SALT LAKE CITY – Riding on the bright, efficient light rail through the downtown, a visitor can feel the vibes of a shifting urban environment, plus some spectacular mountains. It’s a little like cruising the wide, clean streets of Disneyland, except that instead of Goofy and Mickey, you might spot a few homeless people here and there.
Founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and other Mormon pioneers, the city feels safer than most, and the clean-cut Mormon influence is substantial. But the city has not been immune from the cultural decline of families and resultant government dependency. Utah’s capital (pop. 192,000) is progressive and Democrat, while its suburbs with a million residents are among the most conservative Republican strongholds in the nation.
Last week, the city became the de facto capital of the world for conservative international groups dedicated to restoring the natural family and delegitimizing the sexual revolution.
With 200 speakers and 3,300 total attendance from more than 50 countries, the World Congress of Families IX (WCF9) felt like a massive rock in a fast-flowing cultural stream. Progressive elites insist that the mom-dad family is no longer necessary, replaced by whatever adults want to do to gratify themselves. Well, maybe not.
First, God is not dead, and to emphasize the point, Movieguide Publisher Ted Baehr hosted a screening of the film “God’s Not Dead 2,”made by the producers of 2014’s “God’s Not Dead,” which pitted a Christian college student against an atheist professor. That movie racked up more than $66 million at the box office, making it the 7th highest grossing Christian-themed film. This time around, a public high school teacher is put on trial via an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit for answering a student’s question about whether Mahatma Gandhi’s preaching of nonviolence was similar to statements by Jesus Christ.
No spoiler alert here but suffice to say, if you’re not a fan of the ACLU, you might enjoy this movie.
Among the speakers were Rafael Cruz, an evangelical pastor and father of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who got a standing ovation for pledging civil disobedience over the Supreme Court’s June ruling declaring a new right to same-sex “marriage.”
Family Research Council Legal Advisor Cathy Ruse predicted the Court’s ruling would eventually give way to the common-sense notions that marriage will always be the union of male and female and that children need a mother and father. She noted that more than 50 million Americans in 31 states voted to protect marriage in their laws, and that of the 293 countries in the United Nations, only 20 have changed the definition of marriage, with two of the largest, Brazil and the United States, doing so via court rulings, not popular vote.
“No matter our nationality or creed, the World Congress of Families has shown that the family continues to be the seminal issue to so many throughout the world,” said WCF9 Executive Director Janice Shaw Crouse.
Some speakers linked economic problems and government growth to the collapse of the natural family. Others reviewed new scientific findings about the marriage-ruining effects of pornography on the brain, comparing it to drug addiction and showing how viewing porn carves neurological pathways.
Ruth Institute founder Jennifer Roback Morse, author of the new book “The Sexual Revolution and Its Victims,” said that the cultural elites who run a majority of Western governments are callously indifferent to what’s best for children and instead are “dedicated to reducing the inconveniences for adults that arise from their sexual activities.” The sexual revolution, she said, is anchored by three falsehoods: sex has nothing to do with babies; marriage has nothing to do with sex, and men and women are interchangeable. The sexual revolution, far from being liberating, is a “totalitarian ideology” because “it takes a lot of force to sustain these lies.”
Family historian and founder of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society Allan Carlson sounded a positive note when he said that societal support for marriage and families in the United States has been cyclical, with decades of decline followed by restoration. America’s current crisis, marked by easy divorce, abortion, an explosion of pornography, the advance of “alternative families” and an avalanche of destructive outcomes, may have run its course.
Dissolute periods usually last about 50 years, he said, and America’s latest slide toward decadence began roughly in 1970. That means we may be on the cusp of a revival of marriage and family in about five years. Well, it is hoped. Even the new Muppets show is squirrely with adult themes. A delegate from Africa told me that they were constantly battling the negative effects of Western entertainment.
Many speakers told stories about loss and recovery, such as abortion-bound mothers who changed their minds. Perhaps the most compelling was Australian motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs and who generated tears and laughter with his narrative about coping, falling into suicidal depression and then being plucked from despair by the love of God. Through his Life Without Limbs ministry, the 35-year-old has spoken all over the world about how Jesus can help anyone overcome adversity.
Speaking of which, many speakers echoed Rev. Cruz’s defiant spirit. One of them was the Rev. Sammy Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who said that “Uncle Sam may be our uncle, but he will never be our heavenly father.”
Chiding pastors for remaining silent while the courts were redefining marriage, he warned that “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity….I am not drinking the Kool-Aid.”