 16-24 year olds. They can face discrimination, bullying and violence.

However, the cause of transsexualism is well-advanced. Transgender men have given birth to babies in the UK and the US. Senior NHS doctors have said that male transsexuals should be given womb transplants so they can have children. The Scottish government are considering allowing people to identify as neither male nor female in the next census. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn thinks people should be able to self-identify their gender. The World Health Organisation has removed a page from its website which outlined the biological differences between men and women.

“Transgenderism is a mental disorder”

One serious area of concern is the way that the issue of transgender people is becoming very dominant in our schools.

Dr Joanna Williams, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of Kent warns:  “In doing more than just supporting transgender children, and instead sowing confusion about gender identity, schools do neither boys nor girls any favours.” If a child is genuinely transgender then, of course, that child needs careful support. But the overemphasis on the problem raises serious concerns for the welfare of children.

Dr Paul McHugh, Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, Maryland, states that transgenderism is a mental disorder. He says it has two aspects: “The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.” He continues “The transgendered suffer a disorder of ‘assumption’ like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists” such as “anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight. With body dysmorphic disorder, an often socially crippling condition, the individual is consumed by the assumption ‘I’m ugly.’”

He pointed out that “When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70%-80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings.” He added that John Hopkins University was the first American medical centre to carry out “sex-reassignment surgery” – in the 1960s. Then in the 1970s it carried out a study “comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as ‘satisfied’ by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.”

More significant, research carried out by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden in 2011 “revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.”

He concludes: “‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”

Understandably, Dr McHugh is strongly criticised by the transgender lobby. He laments the fact that several America states have passed laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor.

We should support an understanding approach to the very small percentage of people struggling with their sexuality and disapprove of them being “persecuted.” But there are real dangers in the approach of the very dominant transgender lobby. It seems clear that people, especially children, can be seriously harmed by that approach.

Abortion

The important moral issue raised by abortion is when the embryo becomes fully human. I remain thoroughly unconvinced that an embryo suddenly becomes human at some stage after conception. I’ve not come across convincing evidence for this and I first addressed the issue publicly in 1980.

Of course, the lesser of two evils argument is relevant. So, for example, if an abortion would save a mother’s life it would be morally justified. But the 1967 Abortion Act has opened the floodgates to virtually abortion on demand up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Now there is a strong feeling – expressed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – that abortion should no longer be subject to legal sanctions. That would effectively open the way to abortion at any stage in pregnancy.

It is interesting that almost two-thirds of British people interviewed for a recent ComRes survey said the upper limit for abortion should be lowered from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks – with a fifth saying it should be reduced to 12 weeks.

Abortion is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy but recently a baby was born at 17 weeks, weighing just 1lb 1oz and 11 inches long, and survived. A baby’s heart and nervous system are forming at 5 weeks of pregnancy. At 6 weeks, sometimes the heart can be seen beating. At seven weeks the brain is growing rapidly. It is convenient to regard the embryo as a blob of jelly but at an early stage it looks remarkably human.

In the UK some 9 million babies have been aborted since 1967, and about 200,000 per annum currently. Most people tend not to think about it but, unless we are sure those babies were not fully human, that is an extremely serious issue. If they were fully human (even though tiny and out of sight) that would be mass killing.

Polygamy

Some people have been ridiculed for saying that same sex marriage and related liberal sexual attitudes would result in practices such as polygamy or group marriage. But three men (a “throuple”) were ‘married’ this year in Colombia. They have received legal support although not a full marriage certificate.

Hadar Aviram, Professor of Law at the University of California, said of group marriage “The movement is absolutely going to develop if the activists so choose.” She said she found little appetite for marriage among polyamorous groups when she first started her research in 2004 but she began to see a change around 2012. She added: “Perhaps in the 1970s, same-sex marriage was as unimaginable as group marriage is today.”

Development such as this are all part of an attack on marriage and the family which will lead to chaos and serious harm to individuals.

