Thursday, August 20, 2009

Broken Houses and Broken Homes

As we were walking the dog through a part of town not too far from our house the other day, I was struck by the number of run-down dwellings I saw. Our own neighborhood is in pretty good shape, but you don't have to walk far to get to some residences in serious want of home improvement. Paint worn off, sagging roofs, rotting wood; people sitting on their front porches quite likely because, we surmised, the living conditions outside were preferable to those within.

I don't know the people who live in any of those homes, nor of the circumstances that drove them to these houses, so my opining here could not be, and should not be seen as, a diatribe against any of them in particular. Nor, for that matter, should the label I have chosen for this post be taken as a criticism of any of them in particular.

But I do know that there is a large percentage of residents in this town who are living out of wedlock, and raising children in broken homes. And it occurred to me (yet again) that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between immorality and trouble.

Trouble sometimes comes, to be sure, without that particular cause; sometimes trouble comes as a result of faithfulness, as so many faithful have come to know all to well. Persecution is, for instance, that kind of trouble. John the Baptist was beheaded because of the immorality of others; and Jesus Himself was crucified as a spotless Lamb. And sometimes trouble comes simply as a trial for life, as in the case of Job. Cause-and-effect does not allow us logically to work back from effect to cause; that would be the classic post hoc fallacy.

On the other hand, where there is a cause, one can expect an effect. The law of God was not meant to be flaunted and ignored, and where it is, one can expect trouble to ensue, sooner or later. In some cases "later" can even mean after death, as in the case of the rich man who ignored Lazarus.

All those important asterisks to the side, what occurred to me on that walk was the likelihood of cause and effect in this case: children have sex outside of marriage; unmarried girls get pregnant and have babies (or abortions, which of course is worse); new and unprepared mothers suddenly find themselves unable to get an education or a good job; broken families bear the strain of insufficient finances; squalor spreads.

Just today I read an article in the latest issue of National Review point to the very same thing. "Five Decades of Crisis," by Duncan Currie, documents "the persistent, alarming link between illegitimacy and poverty," with some pretty convincing statistics that point to what ought to be self-evident: unstable homes "poison family environments" leading to a perpetuation of poverty-stricken generations.

Currie's conclusion: "The nonmarital-birth crisis is, well, as crisis--one that has unfolded in slow motion over the past five decades, with tragic consequences."

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