Black families could save America

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study family structure and its impact on the health of children, as well as other outcomes of well-being. | CDC

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- Only 17 percent of Black teens between the ages of 15-17 live with both biological parents, but if the Black church would focus on marriage it "could show how a new America can blossom," a marriage researcher believes.

Pat Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), said in prepared remarks at an event at the Family Research Council last week, that "the children of slaves have the potential to be the saviors of America."

The figures on Black families in America came from MARRI's fifth annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection, a study released Feb. 12 in honor of the 50th anniversary of research on Black families -- first completed in 1965 by Patrick Daniel Moynihan.

The Index measures the state of American families and its impact on 15- to 17-year-olds. Those who have lived their entire lives with both biological parents in an intact home are said to have a sense of "family belonging." Those who have not, have a sense of "rejection," of being abandoned by the absent parent. Both scenarios have consequences.

Nationwide just 46 percent of all teens have lived in an intact home with biological parents always married since their birth.

"The beginning of family starts in childhood," said MARRI Director Pat Fagan in prepared remarks that accompanied a slide show of graphs with a variety of data about the decline in American families, and by extension, the American way of life.

Intact families provide shepherding, modeling and direction in leading chaste lives, Fagan said. The trend toward too-early sexual activity in teens starts with their home life. By 17 years of age, 54 percent of teens have experienced the rejection of at least one parent, resulting in a lack of guidance children need. 

"Family intactness fosters an environment of belonging among youth that increases their likelihood of excelling in education, health, economic security, and religious practice," Fagan said. "Family brokenness creates a sense of rejection that can thwart proper growth.

"The American family is in a crisis," Fagan continued. "Our nation's children, especially our Black children, are being robbed of their married biological parents.

"To be clear, all of America is in trouble," the MARRI director continued. The problem in a nutshell is premarital sex. "Neither the culture nor their parents shepherd them through their sexual awakening to sexual maturity," and as a result, "the culture has lost its sense of sexual morality."

Black teens ages 15-17 living in homes with both biological parents dropped from 38 percent in 1950 to today's 17 percent. Seen another way, 50 percent of Black children in always-single-parent families live in poverty, which often leads to "myriad forms of social dysfunction such as crime and the unwillingness of fathers to take responsibility for their children. ...

"Many of the gains of the Civil Rights triumphs of the last five decades have been washed away for them because they have been denied an even more fundamental human right: their right to the marriage of the father and mother," Fagan said.

"But there may be hope -- if the Black church is up to the challenge of its Christianity," he continued. "Blacks are the most church-affiliated, most church-attending and most daily-praying of all Americans, yet somehow the foundational precepts of Christ on matters sexual have disappeared from the conversation and in many of the pulpits, so have precepts such as sexual purity, marital fidelity and indissolubility.

"If the Black church does not take up the challenge of restoring marriage in the Black community no one will, and most definitely not the U.S. government," Fagan said. "But if it does, it will teach not only its own flock but the whole of the U.S. how to rebuild the family by rebuilding marriage. The Black church could show how a new America can blossom."

Other speakers at the event included Star Parker, a well-known conservative activist and founding president of the Urban CURE – Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education, and Garland Hunt, past-president of Prison Fellowship and an acclaimed Black pastor of The Father's House church in Norcross, Georgia.