Divorce

The British divorce rate is the lowest for 45 years. In 2015 101,055 couples divorced, the lowest number since 1971. The number of couples divorcing fell by over a third between 2003 and 2015 and by 9.1% between 2014 and 2015, the biggest drop in more than 40 years.

However the major cause for this is that fewer couples marry. The number of couples cohabiting more than doubled from 1.5 million to 3.3 million between 1996 and 2016. The problem is that cohabitation is less secure than marriage.

Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation, said Britain “continues to lead the developed world in family instability.” He added “Cohabiting parents now account for one in five parents yet more than half of all family breakdown.  The stability that marriage brings protects couples against splitting up, protects health and well-being, and supports children’s education.”

Baroness Hale, the President of the Supreme Court has long been calling for the introduction of no-fault divorce. This would allow marriages to be ended quickly without fault, and without the consent of one spouse. However on average over 10,000 divorces are dropped every year in England and Wales. No fault divorce would mean that many more marriages would be irretrievably ended.

Gene-editing embryos

The production of designer babies is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Professor Hank Greely, the director of Stanford’s Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, believes that within 30 years parents will be choosing from a range of embryos created in a lab with their DNA. It can already take place but is very expensive.

Human Genetics Alert (HGA) is a secular group (which, incidentally, supports abortion rights) which warns of the dangers of genetic manipulation, sex-selective abortion, and the use of hybrid embryos for research. (A hybrid embryo is created artificially by combining human and animal DNA, in various proportions, for the purposes of medical research). It has called on the British Government not to legalise human genetic manipulation techniques for fear that it would “eventually lead to a eugenic designer baby market.” They are not against genetic research but point out that it could lead to genetic discrimination (discrimination based on a person’s genetic make-up) and cloning (producing genetically identical individuals). They also warn of a possible resurgence of eugenics (although accept some danger of hysteria on the subject). Eugenics is the attempt to improve the human species by discouraging reproduction by people with genetic defects or undesirable traits and encouraging reproduction by people with desirable traits. The “three-parent IVF technique” has already been approved and used in the UK.

Jennifer Doudna is Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Moelcular Biology at The University of California. She pioneered CRISPR-Cas9, a technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by removing, adding or altering sections of the DNA sequence. However she has said: “I have to admit that I feel personally uncomfortable with the idea that there could eventually be factories pumping out lots of human embryos for the purposes of experimentation. I can’t put my finger on why but it feels like it cheapens something about human life.” It keeps her awake at night.

Conclusion

We live in a society where unborn human beings can be deliberately killed and where there are real dangers of the production of designer babies. Also marriage is being increasingly undermined which damages the family. Then there are serious dangers associated with the new ‘orthodoxy’ of transsexualism, which are not being taken seriously. The potential damage, including to children, is very serious.

 

The family is under serious threat today and we need to address this.

The biblical teaching

The Bible is quite clear in its teaching about the family:

God created humanity male and female

 “God created man in his own image … male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Our society often focuses on people with a homosexual or bi-sexual orientation but, according to Scripture, these orientations are divergences from God’s intention. Obviously, we are called to love our homosexual or bi-sexual neighbour as much as our heterosexual neighbour. There is no excuse for doing otherwise, whatever emotional reactions we may experience. We must show compassion. But loving our neighbour does not mean accepting his/her sexual orientation as normal or approving of his/her behaviour. The Bible clearly teaches that God intended humanity to be male and female and the Genesis passages teach:

  1. It is not ideal for a man to be solitary.
  2. The best companion is a woman.
  3. Woman can also be his sexual partner with whom he can form a new family unit and, if possible, reproduce.

 God intended heterosexual marriage

 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The term ‘marriage, is not used at this early stage but it is clear that God intended the couple to form a new, stable family unit. Jesus quotes this in Matt 19:4-6. Nowhere does the Bible (Old Testament or New Testament) contemplate an approval of homosexual behaviour or marriage. Some people try to argue that the Bible only condemns homosexual promiscuity etc., but would accept a loving, faithful homosexual (sexually active) relationship. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/homosexualityandthechurch.pdf pages 5, 7 on my website which shows this is not the case.

