Where Are the Patriarchs?

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One of the effects that we see playing out before us, whether on our TV screens or on the streets of this nation, of the long term and incremental destruction of the traditional family unit and model is the loss of what I refer to as the wisdom chain within our families. The wisdom chain is what I term the old model that was once prominent in America, and still is in some other cultures, of three generations of a family living together. Sometimes this came in the form of actually inhabiting the same home, and sometimes just in the form of regular gatherings. It is a model in which the grandparents acted as the patriarchs and matriarchs of the family, the holders of wisdom. The parents were the provider generation, providing for both the children and the grandparents who were now too old to work. Lastly, there were the children who were the benefactors of both the wisdom of the grandparents and the provision of the parents. This wisdom chain worked to provide for the passing down of the wisdom of the elder generation and instilling in the youngest generation the values and morals that they would need when assuming their position as the provider generation, and then eventually they would pass their wisdom on once they had moved into the role as patriarchs and matriarchs of their own families.

This system works when the family is capable of being self-sufficient, not relying on work outside of the home, but instead working, for example, the land as farmers or ranchers. And while there are still places within America that have this type of family model, for the most part this model began its death spiral in this country following World War II, with the great economic expansion and rise of corporate workplaces and the leaving of family farms for pursuit of greater wealth in the cities. The dispenser of wisdom for the children soon became the television and the grandparents were considered an inconvenience to be tossed aside in nursing homes, where the family would visit them once or twice a year, if at all. The wisdom chain was broken and the result on the generations that followed has been devastating.

As a father into my forties, and working around the military, this is an effect that I have witnessed firsthand, and it is something that my son and I recently discussed at length. I have two children, a son that will soon be departing from the teenage years and turning twenty, and a daughter that is seventeen and coming up on her final year in high school. Due to my own work, my children have had precious little familial interaction outside of our own small family unit, never really knowing my mother and father before their deaths. On their mother’s side, their grandfather has had very little interaction with them, but luckily their grandmother, a devout Catholic, has been a consistent presence in their lives despite the distance between where we live. And this is a cycle that really began in my own life, as the only grandparent I ever really knew was my mother’s mother. My father’s father passed away when he was a teen, and while his mother was there when I was a small infant (and thank goodness for that, as she literally saved my life as an infant when I went into convulsions from an extremely high fever), she passed before I  was old enough to really know her. I can now look back on my own experiences in my teens and twenties and realize the effect this had on my life, the loss of this grounding in strong values and morals (though I will say that my parents, and after their divorce, my older brothers, did instill these within me, but they didn’t really materialize until later in life – I am kind of stubborn that way) led me down a long and hard path that I pray my own children never go down.

If we take a look into scripture, we can see the wisdom chain in action through the patriarchs of the Bible. As those critical of scripture are eager to point out, even the patriarchs of the Bible were not without their own faults, but then who among even the remnant body of Christ is not without sin? You have the conception of Ishmael, Lot’s lying with his own daughters, and the trickery of Jacob over Esau, among others. I include this not as a slight to these men, but to be true to the Word of God. Surely, these were not the best attributes of these men, and I believe that the lessons to be gained from these being included in the scriptures is to show that man, and even these forefathers of our faith, is fallible. However, we have lessons within these scriptures about these early fathers that show their better attributes – a strong faith and belief in the Lord, a commitment to family, and the seeking of forgiveness for past sins, which was undoubtedly passed from generation to generation.

Faith is a concept that makes up the whole of the Bible, but it is clearly demonstrated in Abraham, with his migrations all across the Biblical world, guided by the hand of the Lord. He also kept faith in the Lord’s promise that Sarai would bear him a son. And once that son was born, he demonstrated his faith in a test by the Lord, willing to sacrifice this gift from God and the promised nation that would grow out from Isaac in an act of obedience. Faith is also demonstrated by Lot, when the two angels visit him in Sodom. As the crowd gathered to defile the angels, he offered instead his own daughters. While the crowd refused his offer, this act of sacrificing his own flesh and blood shows a faith in the Lord that I think few of us could match in the current day. And lastly, let us not forget that despite being surrounded every day by pagan cultures and people, these men were well regarded by their neighbors as men of honor and men of faith.

