“The Deeper Problem Is That Capitalism Has Succeeded”

Rodney Clapp, Families at the Crossroads:

If asked what most threatens family today, Christian family advocates present a list commonly including pornography, drugs, public schools and secular humanism. I agree that such factors challenge and can hinder Christian family. But two things bother me about the accepted list of enemies to the family.

First, the list lets Christians off the hook. It shoves the real enemies of our family outside our camp. True, to some degree pornography, drugs and so forth have invaded our ranks. But few of us read Playboy regularly if at all, and even at the terrible peak of the drug crisis, only a fraction of all adults and teens were actually using hard drugs. Yet our divorce rates are high — among American Christians these rates very nearly match the national average. Some experts contend that child abuse is more common in our homes than in the larger society. Clearly, Christian families are hurting. And whatever is tearing us apart is among us. It is not simply — or even primarily — something secular humanists thrust at us from the darkness beyond the rosy glow of our campfire.

This points up the second shortcoming of the common list. It does not go deep enough. It fails to ask what it is about our setting and ourselves that so inclines us to eroding families. It fails to look critically at the suburban lifestyle it often embraces. It fails to consider what may underlie pornography or drug use and the failure of the Christian family.

So what is the deeper problem? To put it bluntly, the deeper problem is that capitalism has succeeded. It has succeeded for good, certainly. Capitalism has given us a more materially prosperous world, fostered creativity and given us a wide array of desirable choices, so any criticism of it demands some nuance. But capitalism has also succeeded for ill.