A STRONG SOCIETY
What is meant by the word “society”? A definition sometimes can elude us. Why is that? It is because there are many different elements to society and it is challenging to encapsulate them all into one concise definition. Society is a classification of the largest grouping of people who live in close proximity to each other and who share a common culture. What causes societies to form and flourish? Common language, customs, etc, all play some part but the one element which is essential to the development and sustaining of a society is truth. Societies can be torn apart by division and lies or they can be established and held together by truth.
Truth is very closely related to values. Values are those criteria which make up your belief system of right and wrong. Values, when they are lived out, direct behaviour. If a person’s values are grounded in truth, they will be a stable person. If a society’s values are grounded in truth it will be a stable society. Values can, and should, direct more than behaviour; they should also direct other things in our world such as technology. Technology is a powerful force in our world but technology does not always work together with truth. Sometimes technology is used to oppress and harm others. Sometimes technology races on ahead of our values and enables people to behave in ways that they have not really thought through. The implications of their behaviour may not be consistent with their values. Some sociologists call this “culture lag,” when a society is trying to adapt the values that it holds to catch up to the advances of technology. However, there is a problem with this kind of thinking and that is because our values should direct how we use technology, not the other way around.
Not all within society want to see their society grow together in strength and in truth. There are many forces that pull societies apart. Secular rock music, for example, has been used by many to promote promiscuity, violence, abuse of women, disrespect for authority, homosexual lifestyle, rape and drug abuse. In some cases, individuals decide how much they are going to let negative messages such as these influence them. In other cases, they are influenced beyond what they intended to be. Influence of this kind weakens society and pulls people apart.
How can we build a strong society that is held together by truth? One important place to start is with the family. By family, I mean the “nuclear family.” That means the joining of one man and one woman in holy matrimony and any children that they may, or may not, have. Children are offspring either by bloodline or by adoption. Families are the building blocks of society. They are like atoms. Atoms are made of neutrons, protons and electrons and if you take one of those parts away, they are destroyed. There are many forces at work, within society, to destroy the family. These forces might not know that they are destroying the building blocks of society when they try to change the nuclear family into some other form. Some openly attack this institution of family, claiming that it is repressive and simply a reflection of inequality in society. However, functional family promotes and exercises people in the disciplines of responsibility, cooperation, patience, self-denial and love. Each of these values is needed to build society and make it work. Those who find family repressive may have come from dysfunctional families. In other cases, detractors of families often are rebelling at having their own wills and their own ways suppressed. In many cases they want to be liberated from the very things that hold society together. Some want to live lawless lives that are free of responsibilities towards God and towards others. Such persons will not likely recognize the benefits of family.
Today, single motherhood is exalted but statistics reveal disturbing facts about single motherhood. One report claims of American single mothers, 6.5% are widows, 37.8% are divorced and 41.3% gave birth out of wedlock. This suggests that many American single mothers chose a lifestyle that led to single motherhood. The media has glorified single motherhood as a triumph of feminism. However, single motherhood is destroying families and is creating a dysfunctional environment for children. An American statistic shows that by 1996, 70% of inmates in state juvenile detention centres were raised by single mothers. 1 The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators claims that children from single-parent families have made up 63% of youth suicides, 70% of teen pregnancies, 71% of adolescent chemical/substance abuse, 90% of homeless and runaway children and 80% of prison inmates. 2 The Village Voice reports that children raised in single-mother homes are five times more likely to end their own life, nine times more likely to quit school without graduating, ten times more likely to abuse drugs or other chemical substances, thirty two times more likely to run away from home, fourteen times more likely to rape a person (statistic for males) and twenty times more likely to go to jail. 3
As well as creating a dysfunctional environment, single motherhood is creating a financial underclass. According to one report, in America, 50% of single mothers are below the poverty line and their children statistically are six times more likely to be in poverty than children from homes with married parents.5 Despite these horrible consequences, many women are pursuing motherhood outside of marriage as a way of achieving personal independence. Tremendous efforts have been made to remove the stigma of illegitimacy and Hollywood glamorizes single motherhood in many movies. Having said this it must also be acknowledged that many women become single mothers do to circumstances beyond their control or to protect themselves or their children from real danger. Such ones are courageously raising their children in spite of many challenges.
