New Idea or Assault on the Family?
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Elizabeth Marquardt, an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values and the principal investigator of an internationally-released report titled "The Revolution in Parenthood: The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs", talks with Dennis Rainey about the culture's changing views and definitions of parenthood.
Elizabeth MarquardtElizabeth Marquardt is the director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, a nonpartisan think tank focused on children, families, and civil society. Her essays and op-ed pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.
Elizabeth Marquardt talks about the culture’s changing views and definitions of parenthood.
New Idea or Assault on the Family?
At that point, after he or she has spoken with him or her, he or she may need to come pick up him or her and take him or her to his or her home.
Bob: We live today in a gender-phobic society. There are even countries where instead of saying "Mother" and "Father" on a birth certificate, you'll see the designations, "Parent A" and "Parent B." Elizabeth Marquardt says that's something about which we ought to be concerned.
Elizabeth: When you can't even say the word "Mother" and "Father" how can we tell a 20-year-old guy when he gets his girlfriend pregnant it's really important that you marry this girl and do the right thing because every child needs his father – how do we tell him to do all those hard things necessary when next door there's a lesbian couple raising the child, and everyone is saying, "Oh, it's fine for that child to have no father." Your kid needs his father, but that child doesn't. There is a contradiction there that makes it hard for us to raise and shape the next generation to understand that mothers and fathers matter to children.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 23rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There is a revolution going on in parenting, and someone needs to be asking the question, "What's best for the children?" Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You're a father, right?
Dennis: I am.
Bob: And Barbara's a mom, right?
Dennis: Right, six times.
Bob: Are you sure?
Bob: How can you be so sure?
Dennis: I was there.
Bob: That's a good answer.
Elizabeth: He said, with a twinkle in his eye.
Dennis: I was there.
Bob: You know, it sounds ridiculous to even ask you that question, but as we talk with our guest, Elizabeth Marquardt today, we're going to find out that that question is being raised and challenged not just in our country but worldwide.
Dennis: Exactly, and, Elizabeth, I want to welcome you back to the broadcast, and I just want to ask you here – you have completed this research called "The Revolution in Parenthood – The Emerging Global Clash Between Adult Rights and Children's Needs," and basically there is a coming redefinition of parenting and of parenthood, in general, just as there has been a redefinition of marriage.
So, Elizabeth, you remind me of what I did as a little boy when I found a big old hornet's nest, and I got a rock, and I got a bead on that hornet's nest, and I threw that stone and hit the hornet's nest right in the middle, and then ran like crazy.
You've thrown a stone at a hornet's nest. Why?
Elizabeth: As you know, my work has been on children of divorce up until now, and that comes out of my own experience as a child of divorce, and what you heard through the 1970s, when it came to divorce was, "Adults are vulnerable, and children are resilient, and we need to take care of the adults, and the children will be fine." And I've taken on that argument full steam as best I can for close to 10 years now.
I was sitting in my study not really even sure what I thought about things like same-sex marriage. To tell you the truth, I have gay and lesbian friends, grown up around different kinds of people – just never really wanted to think about same-sex marriage until November of 2003 when the Massachusetts Supreme Court in their Goodridge decision legalized same-sex marriage or required that six months later same-sex marriage be legalized in the state of Massachusetts.
I read their decision that night on the Web. I remember, I was pregnant with my second child, staying up late, not usually reading Supreme Court decisions online, you know, at midnight. On this thing, I was riveted, and I was riveted because the argument was the same thing – adults are vulnerable, children are resilient, we need to take care of adults' self-esteem needs, and the children will be fine.
And that was when I got deeply drawn into this debate because the more I've seen and the more I've learned the more it's clear to me and others that when you redefine marriage, with it you must also redefine parenthood. And we're seeing that happening in the same-sex marriage debate in this country and in other countries that are debating or legalizing same-sex marriage, but I also want to make clear, it's not just about same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is one piece of this puzzle that's redefining parenthood, but there are other pieces, in the hard sciences, in the law, in the culture, all around the world – this is a global phenomenon that are, together, forming a full-steam assault on the two-person, mother/father model of parenthood.
Dennis: It's interesting to me that the Bible is real clear in how God started this whole thing called Creation. He created the male and female; He created a couple to be married and to …
Bob: Be fruitful and multiply.
