We hear it all the time: “America is completely divided.” “The red states and the blue states.” “Democrats vs. Republicans.” “Liberals vs. conservatives.”
Question: Can you think of anything important on which the two sides agree?
It turns out that while the most liberal liberals and the most conservative conservatives disagree dramatically on politics and economics, they agree rather spectacularly on family-centered principles and priorities.
A remarkable new study from the University of Virginia, which includes extensive polling on people’s views about family, religion and morality, splits Americans into four different “belief categories.” Roughly a fourth of our nation are the “faithfuls,” who attend church regularly and see everything through the lens of religion. Another fourth are termed the “engaged progressives” — highly educated liberals whose core belief is tolerance and diversity. A third quarter of the population — termed the “disengaged” — are those who have sort of given up and dropped out of politics and community and church. And the final fourth are called the “American dreamers,” who are waiting for society to rescue them.
Guess which two of the groups are the most family-oriented? The first two. The most conservative conservatives (the “faithfuls”) and the most liberal liberals (the “engaged progressives”) are the most closely aligned when it comes to marriage commitment and the prioritizing of their children.
The point is that it is not only “religious” people who are pro-family and who tend to prioritize their homes and their children. If we are looking for allies in the cause of good parenting and strengthening families, we had better have a “big tent” and include the broad diversity of people who “get it” when it comes to family being the basic unit of society and the core of personal happiness.
Charles Murray’s brilliant book “Coming Apart” points out that the trends away from marriage and family commitment are not happening in the educated upper middle class, but in the lower middle class, among those with less education and less income. Higher achievers tend to get married more, stay married longer, and prioritize and value their families more.
Here’s the bottom line: Enlightenment leads to a better sense of what really matters and to putting our priorities in the right place. Enlightenment can certainly come from religion and from faith, but it can also come from education and from exposure to literature and history and the broader world.
In the battle to save the family and to strengthen and preserve the basic unit of society, the enemies are not the cultural elite or the successful or the educated — the enemies are ignorance and bad life-management, and people who live selfishly and without commitment.
And as much as the pundits and the pollsters try to suggest that the religious right and the progressive left are opposites in every way, the fact is that the “faithfuls” and the “engaged progressives” are like-thinking partners and allies when it comes to protecting, prioritizing and preserving our own families and the families of the world.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."