Copyright © 1997 AFLM
May/June, 1997 Volume XII Number 6 - COVER STORY
A World Views Conference:
Prague's international Congress of the Family focuses on cultural disaster
by Cathy Ramey
Remember President Lyndon Johnson's great social experiment; the enlargement of government to provide more welfare for the needy, a better education system, and the exportation of "good old American know-how" to those in less fortunate countries?
Guess what? By all indications we have shared and promoted a philosophy of disaster, not only with those in other countries, but also for the family in America. That is the only reasoned conclusion which can be drawn from an international conference entitled The World Congress of the Family held in Prague, The Czech Republic, March 19-22.
But first, a bit of background information is in order. Without some understanding of the larger issue, one might conclude that this was simply another of the endless conferences that take place within one sphere or another.
The larger issue has to do with what are called "world views." Do you have one? If so, mentally raise your hand. Now can you put it into words? Most people would answer with a look of confusion, perhaps a hand that goes up timidly, and then down, uncertain what the question actually is calling for.
Let me answer it for you. "Yes." You do have a world view. In fact, everyone has a world view, whether they can articulate it or not.
A world view answers some basic questions. Since time and space don't allow us to examine all of the major world views, we'll look quickly at two relevant ones. These are the views at the heart of some very important world conferences, the recent Prague gathering on the family, and the 1995 and '96 UN conferences professing a concern for women.
First there are basic assumptions; one is that something exists. It is an assumption so basic that most folks rarely feel led to remark upon it. Another assumption is that what exists is either matter or non-matter. While there are a few who will argue that all is matter, most agree with the two presuppositions including the idea that both matter and non-matter exist.
Now that these presuppositions are established, we can move on to the basic questions which a world view answers.
The first question is what is ultimately really real? Under the Theistic world view we would say that God is the ultimate reality (1 Timothy 1:17). He is eternally existent. Under Naturalism, the world view that is becoming dominant, the answer might be that the material universe represent the only ultimate reality.
The second question is, what is the nature of the world around us? Was it created, as we Theists would argue (Genesis 1), or did it autonomously come into existence; evolving from a level of chaos to greater order, as the Naturalist would argue? The answer to this question informs us about our relationship to the world. Are we stewards who rule and reign under God, or are we simply passing through and obligated to the earth and the universe for supporting our life while we are here?
The third question springs from this musing; what precisely are we? Are we, as Genesis 1:26-27 states, made in the image of God, people with the unique ability and the awesome responsibility to represent God and His interests on this earth? Or are we a product of evolution and time, blood- relative to the apes, and further back to something which crawled from the primordial pool?
Number four! What happens when we die? The Theist will argue resurrection to life or a fearsome judgment (Revelation 20:12-15). The Naturalist will hold to extinction, or a shadowy existence in another form at best.
Five, how is it that we can know anything at all? Are we God-endowed with reason and sensibility as implied when Scripture remarks that we image God? Or did we evolve cognition and survival skills over a broad expanse of time?
A sixth question involves our moral awareness; how do we know right from wrong? Of course our Theistic view understands that God has endowed us with an innate sense of what is good and what is bad (Romans 1:19-20). His Word then confirms that sense (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But to the Naturalist, the answer may be that such ideas are based upon simple survival. "Of course we all know it is wrong to kill," they might say. "How could the human species survive without an evolving sense of the rules necessary to promote survival?"
Last, there is the question of history, why do we exist; what does it all mean that we are here? Evolution and chance, argue the Naturalists; to fulfill a plan that is in full agreement with God's glory and His will, the Theist will counter (Ecclesiastes 12:13).1
Some, like Ronald Nash,2 argue that it is possible for there to be peaceful co-existence between people holding opposite world views. However, the culture war we are in suggests that this is not necessarily the case at all. In fact, it appears that "true believers" of one world view or another are always struggling for domination. And eventually, only one will dominate. An honest look at culture would reinforce the view that despite America's Theistic roots, Naturalism has won the day, at least for awhile.
Over the past three years the United States and the UN have backed conferences with the stated goal of elevating women; ensuring adequate health care availability, and reinforcing a standard of social equality among other things. In reality these conferences, heavily dominated by social liberals holding to a Naturalistic world view, have sought to mandate "reproductive health care" in any nation served by UN resources. Ultimately such a standard is a global goal.
