The Home: Foundation of Greatness or Decadence
Youthful rebellion, the generation gap, student unrest, juvenile delinquency, illegitimacy, sexual revolution, pot, and escapism; these are the social problems plaguing today’s youth and modern society. And, fueling much of it is a radically changing family life-style. Some authorities even predict the disappearance of the traditional family unit. That is of a husband and a wife.
Today divorces are a more and more commonly accepted part of modern living styles. Unhappy marriages by the millions are on the border of breakup. A high percentage of married women work outside the home, bringing both financial benefits and social conflict. Husband and wife roles are becoming blurred. Parents and children are increasingly going their own way, and many homes are becoming little more than boarding houses, merely providing a place to eat and sleep, and little else.
Rampant adultery, premarital sex, wife-swapping, a growing acceptance of homosexuality and perverted sex are all tearing away a stable home life and happiness in the Western world. No wonder! Every medium of communication disseminates the subtle message of “doing your own thing.” Increasingly, social leaders, psychologists, educators and even religious figures openly condone formerly condemned illicit sex.
Largely forgotten today is the fact that the home is the basic foundation of any society. It is the most influential element in national character. It lays the first groundwork for learning individual character, values, goals, morality, self-control and loyalty. The early Romans basically understood this. And it was a force that helped Rome grow in power and stature.
In the book Rome: Its Rise and Fall, the author, Philip Van Ness Myers, notes: “First, at the bottom as it were of Roman society and forming its ultimate unit, was the family. The most important feature or element of this family group was the authority of the father.
“It would be difficult to overestimate the influence of this group upon the history and destiny of Rome. It was the cradle of at least some of those splendid virtues of the early Romans that contributed so much to the strength and greatness of Rome, and that helped to give her dominion of the world” (pp. 11-12).
This same strong family structure – with the father in leadership-- was a foundation stone supporting the national power of the British Empire and the United States in the zenith of their greatness.
We use the word “was” because, as it did in Rome, this building block of national power, the strong family unit, is rapidly deteriorating.
Continued this astute historian: “It was in the atmosphere of the family that was nourished, in the Roman youth, the virtues of obedience and of deference to authority. When the youth became a citizen, obedience to magistrates and respect for law was in him as instinct and indeed almost a religion. And, on the other hand, the exercise of the parental authority in the family taught the Roman how to command as well as how to obey, how to exercise authority with wisdom, moderation, and justice” (p. 15).
How similar to what one famous American crime fighter said is necessary to develop solid citizens. The late J. Edgar Hoover emphasized before the Special Senate Committee investigating organized crime in interstate commerce: “The home is the first great training school in behavior or misbehavior and parents serve as the first teachers for the inspirational education of youth. In the home, the child learns (or should learn) that others beside himself have rights which he must respect.
“Here the spadework is laid for instilling in the child those values which will cause him to develop into an upright, law-abiding, wholesome citizen. He must learn respect for others, respect for property, courtesy, truthfulness, and reliability. He must learn not only to manage his own affairs but also to share in the responsibility for the affairs of the community. He must be taught to understand the necessity of obeying the laws of God.”
Early Roman parents, far from being perfect examples of parenthood, nevertheless basically realized their responsibility in nation building. They didn’t leave the teaching of basic morals and responsibilities to others.
“The (early Roman) boy’s upbringing was founded on a profound conviction of the power of example, first of the father himself as a representative of virtues peculiarly Roman, but also the great prototypes of Roman valor in the boy’s family and national history who were presented to him as men worthy of admiration” (E. B. Castle, Ancient Education and Today, p. 114).
Contrary to the situation in modern America today, the early Romans had exemplary heroes and living examples of what youth were expected to emulate. And strange, though it may sound to many a modern woman, mothers and homemakers in early Rome were accorded great honor and esteem. Here is what Tacitus, a Roman historian of the early Empire wrote: “In the good old days (of the Republic), every man’s son, born in wedlock, was brought up, not in the chamber of some hireling nurse, but in his mother’s lap, and at her knees. And that mother could have no higher praise than that she managed the house and gave herself to her children.
