Why the Family is Important

I have just been watching the rejoicing outside the US Supreme Court in Washington over their decision to allow same sex marriage in the United States. For me it was a sad moment and the sub sequential statement by the President that this was a “great day” in the life of America showed how little understanding there is of the importance of the family.

In the first instance, from a Christian and Biblical perspective, the family is no human creation or the subject of some sort of sociological evolution – it is a relationship that is God mandated and has been since the beginning of time. It is found in all societies all over the world and is one of the universal characteristics of humanity.

Secondly, the family is recognised in the Bible as the best place to raise children and the pages of the Bible are packed with examples of how couples are to relate to each other and to their children. Fathers and Mothers are given specific roles in the family and a hierarchy is clearly established. Children are instructed to honor their fathers and their mothers. Marriage is seen as a permanent union “till death does us part” and fidelity in marriage is regarded as a fundamental issue.

One of the most amazing aspects of the Bible is its honest recognition of the shortcomings of mankind and acceptance of many different variations of marriage practice given those shortcomings. However, on the issue of same sex relationships, the Bible is quite clear; they are forbidden and are not part of the normal or natural relationships that the God will accept. I may be wrong, but I cannot think of a major religion in the world that accepts such relationships.

Now let me make my personal views clear, I have many friends – some of them very close to me, who are or were homosexual, some even practicing. I do not think that such activity should be criminalized in any way. In Zimbabwe these relationships have been regarded as a criminal offence for many years and I have had friends whose lives were terrorized by the Police and who faced extortion every time they were arrested. In my view homosexuality is a private choice and providing it’s consensual between adults over 18 years of age, it should be left that way. I am glad that for the first time, the Zimbabwe Constitution provides such people with protection and rights.

When I was running camps for children in forms 1,2 and 3, I used to take 60 boys out into the country for a week at a time. We were assisted by a team of University Students and a few adults and we set out to give the kids a great holiday and an experience they would remember all their lives. One thing I learned in the 10 years that we did this activity (twice a year), was that within 48 hours of getting into camp, we could sort out those kids who had unstable home lives, perhaps divorced and no Dad in their lives.

Such children were invariably poor performers in all activities, under achievers and exhibited antisocial behaviors of one kind or another. In the 30’s of the previous century, the Soviet Union experimented with raising children in a State controlled and managed environment – away from their families. They expected them to become “super” socialist adults with absolute loyalty to the State and without any religious influence or leanings.

The experiment lasted a decade and was a disaster; the adults that came through the system could not make decisions and were unsuitable as leaders in any sphere. The Chinese had a similar experience with social experiments involving families and children and eventually adopted very strict codes enforcing marriage and making it very difficult to get a divorce.

Take any list of Nobel Laureates and investigate their backgrounds and you will find that 9 time out of 10, they come from sound families – often with a deeply religious background. In my own life as a manger, I have found that background is critical when selecting rising stars in any company. I used to play special attention to previous generations – at least two sets of parents – education, faith, stability and then and only then, education and experience.

Many negatives are expressed about South Africa, but one issue about that country that stands out for me is the single fact that over 70 per cent of all black South African children are growing up in single parent homes. This is a direct consequence of Apartheid when black families were deliberately separated and families broken. Today poverty, inadequate housing and the continued existence of migratory labour practices perpetuate the problem. The ANC has done little to fix the problem of the disintegration of traditional family life for the majority.

The other day I read an article written by a prominent American who happens to be black and famous and a great dad to his kids, he was lamenting the state of the Negro family in the States and the very problematic society that it is producing. He lamented to attitudes of young black Americans to traditional values, family, work, integrity and social responsibility. He pointed to their dysfunctional music and life styles and the pursuit of easy money however it is made. It all comes back to the family, a Mom and a Dad, in a home, raising children who are the future, not only of the family and the name, but of society in general.

Homosexuality is an aberration – an abnormality in a human being. A large percentage of any population has such tendencies and they must be provided for, but let’s not deceive ourselves – they can never have a normal family life as a same sex couple. They are often very sensitive and creative people who can live fulfilled and happy lives, but the mainstream of society still needs the Mom and Pop family – old style.

And what a privilege it is to have such a relationship and to raise a family within the secure bounds of a real family. The daughters have their first love affair with their Dad’s; sons take on their Dads as their first role model and hero. Mother/son relations are intense and special for both. No family is complete without both; it’s a team game, nothing else.

I once gave an after dinner speech to a large gathering of Rotarians in Bulawayo. There were about 600 in the room, all seniors who were successful in business and society. I spoke about raising our children and the phases through which we all go as they are growing up. Initially you could hear the coffee cups rattle and murmurings of conversation, but after 15 minutes or so, the waiters were all standing at the side of the room listening and the audience was totally silent – it was almost mystical.

I was talking about that special time when a daughter goes into puberty and discovers her Dad whom she has taken for granted for the previous 11 or 12 years. She sits on his lap and adores him and she has her first love affair with her Dad. He is the only man she can experiment with in safety. If he is sensitive, he will take time out to spend with her, treat her to special things, small gifts. A friend of mine in Botswana took his 12 year old to London on a holiday – just the two of them. She will never forget that experience.

For Dad who is nearing midlife, knows he will never be the President of his company, this is a wonderful experience – when she gets to 14 and discovers boys the shotgun and shambok era begins, but for a short time it’s magic for both of them. When we got home I remarked to my wife on how silent the room had been – she said, there were 300 men in the room, all successful, all thinking about what they had missed when they made their careers the center of their lives and not their families.

We all make that mistake, if we do not take care of our families.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 27th June 2015