Dennis: There you go, it was a command of Scripture all the way through, all the way to Revelation where the Bible ends with another marriage, the marriage feast of Jesus Christ, the bridegroom and the church, that's the bride.
A giant feast held in heaven, and we know by looking at Scripture that God calls us to call Him Father. I mean, these elements of family that have definition and have had, for centuries, definitions anchored in truth. They've been unchanging. Well, now, all of a sudden, there is an attack on the most basic unit of any society – family.
Bob: We've embarked on a social experiment that – I read your study, and I thought you're like – I told you this earlier – you're like the person in the engine room on the "Titanic" saying, "Captain, I think there's an iceberg ahead."
And the captain is saying, "I'm busy," or "Don't bother me," and everybody else is dancing and oblivious to it. But what you're saying in this report is there is a huge iceberg ahead that could have hugely significant impact on our culture if we don't wake up, right?
Elizabeth: I am. One of the biggest things that I try to do in this report is to bring forward the research that is already so clear and that we've already been talking about, so many of us for so many years, regarding the best outcomes for children and how children suffer, on average, more often when they do not grow up in a married union of their own mother and father.
We already know all the ways in which children suffer when their parents either fail to marry one another or get divorced – the way they suffer economically, socially, spiritually, emotionally, all of it. We know about that suffering.
Bob: And can I stop you long enough to say in 2006 we crossed the line because now fewer than 50% of the families in America are two-parent families raising kids, right?
Elizabeth: Let me say that's an – we should do a whole show on that – those new census numbers were taken by some people to say, "Look, married couples are now in the minority." Those data are about households not about families. You can look at it in different ways, but one positive thing you can say is that 60% of children still currently are being raised by their own married parents.
Bob: By a mom and a dad.
Elizabeth: Yes, their mom and dad, too – not a mom and a stepdad, but their mom and day. Sixty percent of children are being raised in married couple households. So if you look at all households and roommate situations and people – I mean – the census bureau, if you have grandma living with you they say you're not a nuclear family. They define nuclear family by the most narrow way possible to make it look like – it's not so much that they intended to do that, but then commentators take that data and say, "Look, nuclear families are just in the minority. It's crazy, it's in the past, it's "Leave it to Beaver," it's all a mess.
It's not a mess. A lot of people are managing to make this work, and we just need to figure out ways to help more people to do it.
Bob: Okay, but back to the point that …
Elizabeth: About the research – one of the things that got me on fire about this topic in addition to what I already shared, is that we have the research there showing the outcomes and the suffering for children when they do not grow up with their own married mother and father.
When it comes to children of gays and lesbians, we just don't know, on a research level, we don't know yet what the outcomes are for them. But as a human being who cares about children and who myself grew up in a very fragmented family, I look at all this research and say, "Children of single parents, of divorced parents, children raised in all kinds of alternative family forms, we already know suffer, on average, when their parents don't get and stay together, could these children of gays and lesbians be all that different?"
I think they're probably not all that different in my heart. As a researcher, we don't know yet, and what I'm urging in this report is before we keep on making all these massive changes, and there is so much more to tell you about beyond just same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, let's take a timeout.
Parents are very familiar with this idea of timeout – let's take a timeout – five years, and try to get the funding and the research and the policy proposals and the discussions and the debates in our legislatures and the outreach in the culture like this show today – try to get this stuff going, because what's happening right now is parenthood is being redefined. It is a revolution happening before our eyes, and it could soon be complete, and most people don't know a thing about it.
They know a little bit about the same-sex marriage debate over here, and a little bit about the reproductive technology debate over here, and they know about divorce over there, and my point is that all these different debates are united by one single question – how do we understand what a parent is?
Are parents mothers and fathers or are parents anything that adults want it to be for however long it's convenient for them?
Bob: Do you feel like the student standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square waving your study, and the tank is just staring at you going, "Get out of the way, because this is going to happen, Elizabeth?"
Elizabeth: I don't feel that way only because there are a lot of good people who are working on this as well, and so I'm not alone. But the question isn't on the map yet, and we're trying to put the question on the map – what is parenthood for? Is parenthood for adults, is it to satisfy adult needs and desires for children whenever and however they want them? Or is parenthood for children, is parenthood about, whenever possible, securing for children their own mother and father?
Bob: And that's really the metathesis of what you're proposing here – that we have taken adult rights and said, "These are supreme, and the children will deal with it," and you're saying, "Now, let's ask what's best for the children?"