Of course, this "health care" is none other than abortion policy. Failure to provide and vigorously encourage this as "basic health care" was intended to be sold as a failure to uphold human rights; countries wishing to receive grants or borrow moneys would find themselves ineligible until such "human right abuses" were corrected.
Under UN guidelines, the family, already in peril, was headed for a major fall. The conferences also sought to extend social engineering policy into the area of family by altering the more tradition-bound (Theistic) definition which involves a mother, a father, and the possibility of offspring to be loved and nurtured by two parents. The nurturing network was intended to be expanded to include other family forms; homosexual couples, and interested institutions like schools, and government. Ultimately the Theistic model which revolves around God-ordained spheres of authority (church, government, family) was seen to be too restrictive. Under the Naturalistic view, no such spheres exist; the child is not a special endowment to parents by a loving God. He is the biological product of a reproductive system which, like all systems, is to be controlled for the good of society and the ultimate reality, the earth and the universe which sustains her. Under the Naturalistic world view touted at the UN conferences, parents have no greater claim to raising a child. Instead they serve as co-equals, partners, with other self-described nurturing systems, after all, "it takes a village" to do a proper job.
Resistance in Prague
Prague is a city with a past painted by the brush of revolution. Once part of a former "Iron Curtain" country, Czechoslovakia, it has embraced the West so rapidly that it bares little resemblance to the rigid and depressed place it was for a time under communist leadership. And since 1993 the city lies at the heart of a new nation, The Czech Republic. She has been the capital of Europe, and has seen political intrigue, revolution, and counter revolution come and go. From a political perspective, Prague was a fitting site for The World Congress of Families gathering.
Sponsored by a host of groups basically holding to a Theistic model for the family, the conference began in 1995 as the brain child Dr. Allan Carlson, historian and president of the Illinois based Rockford Institute, and his friend Dr. Ivan Schevchenko, philosopher and chairman of the Orthodox Brotherhood of Scientists and Specialists in Russia. It advanced with the assistance of the Honorable Ivana Janu, of The Czech Republic, theologians, demographers, philosophers and scholars around the globe. Many of them had attended the UN conferences and came away with a great concern for the transition apparent as Natural world view proponents there sought to destroy traditional definitions in order to reign in the Theistic world view. The Prague conference was, in simple terms, counter-revolution.
Over sixty speakers addressed an audience of more than 600 delegates in Czech, English, French, German, and Russian and identified issues that endanger the family. Speakers and delegates alike were bound together by a common working definition of the family:
"The family is a man and a woman bound in a lifelong covenant of marriage for the purposes of: the continuation of the species, the rearing of children, the regulation of sexuality, the provision of mutual support and protection, the creation of an altruistic domestic economy, and the maintenance of bonds between the generations."
Allan Carlson opened with a powerful argument for the pre-existence of the family before the state. While the family does not need the state, he said, the family can and has been damaged by political policies and a wrong hierarchy of values. He and other speakers pointed out that the family today is in such a state of crisis, "under double pressure to exist," because human life at its beginning and in old age has no value, consistent with a Natural world view.
This corruption in world view is not only exported by the West. Speakers such as Michaela Freiova, a program director with the Czech Civic Institute, spoke of two distinct worlds, communist and free, but both experiencing the same trends toward family dissolution. The Natural view was operant in communism which sought to make families dependent upon the state. The result was an increase in abortion and divorce, she said. Since the upheaval which has separated the strong communist union, it appears that abortion and divorce rates in the Czech Republic have gone down somewhat.
Economist and Rabbi, Dr. Jacob Neusner of the United States represented the hostility toward the family in monetary terms. The State, he said, has no use for the family. The fact that the family continues to thrive in the US defies conventional wisdom, but, as "the family is how God has defined the social order" since creation, Neusner argued that despite the present crisis, the family will be maintained. The best argument for God's intervention in history, including the present, is that the family continues; "what ought to have happened (disappearance) has not, and what ought not to have happened (families sustained) does happen. This causes us to contemplate on the Divine," according to Rabbi Neusner.
Others, like German philosopher Hanna Barbara Cerl-Falkovitz made similar theological assertions about the sustainability of the family saying that biblical history through the nation of Israel demonstrates that the State can be utterly destroyed, but family survives.
