May 13, 2004 | Testimony on Family and Marriage
Testimony Before the Senate of the
United States, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation;
Subcommittee on Science, Technology, And Space regarding the Social
Scientific Data on the Impact of Marriage and Divorce on
This chart shows that in 1950 for every hundred children born, that
year, 12 entered a broken family -- four were born out of wedlock
and eight suffered the divorce of their parents. By the year 2000
that number had risen five fold and for every 100 children born 60
entered a broken family: 33 born out of wedlock and 27 suffering
the divorce of their parents.
We must conclude that over the last fifty years America has changed from being preponderantly "a culture of belonging" to now being "a culture of rejection".
Because of this level of the rejection by fathers and mothers of each other this growing cohort of children has not nor will not attain the fullness of its capacities. Neither can the nation attain the fullness of its capacity to fulfill its destiny and role.
The children of parents who reject each other suffer: in deep emotional pain, ill health, depression, anxiety, even shortened life span; more drop out of school, less go to college, they earn less income, they develop more addictions to drugs and alcohol, and they engage in increased violence or suffer it within their homes.
Society also suffers with more gangs, more assaults, more violence against women and children, more sexual abuse of women and children, and much bigger bills for jails, increased need for health care, supplemental education, addiction programs, foster care, homelessness programs and on and on. The expansion of all these social program budgets is directly linked to the breakdown in marriage.
There is not a single area of governmental concern, not a single budget of a major social policy area that does not grow in size when marriages fail, or when parents reject each other. Picking up the pieces becomes not just the work of the fragmented family itself but of all taxpayers and the whole of society. The breakdown has now reached such a level as to be massively expensive. With these results we can say this cultural change -- America's latest experiment with freedom -- has been a big failure.
Though it may seem far removed from the point of this hearing, this cultural phenomenon is now a foreign policy issue. To be the leader of the free world we need a culture that we are proud of, a culture that is a source of domestic strength and happiness.
How do we reverse this situation?
As a nation we need to set about restoring the conditions that will grow again a culture of belonging, with all the ingredients that go into such a culture: courtship, marriage, worship and communities of families that form neighborhoods that are nice places to come home to: neighborhoods in which romance, courtship and marriage are normal and frequent. Behind this simple goal -- some might, without grasping its import, say simplistic goal -- lies a huge amount of work especially for everyone, including this body.
The Senate, which has played such a critical role so often in shaping the ideas that guide and correct the unfolding American experiment in freedom, and which has helped shape the ideals of this nation so often, is now called again to play again its foremost role in bringing this about the changes needed: debate.
We are a political nation, founded on a political ideas and ideals that animate our constitution and our national history. And the Senate is the institution designed most to be that place where America debates the next form of its ongoing experiment with freedom: more than the House, more than the Supreme Court, more even than the Presidency. This is the preeminent institution of debate in this country -- so at least was the intention of the Founders, and so still is the need of the people.
George Washington in his Farewell Speech to the Nation drew attention to the need for the American people to be a people of worship if this experiment in freedom is to work. The latest data show us that these families-those that worship most, are those that most belong to each other, that give us the most of what we want in all our social policies, and produce the least of what we try to prevent in all our social programs….but that is a topic for another hearing, one well worth having.
When mothers and fathers belong to each other and strive to belong to God in worship the greatest strengths emerge and the least problems are present. For instance on something the whole country and this Senate constantly talk, and worry about, and spend a lot of money on -- education attainment and outcomes -- children from the intact family that worships God most frequently has the highest Grade Point Average, while children from the fragmented family that worships least or not at all, as a group, has the lowest Grade Point Average, as the attached chart illustrates from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, our biggest and most comprehensive survey ever of adolescent outcomes. A host of other outcomes illustrate the same basic point.
There is much in the scientific literature that points towards religious practice as a great preserver and fosterer of marriage and family strengths.