The campaign now being waged by
aggressive forces, largely in the industrialized nations, to redefine the
family, and to eliminate the moral codes and civilized restraints which protect
the natural family may well represent a new extreme in the short-sightedness of
presumably educated and intelligent people.
Should their campaign be successful, it will surely be a catastrophe for
To introduce the first
recommendation, here is an incident that took place when I was President of
Rockford College. I had just finished a
speech about education and the next speaker walked up to the lectern. He was Buckminster Fuller, famous for his
brilliant work in several professional fields, sort of an all-purpose genius. He was evidently troubled about
something. He was silent for a minute
or two, and then he said, “Before I give my talk, I want to say something to
that college president who just finished, pointing at me in the audience. “You people in the colleges and universities
are going to ruin this nation. What you
do is identify all the bright students as they come through and make them
experts in something. That isn’t all
bad, but the trouble is it leaves a residue of people with less brain power who
must become the generalists needed to serve as college presidents.” When the audience stopped laughing, he continued,
“And the presidents of the United States.”
In that momentary
interruption of the scheduled program, Mr. Fuller phrased a truth of the
greatest importance, a truth which so far as I know, no other public figure had
ever recognized, or enunciated.
Consider America’s recent
history. In the last fifty years, there
have been revolutionary advances in medicine and transportation, in
communications, genetic engineering and micro-machinery, in the production and
processing of food, and in the whole universe of science, technology and
machines. My grandparents were certain
that travel to the moon was eternally impossible and they would have regarded
all these other accomplishments I have just mentioned as equally beyond the
limits of reality. This has truly been
an era of the rapid fulfillment of impossible dreams, all across the universe
However, during this period
when things prospered, human beings did not. In the same half century, many of the
industrialized nations have suffered a serious decline in the emotional
stability of their peoples. Alcoholism,
drug addiction, suicide and neurosis have afflicted a large and growing segment
of the population. The demand for
psychological counseling and psychiatric treatment keeps multiplying. Not only are individuals much less able to
live at peace with themselves, but they are increasingly hostile toward
other people. There has been an
appalling growth in theft, robbery, embezzlement, murder, rape, wife abuse,
child abuse, divorce, vandalism, blackmail, and innumerable other actions that
harm other people. The savage, selfish
instincts are breaking free of the civilized restraints which centuries of experience
and common sense had determined were essential to the civil order.
The cause of this modern
duality of a Golden Age of Technology and a Twilight of Human Wisdom was
tersely stated by Buckminster Fuller.
The training for the rapidly expanding scientific and technological
professions requires such an extensive mastery of specialized material, that it
leaves little time in the student’s schedule to encounter the wisdom supplied
by history, philosophy, literature, drama and religion. It is these and other branches of the
humanities which familiarize the student with human frailties and human
grandeur, with the spiritual and psychological needs of the individual, with
the central role of the family in nurturing and stabilizing the lives of young
people, with the rise and fall of governments, and the whole network of other
social institutions of community life.
The new generation of experts, with a narrow and intense focus of
interests, is increasingly unaware of, or simply not interested in, the
obligations and responsibilities and rewards of being a wholesome and
contributing member of society.
It is the generalists, armed
with the wisdom of the ages that have the insight and judgment to guide a
confused world through the perils of modernity. The response to the aggressive campaign of gay marriage advocacy
can best be waged by generalists who understand human nature, are well versed
in the history of social institutions, and are familiar with the centrality of
the family in the teachings of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religions.
The second recommendation is to
determine the basic principles at issue in that defense and elucidate them and
emphasize them repeatedly in the marketplace of public opinion. A principle is a constant, unvarying fact
about cause and effect. It cannot be
changed. A principle just exists
through eternity. We all readily
understand that you cannot build an airplane that will fly unless you
understand the principles of aerodynamics and apply those principles in the
design of your plane. Unfortunately,
many people do not realize that there are principles which govern the
effectiveness of the systems and institutions of a society just as rigidly and
inevitably as principles of physics govern the development of technology.