Such good news was of limited value to demographers from Croatia, Moscow, and elsewhere who reported on population implosion which threatens ethnic populations. Viktor Medkov of Moscow State University graphically demonstrated a birth rate so low that between abortion and the usual death rate, the population of Russia, once thought to be so vast, is not being replaced. "Contraception," he stated, "is an expression of the culture of death."
Other demographers reported that the replacement rate for their populations has been so drastically diminished that within as little as one more generation, ethnic populations in Croatia and The Czech Republic will all but disappear. As native citizens reject marriage and child-bearing, other non-native groups will simply move in and replace the historic population. Reports of such population destruction raise questions concerning the Nazi ideology of ethnic cleansing. While not in its most transparent form, it appears that "family planning" under such a Natural world view has retained the goal of wiping out smaller, weaker populations.
Journalist William Mattox, a regular contributor to USA Today, offered his view toward rebuilding the family. "Unprotected sex isn't the problem for men," he stated, "it's the goal," one to be dealt with within the confines of marriage. Additionally, abusive relationships cannot be tolerated by a moral society. Such abuses result in divorce, and children respond to pain by co-habitating or refusing to become involved in stable relationships. Quoting Ruth Bell Graham, "I've never considered divorce, but I have considered murder," Mattox weighed in heavily against the Church for going easy on divorce, allowing it without demanding that the marital relationship be healed in other ways. Marriages are most often sustained in communities which hold each other accountable, he said, describing such community as an element of incarnational love.
The Conference also included Christian psychologists and psychiatrists from several countries who spoke of the long-term damage done to children who grow up with a variety of day-care substitute parents. These children lose sight of the concept of family and generations when deprived of parental or even relative upbringing. Most notably, the trend toward one-child families, a mimic of China's family policy, leaves children without siblings, eventually, from one generation to the next, without aunts and uncles, and in danger of being increasingly distant from the benefits which are derived from a traditional, Theistic, model of family. These professionals argued a view greatly in contrast to the recent popular media news flash which reported that studies indicate no harm is done by keeping children in day-care.
Moralists from many backgrounds
Delegates to the Congress came from all over the world and represented a broad spectrum of faith backgrounds. While most were Catholic and Evangelical, the conference attracted Muslims, Mormons, and Atheists, all in agreement with the basic definition for family.
Such a mixture of faith backgrounds was to be expected at a gathering seeking to reaffirm a proper moral order to the definition of family. Scripture clearly establishes that moral laws were expressed for the benefit of all society (Deuteronomy 6:3 cf. Romans 1:32).
At one point the most fundamental issue, a stated reliance upon God in a draft declaration, seemed at risk. A Christian contingent including Charles Wysong of Tennessee, David Crane of Virginia, and Michael Farris also of Virginia took the draft committee to task, petitioning delegates to respond and affirm God's first place (see Declaration on the Family).
Whether there was a misunderstanding in terms of how the final document was to read or not, as the conference closed, Chairwoman of the draft committee, Jean Garten, author of Who Broke the Baby, asserted that God had been on the hearts of all those involved with planning the Congress. In the final analysis a reliance upon Him was expressed in the opening statement of the document, and delegates voted unanimously to affirm the document.
Conclusion (and beginning?)
If there was any disappointment in the Congress, primarily it was a matter of representation. At times there appeared to be more moral secularists than Christians on hand. The Church, particularly Evangelicals, might have been expected to have a heightened concern and interest in such a Congress. But instead, it appears that the saying applies that the Church is greatly portrayed by men "so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good." The World Congress of Families should mark a beginning in terms of strong opposition to the Natural world view. If it does not, it cannot be said that men like Allan Carlson, Ivana Janu, and Ivan Schevchenko are to blame. The organizers did a remarkable job. Instead it may be claimed that the Church's modern day "lifestyle evangelism," devoid of social activism as a means of proclaiming the Gospel, is the idolatry which ushers in a Natural world order.
1 This list is adapted from an excellent treatment of world views by William Sire, in his book, The Universe Next Door.
2 Ronald Nash is the author of an excellent book entitled World Views in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas, Zondervan, 1992
World Congress of Families: Declaration on the Family