Dennis: Yes, and as I was reading your study and just listening to you talk here, and as I've watched this play out louder and louder on TV and on the Internet and in the newspapers and in magazines and coming at us from every different direction, it seems to me that this thing of adult rights being juxtaposed against what is good for children has dissolved down not to a right or wrong issue but instead to an emotional issue.
Let's feel sorry for the couple next door or the couple on TV who are these sweet, idyllic people – two females who want – who really want to have a daughter, who really want to have a baby. And we've made it an emotional issue without, as you've said, counting the cost of what the dominoes falling on down, culturally speaking, are going to mean.
For instance, what if that couple that's the sweet couple on TV, raise that child to go to school with your child, and that boy who grows up in a home with two lesbians ask your daughter to go out on a date, and you get to know that young man, and you begin to talk to him, "Well, tell me, what does your mom do?" "Well, I have two moms." "What does your dad do?" "Well, I don't have a dad." "Well, you're going to be taking my daughter out. Where have you learned what it means for a man to behave and how he is to care for and treat a woman with dignity and respect? Where have you learned that?"
And as you practically play this out, can you imagine the horrors visited upon that boy growing up? The questions that will be asked by his peers, the questions he'll be forced to ask as a child growing up in a two-female family …
Bob: Hang on, if he's bullied and made fun of, we have classes for students where we fix them so that they won't do that anymore, don't we?
Dennis: Well, it's interesting, in this debate, children, they know better, and they may not handle it in a mature way. They may not be kind, but the problem is, is they're going to know what is genetically and, for that matter, biblically the created order for a male and a female.
I think it's in your research. One of the authorities you quoted said, "My four-year-old daughter, no matter how hard I try, is not going to read a story about Cinderella, where Cinderella wants another Cinderella. It's just not going to happen. You're not going to train a four-year-old to think that way."
Bob: Well, and, for that matter, as I read your study, I reflected on the book that we've heard about for years, "Heather has two mommies," and I stopped and I thought, "Now, wait a sec. That is a biological impossibility." There is no such thing as a person who has two mommies, not the way I understand a mommy, which is 'I gave birth to you, I'm your mother.' You can't have two of those, can you?
Elizabeth: Certainly not two biological mothers, at least not yet, although some scientists at reputable universities are trying to make that …
Bob: Wait, what, what do you mean? How do you make that happen?
Elizabeth: One of the issues I take on in this report are the hard sciences and what's happening in reproductive technology and fertility medicine, stem cell research, around the world. In Britain and Australia, at leading universities there, scientists are pursuing work they say could lead to same-sex procreation; that is, two men or two women having a baby that is genetically theirs and not genetically anyone else's, no donor is involved.
Scientists in Japan have already made a mouse with two mothers and no father.
Dennis: Hold it, hold it, hold it, I grew up in Southwest Missouri. It's a small town that I grew up in. Did I just hear you say they're trying to figure out how you can take two eggs, an egg from one woman, an egg from another woman, and without a sperm …
Elizabeth: Yes, fuse them in same-sex procreation. Scientists in Japan have already done it with a mouse in order to do it with a mouse, they created several hundred embryos, which they implanted 100 and which 10 were born and which one survived to adulthood.
So just putting aside the question of why on earth science would pursue tinkering with the origins of human life in order to satisfy an adult desire to have babies in a different way that makes them feel better about themselves, how can you take these risks on embryos and children and babies and future adults?
I'm not being very articulate here, because the whole thing is so upsetting. This report is the result of 18 months of me reading the news – just – the Web is an amazing thing, and you can read newspapers from all around the world, just merely sit there and, the language I speak, English, I can read them every day.
And I did a Google news search, you know, the search engine, I did a search every day for a couple of terms – "sperm donor," "egg donor," "surrogate," and crazy stuff in mainstream newspapers being reported every day around the world that nobody is talking about in any kind of coherent, systematic way.
And so when you read stories about same-sex parenting, for instance, you read psychotherapists at big-time institutions in the United States saying, "Well, when a same-sex couple has a baby through, like, a sperm donor, it can be really hard emotionally for the partner who is not biologically related to the child." You know, it's really hard for them to know where they stand if they're not – you know, and the other mother is the bioparent, and this mother is not, and that's a real hard self-esteem – you know, so this same-sex procreation idea is a great idea because it would really help those delicate self-esteem needs of that mother who is not – and so they welcomed news of this research attempting same-sex procreation, which was reported in mainstream newspapers and on gay-parenting Websites as doing away with donors and new hope for same-sex couples, and it wasn't even like they quoted a bioethicist saying, "Hm, maybe just even at the physical health level, this would be a dangerous thing to attempt to do." That wasn't even on there.