In order to illustrate the
impact of this advice, I offer an account of what happened in the profession in
which I served for twenty-five years, higher education. Somehow, many of the nation’s colleges and
universities lost sight of the governing principle of education and eventually
not only excluded it, but turned it inside out. I should at this point note that there are some institutions of
higher education that are still on the right track, but this analysis reports
on the majority of colleges and universities, including the most famous and
influential ones. This bit of history
will reveal how the natural family came to be perceived in the United States as
an obstacle to the good life, and why the natural family is now a primary
target for elimination by much of the intellectual and opinion-making forces in
the United States.
Until the middle of the
twentieth century it was universally recognized that the primary purpose of the
educational process was to train each new generation how to live responsibly
and productively in its own society.
This goal was preeminent in tribal as well as industrial nations. The young were taught the ideals of the
society, why these ideals were important, and why they must be sustained and
protected. They were taught the
obligations they must fulfill and the taboos they must observe in support of
those ideals. They learned about the
heroes who sacrificed greatly for those ideals and were celebrated for their
deeds, and the traitors who defied and compromised those ideals and were
punished and scorned for their betrayal.
Education’s first and foremost task is to socialize and acculturate the
young for life in their own society.
This process was not resented as an unpleasant burden imposed upon the
young, but was understood by most people to be a part of growing up just like
learning to speak the native language.
Schooling covered many other subjects, too, but the core of the program
In the United States,
education performed this process quite effectively up until World War II. After The War certain ideas and
circumstances that were incompatible with the traditional culture increasingly
eroded the university’s commitment to the ancient truths and ideals. The rapid spread of Marxist doctrine among
the professors reduced the faculty’s willingness to advocate the traditional
American culture which was essentially Christian in its outlook. The huge expansion of programs in science
and technology, paid for by an outpouring of funds from the Federal Government,
rapidly produced a very large number of technological experts on the faculty,
who often were unsympathetic to their colleagues in the humanities departments
and outvoted them on matters of university policy.
In December of 1964, an
aggressive band of students, angry about the Vietnam War, and stirred up by
Marxist radicals, erupted in a protest at The University of California at
Berkeley. This was the first chapter of
turmoil that spread to campuses across the nation, which over a period of five
years involved sit-ins, shouting down speakers, spray-painting and burning
buildings, bombing one science laboratory in which a professor was killed, destroying
library card catalogs, and an incident at Cornell University where student
revolutionaries armed with guns told the University President to sit on the
floor until he was invited to speak. It
was a nightmare chapter in American history.
Returning to the University of
California in 1964, we find that that campus and all of the other
coeducational colleges and universities of the country had what were called parietal
rules. These rules prohibited men
students from being in the women’s dormitories at night after a specified time
and conversely barred women from being in the men’s dormitories beyond the same
hour. Here was the perfect illustration
of acculturation. Other than the
church, the family had always been the centerpiece of American life, and was
cherished and honored and respected by the people. To protect the family, the parietal rules had been established so
that all of the nation’s students would understand the great importance of the natural
family and the code of sexual morality that sustains both marriage and the
At Berkeley, the radical student
leaders, coached by their Marxist professors, said to the University President,
“We are old enough to be drafted into the army and get killed in Vietnam,
surely we are old enough to make decisions about how we lead our lives. The university has no right to tell us what
to do except in matters relating to our studies. The Chancellor of the University and his associates decided that
the radical students’ request should be granted and the parietal rules were
abolished. No competent generalist
would have made that judgment. Before
long, most of the other colleges and universities also eliminated their
This widespread cancellation
of institutional support for standards of sexual morality was a major landmark,
not only in fundamentally changing the purposes of American education, but also
in transforming a society that once had a clear sense of right and wrong into
one that generally asserts that each person should judge for himself what is
right and what is wrong. In the next
few years, many other traditional standards which had produced campus
communities characterized by civility, decency and courtesy and morality were
casualties of the new non-judgmentalism.
