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The family unit is one of the most cherished institutions of American
society. Its function is one of philanthropy, to raise America's children in
accordance with our accepted norms and various proscriptions and prescriptions.
However, rising teenage pregnancy and juvenile crime seem to indicate
that the American family is not doing this. Many Americans insist that a family
is capable of producing a productive citizen in every instance and believe that
only a traditional family can do this.
So the conclusion one might draw baring in mind this paradigm is that
the traditional one mom and one dad family needs help as a function. Any Pat
Robertson-fearing Republican will tell you that Judeo-Christian ethics are the
foundation upon which the family is based, therefore to help the family why not
foster these religious ideals? (And while we're at it, why not make a
contribution to the two billion dollar tax-free Christian Broadcasting Network?)
The manifest function here of religion is to provide people with a
unifying belief that will scare kids into behaving so they do not go to Hell.
The latent function is that it is a slap in the face to every Easterner who has
conducted themselves in a productive and positive manner. Many of the Christian
right I am sure do not realize how offensive the notion is that Christianity is
the only faith to recognize that killing and stealing are bad.
What exactly are the "norms" that are so exclusive to Christianity? The
Christian world is more afflicted with crime than Singapore ever will be, just
take a walk through the super Catholic ghettos of Buenos Aires.
I personally believe that the break from moral traditions does not exist.
The vast majority of American youth hold murder and violence to be a
proscription, and so do their families whether they consist of two moms or two
dads or one of each. Certainly poverty has created a problem to compliment the
stress placed on those growing up in single parent families, and perhaps here is
where faith belongs. If people can just have something to believe in, to lift
up their spirits, perhaps the dread of daily life would not seem so terrible for
those it depresses, and here I speak not only of inner cities, I speak of the
dozens of people I know who have to be on prozac to have the will to wake up in
the morning, I speak of the countless multitudes of young women who purposely
vomit because they feel they have no control over their lives or because they
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The plight of youth is not the measure of their morality. The plight of
youth is the measure of their self worth. We value malnutrition for our girls
and perfect health for our boys. Although the older members of our society will
say that these are not the new prescriptions, that these are wrong, these
detrimental social phenomenon occur in desperately large numbers.
How can Christian ideology help these depressed youth? The Bible does
not have anything to say about anorexia, about buhlemia. It does condemn
suicide, but certainly condemnation is not the way to help us.
In the end, the saving grace of American youth will be their ability to
believe in themselves. Self confidence and preservation will give them the
emotional capacity to aim as high as Americans should, to make something of
themselves other than a thin body.
Of course, no one wants to think that the ones hurting American youth
are themselves. But they are. Hollywood and the fashion industry have indeed
played a large part as far as America's perception of beauty. This influences
the American paradigm far more than media violence ever could, for no one wants
to be the bad guy murderer. He (almost) always looses.
Times change. A place called America started in a revolution that was
seen as an atheistic break from the tradition of British rule. Now we are
liberating ourselves from ourselves, for better or worse. Sex education is
teaching children not to be afraid or ashamed of their bodies, gays and lesbians
need not live undignified lives of shame and a teenage mother need not carry to
term a baby she can not afford. This is the moral crisis the Pat Robertson
denounces. If I had a two billion dollar tax-exempt media corporation, I'm sure
I could paint progress as crisis too.
The real fundamentals of Christianity that offer a positive function for
society is not the condemnation of diversity and alienation that the rich and
religious are always so good at; it is the idea that we start caring about each
other, that we love one another and stop blaming each other for our own problems.
I think that if Jesus were to return tomorrow, he would be rather unhappy to
find Pat Robertson the spokesman and president of his fan club.