One of the benefits of a functional family is protection for each member of the family. In a functional family, each member of the family has their reputation, freedom, value and dignity protected by other members of the family who support them. The bond of marriage is a bond of commitment which a husband and wife make, ideally securing for the other a safe place for the growth of love and intimacy and for sexual union. This is the only institution where sexual experience is blessed.
Ideally, the family also is provided for financially by a father or mother until other members are old enough to provide for themselves. Functional families work together to strengthen its members, spiritually, emotionally, socially, educationally and financially. It is sad when someone is, in some way, separated from this support system. Strong, functional families build society and cause it to flourish and move forward.
Families are important building blocks of society but they are not the only building blocks. Institutions also play an important role. Examples of constructive institutions in society would be good Churches, good educational organizations, good charities, food banks and more. These institutions serve society by spreading truth, the main ingredient to building strong values, and by providing services for others. There are many faith-based institutions which provide helpful, and even essential, services to the public. In many ways, their services become a safety net for others in ways that government agencies could not. It is beneficial for societies and governments to aid institutions such as these for the betterment of society.
While institutions are an important part of society, a strong and varied educational system also is a component of a strong society. Education exists on different levels. When people talk of the educational system they usually mean the primary, secondary, post-secondary and post-graduate systems. These institutions exist to provide education and should be about the business of spreading truth. Sadly, in many instances, such institutions have drifted from truth and have taken on other goals such as transmitting culture, socialization and the redefining of history, science and values. A liberal political perspective has saturated the educational system and special interest groups have been successful in hijacking many academic studies and using them to spread propaganda. Reacting to this, many parents and adult students have chosen private-school education. Ideally, this option removes the student from much harmful influence and provides him with an environment to learn in which is positive and inspiring. In many cases it has been demonstrated that private schools (there will always be exceptions to this general rule), outperform public schools. The public school system in America and Canada is faltering. In international comparisons, American students excel in the fourth grade in reading, math and science, exceeding 26 of 35 countries in reading literacy. However, as American children advance in years, their performance drops. By 8th grade, they achieve average results. By the 12th grade, they are near the bottom of the scale. 6 Canadian statistics also show a need for concern.
The Fraser Institute is “a non-partisan research and educational organization based in Canada.”
One service that they provide is a report-card system which evaluates the quality of elementary and secondary schools across Canada, both public and private. What does their research show? They rate schools on a one-to-ten scale, one being poor and ten being exceptional. In Ontario, 18 Catholic schools and 22 public schools, out of 2,327 schools, reached, and maintained, a five-year rating of 9, or higher, at the elementary level. However, at the secondary level, Catholic schools, for which there was five years of data, rated 6.5 and public schools, for which there was five years of data, scored 6.1. In Alberta, out of 540 schools, for which there was five years of data, 3 public, 1 private and 1 charter school gained a score of 9, or higher, at the elementary level. However, at the secondary level, out of 239 schools, for which there was five years of data, 4 private and only 1 public school achieved a score of 9, or higher, over a five-year average. In British Columbia, over a five-year rating, independent schools scored 8.4 at the elementary level and public schools scored only 5.9. Twenty-nine independent schools and only 5 public schools scored 9, or higher, over five years. At the secondary level, for British Columbia and the Yukon, independent schools scored 8.3 and only 5.9 for public schools. Twelve private schools scored 9, or higher, over five years with no public school in this province or territory achieving this goal. 7
Students generally do better in private schools than in public schools. Why is this? One reason is that in private schools class sizes are smaller and there is more one-on-one time between the teachers and students. Another reason is that private schools generally don't try to supplant the student's belief system and value system with that of liberal, secular culture. In the public school system, Christian students are bombarded with postmodern, liberal, feminist, pluralistic, pro-gay and secular teaching which directly challenges their faith. This creates great tension within them and these conditions of conflict and tension make the school system a difficult place in which to learn. In private schools, students have an environment where wholesome values have a better chance of not being attacked and, thus, there is peace in which to pursue education and to excel. Private schools provide a much-needed service for students and they should be funded by governments. Governments should support choice and competition. Christian schooling and home schooling provide parents and students with choices, the highest choices possible. They also provide competition. The public school must be challenged by a system better than its own, if it is to improve. It takes pressure, and competition does provide some pressure for public schools to reform. Let the government give equal support to both systems. This will hold both systems accountable and keep them striving for excellence. We need a revolution in the public school education system. We need to flush out all of the postmodern, liberal propaganda from our system. This is not only needed for primary and secondary schools but also for post-secondary schools. To obtain reform, it is not as hard as one might think for governments that have the political will to do this; the key is to cut funding to programs which are ideological, instead of educational. Government should continue to fund trade schools but university programs which are ideological and propaganda-saturated should have their funding cut until they reform. If this is followed, it shouldn't take long for universities to produce the kind of results which society and truth is calling for.
