Attitude Isn’t Everything

Teen sex is down, respect for parents is up, marriage is becoming more popular, and divorce is on the wane. Does that sound like a fantasy? It's not. As Kay Hymowitz recently reported in City Journal, many indicators point to a return to traditional values in America. Hymowitz's article is titled "It's Morning After in America," suggesting a general feeling of revulsion against a long period of debauchery. She writes, "Wave away the colored smoke of the Jackson family circus, Paris Hilton, and the antics of San Francisco, and you can see how Americans have been self-correcting from a decades-long experiment with 'alternative values.' . . . What is emerging is a vital, optimistic, family-centered, entrepreneurial, and yes, morally thoughtful, citizenry." Hymowitz shows that young people who were raised by veterans of the sexual revolution, and who grew up in the culture of no-fault divorce, are more conservative than their parents. They want to get married and stay married, and they disapprove of casual sex at higher rates than their parents did. Hymowitz's conclusions are based on solid research and are good news. So are we to stop worrying about the future of this generation? I don't want to throw a wet blanket on good news, but it only gets us part of the way there. It's great that more people are recognizing the need to build and preserve strong families. But the rates of premarital sex, illegitimacy, and divorce are still disturbingly high. And the real rub is this: Other media reports and interviews suggest that though many young people are against premarital sex and abortion in the abstract, they often have different attitudes when it comes to living their own lives. This is what we call compartmentalization. One of Hymowitz's own examples illustrates the discrepancy between attitudes and actions. She writes, "The longitudinal Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study has found that half of the poor, largely black, new mothers it surveys are living with the father at the time of their baby's birth. Two-thirds of them agree 'it is better for children if their parents are married,' and 77 percent say that chances of marrying their child's father are 50 percent or higher. If history is any guide, most won't; but the fact that so many want to marry and understand that it is better to do so is an unexpected bit of social capital to build on." Well, Hymowitz is right -- it is social capital. But do these women and men have the tools to do the necessary building? Are they willing, for instance, to make a commitment before having children? Having the right attitude, you see, about family-related issues is crucial, and there are encouraging signs that attitudes are improving. But attitude isn't everything. Historical patterns show that without the foundation of a solid biblical worldview, attitudes can easily shift back and forth with the prevailing breezes. But this, you see, is where you and I come in. This is what some people call a "teachable moment." If young people's attitudes are shifting in a healthy direction, our job is to seize this moment to help them ground their lives in a solid biblical worldview, so that they not only want to do better, but they have the tools with which to accomplish it. For further reading and information: Kay S. Hymowitz, "It's Morning After in America," City Journal, Spring 2004.
  1. David Hornik, "Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dogs' Tails," American Spectator, 24 May 2004.
Alessandra Stanley, "When Creators of 'Quality Television' Try the Opposite Approach," New York Times, 3 June 2004. (Archived commentary; costs $2.95 to retrieve.) Benoit Denizet-Lewis, "Friends, Friends with Benefits and the Benefits of the Local Mall," New York Times Magazine, 30 May 2004. (Archived commentary; costs $2.95 to retrieve.) Louis R. Tarsitano, "Credible Marriages," Touchstone, April 2004. Robert E. Rector and Melissa G. Pardue, "Understanding the President's Healthy Marriage Initiative," Backgrounder #1741, Heritage Foundation, 26 March 2004. BreakPoint Commentary No. 040330, "Understanding the Bigger Picture: The Need for More Comprehensive Education." BreakPoint Commentary No. 030805, "Bus to Nowhere: Miami's 'Divorce Bus.'" Gina Dalfonzo, "What Aren't You Kids Doing!?BreakPoint Online, 4 June 2002. See the National Marriage Project's "Top Ten Myths of Divorce" and "Top Ten Myths of Marriage." See Boundless's past "Beyond Buddies" columns. "Intimate Allies" -- Christians must be living witnesses to the beauty and the glory of marriage as God intended it. Dr. Dan Allender, professor of counseling and president of Mars Hill Graduate School in Bothell, Washington, travels and speaks regularly on marriage, sexual abuse recovery, love and forgiveness, worship, and other related topics. In this "BreakPoint This Week" interview, he discusses topics from his book, INTIMATE ALLIES, coauthored with Dr. Tremper Longman. Together they host Intimate Allies seminars on marriage. To order this CD, call 1-877-322-5527.


Chuck Colson


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