The reasons God intended heterosexual marriage include the following:

A heterosexual marriage brings the benefit of sexual complementarity

 Genesis uses metaphorical descriptions but they are conveying important principles (just as Jesus did in his parables). Having created a male human, God says: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Man in isolation is not ideal. Genesis goes on to indicate that the only adequate partner for a man is a woman, not another man. (The same can be said for a woman. Woman in isolation is not ideal. Genesis indicates that the only adequate partner for a woman is a man, not another woman.). Obviously, same-sex companionship can be a deep relationship. But Genesis speaks of a search being made for a complementary partner and the only adequate partner is someone of the opposite sex. (Obviously someone with a homosexual orientation will not find fulfilment with a person of the opposite sex, which is a serious problem for them. However, although we must be compassionate, we have to face the fact that everyone has to practice self-control and self-denial in the area of sex, e.g. before finding the right partner in marriage or for couples where health problems make sexual relationships impossible. And, of course, significant numbers of heterosexuals remain single).

We might legitimately add that children need the benefits of sexual complementarity in their parents. One aspect of the family is educating children and they need to be educated in the differences between male and female. For this they need both a male and a female role model. Many single parents (divorced or otherwise) do an excellent job of providing parenthood but this does not alter the fact that children are missing out on the benefits of complementarity in parents. The current sexual revolution has not yet lasted long enough for psychological studies on the effects on children and grandchildren to show up all the damage contemporary society is inflicting on the young.

  1. A heterosexual marriage provides for reproduction

Having created male and female humans, “God blessed them and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28).  God intends reproduction to be very important, where physically possible, in marriage because it guarantees the survival and growth of the human race. Same-sex couples may have children (by adoption, genetic donation, etc.,) but these children miss out on the benefits of sexual complementarity in parents.

God intended marriage to be regulated by society

The Old Testament law regulates marriage and divorce. The law restricts whom a man can have sexual relations with or marry (Lev 18:6-18; 20:11-12, 14, 17:19-21; Deut 22:30) and to whom he can will his property (Deut 21:15-17). If a man falsely accuses his wife of sexual immorality he is not allowed ever to divorce her (Deut 22:13-19). Adultery is forbidden (Ex 20:14). If a man commits adultery he must be punished (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). If a man marries a second wife he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights (Ex 21:10).  When a man dies his brother in law must marry his widow and this responsibility is governed by the elders of the town (Deut 25:5-10).

Jesus places restrictions on divorce, as does St Paul (Mt 5:32; 19:3-9; 1 Cor 7:10-15). So clearly God intended marriage to be regulated by society and not to be a purely private decision.

  1. God intended children to be brought up in the family

 This is clear throughout Scripture but is particularly so in the 5th commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12). This is not to say that the nuclear family of two parents and children is the only pattern in the Old Testament. Often there was an extended family. There was also polygamy in the Old Testament but this was disapproved of in New Testament times. Always, however, the family was based on heterosexual marriage.

The universality of the family

It is easy to speak of the family being a universal norm but it is not quite as simple as that, especially nowadays. As we mentioned there are extended families as well as nuclear families. There are other variations in certain cultures. Then, of course, there are single-parent and, more recently, same sex households.

Professor G P Murdock surveyed the family in 250 different cultures in 1949 and concluded that the nuclear (or extended) family was definitely universal. He defined the family as “A social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children, own or adopted, of the socially cohabiting adults.”[1]

However some dispute Murdock’s view, referring, for example, to the Israeli kibbutz movement. A kibbutz is “a voluntary democratic community where people live and work together on a non-competitive basis.”[2] Others point out that, whereas the kibbutz has taken over some family roles e.g. education, the family still functions, protecting the children in the early stages of socialisation. Another exception is said to be the Nayar people in Kerala, India. They had extended families (based on the female line) which are run by the oldest male. Some have doubted the accuracy of this historical information.