Another aspect of a strong society is the participation of citizens in politics. At the most fundamental level this is a call for citizens to vote. In Canada, it is shameful that massive apathy is expressed at election time. Large sections of the population do not vote. Much of the public does not know what each political party stands for. This is a concern because most of the population has fairly moderate views on issues. However, if moderates don't vote, radicals certainly will and when radical elements become significant parts of a party's support network, the parties themselves become more radical in the positions that they hold. Special-interest groups begin influencing and directing the course that nations take. Citizens may feel that they are snubbing the government by not voting but, really, they are probably the ones loosing in the end. The government is making many decisions affecting the lives of citizens and many citizens are simply letting them make these choices. By not voting, many citizens are saying that they don't care what direction their country is headed in and they don't care if politicians make all of the decisions. On the positive side, when citizens do inform themselves of what political parties stand for, and do vote, they hold their governments accountable for the choices that are made. They also are showing that they appreciate living in a democracy. There are many people around the world in non-democratic nations who are protesting and suffering imprisonment and mistreatment for their public stand and public dream of gaining democratic freedom. Many have died trying to gain this freedom. Sadly, many who have this freedom, not by struggle but by birth, do not appreciate or even use it. Participating in politics goes beyond voting; it also may include writing to elected officials and expressing your views on social issues. It may include volunteering at a campaign office or even running for office. Societies that have high participation in politics have the potential of becoming stronger than ones that do not.
Health-care is another major issue in society. It is such a big issue because every society has huge health needs and health-care remains one of the most expensive things that people require. Some nations subsidize, heavily or completely, health-care. Such sponsorship is a huge blessing and it is very good when governments make health-care a priority. When governments pour money into health systems it directly benefits people. People want their tax dollars to go towards their own health needs. This is a cause worth speaking out on. The Canadian Health Act was created to provide for Canadians according to their needs, not according to their ability to pay. It was designed with principles such as, public administration (carried out by public institutions, not on a profit basis), comprehensiveness (all services deemed medically necessary are insured), portability (it must still be in effect when a citizen moves out of province), universality (it must be for all Canadians) and accessibility (it must be provided in such a way that Canadians have reasonable access to it).
While health-care is important, another important aspect of society is the economy. An economy thrives when hard-working people, within it, are given the opportunity to work and become upwardly mobile. This is a part of having a good work ethic. Government can encourage a strong work ethic by doing several things. Firstly, it can lower taxes on income, on businesses and in general. When industrious citizens become too heavily taxed they loose the ability to become upwardly mobile. This kills the spirit of the work ethic in people. Lowering taxes means governments don't have as much money for supporting social programs and agencies. Governments have less money to hand out. There are many within society who simply want government to provide support for them. Lowering taxes will mean providing less hand-outs but it will strengthen the economy and reward those who are willing to propel society forward. There will always be those in society who have barriers to working productively. Should they be compensated? Governments should give help to those who genuinely can't provide for themselves. However, governments ought to be careful that they don't offer too many social programs because of the cost and because, when this happens, government becomes too involved in the lives of people. When this happens, the possibility of exploiting that power becomes very real. Governments must not become too large. However, there are many who have barriers to being in the workforce and need support. What is needed, in many cases, is not support to stay unemployed but support in overcoming those barriers to employment so that they are able to work. I believe that the elderly and the physically handicapped in society should not have to work and should receive financial help.
Along with the economy, another important component of society is the legal system. Legal systems should exist for several reasons, such as: for retribution, that is, providing punishment for crime and justice for the innocent; for deterrence, that is, to show would-be criminals that crime does't pay; and for social protection, to keep a wall of separation between society and those who would harm society and individuals. Lastly, the criminal system should also have some form of rehabilitation in it. Rehabilitation shouldn't necessarily mean that criminals should be released at some future time. Legal systems should be made in such a way that they can be reformed, when they are abused, and citizens should have input into these reforms. Sadly, many times courts become controlled by special-interest groups and justice is replaced by judicial activism. Judges should not be given positions but, instead, should be elected to their position by the people and should face re-election, or expulsion, every few years. People should also have the option of appealing the verdicts. The court system is too expensive in most countries and governments should look at finding ways of making it more affordable.
