Praxis Circle interviews cover a range of worldview topics ranging from politics, philosophy, religion, and beyond. Below are some featured clips and the transcript from our interview with Contributor R. R. Reno, editor of First Things. As a disclaimer, the opinions in these clips do not necessary reflect the opinions of Praxis Circle and should simply be considered food for thought.
You can watch his full interview by clicking here.
The Four Family Types: Striver, Detached, Faithful, and Progressive
Right? No. The University of Virginia Institute for Advanced Studies, James Davison Hunter’s operation at University of Virginia sponsored a study of the American families, plural. And they brought out these different categories of the American family: the faithful family, the progressive family, the striver family, and the detached, or that you would call it the kind of disoriented family, maybe, if you will. And basically a quarter, a quarter, a quarter, a quarter is one way of thinking about it. And the dreamer family is basically often immigrant. “I want my kids to succeed. You tell me what the rules are and I’ll try to get them to jump through the hoops.” The detached or disoriented family, these are often broken families. Parents are just, they’re too messed up and have problems that they don’t really invest in their kids. There’s like, they’re in the school system, what have you.
So that leaves the faithful family and the progressive family as what you would call the… They’re the families that have a real clear view about what they want their kids to believe and how they want their kids to live and grow up to become. And a lot of people think that, “Well, progressives, we’re going to outnumber them through more children.” But if you look at the total children in these two families, they’re roughly the same. I mean, one thing about the Charles Murray book Coming Apart is that the Belmont world, the world of the successful is pretty kind of neo-traditional. Divorce is not common, out of wedlock birth is extremely rare. And so the progressive family and the faithful family are actually intact families. They’re strong families, but one is oriented towards a future that is organized around a progressive goal.
“Hate has no home here.” The signs you see in people’s yards. And the faithful family is increasingly self-consciously counter-cultural and Christian, and you get to see the culture wars in our society are these two families fighting for the future of the country and the other 50%, or it’s more like 60%. It’s like 20% progressive, 20% faithful families. The other 60% are kind of, or at least the strivers and the dreamer families, they’re going to go with whomever winds up winning this struggle. So for me, it really helped me understand the cultural battle in our time. And then if we look back, we step back another step here, the faithful family, really, this is a Protestant evangelical phenomenon at its core. Progressive family, this is a Protestant, mainline Protestant, secularized, mainline Protestant phenomenon.
And so I just think we’re still a white Protestant country in our political structure where we have evangelical Protestants, descendants of the people that H.L. Mencken derided during the Scope’s trial, at odds with the mainline Protestant, the people who brought us prohibition, the same do-gooders, perfect America, bring light and progress to all the people. It’s the same [inaudible 00:50:24]. So the woke business is really a kind of grandchild of mainline Protestant do-goodism from the middle of the 20th century and the faithful family and the religious right are the grandchildren of the Billy Graham Christianity today. “We’re not going to let these progressive Christians determine the future of our country” folk. And the rest of us are bystanders, because Catholics kind of divide 50/50 on a lot of these issues. And minority communities are usually clients of one or another political movement or party.
How does family culture influence politics/religion?
George Lakoff. He was the guy that writes about, he kind of made it as a social linguistic about the power of metaphor in public affairs. And I remember going to, I was on sabbatical Princeton and I went to a talk he gave, and it was so partisan and oh, it was awful at one level. Another level was really quite brilliant because he had read James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and he argued that the authoritarian, he called it, of course pejorative. The authoritarian model of the family versus the companionate model, male, female companion versus authority of the father. He said that will determine your political views. And I think that fits with this faithful family/progressive family. I think there’s a lot to that. There’s a lot to that, that our family cultures have a very powerful influence on our political outlook.
And I think the Hunter that Institute for Advanced Studies and Culture study was really quite good in that regard. And of course, Mary Eberstadt has made very powerful observations about out the way in which family and faith, trajectory and trends of family and its disintegration for many in our society are closely correlated with the trajectory of faith, that they interact with each other. As I see, no father at home, no father in heaven. And I think that if there is no father at home, then you’re not likely to trust that there’s a father in heaven. And conversely, if you have some sense of the father in heaven, then you might be more likely to be the father who remains in the home and these things, it’s chicken and egg. It’s wrong to think that one causes the other, they interact with each other in powerful ways.
Importance of a Father
Yeah, Christian Smith, who’s a sociologist of religion at Notre Dame. His studies suggest that the most powerful determinant of whether your children retain the faith is whether the father goes to church, not the mother. So the mother can take the kids to church. And then the likelihood that they fall away is much greater than if the father takes the children to church even if the mother doesn’t go. It’s an interesting, not quite sure what to make of it, but it’s a fact that, that I think, I mean it’s important. As we deregulated our society, the physical and powerful emotional bond of the mother with her children remains. But as we deregulate society, we’ve dramatically weakened the bond between fathers and children. And we see this with the absent father in so many homes. I mean, I think if your mother has a high school degree and you’re born in last year, your likelihood of being in a home without a father is more than 50% at this point.
How do the progressive families and faithful families share the country?
Yes. The same study indicated that the progressive family values diversity and inclusion with one exception, the only friends that these parents do not want their children to have is an evangelical Christian friend. So that really speaks to this deep kind of tension. It also, I think from my perspective, people talk about the religious right as the aggressors in the culture war. No, no, no, no, no. The progressive family has got a lot of aggression and it’s very punitive of those who disagree with its values. So where do we go from here?
It’s an interesting question. I think that one of the problems is the progressive family, the very notion of being progressive, you are on the side of history. So there’s a kind of arrogance and sense of ownership of the future. And so we’re not going to learn how to share our country and our civic culture until the progressive family suffers, if you will, stinging defeats in the public square and is forced to recognize that no, instead of running the table and driving out the faithful family, it has to find a modus vivdeni. And I mean, I think for instance, these signs, “Hate Has No Home Here.” I just think, what are these people thinking? I mean, would you share your country with haters or this quick turn to fascist and racist and all that sort of stuff.
These are cancel words. I mean, you don’t share your country with people who are morally repugnant as opposed people who are maybe morally mistaken or certainly politically mistaken, that’s perfectly normal state of affairs. And this is why I think the Dobbs case that’s coming up in the Supreme Court on abortion is very important and not just on the moral matter, which I think is obviously hugely important about the sanctity of life. A moral matter, which I think is obviously hugely important about the sanctity of life, but just politically for the progressive family to feel a stinging reversal may sober them up and realize that no, they need to figure out how to actually share the country.