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A Commentary on The Natural Family: A Manifesto, by Dr. Wilfred McClay, Professor of History and the SunTrust Bank Chair of Excellence in the Humanities at The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. His books include The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (1994), The Students’ Guide to U.S. History (2001), and Religion Returns to the Public Square: Faith and Policy in America (2003).

“That we are living through a period of unprecedented crisis in the very structure of family life is by now a truism. But too much of what has been written on the subject accentuates the negative, appealing more to our fears than our hopes. Such an emphasis misses the deepest problem facing us. That problem is not serial divorce, or gay marriage, or widespread elective childlessness, or the general disregard for the lives of the very young and very old. Those are only symptoms. The deepest problem is the loss of a generally shared vision, firmly grounded in nature, of what the family is, and why our destiny as individuals and as a society is inseparable from its proper flourishing. None of the other things would be happening if our vision of the family itself were not so confused and wavering.

“This manifesto represents a welcome change from that tendency. It does not flinch from addressing itself to issues of the day. But it does so in a much larger and longer context, seeking always to answer such developments with a positive vision of what family life is, and is meant to be. That vision is not a mutable cultural ideal or a Victorian ‘cult of domesticity,’ but instead something grounded in nature itself, and badly in need of recovery. Therefore this manifesto is not merely a political document. It is also a philosophical document, a brief but pithy inquiry into the true sources of human happiness."

“I especially applaud its eagerness to address itself directly to the plight of young people who have wearied of the weightlessness of sexual ‘liberation’ and the siren songs of consumerism and vocationalism. There are many such people, and many of them already understand, often through lessons learned the hard way, that we are not made to be individualistic atoms, floating free. That they know---but they see no compelling alternatives. This manifesto offers them a countervision: that we are made to be conjugal and connected beings, whose lives are made whole and satisfying not only by the pursuit of our own pleasures, but by a lifetime of love and self-giving and mutuality and duty, commitments that bind us in the most elemental way to things larger than ourselves, and bind us to a past, and a future, that we can only dimly glimpse. It is only within the family’s dense web of duties and obligations that our achievements can matter, and our freedom be authentic. May this manifesto help us recover that insight.”

~ Wilfred McClay, Ph.D.

The Natural Family: A Manifesto is authored by Allan C. Carlson and Paul T. Mero and jointly published by The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society and the Sutherland Institute.

Copyright © 2005-2006   The Natural Family: A Manifesto • The Howard CenterThe Sutherland InstituteWorld Congress of Families