The Indispensable American Family

By Anthony Esolen:

Someone may say we ought to live in open sewers, because filth and disease are subversive; or that we ought to cut ourselves with razors, because razors are edgy. What response can you give to him? He has placed himself outside of moral reasoning entirely.

In August 1884, Washington Gladden, possibly the most famous Christian preacher in the America of his day, wrote an article in The Century Magazine on “Three Dangers” besetting the welfare of the nation he loved. Of the first and third dangers he named, intemperance and gambling, I have little to say here. I will note that Dr. Gladden concedes that alcohol may be used well, even for conviviality, though he himself did not drink.

More challenging to our moral callousness is that he includes, under gambling, speculation on the stock market: “To say that gambling in margins is as bad as faro or roulette is a very weak statement; it is immeasurably worse. It is far more dishonest. The gambler in margins does his best to load the dice on which he bets his money.”

In our time, said gambler has connections to federal bureaucracies that govern the lending of hundreds of billions of dollars. The housing market collapse is a dreadful case in point.

But it is the second of the three dangers that I will discuss here, “those unsocial forces that make war upon society by assaulting the family.”

Gladden was a liberal churchman, one of the fathers of the Social Gospel, and it is as such that he speaks. “The monogamous family,” he says, “formed by the union of one woman with one man, and by the increase of children born to them, is the structural unit of modern society.” He is deliberate about every word. Society is like a physical organism, which is composed not of separate particles, but of organized cells.

Read more: American Greatness

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