FaithWorld

from The Great Debate:

Demography as destiny: The vital American family

Recent reports of America’s sagging birthrate ‑ the lowest since the 1920s, by some measures ‑ have sparked a much-needed debate about the future of the American family. Unfortunately, this discussion, like so much else in our society, is devolving into yet another political squabble between conservatives and progressives.

Conservatives, including the Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last, regularly cite declining birth and marriage rates as one result of expanding government ‑ and a threat to the right’s political survival. Progressives, meanwhile, have labeled attempts to commend a committed couple with children as inherently prejudicial and needlessly judgmental.

Yet family size is far more than just another political wedge issue. It is an existential one – essentially determining whether a society wants to replace itself or fall into oblivion, as my colleagues and I recently demonstrated in a report done in conjunction with Singapore’s Civil Service College. No nation has thrived when its birthrate falls below replacement level and stays there – the very level the United States are at now. Examples from history extend from the late Roman Empire to Venice and the Netherlands in the last millennium.

Falling birthrates and declining family formation clearly effect national economies. One major United States’  advantage has long been high birthrates, akin to a developing nation’s, as well as a vibrant family-oriented culture. This was largely because of immigrants and their children, striving first- and second-generation Americans. The United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is expected to have a roughly 40 percent growth in its workforce in the first half of this century, largely thanks to immigration.

In contrast, the Census Bureau predicts that leading U.S. competitors, notably Japan, Europe and South Korea, will likely suffer a decline of 25 percent or more over that time. Even China, whose birthrate has dropped precipitously under its one-child policy and rapid urbanization, is expected to see a sharp drop in its labor force over the next decade.

U.S. working dads’ top priority is giving family love – survey

(Colt Groff, carrying his daughter Peyton Groff (L), and Jason Hill, carrying Trayson Groff, look at the smoke from the Wallow wildfire in Apache County, Arizona June 9, 2011/Joshua Lott )

Many fathers these days want it all — time with kids, promotions at work and a spouse who shares the parenting duties. But some say they would trade in their commute and office gig for a stay-at-home role.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, a new study surveying nearly 1,000 fathers in the United States working at Fortune 500 firms takes a look at just how hard it is for dads to balance their work and life goals. The study titled “The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted” was unveiled on Wednesday by the Boston College Center for Work & Family.

Pope urges help for traditional families crumbling in secularised Europe

(Pope Benedict XVI arrives to lead a solemn mass in Zagreb June 5, 2011. The Pope is on a two-day visit to Croatia/Alessandro Bianchi)

Pope Benedict warned on Sunday that the traditional family in Europe was disintegrating under the weight of secularization and called for laws to help couples cope with the costs of having and educating children. On the second day of his trip to Croatia, a bastion of Roman Catholicism in the Balkans, the pope said an open-air mass for hundreds of thousands of people and hammered home one of the major themes of his papacy.

“Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe,” he said in his sermon on the edge of the capital.

Filipinos flock to northern town for fertility dance for patron saint

(A boy is held up by his mother as hundreds of devotees dance and pray for children in an annual fertility procession in Obando, north of Manila May 17, 2011/Cheryl Ravelo)

Hundreds of couples flocked to a town in the northern Philippines to take part in a centuries-old ritual dance, honouring a patron saint believed to bring fertility. The ritual took place this year amid an increasingly acrimonious battle over a controversial bill promoting artificial contraception in this intensely Catholic nation.

Those seeking children packed into Obando by the thousands for the annual May ritual, inspired by miraculous stories of the babies it has brought. Couples dance in the two-hour long procession, swaying their hips to a traditional folk tune from bamboo and marching bands. The ritual is accompanied by a short chant and prayer to Saint Claire, the local patron saint of fertility, asking her to bless them with children.

Family Research Council to issue “Index of Family Belonging and Rejection”

Indices are all the rage these days. In his recently published and thought-provoking ”Why the West Rules — For Now,” historian Ian Morris has created an “index on social development” which, among other things, attempts to measure the West and East’s “energy capture.”