Others point out that the typical family before the modern era was not the intimate, caring family many have imagined. Before the industrial revolution children in poorer families joined in the family trade. After the industrial revolution children as young as 6 or 7 worked in factories or coal mines. But this doesn’t alter the fact that the nuclear (or extended) family was the norm.

In fact some claim that the industrial revolution encouraged the nuclear family. As work became available in cities parents moved, leaving behind the wider family.

Since the 1970s the nuclear family has reduced by one third and other family models (such as single parent families) have increased threefold. Nevertheless the nuclear family is still very significantly present in British society.

The functions of the family

It is the context for procreation

It is obvious from Scripture, physiology and common sense that God intended marriage to be heterosexual in order to create the family. Arguments to the contrary, however popular, are special pleading.

The nuclear family provides the context for a stable, committed and permanent heterosexual relationship between an individual couple. If individuals are involved in temporary sexual relationships these relationships are inevitably comparatively shallow emotionally. Hence the depth of a loving commitment possible in heterosexual marriage is important for the production and raising of children.

It is a “cradle of love.”

The Roman Catholic Church has stated: “The human being is made for love and cannot live without love.”[3] This requires a small circle of intimate associates. Only the family can provide this love, the wider community would be unable to do so. It means that “Each person is recognized, accepted and respected.”[4]

It provides male and female role models

It is important that children experience these roles in the intimate setting of the family. The father-child relationship differs from the mother-child relationship. They complement one another and are important for the children to experience.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote[5]: “There are a number of different family bonds, such as those that hold together a father with his daughter, a mother with her son, a mother with her daughter, a man with his younger brother, a girl with her younger sister, a brother with his sister. These bonds are all different and also asymmetrical. The relationship of a father to his daughter, for instance, is very different from that of a daughter to her father.[6] The relationship of a father to his children differs even more noticeably from the mother’s relationship with her children.

It is important that children experience these complementary roles and learn from them. It will ensure they are better adjusted to life in the community. G.P. Murdock commented that adults gain fulfilment both from these heterosexual relationships and as a result of the strong emotional bonds with their children which are sustained most easily in the nuclear family. These strong emotional bonds are conducive to the efficient socialisation of the children.[7]

The Roman Catholic Church comments: “Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the good of marriage and the flourishing of family life.”[8] It adds that in homosexual relationships there is an “absence of the conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological levels. It is only in the union of two sexually different persons that the individual can achieve perfection in a synthesis of unity and mutual psychophysical completion”[9]

Linda J. Waite (Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago) writes that children raised by their own married biological parents experience less poverty, less drug and alcohol use and less crime and delinquency; they gain more education; they are more likely to marry; and they have better mental health compared with children from other family arrangements. They provide the best environment for raising children.[10]

It provides security

This is not just physical provision and security (food, clothing, shelter) but psychological security. This allows children to develop their personalities in safety. The family is also an economic unit which ensures that the members are protected financially.

It forms the basis of society

Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The family … is the universal basis of all human societies and social structures.”[11] Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski wrote that the typical family, a group consisting of mother, father and their progeny is found in all communities.

The Roman Catholic Church stated: “The first and fundamental structure for ‘human ecology’ is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person.”[12]

Reasons why the family is the basis of society

It is the basic unit of social behaviour

It trains children in social attitudes, avoiding excessive individualism. As the Roman Catholic Church puts it, the family is “the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community relationships marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love.”[13]

It is the prime teacher of moral, spiritual and social values

As the Catholic Church puts it, “The family, in fact, constitutes ‘a community of love and solidarity, which is uniquely suited to teach and transmit cultural, ethical, social, spiritual and religious values, essential for the development and well-being of its own members and of society’. By exercising its mission to educate, the family contributes to the common good and constitutes the first school of social virtue, which all societies need. In the family, persons are helped to grow in freedom and responsibility, indispensable prerequisites for any function in society. With education, certain fundamental values are communicated and assimilated … As well as being a source, the parents’ love is also the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love”[14] The child learns about love, cooperation, toleration, sacrifice, obedience and discipline in the family. These qualities enable him to grow into a good citizen.

