Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors and frequent contributors to Meridian. Their landmark new book THE TURNING: Why the State of the Family Matters and what the World can do about it will be published at the end of this month. Go to www.The-Turning.com for further information, samples, and a link to guarantee yourself an early copy by pre-ordering at a discount. On the strength of its pre orders, the book has already reached #2 on Amazon in the category of Marriage and family. You can also join “Team Turning” to become a part of a new pro-family movement. Meridian, beginning on August 25, will run a series of six excerpts from the book.
In preparation for the series of six excerpts that Meridian will run next week from our new book, we wanted to give Meridian readers an overview of the strong feelings and concerns that led up to the writing of this book.
To put it bluntly, we believe that turning our hearts toward our families and re-enshrining family as the crux of our culture is the only alternative to society’s demise. Although this may sound extreme, it is not. Let me explain.
We took the book’s title from the warning at the end of the Old Testament that says the hearts of the parents must turn to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers lest the earth be cursed. Unless our hearts (feelings, attention, priorities) are turned toward and centered more on families (marriage, children, commitments), we will continue to face the individual and societal curse of the expanding social problems that are crushing America and the world. Centering on the young, and ranging from teen pregnancy to drugs and alcohol and from crime to violence and abuse, this curse produces poverty and isolation, bloats our welfare and justice systems, and imposes oppressive taxes to pay for ineffective, finger-in-the-dike government “solutions.”
Social problems are never adequately solved by social programs.
The burgeoning problems of today are a direct result of the deterioration of families. The vacuum created by disappearing families creates space for everything from gangs to excess government, which flourish within the hole the lack of family leaves behind. Our public and private sectorsfrom local officials and public education to big business and electronic media, the very groups which should be supporting, supplementing, and protecting familiesinstead seem to be trying either to substitute for them or to undermine them. Our newest, largest institutions, from giant corporations to information and entertainment industries, are creating misplaced loyalties and false paradigms that are destroying the oldest, smallest institution of family. And more and more parents, hot in pursuit of professional and financial success, can find neither the time nor the inclination to put family first.
Social problems and declining birth rates today threaten the demise of America and the West as much as economic problems and too many children threaten developing countries around the globe. So great are these curses, and so turned away are our hearts, that as we chug deeper into the twenty-first century, there is serious question about continuing economic progress and about whether society as we know it will survive.
Survive. Demise. These are extreme and desperate wordswords we don’t typically use when talking about America and other developed countries. But Alexis de Tocqueville, writing about America in the 1830s, predicted our eventual destruction from within.
The shiny surface of America is pockmarked by poverty, riddled by racism, gouged by gangs and guns. The greatest, richest land paradoxically contains some of the most dangerous and terrifying places on the planet, places where life is cheap and joy is scarcemore so than anywhere in the third world. Europe and developed Asia face similar problems, some more severe and some less than in the US.
The sickness is spreading from cities through suburbs (where there is supposed stability), and is incredibly expensive, seemingly incurable, unfixable by courts or welfare, and it is getting bigger every day. We benignly call the frightening statistics “social problems,” but there is a better word. It is the word used in the prophecy from the last page of the Bible’s Old Testament the one that says that unless we turn our hearts to our families, the whole earth will be cursed.
The challenges that our culture faces are preventable and curable only if family, the smallest of organizations, is revived and supported. Family is the cornerstone and crux of all stable societies.
Individual families may never function exactly as we wish, but “the family” has functioned for millennia as the basic unit for caring for those too young or too old to care for themselves, for replacing and replenishing humanity, and for raising and rearing children by teaching and training them and integrating them into the broader society.
There is really no other entity that can take on these functions, and without them, our world is not sustainable.
Individual lives can teeter for quite a while on the edge, bereft of the ties of family and the anchor of faith and values. A whole society can do the same thing. But in order to keep from falling into the abyss, the family needs to be revalued. Revaluing has a triple meaning:
1.Recognizing the transcending societal value of families,
2.Personally reprioritizing our families, and
3.Putting values back into our families.
Values are best defined as what matters, what counts, and what we care aboutwhat’s right, what’s important, what’s real. Values are more than philosophy or a pleasant placebo of belief. They are practical, practiced, personal principles. And family values (and family value) are anything but a right-wing conspiracy and a political football. They are the truest and most time-tested way to live, the single constant requirement of a safe and stable society, and the key underpinning of real happiness.
Most people know, intuitively and instinctively, what real values are and what family values are. The goal of this book is to help rekindle those values inside individual parents, and then in the broader culture, thus turning our hearts, protecting our families, and saving our world.
Part I is about why and how, on many levels, hearts have turned away from family. Part II is about how we can turn them back.
Some readers will find Part I depressing, so we try to offer a compensating hopeful thought: After more than three decades of writing and speaking to widely diverse people around the globe about their marriages, their children, their life-balance, and their family relationships, we continue to find wide-spread agreement among parents concerning both the dreams and the worries they have for their children and the values they want to teach them. We also find remarkably similar aspirations among most people for their partnerships and marriages. As speakers, we may have one of the few topics where our fundamental message does not need to be significantly adjusted according to what country or part of the world we happen to be visiting.
So perhaps our bottom line convictions are that humans, often divided and factionalized so radically by their politics, their religion, and their economic status, can come together on something that supersedes all these other differencesnamely, their common desire to preserve their family ties and maximize their children’s chances for happiness.
Instead of the ever deeper divides of ideology and competing cultures, our hope is for a movement toward a paradigm in which the strongest criteria for evaluating or judging most everythinga decision, a policy, a doctrine, a legislative bill, a movie, a technology, a business plan, a humanitarian initiative, an educational goal, a philosophy, a life-planis “How does it affect families and children?“