A commitment to family can be seen in Abraham’s rescue of Lot when he was taken prisoner by local rulers. This came at a time following a split between Abraham and Lot, when it was decided that the land they were grazing their flocks on could not sustain both flocks, and there was some tension between the uncle and nephew. Despite this, hearing of his nephew’s plight, Abraham gathered an army together and rescued Lot, putting his own life and the lives of his men on the line, against a formidable foe, in order to save a family member. He could have just as easily turned his head, especially given the falling out, but Abraham had a strong commitment to his family and would not leave his own blood to be captured and likely killed at the hands of these tyrants.

Lastly, there is the seeking of forgiveness of past sins in the return of Jacob from Padan Aram to meet his brother, Esau. He had first taken Esau’s birthright at a time when Esau was starving at the price of a bowl of soup, and then, at the behest of his mother, had tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing intended for Esau. He had fled in order to escape Esau’s wrath, but had run into trouble with Laban, the father of his wives, and then had to flee from there. It had been awhile, and so Jacob hoped that his brother would forgive him. He prepared a gift for his brother upon their meeting and was dismayed at reports from his servants that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. But this was soon turned into joy when his brother embraced him and was clearly glad to see Jacob after these many years apart. This demonstrates not only a desire to make amends for past transgressions, but the relief and forgiveness that can be found when one does seek out reconciliation.

These are just a few of the lessons to be gained from the stories of these patriarchs of our faith. Faith in the Lord, obedience to the Lord and His will, a commitment to family, and the seeking of reconciliation are strong lessons that run throughout the Bible, and lessons that were once reinforced by that wisdom chain that passed from generation to generation both in Biblical times, and through our families up to recent modern history. The breaking of the wisdom chain is now beginning to show through in the microcosm of our families and the ties between the generations, but is also playing out in the macrocosm of our society in the breakdown of a nation built upon values and morals, law and order.

I see this within my work alongside members of the military on a daily basis, from my own generation down to the generation that is currently just coming into the military. Most people think of the people serving in uniform as people of honor, integrity, and those willing to put service of their nation above their own well-being. And while this is the case with many of our men and women serving in the armed forces, the times are changing. There has been a loss of faith within the military, the people are far more willing to be obedient to the whims of those placed over them rather than to any sense of a moral code, whether that be one steeped in Christian tradition, or a code simply founded on the traditions and values of chivalry. Brothers and sister of arms are increasingly ceasing to be a family with a commitment to looking out for the best interests of that family and are instead focused on those things that make them, personally, shine through and gain promotion within the system, mission be damned. Integrity and reconciliation are out the window, as there is no acknowledgement of failure in a one strike and you’re out military, and even if there is confession of transgression against a brother or sister, there is no seeking of reconciliation, but a justification of doing either what superiors wanted or what was best for the individual. In a very real sense, the image of brothers and sisters with weapons to strike the enemy in one hand and the shield to protect your brethren to your side in the other, like the Spartan soldiers of yore, has been replaced by an image of a charging horde with no commitment to one another, but just a lust to gain favor in the eyes of the leader of the charge.

Much of the problem within the military is systemic. It is almost as if the military leadership at the highest levels wishes to make it combat ineffective. As an example, the Air Force recently changed its system of evaluation and promotion. Evaluation was previously done on a scale from 1-5 for various attributes to include performance in primary duties, education and training, leadership, and so on, with an overall score of 1-5 on the backside of the form. These scores were put together within a mathematical equation, with the most recent evaluation counting for more and each preceding evaluation losing value as it went back. This score was then calculated together with a promotion test score, points for awards and medals, and points for time served within your current pay grade and within the military as whole. The new system allows the primary supervisor to rate the person at different levels of performance, but then the unit commander (who often has little to no interaction with the actual servicemember) gives an overall promotion statement, each with their own value in points towards promotion. And each unit is assigned only a certain number of each promotion statement. This sounds fine at first glance, but in practice it is becoming a popularity contest on the part of individuals of the same grade to impress their leadership to gain that promotion statement. Politicians and yes-men are the beneficiaries of this new system. And when you weigh in the fact that points for promotion for time in service and time in pay grade are now going away, it is going to force out seasoned members and quickly promote the politicians until a point when the Air Force realizes its mistake some years down the road.  This is done purposefully, as the older generation of servicemembers has more of an understanding of the oath that they swore and the meaning of the Constitution. And the other services have their own issues in a time when political correctness and bowing to the agenda of the political class in this country seems to be more important than actually preparing men and women to fight and win wars.

