The destructive riot that seized the city of Baltimore two weeks ago has been examined by police, politicians, and the media for answers. And in the wake of the devastation, those answers have been wholly unsatisfying. Racism. Police brutality. Income inequality. Few seem willing to cut through the tired playbook to find something new to say about the environment that gave rise to the outrage. But now a new report from the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute could help shed new light on an old problem.
According to the report, only 16 percent of older teenagers in Baltimore have had the benefit of growing up in an intact, married family. When looking at teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17, the report found that the vast majority of them were the products of broken homes. Using statistics from the Census Bureau, the researchers determined that Baltimore was “one of the five least intact counties of America.”
Could the disintegrating family structure have something to do with the ailments that plague city environments like Baltimore? The researchers insist that it explains nearly everything. The report proffers studies that have linked intact marriages with fewer instances of poverty, better educational achievement, and better prospects of attaining a college degree.
In a statement, Bishop E.W. Jackson of the FRC said, “There is a profound crisis in the black community, not just in Baltimore, but nationwide – the crisis is in marriage and family. Seventy two percent of children are born out of wedlock. Too many fathers are missing from the home, and an alarming number of mothers are still children themselves. Boys in these circumstances are inculcated with the values of the streets, and become susceptible to every negative influence.”
There is a tendency on the left to dismiss comments like this as prudish, backwards, and unrealistic. Proponents of family-focused messages often come from religious backgrounds, making them easy for the areligious to ignore. But sociological research demonstrating the importance of the family structure has nothing to do with the church. Children who grow up with a married mother and father simply do better. Not always. Not without exceptions. But when you look at the data as a whole, the results are inarguable.
This is where liberals get confused about the conservative message. It’s not (always) about preaching some pious form of morality. It’s not about forcing people to believe in Jesus. It’s not about hating gay people. At its heart, it’s about going with what works. For thousands of years, it has been thoroughly proven that what works best for society is to have a married mother and father. Progressives, so entranced with the idea of shaking things up, are unwilling to admit that casual divorce, women’s liberation, and gay glorification have led us to ruin.
What is the way back? Bishop Jackson recommends a return to the church, but then he would say that. Perhaps he’s right. But that’s more of a suggestion than a solution. In the meantime, it might actually be wiser to move in the other direction. Start talking about marriage and family in secular terms. Take morality out of it. Present it as the key to a solid, prosperous society. There may be a wide gulf between what’s right and what’s popular, but maybe that gulf can be bridged with what’s logical.
If not, the writing may be on the wall for America.