Monday, September 9, 2019

Social science as authority. . .

In our search for authorities to justify what we think and feel about such things as marriage and family, it is somewhat obvious that Scripture is no longer regarded as much of an authority -- even for Christians and Christian churches.  Marriage has become a social order that belongs not to its Creator but to those who choose it.  They define it, negotiate its boundaries, and shape its being.  Social science is employed not as authority to challenge or question that individual definition but to support it. 

The science of marriage and happiness transect at the point where marriage is seen more as a means to individual growth or or for social order.  Both sides claim the authority of science to bolster their positions.  At the same time, there are those who are offended at the very notion that any individual needs marriage at all and the presumption that the individual is not complete in and of herself or his self.  These presuppositions are so firmly entrenched that, despite reams of scientific literature about how detrimental broken homes are for children and how positive toward those children is a home in which mother and father are married and live as loving partners ―studies consistent in these conclusions for decade after decade― the evidence has not sealed the debate nor has it moved liberal thinkers and policymakers to support and defend the family as the most essential, basic unit of society.

For as long as feminists have existed so has the suggestion that marriage is good for men but not for women.  This stand refuses all social science data from women who say that married women report being consistently happier than single women.  As long as the data do not fit the presupposed conclusions, social science will be a tennis ball lobbed back and forth when it suits the argument.  In the end there is NO authority left to impact our understanding of marriage and family.  No authority, that is, except anecdote, feeling, and intuition.  Absent any real facts, there can be no wrong -- except the wrong that has been labeled such from the beginning by those who insist that marriage is an antiquated social order that has always been bad for women even though it might be good for men and for children.

So what does this mean?  All the science in the world will not lay to rest the questions circling the issues of marriage and family. In fact, such “science” has come down to cherry picking data to support the kind of community life that is presumed to be best by the those beginning the argument.  Without any authority and without a willingness to subject preconceive conclusions to the reality of any authority, there will be no end to the public debate over what marriage is and who marriage is good for and who it is not. This is about a pretend debate where the truths that matter are those the speaker believes.  In other words, Christians hoping to win some battles will find themselves frustrated  and not simply because the voice of Scripture is silenced but because the voice of reason is rendered equally mute.  For us as Christians in the public square to defend marriage as God's creative order, good for husband and wife and children, we will need to figure out another line of argument and part of that will begin with learning to affirm the social data that supports our position.  If reason is to prevail at all, it must begin by first admitting that what people say and think as a whole must count for something especially when it has consistently affirmed the public good of marriage and the family for all those who are willing to be part of one.

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