Bob: There is kind of a stunned silence here in the studio.
Dennis: Well, I mean, truthfully, Elizabeth is articulating some of the things that have concerned me, even though I have not done the research that you've done, but I'm a daddy, and I do know what that means, and I'm a grandfather, and I know what that means. And as I think about my grandsons and granddaughters, and the culture in which they are going to become husbands and wives and moms and dads and where, for centuries and generations, there has been a definition here in America …
Elizabeth: You know what "mom and dad" means; you know what "parents" means.
Dennis: Exactly, that my grandsons, my granddaughters could grow up in a culture where the definition of marriage could have been so genetically altered to no longer look anything like what it looks like today and that parenthood as well could be demeaned and devalued and be redefined to virtually mean almost anything, I think is cause for us, as parents, to take a step back and then say, "Okay, so what?"
Well, first of all, we need to know what we believe is the definition of marriage and of being a parent. We need to think this through. And then, secondly, I think we need to train our children to think critically to, yes, be young men and women who love people who aren't like us. We must, in the Christian community, be known for offering a hopeful place of healing and of redemption for those who want out of those lifestyles. We've got to change a message of hate and of dogmatism that has no love to one of speaking the truth in love, as Paul said.
And then, third, as we launch our children, I think we've got to be wise. I think we have to realize we are no longer raising children in some kind of moral, neutral culture that's going to accept our values that we've implanted in our kids' hearts, but they're going to be attacked at points, and our children are going to have to learn how to handle the hate speech toward them, how to handle in grade school and junior high and high school, when they disagree how they can avoid being painted into a corner and being told, "You're just a bigot," you know?
Elizabeth: The thing that got me active in this was realizing that to say children, whenever possible, need their mother and father has become, at best, impolite and, at worst, considered hate speech in some places.
If we can no longer say either "mom" or "dad," how can possibly shape the next generation to do all the hard, right things necessary to be good moms and dads.
Dennis: Think about that statement she just said – that it's going to become politically incorrect.
Bob: Hate speech.
Elizabeth: It's already politically incorrect, and it can be hate speech. There's a lot of problems in Canada already – people, if you – same-sex marriage is legal in Canada …
Bob: Now, you're just stirring him up more, and we've got to end today's program.
Dennis: I want to encourage our listeners to write us or go online and get a copy, or go online and just download "The Family Manifesto." There is a clear definition of marriage in there, a clear definition of being a mother, a father, and you know what? That's a beginning point with your family. Just start talking about some of these issues with your kids and begin to educate them biblically about what God has clearly stated in Scripture and how you can pass this on to them.
Bob: Well, in addition to downloading The Family Manifesto, you can also download a copy of the PDF file of the work that you've done, Elizabeth, on this subject so that folks who want to see your research can print out a copy of that. There's a link on our website for that as well.
Go to FamilyLife.com, and if you click the red button that says "Go" right in the center of the screen, that will take you to the area where there is information on how to get a copy of The Family Manifesto, how to download Elizabeth's research, and there are other resources that we are recommending to you there that are all centered around a biblical worldview – how to think biblically not only on this issue but on other issues, because I think you're right, Dennis, we have to make sure that we raise our sons and daughters to understand not just what the Bible says about these kinds of things but also how you can hold onto what the Bible teaches in a winsome way in a culture that's going to become increasingly hostile toward these kinds of views.
So you'll find information about books and other resources that help you think critically and biblically about a variety of culture issues, and you may want to incorporate some of these books as part of your homeschooling environment, use them for family devotions, or secure them so that your sons and daughters, as they head off to high school, to college, some of these are books that they can read on their own, or you can go through the books with them together.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and click that red button that says "Go" in the middle of the screen, and there's more information there about resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife, or if it's easier to call 1-800-FLTODAY you can do that. It's 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Someone on our team can make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.
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Well, tomorrow we're going to continue to examine the ramifications of the radical redefinition in our culture today of parenting. Elizabeth Marquardt is going to be back with us tomorrow, I hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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