There are of course plenty of other examples (and future historians will no doubt see it as a sign of our times — as Morris notes, ages get the “thought they need”). The latest addition to this swelling modern family of indices will come on Wednesday when the conservative, Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) releases its  first annual “Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.” The index is a product of its Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

USA/

The details of the index will be released at 10:00 EDT on Wednesday but FRC has already made public the fact that it finds that “less than 50 percent of American children have spent their childhood belonging in an intact family.” It defines an “intact family” as one where “a child’s birth mother and biological father (were) legally married to one another since before or around the time of the child’s birth.” The study will also rank all 50 states and America’s 25 largest cities.

250 years of integration vs debate over Muslims in Germany

judgePercy MacLean can call on 250 years of experience to weigh up how immigrants integrate in Germany. Since his Scottish ancestor arrived in 1753, the family has produced mayors, members of parliament and even a Nazi.

Today, the 63-year-old MacLean, a chief judge in Berlin’s administrative court, says Germany risks losing the openness that allowed his family to flourish for generations because of a divisive national debate over the integration of Muslims. (Photo: Percy MacLean at his office in Berlin November 25, 2010/Tobias Schwarz)

In an interview with Reuters, MacLean said tendentious arguments now being aired publicly contained the seeds of what could spawn the kind of right-wing populism and xenophobia Germany witnessed in the run-up to the Holocaust.

from Photographers' Blog:

Life with a “Quiverfull” Family – the story behind the story

Rick Wilking is a Reuters contract photojournalist based in Denver, Colorado who has been shooting for Reuters for almost 25 years based in Europe, Washington, D.C. and now in Colorado. Rick recently developed the idea of spending time documenting the lives of a Christian "Quiverfull" family who have 15 children due to their belief that all family planning is best left in the hands of God. Rick produced the following piece of multimedia video from his time spent with the Jeub family in Colorado and tells us about the experience below. -  Jim Bourg

I am convinced that the easiest part of my job is taking pictures. Coming up with story ideas, getting access and then producing the final results are MUCH tougher! That was very true with this story. I read about Christian Quiverfull-minded folks who closely follow and live by Christian scripture and biblical verses and decided to try to find one of these families to document. I begged my way into a Quiverfull forum on the web and was met there with much skepticism about letting me in. One family in Kansas said maybe and another back east said I could come by. But neither were enthused and I knew the travel budget was too tight for a trip that distant and long.

Then I found the Jeub family, only a 90 minute drive away from my home in Colorado. They too were tentative at first but let me in after seeing stories I had done recently in their area. My work documenting the headquarters of the “Focus on the Family” organization, portraying troops returning from Iraq at a nearby military base and covering “The Purity Ball”, a Christian father-daughter event all convinced them of my fairness and the integrity of my photojournalism. They said they prayed on it hard and were led to let me into their home to tell their story through pictures and sound.

PAPA DIXIT: preaching family values and interfaith in Nazareth

Pope Benedict spent Thursday in Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up in what is now the northern part of Israel. With no pressing political issues there, his sermon and speeches had a more religious focus than some recent ones.

nazareth-nunAT MASS ON THE MOUNT OF PRECIPICE:

MARRIAGE: “All of us need… to return to Nazareth, to contemplate ever anew the silence and love of the Holy Family, the model of all Christian family life. Here, in the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we come to appreciate even more fully the sacredness of the family, which in God’s plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God’s gift of new life. How much the men and women of our time need to reappropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilization of love!” (Photo: Nun waves picture of Benedict at Nazareth Mass, 14 May 2009/Baz Ratner)

FAMILY: “In God’s plan for the family, the love of husband and wife bears fruit in new life, and finds daily expression in the loving efforts of parents to ensure an integral human and spiritual formation for their chIldren. In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end. Here we begin to glimpse something of the essential role of the family as the first buildingblock of a well-ordered and welcoming society. We also come to appreciate, within the wider community, the duty of the State to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity.”