The marriage crisis that is producing fatherless homes is becoming so intense that anyone who cares about children or communities can't ignore it. Hear, for example, the extraordinary remarks by Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., at a recent Brookings Institution conference on marriage and the black church. Calling attention to the low rates of marriage among African Americans, Norton warned:
"My friends, we are seeing a sea change in African-American life. It cannot continue or we will not continue as a viable people. I just want to put it as starkly as I can. We've got to get the attention of our community and our country. It is impossible to overestimate what has happened to our community in only a single generation or two and what might then happen in my son's generation if it continues at this pace."
She said it. I didn't. When the marriage idea becomes weak enough, the very idea of perpetuating ourselves as a people is called into question.
The problem, according to Norton, is a catastrophic lack of marriageable men. Men with jobs. Faithful men. Family men. The problem is how do we produce such men?
Policy analysts will and should weigh proposals about how to boost the earning power of poor husbands and fathers. But in his new book, "Soft Patriarchs, New Men" (University of Chicago Press), Brad Wilcox, a rising star in the sociology of religion, lays out a different part of the answer. Religion makes men better husbands and fathers.
He finds that "churchgoing family men -- especially conservative Protestant family men -- are more progressive than their peers: They spend more time with their children; they are more likely to hug and praise their children; their wives report higher levels of satisfaction with the appreciation, affection and understanding they receive from their husbands, and they spend more time socializing with their wives." They also have the lowest rates of domestic violence toward their wives than any other group.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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