One important issue that any society's legal system should address is that of violence against women. Outcry over this kind of violence became more and more outspoken in the 1980s and became an object of serious discussion for the United Nations in 1985. Today, much attention has been given to this horrible reality which plagues societies. Violence against women can take the form of household violence, wife beating and rape, or state-issued persecution. It has been estimated that between 60 to 100 million women world-wide are missing as a result of violence. Many of these are sold into the sex trade. Others are victims of gender-selective infanticide and for other reasons. Governments and institutions can help with the problem by opening homes for battered women and by providing funding and support for the abused. As well, governments can create strict laws protecting women. Governments should also put pressure on other nations that have proven to be the most abusive and have ignored human rights.
While protection for women is important, another important component of society is respect for human life. Life is precious, important beyond words and sacred. This includes the lives of the elderly and the unborn. In many places, unborn human life is the most unprotected form of humanity. This must change if a society is to be civilized and moral in any sense of the word. Abortionists claim that it is an issue of the right women have to their own bodies, to be able to have fetuses aborted. However, people's rights must never extend to the point where they are granted to take the lives of innocent children. Sadly, this is the case in most western nations. Abortionists say that a fetus is not really a person because it has not entered the moral community of a society. Pro-life advocates maintain that a fetus is a person because a fetus is genetically human. Killing unborn human life is killing someone who is like us, only younger. Though younger than us, they are still human. There are many crimes in society. However, the killing of innocent children must be considered one of the worst. When a society allows this, its legal system becomes a mockery. If society doesn't protect the lives of unborn children then any other law concerning lesser offences is hypocritical. It is enormously important that societies protect the lives of unborn children.
While respect for human life is important in society, another feature within society which must be in place is freedom of speech. Healthy public debate is important in exploring issues deeply. Debates present two positions, and their merits and faults are held out to be discussed and evaluated. Freedom of speech means that a society, or ruling party, is willing to listen to different views. Freedom of speech also means the freedom to publish written materials and this right should not be taken away by governments. Sadly, in our world freedom of speech is often denied. Powerful special-interest groups have clout and influence governments and legal systems to control the flow of ideas and information. Institutions and the media exert a lot of power over what citizens are allowed to talk about. If something is not inclusive to all, or offensive to some, it is often squashed. This is because it is said that the material is likely to offend others. However, any position of conviction is bound to offend some people. Forbidding freedom of speech does not stop offence; it only chooses who you are going to offend and who you are going to favour. Other times, governments limit freedom of speech. This kind of oppression has led to much unrest. Many dictatorships, or communist ruling elites, believe that speech belongs to elites and they want government-regulated, government-approved, government-monitored and government-licenced controls. Citizens must have free speech, free voice and freedom of inquiry. There are so many examples of the squelching of free speech in the so-called free world. Pro-family radio ministries such as Focus on the Family, if they speak out against the homosexual lifestyle, something that the Bible condemns (see Leviticus 18:22), run the risk of facing sanctions from the Canadian Communications Commission.
Government is the last aspect of society that we will discuss here. Obviously, political leadership is extremely important to a society. Do governments rule, or serve, the societies they are apart of? The answer is, ''Both.'' Yes, governments rule societies but governments also have a responsibility to serve their citizens. They serve by maintaining freedom, order and security and by constraining physical violence. They should also encourage productivity. They are to restrain evil, promote justice and reward good. Good government must protect its citizens by modelling mercy and justice. Governments should provide essential services. Elected officials should be honest and see their position as one of trust. Governments must exercise financial restraint and integrity. Governments should strive for peace and should listen to those who disagree with them. They should be promoting freedom in society. Good government needs to know that it is accountable to God. The Bible says; “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17 KJV). “Him,” in these verses, refers to Jesus Christ. Governments were made by Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ.