“Religiously and with the utmost delicacy she regulated not only the serious tasks of her youthful charges, but their recreations also and their games” (Tacitus, Dialogue on Oratory, 28, Loeb Classics).
At the age of seven the boy was released from the exclusive care of his mother to continue his education under the leadership of the father.
“The idea of entrusting the training of a future Roman citizen to the incompetent guidance of a slave was repellent to the Roman mind at this time” (Castle, op. cit, p. 113).
But the stable Roman family didn’t last. Changes rapidly took place in the social life of Rome. Tribute poured in from conquered nations. A growing commercial life made pursuit of trade and wealth the all-too-common objective, especially of the upper class.
Increasingly, men of capability were away from their homes on business trips to some remote corner of the empire. Children and wives were left alone. Rapidly a snowballing moral change occurred. The Romans began to practice a “new morality.”
“Added to this initial cause of family disruption was the consequent easy attitude to the marriage tie, the increasing frequency of divorce, and growing freedom and laxity in women’s morals, all of which ended in a loosening of the old family unit in which the best in Roman character had its roots.
“Great as were the men who made history in these last years of the Republic, there was yet something lacking in moral stature among the Roman upper classes which had been characteristic of earlier generations. Personal aggrandizement was too eagerly sought, and too readily achieved, by the ruthless and the old traditions of selfless service to the state were weakening” (ibid., pp. 119-120).
Roman men began to “play around” on business trips, in their offices, with neighbors’ wives. The institution of slavery did much to encourage loose and easy morals. It was considered naïve to be honest in business.
By the beginning of the second century A.D., Roman fathers, in general, had “yielded to the impulse to become far too complaisant. Having given up the habit of controlling their children, they let the children govern themselves, and took pleasure in bleeding themselves to gratify the expensive whims of their offspring. The result was that they were succeeded by a generation of idlers and wasters.
“The fine edge of character had been blunted in the Rome of the second century A.D. The stern face of the traditional ‘pater families’ (the father of the family) had faded out; instead we see on every hand the flabby face of the son of the house, the eternal spoiled child of society, who has grown accustomed to luxury and lost all sense of disciple” (Jerome Carcopino, Daily Life in Ancient Rome, pp. 78-79.
A modern historian couldn’t better describe contemporary family life in the “developed” countries today.
According to Roman authors such as Aulus Gellius, Valerius Maximus and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, divorces in early Rome were extremely rare, in fact, all but unknown. But in the first century B.C. – about the time of Cicero, marital breakdowns, especially in the upper classes, had become so prevalent that divorce became “normal.”
“From this time on, we witness an epidemic of divorces, at least among the aristocracy whose matrimonial adventures are documented,” writes Carcopino p. 97.
Regarding the Rome of the Antonine period (around A.D. 150), Carcopino quotes from Seneca, who witnessed the same problem a number of decades before: “They divorce in order to remarry. They marry in order to divorce” (ibid., p. 100).
The Roman writer Martial declared that marriage had become merely a form of legalized adultery!
Practically the same wording could be used to describe the American marriage-go-round today. Families are falling apart at the highest rate ever – even surpassing the post-World War II breakups of hasty wartime unions.
In 1974 statistics reveal there were nearly one million divorces and annulments. More than a million children were directly affected by these proceedings. Statistically, there are almost two divorces every minute in the United States. According to the Census Bureau, millions of Americans have been through a marriage breakup. Many U.S. counties and cities have nearly as many, or more, filings for divorce than marriage licenses granted during a year.
But divorce figures, as bad as they are, are only the tip of the iceberg smashing American family life. For every divorce, there are scores of unhappy, frustrated and unfulfilled marriages, held together by children, relatives, or business and social obligations. Even these reasons are rapidly being disregarded, due largely to our urban, mobile way of life.
At present rates, nearly every third home in the nation will at some time experience the tragedy of divorce. And divorce is a tragedy, despite all the claims to the contrary. The idea of an amicable or friendly divorce is a myth. Divorce is a tragic, costly, nerve-shattering experience! Why so much divorce? Too many marry the wrong person for the wrong reason.
