What do we mean when we say we are for family values? What do we mean when we say we are for traditional values? Furthermore, how do the answers to these questions shape how we approach public policy, how we approach law?
According to Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., of The Heritage Foundation, what we mean when we say we are for family values is that “we want to sacrifice adult desires and interests for the sake of our children.” And so when we approach public policy, we should be doing the same thing: “we should be making sacrifices for the sake of the next generation.”
Dr. Anderson gave the keynote address at NC Family’s Major Speakers Dinner in Charlotte on October 8, 2019. We are pleased to share Part 1 of that speech on this week’s episode of the Family Policy Matters radio show and podcast.
Anderson details the rights every child is entitled to, and in Part 1 of his speech, he addresses a child’s right to life, and a child’s right to be raised by their mother and their father. “Because the logic of the sexual revolution is that consenting adults should do whatever consenting adults want to do,” says Anderson. “That the only value in the realm of sexuality is consent. It entirely ignores the needs or the rights of children; it focuses entirely on adult desire.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear Dr. Ryan Anderson speak on some of the most important issues facing social and religious conservatives today, in Part 1 of a 3-part show. There are several ways you can listen, or read the transcript!
What I want to do tonight, what John had asked me to do, is just speak about some of the most important issues—for social Conservatives, for religious Conservatives, for people who care about faith, family and freedom—that are facing our nation, facing the state, today and for the foreseeable future. So, to a certain extent this will be somewhat of a depressing talk just because there are so many pressing issues that are facing our nation on a whole host of topics.
I’m going to march through this, and what I want to do is think from the perspective of the child. When we say that we’re for family values and we say that we care about traditional values, what we really say is that we want to sacrifice adult desires and interests for the sake of our children. Most of us as responsible parents do; we come second, our kids come first. The same thing should be true when it comes to public policy; when it comes to law; when it comes to government; we should be making sacrifices for the sake of the next generation, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren.
And so I just want to walk through something that would look like the early lifecycle of the child. And just start by simply recognizing that that child has a right to life. This will be the shortest part of the talk because I think on this issue, we’re now at a place where I would doubt that anyone in this room would feel uncomfortable having a conversation with a friend, a colleague, a family member, explaining why you’re pro-life.
One of the great things that I’ve inherited from the work that social Conservatives have done for the past 50 years, is that I know all of the arguments on the life issue. There were trail-blazing pioneers in the months after Roe v. Wade who set up all of the pro-life organizations—set up the March for Life, set up in every state a pro-life organization lobbying their state house. To 1, overturn Roe v. Wade, and 2, pass laws to protect the unborn. Sometimes we can therefore take it for granted that in the past 45 years, there’ve been over a million babies that have been lost to abortion. I should clarify what I said: a million babies? That’s a year. Not just since Roe. I think it’s now 47, 48, 49 million total since Roe. Just an astronomical, unthinkable topic. That’s a reality I think we should be sober about, even as we’re making gains. More pro-life laws have been passed in the past 10 years than in the previous 35 years combined. Restrictive laws are being passed; the abortion rate is at the lowest that it has been at any point since Roe v. Wade. We’re making real progress and we should acknowledge that. There’s still a far way to go; there’s still a million babies every year being aborted.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been pro-life. My parents did a great job raising me and my four brothers. This was something that was obvious to us. Of course that’s a child in the womb. What else is it? What is that thing kicking in the womb if it’s not a person? But for me it kind of hit home in a deeply personal way just about a year and a half ago. My wife came in with a little stick and it had a little plus sign on it, and we were expecting our first child. Thirteen weeks after that we go in for the ultrasound and then 23 weeks later—or 27 weeks, I’ll do the math—a beautiful little boy is born. This weekend he’ll turn 14 months. It just kind of drives home what a great gift every life is, even if theoretically you’ve always known the right answer to the question of abortion. To actually hold your son for the first time and just recognize this is entirely a gift. Each and every one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. Each and every one of us is a special act of creation, a special act of love from God. And to see how callous our country is with respect to so many of these gifts.
So, the first thing to say from the child’s perspective, that child has a right to life. And so it’s important that someone like John is at the state house advocating for those lives, speaking up for people who can’t speak for themselves. Big business isn’t going to do it. Hollywood isn’t going to do it. It’s going to be you; it’s going to be the North Carolina Family Policy Council; it’s going to John Rustin. It’s going to be people like us.
And then the second step: what else does that child deserve? Not just a right to life; that child has a right to a mother and a father. If you think about what we owe to children, we owe them a relationship with the man and the woman who helped give them life. That whenever possible, children should be raised by their mother and their father. This is why when my wife and I checked out of the hospital 14 months ago, we didn’t want to go home with a baby, we wanted to go home with our baby. When the bracelet got on my wrist, I marked the baby with a permanent marker to make sure we got our baby. I was a little paranoid, but you hear these horror stories of babies getting swapped at hospitals. The parents care, and so it’s entirely understandable why the children might care. Put yourself in the child’s perspective: they want to be raised not just by any old parents, any old generic adults; they want their mom and their dad. It makes a difference to them.