It has to be acknowledged that many married couples fall short of providing a good example to children. But the failures of or within marriage do not invalidate the basic principle.

Professor Talcott Parsons (who was Professor of Sociology at Harvard) wrote of ‘basic and irreducible functions’ of the family:

  1. The ‘primary socialization of children’

This takes place largely in the family in early childhood. It involves ‘the internalization of society’s culture’ i.e. social values being absorbed and accepted by the child and ‘the structuring of the personality’ i.e. the culture of society becoming part of the child’s personality.  He added that ‘if culture were not internalized – that is, absorbed and accepted – society would cease to exist, since without shared norms and values social life would not be possible.’

  1. The ‘secondary socialization of children’

This takes place when the child is older and the family is less involved. There is increasing influence from the child’s school and peer group.

  • The ‘stabilization of the adult personalities of the population of the society’.

When the primary and secondary socialization of children has taken place in the family, it needs to be kept stable in adult life. The emphasis is on the marriage relationship and the emotional security this can provide. So, again, the family is crucial. Parsons added: “This function is particularly important in Western industrial society, since the nuclear family is largely isolated from kin. It does not have the security once provided by the close-knit extended family. Thus the married couple increasingly look to each other for emotional support.”

Conclusion

The family, based on heterosexual marriage, is fundamentally important.  This is clearly taught in Scripture but it is also confirmed by logical examination. It regulates procreation, avoiding the chaos and damage of ‘free love.’ It provides a stable, loving secure environment for children (and also for adults). It affords children male and female role models. It is crucial to society as the primary context in which children can learn moral, social and spiritual values.

However, there is today an increasing attack on (heterosexual) marriage and the family which needs to be seen as leading to a very serious undermining of society and which will do enormous damage if left unchecked. I examine this in my next paper “Attack on marriage and the family.”

Tony Higton

 

[1] G.P.Murdock, Social Structure (1949), New York: Free Press.

[2] http://kibbutzprogramcenter.org/about-kibbutz/

[3] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 223

[4] Ibid 221

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all

[6] George Peter Murdock, Social Structure, The Free Press, New York 1965, quoted by Goldsmith.

[7] G.P. Murdock, Functionalism and the Family

[8] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 224

[9] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 504

[10] Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially (2000).

[11] The Ecologist, Vol. 6 No. 1 and Vol. 6 No. 2, 1976.

[12] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 467.

[13] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 493

[14] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 238-239

We live in an age when attitudes towards sex are changing radically with unprecedented speed. It is easy for Christians to become so taken up with what we see as sexual immorality or even depravity that we don’t discern the more serious effects of this revolution. The most serious effect is the destruction of the family in its biblical sense of a heterosexual couple committed for life, normally having children and bringing them up in their own home.  And this will lead to the undermining of society which will have very serious consequences.

The Bible makes it clear that the heterosexual family is fundamental to the welfare of society. Whatever symbolism is used in the Genesis account, the principle of marriage is clear. “It is not good for man to be alone” – he needs a suitable partner – a woman (Gen 2:18). There is an essential complementarity in the marriage relationship. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Obviously heterosexual marriage is fundamental to reproduction. It provides complementary role models for children (and they can learn from both parents, of opposite sexes). Parents must not act unreasonably towards their children but “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). Children are urged to honour their parents (Ex 20:12; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20). Jesus confirms this understanding of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 as does Paul in Ephesians 5:25-33.

The fact that there are examples of polygamy in the Old Testament does not undermine the principle of heterosexual marriage, nor does it alter the fact that the fundamental biblical idea of marriage is of a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, as Genesis makes clear.

