The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.
-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia
This essay has been adapted from an address first delivered to an international interfaith conference:“The Family: At the Center of Human Development,” hosted in Manila, the Philippines, on March 27-28, 1999. The editors feel that it still accurately describes the early stirrings of the international pro-family movement, and sets the tone for this new journal title.
A new, unexpected, and historically unprecedented cultural-political movement forms in our time, one born in defense of family-centered religious faith. If we look, the signs are all about us.
Example One: In 1985, the British government issued the Swann Report on education and multicultural values. Behind the high-minded modernist rhetoric of multiculturalism, the Report in fact was a direct attack on all religiously grounded cultures, old and new. Relative to the Anglican Church of England, the report called for an end to the teaching of the Christian faith and the practice of Christian worship in the government schools. Toward ethnic and religious minorities, the Swann Report declared that they “may maintain their individual cultures only in so far as they are not in conflict with rationally shared values.” In short, “multiculturalism” really meant aggressive secularism, the denial of parental choice, the destruction of the historic British religious culture, and the disruption of minority religious cultures in Britain, as well.
Yet something extraordinary happened: In the face of a new and very modern form of persecution, religious communities long at odds with each other discovered that they had more in common than they had assumed. Most dramatically, the Islamic Academy in Cambridge and the Islamic Cultural Centre in London issued a joint statement exposing the real philosophy and flawed arguments of the Swann Report. At the same time, these Muslim leaders argued that the existing provisions for Christian worship in the schools should be retained, as a symbol of the need for a school curriculum that respected the sacred. They asked only for the right of Muslim children to withdraw from such collective worship and assembly.
Example Two: The February 1999 issue of the American Roman Catholic journal New Oxford Review carried this letter to the editor from Margaret Fox, of Latrobe, Pennsylvania:
I’m not Catholic, I’m of the Anabaptist persuasion. . . . . Reading through the New Oxford Review, I’ve been amazed at how close various orthodox Christians are, so far as our core beliefs go. I thank the [magazine] for its articles on abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and other issues that I’m very concerned about. Actually, I feel much closer to conservative Catholics than I do to those liberal Mennonites with whom I go to church.
Example Three: During the 1997 United Nations Habitat conference in Nairobi, an unusual coalition of conservative Christians and orthodox Muslims took form, much to the consternation of the conference leaders. In the process, distrust and misunderstanding gave way to new light. As a report by NGO Family Voice, a group affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, related:
The interest of [Muslim] nations [in our work] in particular was often quite pointed. For example, during an informal “hallway” discussion . . . , the Iranian Ambassador asked [one of us] several direct questions. . . . The Ambassador noted that “your group is different from the others” and inquired whether our position on the family was merely “political posturing” or “based on a deeper spiritual foundation.” He asked whether we thought that the family was getting stronger or decaying throughout the world . . . [and] suggested that his people would benefit immensely from meeting with Americans who believed in the importance of both the family and spirituality.
The Common Denominator: Families