One of the saddest things that I’ve ever seen is a report from the Institute for American Values titled “My Daddy’s Name is Donor.” All these children who have been conceived by anonymous sperm donations who report these longings, these feelings that there’s an absence; they don’t know half of their identity. And what did our Supreme Court do five years ago? They utterly redefined the nature of family, the nature of marriage. They said, “Oh, it’s any two consenting adults. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man and a woman, a mom and a dad, a husband and a wife. And if you think that, then you’re somehow bigoted; you’re somehow engaged in discrimination; you’re somehow sort of backwards in your thinking.” What they did was they overturned not just several thousand years of human practice, not just the testimony of scripture, but they overturned the law written on the heart. This is one of those truths built into the human condition. One of those truths that St. Paul talks about is the law written on the heart. An anthropological truth that men and women are district and complimentary, not interchangeable. And a biological fact that reproduction requires both a man and a woman. A social reality that children deserve both a mother and a father. What the Court did several years ago was just ignore all of that. The Court says, “No, any two consenting adults. It’s all the same thing.”
Now this most recent redefinition of marriage is the consequence, not the cause, of the breakdown of the family. The family started breaking down about 50 years ago. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his famous “Moynihan Report,” he was pointing out that marriage was starting to fall apart in the country, back in 1964. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan—at the time he was the Secretary of Labor—he was a liberal professor from Harvard University; he was a Democrat senator from the state of New York; and he was accused of being a racist at the time that he wrote his report, because he pointed out that births to single mothers in the African American community were approaching 25 percent. And he said that, “This is going to be a crisis if a quarter of all children in a certain community are born outside of marriage and they don’t have fathers in their lives. We’re going to see a whole host of negative consequences.” Moynihan was accused of being a racist because they didn’t like the messenger, so they were shooting the messenger. But, the reason he was writing that report was precisely because he wasn’t a racist; he cared about those kids. And so in 1964, births to single mothers in the general population were about five percent, and in the black community they were 25 percent. Fast-forward to today: in the general population 40 percent of all Americans are born to single mothers. It’s 50 percent of Hispanic babies and it’s 72 percent of African American babies. These children have done nothing wrong in life, but they are being set up on a road with all sorts of elevated risks, elevated challenges; they don’t have a fare shot at life.
And this is why it’s so important that we have a Family Policy group. Who is looking out for these children’s interests? Who is going to try to strengthen marriage? Whether it’s strengthening marriage in the tax code, strengthening marriage by returning the law on marriage to reflect the truth about marriage. You need someone engaged in that task.
Now another thing to say on this marriage topic is that when I point out that right now, 40 percent of all American kids are born outside of marriage, gays and lesbians aren’t to blame for that. Gay marriage didn’t create the problems that we see in our marriage culture today; the sexual revolution did. Think about what happened in the 60’s, when Moynihan’s writing his report. What’s going on with the sexual revolution? We get the introduction of the hook-up culture; we get the introduction and normalization of pre-marital sex; we then get the introduction of no-fault divorce laws. All of that takes place for two generations amongst “straight” people, and then the Supreme Court says, “Wait, if all you straights aren’t tasking permanency, or monogamy, or exclusivity, very seriously, why should we take sexual complementarity very seriously?” So what we’ve seen in the past several years, after the court said, “Man and woman is interchangeable for marriage law,” all of a sudden you see people embracing the idea that this should be polyamory.
So they’ve created a new word: the word is “throuple” for a three-person couple. … So if you’re the same-sex couple and you go to the Supreme Court and you say, “Anthony Kennedy, I have a constitutional right to marry the person I love,” why can’t you and two other people go to the Supreme Court and say, “I’ve a constitutional right to marry the people I love”? If two men can be married why can’t three? Or a foursome, two men and two women? Sexual orientation has no bearing on this. The way that we arrived at monogamy is that it’s one man, one woman who unite as one flesh in the action that can create new life, and then every new life has one mother and one father. So what happens when the Court throws this out? What happens when the Court says, “All of human history, all of human experience is now contrary to our enlightened notions of justice?” Someone’s going to have to be standing in that gap defending even the principle of monogamy. Because the logic of the sexual revolution is that consenting adults should do whatever consenting adults want to do, that the only value in the realm of sexuality is consent. It entirely ignores the needs or the rights of children; it focuses entirely on adult desire. It undermines, it turns upside-down the way in which society should be structured in which adults restrain their desires for the sake of their children.
So yes, children have a right to life. They then also have a right to a relationship with both their mother and their father. And the way that society throughout all of human history had tried to secure this right was by an institution that united that man to that woman, and then the two of them united to each other being united to that child. Think of every delivery you know of: whenever a child is born a mother is close by; she’s normally in the same room! That’s simply a fact of biology; that’s a fact of nature. When the baby’s born, the mom is right there. The question for culture, and therefore a question for law, will the father by close by? And if so, for how long? And right now what we’re seeing is that for 40 percent of all Americans, a father’s not close by. For many Americans, a father’s not around for long. Roughly 40 percent of all marriages end in divorce, the numbers are higher for second marriages and third marriages. But we’re not seeing what we would hope to see, that men and women commit to each other permanently and exclusively—every child being born inside of marriage with a relationship with their mom and dad. Mom and dad sticking together for the long-haul.
There’s a lot of work to be done on marriage and the family.
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