It is so obvious that heterosexuality is the norm since only 2% of the population is homosexual. (It could be lower if young people were not encouraged to think they might be homosexual). Only those who have been brainwashed by homosexual equality propaganda could think otherwise. It’s an “emperor’s new clothes” situation. Having said that, homosexuals as people are equal to heterosexuals and should be treated with respect. But that is quite different from saying that homosexual behaviour is equal to heterosexual behaviour within (heterosexual) marriage.

The biblical vision is that well-functioning heterosexual marriages and their associated families will add to and maintain communities, will stabilise and strengthen those communities and will train children to be good citizens.

Some people are deliberately aiming to destroy the heterosexual family. Others have different aims but will have the effect of furthering this destruction.

Those campaigning for the destruction of the family

MARXISTS

Many, but not all, socialists in the 19th and 20th centuries rejected the family in favour of “free love” – unrestricted sexual relationships based purely on mutual love. Marx and particularly Engels criticised the family. Marx argued that in early human history sexual promiscuity was the order of the day. There was complete sexual freedom including incest. He and Engels argued that the family brought about the idea of private property, inheritance of property together with the oppression of women and children. They held that the abolition of private property (in socialism) and the abolition of inheritance would lead to the dissolution of the family.  The absence of private property would mean everyone would benefit from the economic opportunities in society. There would be no need for the financial support provided by the family. Instead of (‘slave’) labour in the family, women would work in factories and there would be communal child care which would remove the fear of unwanted children. Thus women would be liberated.

Engels wrote in Principles of Communism that communism “will make the relations between the sexes a purely private affair, which concerns only the two persons involved; a relationship which is in no way the concern of society. This attitude is made possible because private property will have been abolished and the children will be educated communally.”

Charles Fourier, a 19th century socialist philosopher believed monogamy was contrary to human nature and consequently an impediment to human happiness. He also believed that children should be raised, not in family units, but communally. His vision was of society being one big happy family.

In the 1920s Leonid Sabsovich, the leading Soviet urban planner under Lenin and Stalin advocated that children should be the property of the state, not the family. Children should be moved to specially designed children’s towns at a distance from the family.

Other communists have said that a preference for one’s spouse and authority over one’s children violates the principle of equality, which proclaims that we must treat everyone exactly the same.

RADICAL FEMINISTS

In the pre-industrial era men and women tended to work together in farming, etc., (accompanied by their children) but after the industrial revolution women were expected to stay at home doing domestic jobs and looking after children, whilst men went out to work. This gave men more power and created a much more patriarchal society. Many radical feminists advise women to avoid heterosexual relationships because they involve patriarchal (male) dominance. They see family as facilitating power relationships very much in favour of men. They also object to the large amount of unpaid labour which stay-at-home wives undertake.

Some feminists are influenced by Marxism and believe the family supports capitalism. For example Margaret Benston wrote that “As an economic unit, the nuclear family is a valuable stabilizing force in capitalist society. Since the husband–father’s earnings pay for the production which is done in the home, his ability to withhold labour from the market is much reduced.”[1] Also, within the family, children learn to conform and to submit to authority. The foundation is therefore laid for the obedient and submissive workforce required by capitalism.

Germaine Greer is a radical feminist who believes that “it is men who need marriage more. Married men score much higher on all measures of psychological well-being than unmarried men, whereas single women tend to be more content than married women.” She believes the only answer is segregation – women doing without male partners. She has been criticised for not taking seriously the progress made by women in recent times.

Michèlle Barrett and Mary McIntosh (1982) were influenced by Marxist feminism. They believe the family undermines life in the community – “the family ideal makes everything else seem pale and unsatisfactory”. Family members are so taken up by their family relationships that they neglect other social contacts. For example, they claim that the family encourages people to view life in other institutions (such as children’s homes, old people’s homes and students’ residences) as shallow and lacking in meaning.

