The family: discovering the obvious.

Author:Eberstadt, Mary

For many years now, and often inadvertently, secular as well as religious researchers have been amassing facts that, properly understood, bolster the case for the traditional family and against its adversaries and would-be imitators. Some of that evidence, such as the harm to children of the fatherless household, is already widely acknowledged by mainstream writers and readers. Some of it, particularly evidence pertaining to the dark side of homosexuality, remains virtually taboo. When all of it is put together, however, this evidence shows that empirical fact is on the side of the traditional family.

First, a clarification of terms. There are in fact a variety of nontraditional households. I will limit my comments to that subset now posing the most immediate public challenge: the household self-consciously created in contradistinction to the natural family; the household in which the natural family can only be imitated rather than created; the household now demanding not only recognition of some sort from society at large, but also the guarantee of moral equivalence. I suggest that we call this the "antitraditional" household, both to distinguish it from what has gone before and to capture something of its defiant essence. And since such households can further be divided into two variants, heterosexual and homosexual, I propose that we proceed by examining them in turn.

What this distinction immediately makes clear is something interesting and pretty much unnoticed in today's furor over gay marriage: that intellectually speaking, at least, the heterosexual variation of the antitraditional household has been steadily losing ground for years now.

I do not mean that heterosexual family formation, as practiced, is healthy. Far from it. Abortion, divorce, illegitimacy, pornography, sterilization--these and other plagues on the natural family continue apace. Underlying and sustaining all these separate attacks on the natural family is fact that contraceptive sex, the deliberated plan to thwarth participation in the natural family, is not only widespread but also almost universally accepted in the United States and elsewhere. Considered phenomenologically, the present and future of the natural family in the America--for that matter, in much of the world--looks grim indeed.

At the same time, the news isn't all bad. We should recognize one real and important victory for the traditionalist side: there has been a sea change in the way our secular cultural elites now write and talk about nontraditional heterosexual households. Members of these elite may live in such households; they may personally feel such households to be morally equivalent perhaps even superior, to traditional households; but a rule they no longer offer full-throated public endorsements of the broken hearth.

That is a major transformation in...

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