As we think about the family, let me share with you the results of two important sociological studies. The first was conducted by British anthropologist John D. Unwin. Unwin did an in-depth study of eighty major world civilizations that rose and fell over a period of 4,000 years. He discovered that a common thread ran through all of them. In each instance, the early history of each civilization show a society that was politically, economically, and religiously conservative; there were strong moral values and a heavy emphasis on family. Each of these civilizations reached a pinnacle of power based on these conventional values. But then something happened. As each society became increasingly liberal in its politics, economy, and religious life, moral values declined. As moral values declined, family life began to disintegrate. As family life disintegrated, society fell into anarchy. The nation became internally weak and in most cases was conquered by another nation. In all eighty cases, Unwin attributed the fall of each of civilization to the disintegration of the family. When did Unwin release his study? In 1934 in a book entitled Sex and Culture.
The second study was done by sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman. In his book Family and Civilization he compared the breakdown of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. He found eight specific patterns of domestic behavior that characterized the downward spiral of each culture he studied. Those characteristics included:
1. Marriage loses its sacredness; is frequently broken by infidelity and divorce.
2. Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
3. Feminist movements abound.
4. Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.
5. Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion.
6. Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.
7. Growing acceptance of adultery.
8. Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.
Zimmerman’s book was written in 1947!
It makes you wonder what these two researchers would write about Western Culture today if they were still alive.
In a secular, post-Christian society, we have to ask the question, Is there hope for the family? That is the penetrating question of this morning’s message. America is changing. ILLUS. I grew up in what I call a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ home. My dad worked. My mom was a stay-at-home wife and mother. My brother and I went to school. In 1955 when I was born, that scenario accounted for 63% of American homes. Today, that figure is 7%. America is changing. Values and attitudes about family are changing. Each day bring an incremental shift in some fundamental aspect of life like ripples in a pond. They may seem small and insignificant, but they spread to eventually affect the entire pond.
Many new, and sometimes frightening challenges confront the today’s families. If Christian families do not meet these challenges in the power of the Lord, with a strong faith, and with a firm grasp of the Scriptures we face the very real possibility of being overwhelmed by the secularization of an un-godly society.
Let me share with you two basic points this morning. The first consists of three words that describe the modern family. The second point outlines the measures families can take which may help create a climate of hope which will help your family to triumph over the challenges and pressures which come your way.
There is no quick fix for many of the problems our families that are facing. It takes time to break a family. It sometimes takes time to fix a family. But if the principles that I’ve laid out are regularly applied, there is hope for the family.