Bawdy, vulgar language became a commonplace as did slovenly dress and
grooming. Campus dramas and movies defied
the ancient standards of sexual modesty and morality. Professors and distinguished campus guests no longer were treated
with respect by the students, but were subject to rudeness and indignities,
previously unknown. Right and wrong had
become a matter of personal choice.
In 1969, four years after the
Berkeley uprising, President Nixon appointed a national Task Force on
Priorities in Higher Education to evaluate the continuing turmoil on the
campuses and make recommendations to The President and The United States
Congress about what the Government could do to help the universities calm
things down and resume their proper activities. That Task Force was chaired by The President of New York
University. Other distinguished members
included the Presidents of the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and the Presidents of several state universities. I was a member representing the smaller
colleges. In our second year, we met in
New York City to take action on our final report which had been drafted by the
staff to reflect the proceedings of the meetings we had held. The three recommendations in the draft
report were that the government should provide more funds, and do more to
support research and give special help to black colleges. After we had had time to read the draft
report, our chairman asked if it was satisfactory. The other members were pleased with the text.
I said that it seemed to me
the report failed to address any of the causes of campus turmoil for which we
were asked to propose remedies in which government could be helpful. I noted that our campuses had a serious
problem with the usage of illegal drugs; that students were involved in damage
to property and other illegal acts and the university officers usually did not take
punitive action or seek help from the police; and that the war in Vietnam was a
primary cause of campus turmoil requiring explanations from and discussions
with governmental officers. The
universities couldn’t resolve these problems without help. The other committee members were surprised
by my statement. After a pause, one of
the most distinguished members said, “But John, all these matters involve value
judgments. We can’t take institutional
action on matters involving value judgments.”
The other members agreed with him.
They were a representative group of the most highly regarded, influential
academic leaders. Thirty-four years ago
non-judmentalism had already become the dominant educational philosophy.
Here we see the total
inversion of the educational principle.
The educational principle acknowledges the requirement that a society
must transmit its heritage of ideals and wisdom to succeeding generations. The new educational philosophy prohibits that
transmission and prohibits standards of right and wrong. It thus finds it finds it intolerable that
homosexuals do not have all the same rights and privileges as married
people. The mind of the narrowly
focused technological experts is incapable of understanding and appreciating
that the natural family is an institution of such profound importance to any
society that it must be granted precedence over competing claims. The educational principle has been cancelled
and the educational system is effectively spreading moral chaos.
Before turning to the third
recommendation, I want to cite one of the most critically important principles
pertaining to the family. The human
sexual impulse is so powerful that societies through the ages have found it
necessary to establish standards of sexual behavior to protect the family. And because human nature is strongly
inclined to act contrary to those standards, the societies have established
taboos against behavior that does not conform to those standards. The parietal rules at all the nation’s
colleges and universities reflected the common judgment of the American people in
the approval of the natural family and the disapproval of contra-family sexual
activity. The principle, here,
is that the family and sexual liberation cannot co-exist. The more there is of the one, the less there
will be of the other. The family and
sexual liberation are mutually exclusive.
This principle needs to have a prominent place in any program in support
of the family.
The third recommendation is
to search out success stories which prove that the advocated changes are
possible and will deliver beneficial results.
It is especially important in the cultural arena to avoid a reputation for
nothing but complaints. Society will
react more positively to programs that state: “Here is a good thing that should be accomplished, this is why it
is important. Here is one way to do it,
and look at the wonderful results.”
As you know, the family
members are all influenced for better or worse by the environment in which
their home is located. Here is a
success story about the complete renovation of a housing development which had
deteriorated to a desperate condition. “We are not a housing project! We are a neighborhood!” This was the declaration of Bertha Gilkey on
an unforgettable television show in 1986.