This promotion system within the Air Force isn’t exactly new, however. A form of it has been in place for some time within the senior NCO ranks. It used to be commonplace 15-20 years ago for a senior NCO to take a junior officer to the side and correct him or her in leadership principles, proper customs and courtesies, or even just life itself. However, once this new system was implemented, you rarely see this, as the senior NCOs are typically rated by these officers for promotion. What this means is you have a person typically in their late 30s-early 40s with 18-20 years of military service bowing and scraping to a mid-20s person that has been indoctrinated in the full spectrum of political correctness at one of our nation’s universities with maybe 5 years of military service. Do you get the picture? Even in terms of the military family, the wisdom chain is being broken by implementation of a system that empowers the inexperienced above the seasoned. And there is little room for going against the grain in this system if one wishes to continue to promote up the ranks.

I understand that to some it may seem as if I am bitter towards these new changes, but I would urge the reader to consider this: War is hell. It is by absolutely no definition a “safe space” as we see so many college-aged children (and I call them children because they do not have the maturity level to understand the absurdity of their demands nor the long-term consequences of what they are hoping to achieve) demand across the country. It is not a place for coddling, and it is also a place that requires hard decisions to be made by men and women that have experience in what they are doing, and who have an understanding of the cost of those decisions. It is not a place for politicians and yes-men; it is not a place for political correctness. This is one of the many reasons why in the coming war, I fear for this nation. But ultimately, this is the effect of the wisdom chain being broken at its most basic level – within the home.

As I stated before, whether intentional or as an unintended consequence of the industrialization / corporatization of the nation, the mass migration of people from the rural areas to the urban areas, and the resulting movement of our nation away from family-owned farms to suburban and inner-city living, has broken the family model that really has been in place for many generations within humanity. From the times of tribes and clans up to the middle of the 20th century, this model ensured a passing down of values and morals, together with the spoken history of the family, giving the younger generation knowledge of their roots and grounding in an ageless system of cultural norms despite technological advances. The loss of the knowledge of where we come from both in terms of family lineage and as a society has allowed those that wish to re-envision history to do so without a proper context provided by the family.

In addition, as the younger generation moved out of the rural areas to the cities in search of work, the patriarchal / matriarchal generation moved from their own or the family homes into nursing homes. While I know that most people that put their parents or grandparents into such facilities do so with only the best wishes in mind, over time these facilities have a dramatic effect on the elderly, even in the very best of facilities. Let us not forget that often times abuse occurs in these facilities, and over-medication is an additional problem. Once an elderly person enters a long-term care facility, their mental capacities often decline, and while the case could certainly be made that the decline is due to their age or illness, the fear and emotional scarring of being removed from the family and placed in the care of strangers certainly has to play a role, as well. This estrangement from the family unit cut off this piece of the wisdom chain, leaving the younger generation without that foundation on which to build their character, and indeed, the rest of their lives upon.

Without that patriarchal / matriarchal link, it moved the provider generation up into the space vacated by the previous generation. However, just as this huge societal shift was underway, a movement began that criticism of will probably subject this writer to quite a bit of criticism as well, but the overall effect of this movement coupled with the other factors have left us in the position we are currently in. I also want to preface my comments with the fact that after my own parents divorced, I was primarily raised by my mother and that without the benefits of this movement, we would likely have been in a worse situation than we found ourselves in. I am speaking, of course, of the feminist movement.

Mainstream acceptance of feminism came along during the initial stages of the societal and familial changes described above. It brought about sweeping changes and though much of the changes were good, the effects on the family constructed around traditional gender roles were devastating. After almost 20 years of marriage, I think I can safely say that it is not always the “happily ever after” of fairy tales, and there inevitably will be times of strife and dissatisfaction even in the most stable and happiest of marriages. Feminism played upon this dissatisfaction amongst women, convincing them not only that they should have rights equal to men and should have the right to work, gain equal pay, and so on (all of which I agree with, and these were the positive aspects of the movement) but that they were entitled to live the perceived life of men, encouraging promiscuity and promoting the idea that women didn’t really need men as a part of the basic family structure. I would note that the promiscuity of men and infidelity were perceived, because while this has been a problem from the dawn of time, it certainly is the exception rather than the rule. Women began to work outside of the home, pursue higher education, and move into the corporate world. Definitely, again, these are not bad things; however, we also saw other trends which led to the further erosion of the wisdom chain.