Dr. Clifford Rose Adams, former professor emeritus of Penn State University, reported in June 1969 that government statistics showing that about 28 percent of all marriages end in divorce are misleading. He said: “If you take in annulments and desertions, which are not included, the figure would be nearer 40 percent. Add to this what we call the morbidity marriage, where a man and woman may continue living with each other just for appearances or convenience while actually hating each other, and you find that only about 25 percent of marriages are really happy. The other 75 percent are a bust.”
Family life in modern America and most of the Western world is falling apart at the seams. It is affecting (or infecting) the whole world, for that matter. Cynicism toward the family institution is in the air. As the feminist movement gains momentum and the youth of the Western democracies put forth the clarion cry of rebellion, the words of the ancient prophet Isaiah are strikingly appropriate: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths’ (Isa. 3:12).
In verse 5 of the same chapter, Isaiah also says: “And the people shall be oppressed every one by his neighbor: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient and the base against the honorable.”
God shows the problem to be a result of a lack of right leadership. In today’s wide-open society all the wrong voices are heard. The most sensational and radical statements gain the greatest publicity. Righteous and God-fearing values are turned upside down and ridiculed by many. Far more popular are permissive life-styles. Isaiah vividly describes our national sickness: “Our sins testify against us. In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter” (Isa. 59:12-14)! As we drift farther away from the true values of our Creator, we plunge deeper into a morass of family problems. Marriages break up. Children rebel. Adultery becomes commonplace and even “normal.” And as a result, our society is immeasurably weakened. Today we are beginning to pay a high price for acceptance of indulgent and permissive leadership.
God has commissioned His servants not only to warn the nations of their sins, but also to show the way that would lead to the establishment of true family stability. Notice it in Malachi 4:5-6: “See, I will send you another prophet like Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful judgment day of God. His preaching will bring fathers and children together again, to be of one mind and heart, for they will know that if they do not repent, I will some and utterly destroy their land” (The Living Bible).
A phenomenon now bothering the social scientists is the increasing number of marriages which are breaking up in divorce courts after enduring for 15 or 20 years and even longer.
It has previously been assumed that the longer a marriage lasted, the stronger the marital bonds. But a sampling of divorce statistics across the United States shows 24 percent of marriages that ended in divorce had lasted 15 years or more.
Sexual affairs outside of marriage have become almost the rule rather than the exception, according to the Institute for Sex Research founded by the late Dr. Alfred Kinsey. It estimates that 60 percent of married men and 35 to 40 percent of married women have affairs with partners other than their spouses sometimes during their marriage. Adultery shatters homes, peace, love and stability!
Speaking out against the proliferation of adulterous relationships in modern Israel (the United States and British Commonwealth), God says: “How can I forgive you for all this? Your sons have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are no gods, I gave them all they needed (national affluence), yet they preferred adultery (both spiritual and literal), and haunted the brothels; each neighs after another man’s wife, like a well-fed and lusty stallion. Shall I not punish them for this? The Lord asks. Shall I not take vengeance on such a people”? (Jer. 5:7-9, the New English Bible.)
In 2007 1.7 million illegitimate babies were born, that number is expected to go up to 2.4 million by the end of 2012. Thousands more are “covered” by abortions or hasty, unwanted marriages, marriages that often break up. Venereal disease has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. (and around the world) according to alarmed public health officials. Millions become infected yearly with either gonorrhea or syphilis and AIDS, youth accounting for 60 percent of the cases.
Juvenile delinquency reaches shocking new highs every year in the United States. Nearly half of all arrests for serious crimes involve juveniles under the age of 18. Joseph M. Kennick, past president of the National Conference of Juvenile Authorities, admits: “Somewhere along the way, as parents and as a nation, we went wrong in the rearing of our children. We are now paying for having produced a generation heavily populated with hostile, rebellious and lawless youths who have no respect for themselves or for us.
“Where did we go wrong? We went wrong in many ways – in the laxity of our discipline in indulging and pampering our children, by lifting from their shoulders the burdens they should rightly carry.”