Governments should also have a healthy relationship with the Christian Church. The state legitimately has only as much power and right to rule over the lives of people as God has bestowed upon it. The state has no legitimate authority to impede the kingdom of God. God's kingdom is spiritual and secular governments are not competent to direct it. Governmental authority must never infringe on the rights and liberties of the Christian Church to worship and follow God and to educate her children in godliness. Churches and governments, both, have service roles and each should recognize this and respect the rights of the other, to serve their society. Many, today, cry out every time the Church becomes vocal on social or political issues, that we must have separation between Church and the state. The Church and the state are already separate, that much is sure, but this does not mean that the Church and the state have no relationship with each other. The government should have great respect for the Church. It should not interfere with her fulfilling her mandate and commission. It should even support her in many of her efforts to serve others. Many of the Church's goals for the betterment of mankind overlap the governments own humanitarian goals. It is in areas such as this that government should support the Church. Governments should protect the Church from legal systems and other organizations which are hostile toward it. Government has a great responsibility to honour the Church and involve the Church in the leadership of society. The Church also has a relationship with the government. It should pray for government. It is to raise and promote morals and values which model good citizenship and honesty. It can also fill the gaps, where they exist, for service in the community. The Church can serve the community by ministering to its spiritual needs and temporal needs. We should be giving advice that is useful to governments. We are to be thankful for governments. This does not mean that there is never a time for civil disobedience; when governments command us to disobey the Lord, our response should be like that of the apostles: "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 KJV). Rulers are fallible, yet they still exist as agents of God's order and operate to benefit and serve humanity. God uses non-Christian as well as Christian, rulers and governments. For example, He used Assyria (see Isaiah 10:5). Cyrus, a Persian king, was used by God (see Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1). Nebuchadnezzar is God's servant (see Jeremiah 27). Even Jesus said that Pilot had power given him from above (see John 19:10-11). It is a great privilege for a society to have living, and working, within it the kingdom of God. The Church brings blessing, goodness and truth to society.
We have been looking at the things which cause society to flourish and become strong. We have also looked at elements of society which weaken and unravel it, if not corrected. Society will rise or fall in direct response to the values it holds. If society follows the way of truth, it will truly be moving forward. If society rejects truth, it suffers and eventually self-destructs. Societies are put together with the building blocks of family, good institutions, good education, health-care, good economic decisions, just legal systems, good political involvement and respect for human life and protection for those most vulnerable in society, such as the unborn, elderly and women. Lastly, a strong society maintains freedom of speech. May God guide us and may He be honoured by the type of society that we, together, create.
1. Wade Horn, “Why There Is No Substitute for Parents,” Imprints 26, no. 6 (June 1997), 2.
2. Bob Ray Sanders, “Hey, Y'all, Let's Fill the Hall, (of Fame),” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 28, 2007; Mona Charen, “More Good News Than Bad?” Washington Times, March 16, 2001 (citing Bill Bennett, The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators: American Society at the End of the Twentieth Century [New York: Broadway Books, 1994]).
3. Chuck Eddy, “The Daddy Shady Show,’’ Village Voice, December 24, 2002.
5. Chuck Colson, How Shall We Live, cited in Ann Coulter, Guilty (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009), 39.
6. Ann Coulter, Godless (New York: Crown Forum, 2006), 151.
7. http://www.fraserinstitute.org (I believe that these statistics are for 2011).
Scripture references taken from the King James Version.
Bennett, Bill. The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators: American Society at the End of the Twentieth Century. New York: Broadway Books, 1994.
Brasch, Walter M. Social Foundations of the Mass Media. University Press of America, 2000.
Coulter, Ann. Godless. New York: Crown Forum, 2006.
Coulter, Ann. Guilty. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 28, 2007.
Hebden Taylor, E.L. M.A. The Christian Philosophy of Law, Politics And The State (Nutley: The Craig Press, 1966).
Horn, Wade. “Why There Is No Substitute for Parents,” in Imprints 26. No 6 (June 1997).
Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. Christian Ethics in Secular Society. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983.
Keck, Margaret E. And Kathryn Sikkink. Activists Beyond Borders. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998.
Levant, Ezra. Shake Down. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2009.
Macionis, John J., S. Mikael Jansson, et al. Society The Basics. Toronto: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2002.
Marquis, Don. “An Argument That Abortion Is Wrong.” Social And Personal Ethics. William H. Shaw, Ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1993.
Redekop, John H. Politics Under God. Waterloo: Herald Press, 2007.
Schaefer, Richard T. and Bonnie Haaland. Sociology. Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 2006.
Sears, Alan and Craig Osten. The Homosexual Agenda. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.
Stiller, Brian C. From the Tower of Babel To Parliament Hill. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 1997.
Village Voice, December 31, 2002.
Warren, Mary Anne. “The Abortion Issue” Social And Personal Ethics. William H. Shaw, Ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1993.
Washington Times, March 16, 2001.