Thursday, April 03, 2008

I hope this is wrong . . .

This is wrong, right? It doesn't seem to square with a Biblical theology of fatherhood:
Locke believed, and the events of our time seem to confirm his belief, that women have an instinctive attachment to children that cannot be explained as self-interest or calculation. The attachment of mother and child is perhaps the only undeniable natural social bond. It is not always effective, and it can, with effort, be suppressed, but it is always a force. And this is what we see today. But what about the father? Maybe he loves imagining his own eternity through the generations stemming from him. But this is only an act of imagination, one that can be attenuated by other concerns and calculations, as well as by his losing faith in the continuation of his name for very long in the shifting conditions of democracy. Of necessity, therefore, it was understood to be the woman's job to get and hold the man by her charms and wiles because, by nature, nothing else would induce him to give up his freedom in favor of the heavy duties of family. But women no longer wish to do this, and they, with justice, consider it unfair according to the principles governing us. So the cement that bound the family together crumbled. It is not the children who break away; it is the parents who abandon them. Women are no longer willing to make unconditional and perpetual commitments on unequal terms, and, no matter what they hope, nothing can effectively make most men share equally the responsibilities of childbearing and child-rearing. The divorce rate is only the most striking symptom of this breakdown.

-- Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (Simon & Schuster, 1987), "Relationships," p. 115
To clarify my question, I think that Bloom is describing a true social phenomenon. It's the "why" behind his "what" that I'm not sure about. Are men really that indifferent to children and family? Is the abstract desire to have "a family" and children an exclusively female desire? Is it really true that in ages past a lifetime of commitment could be purchased on the strength of charms and wiles alone?


Anonymous said...

Are men really that indifferent to children and family?

I'm beginning to think so. It starts from the time the mother is pregnant with child and the father feels like he isn't actually doing anything to bring the child into the world (yes, he did do one thing, but is no longer actively participating in the event). The first six months the child is out of the womb the feeling is solidified because the mother and baby are constantly attached and men in general seem to be afraid of the baby and have no idea how to help. From the beginning men feel sort of cut off from the whole parent-child bonding experience, making it much easier for them to be completely indifferent to the children they helped bring into this world.

Is the abstract desire to have "a family" and children an exclusively female desire?

No. Men fantasize about having a family and doing the whole Swiss family Robsinson thing, but once it is set into motion they freak out and run.

Is it really true that in ages past a lifetime of commitment could be purchased on the strength of charms and wiles alone?

No. In ages past, marriages were arranged by the parents and lifetime commitment was a necessity to provide for food, housing, clothing, and day-to-day items for living. In today's world we are no longer interdependent that way.

I am probably breathing sarcasm and anger through this answer because of what I'm going through. Definitely take my opinion worth a grain of salt.

danay said...

I think Allan Bloom has a low opinion of men. His assumptions about them make them sound like they are no different than animals- controlled by desires and nothing else. Yes, some men only stick around for the "charms and wiles" and then bust out when those fade and responsibility sets in, but I see this as more a problem of common selfishness than innate masculinity. It seems like selfishness is not looked down upon now as much as it was in ages past. We rationalize it and wear it as a badge of honor when we really need to take it daily to the cross of Christ.

Anonymous said...

What's true is God's Word and His opinion on the values of both motherhood and fatherhood.

I Thessalonians 1, Paul assumes, and rightly so, that both mothers and fathers are intensely and intimately involved with their children from the time they know they have been conceived until forever....!

Paul uses what he obviously assumes is true to illustrate his own love for the church at Thessolonica.

"but we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, AS A FATHER DOES HIS OWN CHILDREN, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."

God ordains and the Apostle Paul assumes that fathers are just as in love with their children as the mothers.

Don't let the sin of others and the sins of society distort or bring into question God's great and wonderful design.

Of course this (this man's opinion) is wrong!

From Uncle Don, a man and a father, who by the grace of God is NOT indifferent to his children and family.

Jourdan said...

Yes, a lot of guys I know are excited for the "family" part of the relationship. And I definitely think this author is wrong when it comes to it being our faults because it's not the facts that our wiles and charm are exhausted, there just aren't any good guys anymore to waste them on. : ) Keep them comin' Em.

Jourdan said...

* I mean the debatable questions.

Daniel Jackson said...

Great topic, great comments!
Isn't a crucial part of this statement the attribution? You know, at the beginning, where Bloom says "Locke believed..."
I can definitely see this comparison of innate biological desire with abstracted desire of the will coming from John Locke's empiricism. The other voice I'm hearing sounds like the more recent "evolutionary psychology" voice. Both points of view have something to teach us, but you're right in saying that Bloom doesn't give men enough credit in his statement... and at the same time manages to give them too much credit.
The big point for the Christian man, the one that should be written about in books, is not that we don't have a biological drive to raise children, but that we do have a spiritual/moral/ethical imperative to love our children (not to mention our wives.) Any failure to live up to that is still a failure, whatever biological / psychological / evolutionary excuses we might be able to make.

mle said...

Hey Dan. I did think hard about whether it was fair to start the quote there with Locke, but based on the context I think that Bloom was taking on Locke's position. The evolutionary psychology is definitely another thing I hear a lot in Bloom. On the whole I agree with what he's saying in his book, and he goes on from this quote to make some very good points about the havoc of divorce on the social fabric.