We are paying the painful penalty for permissive, indulgent, child-rearing concepts. Children don’t just “grow up” to be respectable useful citizens; they must be reared by positive teaching of basic rights and wrongs, by balanced discipline and right parental example. A child must have the teaching, example, love and discipline of a concerned parent who is willing to give him the right kind of attention. The failure in these major areas has been immense.
The Maker’s Instruction Book contains many instructions on proper child rearing. As an example, notice Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
Will yet another lesson that could be learned from Rome’s decline be lost on our peoples?
Along with the erosion of the father’s authority in the home, historians note the emergence of a “battle of the sexes” in Rome, when the Empire became rich and affluent.
Upper-class Roman society (the average American would be “upper-class” by Roman standards) witnessed a growing force of wives who wanted to be “emancipated” from home life. Some wives wanted “careers” of their own. Others didn’t want to have children for fear of “losing their figures.”
Wrote historian Carcopino: “Some evaded the duties of maternity for fear of losing their good looks, some took pride in being behind their husbands in no sphere of activity, and vied with them in tests of strength which their sex would have seemed to forbid, some were not content to live their lives by their husband’s side, but carried on another life without him.
“’To live your own life’ was a formula which women had already brought into fashion in the second century. It is obvious that unhappy marriages must have been innumerable” (op. cit., pp. 90, 93, 95).
Today’s “Feminist Movement” is not a new thing in history. Let’s not misunderstand. Women do need better rights. Work for women outside the home is absolutely vital for many. But never should it be at the cost of the deterioration of husband-wife or parent-child relations.
Women in Imperial Rome “did their own thing,” and the results were wretched marriages, divorce, and growing juvenile delinquency. They had “come a long way” indeed! But where they went – the result is not a very happy thought to contemplate.
And the same has happened since the close of World War II in America – “the land of working wives.” The working wife has been singled out by many social authorities as a major contributor to husband-wife problems and child-rearing problems. In 2007, 59.3% of women were working or looking for work.
The disintegration of the family as the basic unit of our social structure has not come about overnight. It has been a gradual and insidious deterioration, a veritable “fifth-column” movement attacking the stability of the home from within. The roles and relationships of father, mother and child have, in the process, become confused. Each has lost his identity and place. How can we expect such a condition to produce a common bond of values that individuals can unite behind to solve national and community problems?
In the Western “progressive” world, the sexes have, in some cases, begun to dress alike and wear their hair alike – or, in some cases, switch styles.
“Unisex,” “free sex,” “swinging singles,” “group sex,” “the PILL,” “sexual revolution, “same sex marriages” – these are the phrases magazine headlines are made of today. Utter confusion about sex, marriage and the family is rampant. But where are all these changes leading us?
Many leading specialists who study family life admit that the family is changing profoundly. But they do not agree on what it is becoming or where it ought to go from here. Some marital “experts” even predict that the very institution of marriage is “obsolete” and on its way out – perhaps to be replaced by the expression “pair-bound,” or some equally indefinable arrangement. Television shows like “the Modern Family,” “Two and One Half Men”, “Happily Divorced”, and many others are aiding in the assimilation of these “modern” views. Of course, the liberal media is doing its part as well! Several states have now approved same sex marriages. We are rapidly moving in the direction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember what happened to them?
During at least one period, decadent Rome lapsed into a similar irresponsible outlook toward sex and marriage, especially among the ruling classes, who set the tone of life in the Empire.
“One cause of the decline in population (in the Empire) was the singular aversion that the better class of the Romans evinced to marriage. Penalties and bounties, deprivations and privileges, entreaties and expostulations are in turn resorted to by the perplexed emperors, in order to discourage celibacy and to foster a pure and healthy family life. But all was in vain. The marriage state continued to be held in great disesteem” (Myers, op., cit. p. 447).
In the same way, respect for marriage and the home is at the lowest ebb at which it has ever been in the United States and Britain. Marriage, to many, means little or nothing. And in any society, where marriage, which the Creator God intended to have utmost meaning, is treated so lightly, where a solid family relationship is no longer desired, that society is threatened with extinction.
Rome traveled this road. It weakened that society! America, Britain and most of Western civilization is speeding along the same roadway. Watch for Part 3 in this series, coming soon!