GAY LIBERATIONISTS

In 1971 the Gay Liberation Front published its Manifesto. Peter Tatchell, the well-known gay campaigner said in 2013 that this manifesto was almost “the LGBT equivalent of the Communist Manifesto.” It envisaged an alternative society. The LGBT struggle was “part of the broader anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement, striving for the emancipation of all humankind. It critiques homophobia, sexism, marriage, the nuclear family, monogamy, the cults of youth and beauty, patriarchy, the gay ghetto and rigid male and female gender roles.” “Erotic shame and guilt would be banished. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone.” “What’s required is a revolution in culture, to overturn centuries of male heterosexual domination and the limitations of traditional gender roles.”

The Gay Liberation Front’s Manifesto stated: “The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. The very form of the family works against homosexuality.” “Our entire society is built around the patriarchal family and its enshrinement of these masculine and feminine roles. … It is because of the patriarchal family that reforms are not enough. Freedom for gay people will never be permanently won until everyone is freed from sexist role-playing and the straightjacket of sexist rules about our sexuality. And we will not be freed from these so long as each succeeding generation is brought up in the same old sexist way in the Patriarchal family.”

However, whereas lesbian and gay organisations in the 1970s were often very anti-family, since the 1980s the opposite has been the case and there has been the move towards same sex marriage.

Speaking of same sex marriage, Judith Stacey, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Sociology at New York University admits: “If we define the current ongoing effort to remake contemporary family life as the post-modern family … the term post-modern signals the end of a familiar pattern of activity and emergence of new areas of endeavour whose activities are unclear and whose meanings and implications are not yet well understood. Thus, the post-modern is characterized by uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt.”[2]

She claims that by the late 1980s, 6–14 million children were being brought up in gay and lesbian families. She says that research indicates that gay and lesbian relationships are at least as suitable for raising children as heterosexual marriages, that there is virtually no difference in the psychological well-being and social development of children with gay or lesbian carers and those with heterosexual carers. She added: ‘The rare small differences reported tend to favour gay parents, portraying them as somewhat more nurturant and tolerant, and their children in turn, more tolerant and empathetic, and less aggressive than those raised by non-gay parents.’

She believes children raised in gay and lesbian families are more likely to try homosexual relationships for themselves. But she does not believe the development of the postmodern family has no disadvantages. She acknowledges that it creates a certain degree of unsettling instability.

However, same sex marriage is not just a different form of marriage (and family). It contradicts fundamental aspects of family. It undermines marital complementarity and the fact that children are intended to have both a mother and father. It undermines the obvious fact that marriage is heterosexual because it is intended to lead to procreation. In other words, it serious undermines the divine intention about marriage. It involves homosexual social values being absorbed and accepted by children. And, as Judith Stacey says, it encourages children to try homosexual relationships.

The Church’s failure

The way things are going, it is only a matter of time before much of the western church will accept (and celebrate) same sex marriage. Already some denominations have.

The Church of Scotland recently discussed a report which advocated allowing ministers to celebrate same sex marriage. It has been committed to the church’s Legal Questions Committee to check the practicalities of a move to allow same-sex marriage in church. The Episcopal Church of Scotland has just approved (by only a one vote majority) same sex marriages taking place in church. It was reported that several prominent evangelical pastors in the US back same sex marriage.

The Church of England is maintaining a conservative position but, to a significant extent, is giving the impression that it will eventually change. I firmly agree that we should treat homosexuals as people with respect and apologise when we don’t. But the church has so overdone the apologising that it has given the impression that it is insecure in its position over same sex marriage. We seem to be intimidated by gay propaganda, especially being called ‘homophobic.’ Homophobia literally means ‘fear of man’ or ‘fear of the same’ but recently it has come to mean ‘fear of homosexuals.’ The Christian disapproval of homosexual behaviour has nothing to do with the fear of homosexuals but ‘homophobic’ has become an effective ‘put-down’ word. It often makes the church weaken the biblical position on homosexual behaviour.

