by Tom Christensen
When driving through the arid national pine forests of Montana, Colorado, Utah and Arizona, one cannot help but notice large numbers of dead trees. Mountain pine beetles about the size of a grain of rice bore into, lay their eggs, feed on and protect themselves in the soft phloem of an older tree, creating a deadly girdle cutting off the transmission of nutrients to the rest of the tree.
Vulnerable pine trees infested by the beetles quickly turn orange and die. Abandoning a dead tree for one living, pine beetles spread from one tree to another until there are no mature trees left. Literally millions of acres of pine forest have been destroyed in this manner.
Bark beetle infestation is a symptom of a sick forest already weakened by draught, disease and the aging process. Pine trees when young and healthy have a natural internal defense mechanism against bark beetles. They produce a pitch substance that encapsulates or drowns the beetles; and the beetles naturally avoid them. When the trees grow older and are weakened by draught or disease, they are unable to stave off the beetles.
A pine forest cannot be protected from the beetle by impractical artificial means, such as the regular injection of insecticide into trees, or by waiting for unreasonable natural means to destroy the beetles, such as extreme cold weather or forest fire. The best approach is to steadily “replenish” the forest by planting and nurturing a fresh supply of seedlings and younger pine stock.
Not only are the scores of dead trees unsightly, the non-reproducing dead trees contribute to soil erosion, mud slides and flash floods. The dead trees also affect wildlife habitat, food chains, and a broad range of ecosystems.
The Devastation of the Natural Family
Like a majestic ponderosa or lodge pole pine forest, the future of an entire civilization turns on the health and strength of its families. The greatest hope for society is the formation of impenetrable unions of strong, capable men and women who honor their marital covenants, care for their own, and produce a steady supply of young ones prepared to carry on the fight for life, liberty, and the family.
The internal defense system of an enduring society is a stable family structure, elevated moral standards, and a willingness among parents to “multiply and replenish the earth.” Like a pine forest, a human society is replenished when the older population renews itself with healthy, responsible young people who marry and continue the cycle of life.
On the other hand, a family’s internal defense system can be weakened by narcissistic dysfunction, addictions and attitudes. Like pine beetles, negative social policies and conventions (such as those that disfavor traditional marriage, religion, childbearing and responsible parenthood), feed on families under stress. However, unlike bark beetles, they target the young as well as the old.
Similar to the death and destruction of millions of acres of pine forests, the effects of the weakening and dissolution of families throughout the world are plain to see. Nations depopulate, crime rates rise, schools fail, quality of life declines, and economies sink.
Preserving the World’s Families
What can be done to protect the health of the world’s families?
First, each family must strengthen its own internal defenses and immunities. Stable families can resist those who would destroy them if they are well-organized, self-sufficient, and put their marriage and children first. The best protections include living by a consistent code of rules and expectations; practicing forgiveness, integrity, thrift and industry; communicating with and loving each other; and playing, working, and worshipping together.
Second, individuals, families, communities and nations must resist harmful external influences such as media, policy, institutions, and peer influences that seek to penetrate them. They must acknowledge that high-sounding policies of government paternalism, anti-capitalism, and moral relativism stunt economic growth and opportunity and destroy lives, families, and personal initiative. Government policy too often addresses the symptoms of family decline rather than the causes of it.
Parents are the first line of defense. Next comes the faith institutions, the school and university, and the community. In some settings such as the United Nations, the opposition is so vast and organized that one cannot fight these battles alone. To provide an effective voice of reason, families, churches and organizations must join with others, including professionals, to influence policymakers and to shape policies at distant, unreported venues.
In summary, the stakes are too high and the potential destruction too devastating to allow the enemy of the family free reign. For a society to flourish, the limits of government must be understood, mature families must be replenished and strengthened from within, and the common characteristics and vulnerabilities of those who would destroy the family must be clearly identified.