Bertha Gilkey is an impressive African-American who led a successful battle
against crime, drugs, vandalism, disrepair, filth and rats, transforming the
Cochran Housing development in St. Louis from a badly rundown high-rise slum
into a neatly-kept, safe and lawful, up-beat residential dwelling. The Cochran public-housing facility, like
many others in America’s inner-cities was built by the Federal government to
provide low-rent housing for those citizens who have very little money. Unfortunately, the planners of these
projects were not generalists and were unable to foresee that such buildings
owned by a distant government without proper management quickly degenerated
into filthy, crime-infested slums.
Since the tenants had no pride of ownership and there were no rules and
no resident officers responsible for order and cleanliness, the criminal and
disorderly tenants quickly made these residences virtually uninhabitable. Those
buildings turned into warehouses for underprivileged units of population.
By contrast, a neighborhood
refers both to dwelling places and the people who live in them. Neighborhood implies a sense of unity and a
sense of belonging, a sense of interdependence and continuity, of lasting
concern for the common good. A
neighborhood stirs pride in the hearts of the inhabitants. It is the concept of home on a larger scale.
What happened in St.
Louis? How did Bertha Gilkey and her
partners transform a slum into a neighborhood?
First, they obtained authorization from the government for the residents
to manage the buildings. And then they
did a remarkable thing. They used their
own common sense to draw up a set of rules to govern the behavior of the people
living there. The new rules required
that children be properly supervised.
Illegal drugs were forbidden.
All apartments had to be kept in good repair, and all the tenants were
required to take turns cleaning the hallways.
Security guards were hired to police the premises.
The rules are enforced by
elected officers. They have the
authority to evict a tenant who does not abide by the rules, or whose children
do not. Applicants for an apartment are
carefully screened by a committee as to whether they measure up to the
established standards of upright and neighborly conduct.
When Bertha Gilkey explained
all this on television, the astonished host of the show asked how they could
evict someone from public housing who used illegal drugs. She declared, “Public housing was not built
for criminals and vandals and people who do drugs!” And she is right, of course.
After the new rules took effect, there was a long waiting list of people
who wanted to live in the Cochran buildings.
And the prices of homes in that neighborhood increased as it became
known as a good area in which to live.
Bertha Gilkey was a very
talented generalist. She didn’t need
university training, she simply used her common sense to bring order out of
chaos. The standards of right and wrong
and the traditions of civic order derived from the nation’s Christian heritage,
which had been taught by the schools and churches and families, had worked well
in the past and she proved they can work well again when they are reapplied. Those standards were derived from
religion. It is my firm belief that the
new circumstances which endanger the institution of the family worldwide are
circumstances in which ancient religious ideals have been challenged and
changed or rejected by self-centered and self-serving judgments of modern man.
In conclusion, two quotations
and a summary comment. The first
quotation is the final paragraph from an essay entitled “Religion Is The Basis
of Society” by William Ellery Channing.
He was a renowned theologian and author writing in the early nineteenth
Erase all thought and fear of God from a community,
and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man. Appetite, knowing no restraint, and
suffering, having no solace of hope, would trample in scorn on the restraints
of human laws. Virtue, duty, principle,
would be mocked and spurned as unmeaning sounds. A sordid self-interest would supplant every feeling; and man
would become in fact, what theory in atheism declares him to be – a companion
The second quotation is from
Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s response in 1983 when he received The Templeton
Prize. He entitled that speech, “Men Have
…(E)vil, like a whirlwind triumphantly circles all
five continents of the earth…The entire twentieth century is being sucked into
the vortex of atheism and self-destruction...
It was Dostoevsky who drew from the French Revolution
and its seething hatred of the Church the lesson that “revolution must
necessarily begin with atheism.” That
is absolutely true. But the world had
never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously
malevolent as that practiced by Marxism.
Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, hatred of God is the
principal driving force.
Solzhenitsyn concludes that speech by asserting:
Our life consists not in the pursuit of material
success, but in the quest for spiritual growth.
Finally, the task of defending, preserving and
strengthening the natural family is a daunting one. The anti-family forces dominate the intellectual and political
market place of ideas, but if the advocates and defenders of the natural family
recognize their work as part of their duty to God, they will not falter in
performing that task.