Gay propaganda

The media can, of course, be a power for good. But it also has the power to change public opinion in unbiblical ways ways. Ever since the 1960s society has been transformed in its view of sexuality. Heterosexual couples living together, childbirth outside marriage, sex before marriage have all become widely acceptable and one of the main influences has been indoctrination by the media. To question these practices nowadays would seem archaic. And the same thing has happened, especially in the last 25 years, with homosexual behaviour. Same sex marriage is becoming more established in public opinion.

Then there is sex education in schools. Inevitably this has changed in line with public opinion.  We now have compulsory teaching of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues “throughout all phases of state education”, including in nurseries.

Peter Tatchell comments: “The right to love a person of either sex, to engage in any mutually consensual sexual act, and to enjoy a happy, healthy sex life, is a fundamental human right. This right to sexual self-determination should be promoted in every school, to create a culture of sexual rights where every young person understands and asserts their right to determine what they, and others, do with their body. This ethos of ‘it’s my body, I’m in charge’ is the best possible protection against people who try to manipulate and pressure youngsters into having sex.” He says schools should not promote any particular sexual orientation and he advocates schools teaching children about the whole range of sexual activities.

Allen Young, a member of New York’s Gay Liberation Front says: “Only because our capitalist values and nuclear family structure coerce children into sex roles do they become limited in their sexuality.”

The danger is already present of young teenagers who formerly would have known little about homosexual practice, now experimenting or even asking for gender changes, who, but for modern propaganda, would have grown up to form a heterosexual relationship.

The way things are going it is inevitable that marriage and the family are going to be increasingly undermined by a society indoctrinated by the sort of view Tatchell is advocating.

Other undermining of marriage and the family

Single parenthood

I am aware that many are lone parents as a result of divorce or unplanned pregnancies and many of them make every effort to be good parents, caring for their children. However the British Social Attitudes Surveys also show an increase in the acceptance of parenthood outside marriage. In 1989, 70% agreed that ‘people who want children ought to get married.’ In 2000 it was 54%. In 1961 2% of the population lived in homes with children and a single parent. In 2005 it was 12%.[3] In 1972 7% of children lived in single parent families. In 2002 it was 23%.[4]

Sarah McLanahan and Karen Booth of the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1991)refer to various American studies claiming that children are harmed by single parenthood. They say that such children have lower earnings and experience more poverty as adults; that are more likely to become lone parents themselves; and that they are more likely to become delinquent and engage in drug abuse.

Sara Arber, Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey found that the children of single parents suffered more ill-health than other children unless their parent was fully employed.

Sociologist David Morgan says the evidence suggests the children of single parents fare less well than those from two-parent households. In addition, many such children will experience the confusion and insecurity of their mothers forming successive relationships with different men.

Divorce

Divorce rates have been rising and this has obvious ill effects on both parents and children. However the remarriage rate is also high.

Conclusion

The rate of marriage in the UK is still quite high but marriage is declining as an institution. Cohabitation outside of marriage is widespread and single parenthood is growing. Also the divorce rate has grown considerably. Then there is the issue of same-sex marriage which, however popular, undermines the nature of marriage and the family.

Ecologist Edward Goldsmith wrote: “The institution of the family has decayed in modern times, so converting society into an alienated agglomeration of disconnected individuals, susceptible to arbitrary, remote and authoritarian governance.”[5]

We need to recognise and watch these trends because ultimately they will cause enormous damage to individuals, families and society. Marriage and the family are under serious threat and so is society.

Tony Higton

[1] Margaret Benston, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation”, Monthly Review, 21 (4), September 1969.

[2] J. Stacey, Brave New Families. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

[3] HMSO, 2002a; Social Trends 2006.

[4] Social Trends 1998, 2006.

[5] http://www.edwardgoldsmith.org/30/the-family-basis-of-social-structure/?show=all