The first effect was that we saw a sudden infusion of more workers into the labor market. Something that most people today still have trouble with as a concept is that labor, like every other product, has a value and that when the market has a sudden increase in the amount of that product, the value of the product inevitably drops. It was not just single women that were encouraged to work outside of the home, but wives and mothers were encouraged in a time when most families lived relatively well off of a single income. This increase in the labor pool thereby lowered the value of the labor and led us to the point that we find ourselves at today, where it is practically impossible for a family to live on a single income alone. This removed the mothers from their traditional roles within the household, the raising and instruction of the children and together with the loss of the elder generation, this placed the children into the hands of strangers during their formative years, allowing for the values and morals of strangers to be ingrained in the children.

The second effect was a steady increase in the number of divorces. The mantra of a strong, independent woman not needing a man was repeated over and over, and the divorce rate steadily grew. Instead of seeking reconciliation with one another when disagreements or transgressions occurred, divorce was a tool to be used at the first sign of trouble. This served to destroy whatever remnants of family cohesion still existed following the shifts from rural to urban life and the beginning of the loss of the elder generation. Add in the fact that many of the parents remarried, and one immediately understands that these children, raised by strangers in childcare facilities, rarely seeing their parents for more than an hour or two each day, without the guidance of the elder generation, losing what family ties they did have and now having a stranger injected into their lives in the form of a step-parent, not only have an absence of any real values or morals, but also don’t understand where they came from or who they themselves are. And then, incrementally, the state has moved to inject indoctrination into the schools which has further divided the family and confused the children of their identities. Is it any wonder that we are now witnessing the emergence of a generation that seems so discontent, with no link to the traditional values and norms of our society, looking to push further the destruction of the family unit? When the family has been absent in the rearing of the child, what value does it hold for that child?

Another effect of the rise of feminism was the injection of the thought that women, in their new-found “liberation” shouldn’t be burdened with the labor required in birthing and raising children. The legalization of abortion brought a new attack against the younger generation in destroying the life of the defenseless even before that life could emerge from the womb, and worst of all, this attack was perpetrated by the mother that was supposed to be the nurturer of this young life. Since it’s legalization in 1973, well over 58 million lives have been lost in what is arguably the greatest mass killing in the history of the world. Consider that just over 60 million people lost their lives during the entirety of World War II, or that the greatest terrorist attack on this nation, 9/11, that has been cited over and over again for greater restrictions of our liberties and an ever-encroaching police state killed 2977 people, and you can begin to understand the cost that abortion has levied upon our nation, regardless of your religious beliefs.

It has taken us many long years to degrade to the point in our society where we currently are. And it will take many long years for us to climb back to the position that we once held. The road back grows longer with each day as we run head-long for the cliff that is quickly approaching. While there are many problems that plague our country, the remedy to all of them is the reconstruction of the family. Without it, we will continue the society that has brought about the age of the eternal child, with no personal responsibility and no appreciation for where they have come from or where they are going. When we have raised children in a society that doesn’t value life, doesn’t value family, and doesn’t have a moral compass, how do we expect that child to value any of those things or have any sense of right or wrong? When our children see us throwing our parents away into retirement homes, is it any wonder that they have no reverence for their elders? When our children see a society that accepts the death of almost 60 million babies in the womb because the convenience of the mother should outweigh the life of the child, is it any wonder that they have no appreciation of life? When they see us willing to give up freedom and liberty for the promise of security, is it any wonder that they place so much faith in the hands of politicians and their promises?

The rebuilding of the family and the repairing of the wisdom chain must begin now. If we are ever to become that “shining city on a hill” again as an American society, we must reclaim the family as the basic building block of that reclamation. Not just with words, but we must show our children through actions that we value life, we value the family, and we cherish them. We have to teach them that no legal action automatically renders something morally right. We must revere our elders in order for them to do the same. It is through the actions of the family system as a whole that children first learn societal norms, and this must be action firmly grounded in a system of morals and values. Personally, I believe that this reclamation of the family, and thus, the nation, must be grounded in Christian principles, but I implore even those that are not Christian to move forward with stopping the destruction of the family. Even if you have no faith of any kind, you must see the destruction that is being waged on the most basic unit of our society.

It is not through the actions of politicians or legal bodies that we can reclaim our nation – it is through the proper upbringing of our children. Our hope lies in their generation, not ours. In the absence of Patriarchs within our society, we must step forward and take on that role. We must pick up the chain, hoist it over our shoulders, and begin to pull society back in the direction that leads us back to prosperity.

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