17 Dec Bethlehem and the Gift of the Family
I will be frank. We need your help.
Every year UFI brings university students with us to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). We and their faculty advisors spend weeks preparing them to share their knowledge that the family is fundamental to thriving communities and nations. This experience for them is life changing, and this aspect of our work, in addition to being deeply rewarding, is one of our greatest success stories. At a time when many millennials shy away from marriage and family, these young people courageously protect and promote these foundational institutions.
Let me share with you the experience of two of the students that attended last year:
It had been a hard week full of meetings and events with people who didn’t believe in the family and saw it as such an oppressive unit, which broke my heart…
Being able to work with the women from United Families International was such a special experience for me. I learned so much from them and their strength. Having strong women to interact with who believed so firmly in the family was just what I needed to reaffirm my own “why” behind my career choice. I know that I am needed to advocate for the family. These women not only taught me the logistics behind how to do it but also through their examples. This opportunity was easily the greatest experience in my undergraduate studies.
While attending trainings to prepare for the UN conference and upon arrival in New York City, I heard the phrase from NGO leaders repeatedly: “This will be life-changing for you.” Each time, I politely smiled and nodded while inwardly grimacing and rolling my eyes. I am none for clichés, and realistically, or so it seemed, set my expectations accordingly. When I walked through the doors of the UN building, I was amazed at the magnificence of the architecture and astounded at the diversity of diplomats representing their countries. I was floored by the vast sum of differing opinions, and the significant role that the outcome document (the document that diplomats would vote on, in regard to important topics such as family, sexuality, poverty, etc.) would play in the world.
Witnessing the genuine beliefs that individuals hold—specifically beliefs so contrary to my own—and hearing phrases such as, “Stay-at-home mothers are the leeches of all society” sunk into my soul, and my heart pounds as I realize I will never be the same. First, I cannot go back to my bubble of oblivion, into my world of blissful ignorance. I must defend, advocate for, and strengthen the family. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to attend the United Nation’s Conference… my eyes have been opened, I have changed, and I will never be the same.
United Families has been expanding our outreach with university students. Both the number of students and the number of schools those students represent have grown. So much so that the blessing of success finds us scrambling to provide the personnel needed to oversee this program for a record 18 students. (We started with eight!)
UFI needs an additional $12,000 to provide adequate staffing at CSW in 2020.
Won’t you please help us as we mentor these students in strengthening and defending the family for life? Your generous donation would mean the world to us, but it will mean even more for these fledgling advocates.
Faithfully for Families,
Tori Black, President
Bethlehem and the Gift of the Family
Contributed by Tori Black
For the last three years, I have participated in a community event in San Diego celebrating the season through inspired word and song. Each December is a witness of hearts and lives changed just by spending an hour and a half listening to adult, youth and children’s choirs sing a story of shepherds and angels, a star, and a baby born in Bethlehem.
While we are staunch defenders of religious liberty at United Families, we are not a religious organization. Our arguments are based in social science for we recognize, as Benjamin Sledge so eloquently put it, that “It’s quite strange to expect people to conform to your morals because you quoted a book they don’t read.” Many, if not most, of those dedicated to strengthening and defending the family are motivated by the teachings of that book and find confirmation for all they believe in the hard facts of science. Those two, seemingly opposite approaches to life, the sacred and the secular, come together in one in the story of the Christ child. That story is, after all, the story of a family struggling to meet the demands of two, converging events: the imminent, sacred birth of a promised child, and the requirements of an indifferent bureaucratic state.
Family – a burden or a blessing?
When speaking of the family to state representatives and implementers of policy, the family is commonly seen as a problem to be fixed and a consumer of scarce resources. It is true, families today face serious challenges and need and deserve our support. Very often those challenges result from brokenness – a domino effect of risk factors that come with alterations, intentional or not, on family structure. Western civilization, in all its wisdom, has done its best to redesign the foundational unit of society, and in so doing has severely compromised nature’s safety net.
Rather than being a burden to society, the family, when reasonably whole – not perfect, for that is neither necessary nor attainable – is the first line of defense when faced with threats internal and external, and it begins with its core: marriage. We see this in that fledgling family in Bethlehem: where would Mary be without Joseph’s tender care? What would Joseph be without Mary’s humble faith and virtue?
Marriage – creation’s antidote
We live in a world that seeks to erase the distinctions of sex and gender – man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father, male and female. Whether eggs and sperm are co-opted from a frozen bank of donors or brought together as nature designed, it still takes a man and a woman to create a child. And even though women are smart and capable, that state of being with child and having one or more children dependent upon you creates a position of vulnerability. Marriage is creation’s antidote for the vulnerability women and children experience in nature.
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, is best known for encouraging people to embrace the quality of vulnerability. In today’s world, vulnerability is often synonymous with weakness. And when speaking of marriage and motherhood, many categorize pregnancy as the ultimate affront to female empowerment rather than a transcendent capacity for creation possessed exclusively by women. The feminist response has been to crush gendered vulnerability through contraception and abortion, to squash the masculine – paternal – instinct to provide and protect, and to obscure and suppress male and female distinctions. But, as Brown points out, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” It took courage for Mary to acquiesce to a pregnancy before marriage to Joseph was consummated. It took courage for Joseph to believe Mary and accept a charge to protect her and the life she carried. It takes courage today to commit to marriage and family formation, to trust and have faith that another person will put your wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of your union and the offspring of that union before all else.
To be fair, women, because of those vulnerabilities that come with their physiology, have historically been taken advantage of and abused. Is it any wonder that some would go to war with their biology and attempt to refashion themselves in the image of the womb-less male? Is it any wonder that some would go to war with masculinity? Even as it is understandable, it is ultimately doomed to failure – although not before inflicting considerable collateral damage. For decades scientists and social engineers have tried to convince us that the differences between men and women are mere social constructs, but science and stubborn facts keep getting in the way. Despite advances in education and workforce participation, women regularly put family before career advancement. Despite advances in family leave policies, men are still less likely to take paternity leave. These advances are good! They benefit men, women, and families, and for that we are grateful. But nature’s pull, and the efficacy of a male and female essence, cannot and should not be dismissed. This is not an either/or problem. Both advances and nature serve to address individual needs and circumstances and thus benefit the whole of families and society.
The gift of family
We too have a place in this Christmas family story. Mary and Joseph serve as a type for us of dedication, determination, and devotion to truth, meaning, and the Sacred. The family is sacred, and we have a responsibility to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” May yours be blessed as you embrace that responsibility – that gift – throughout the holiday season and the new year.
More on the benefits of marriage here.