There are three important facets of Traditionalism: Family, Church, & State. This ‘trinity’, if you will, is the basis upon which Traditionalist political, social, and religious thought is based. It is the goal of this article, and the two articles that will proceed from it, to give a simple, yet in-depth explanation of this trinity. So then, we shall start with the family.
The basic unit in which society is based upon is the family: husband, wife and children. There is very much a Christian foundation upon which the family is built, and the importance of love for one another, and how this is good for society. St. John Chrysostom says quite eloquently:
The love of husband and wife is the force that welds society together. Men will take up arms and even sacrifice their lives for the sake of this love. St. Paul would not speak so earnestly about this subject without serious reason; why else would he say, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord?” Because when harmony prevails, the children are raised well, the household is kept in order, and neighbors, friends, and relatives praise the result. Great benefits, both of families and states, are thus produced. When it is otherwise, however, everything is thrown into confusion and turned upside-down.
The family is everything: parents having children, raising them properly and in good faith, so that these children can grow up to be productive members of society. But how is this done? What makes for a good family that will create children who grow to be stable, adjusted, and loving?
It is a truly Christian foundation upon which the family built. This starts with marriage. But what is proper marriage, and why should we marry? We marry for the same reason the earliest Christians walked into the Roman lion pits: Martyrdom. Martyrdom does not mean death, rather, it means eternal life. In the Orthodox marriage service, this is what the crowning ceremony represents: that those who are to be married have been given martyrs crowns, for they have decided to give themselves together to Christ, and it is Christ who is at the head of all things, and should be the head of every married couple.Through marriage, the love that the couple has for one another is transformed by God into a living Icon of Himself. Ultimately in Orthodoxy, spouses choose one another because they believe truly that marriage is their path to salvation. Their marriage does not end in death, rather continues on forever in the afterlife, in communion with Christ.
The problem today however, is that we live in a modern world that has distorted and perverted the meaning and understanding of marriage, even in Christianity. Materialism and secular humanism has deluded people into thinking that it is for the here and now emotions that one should get married, for ‘love’ and ‘happiness’, equating their feeble and fleeting infatuations that our passions create with eternal life and love. It is why in the West, the divorce rate of married couples is over 50%, particularly among American evangelicals. This is why the sin of divorce is brushed over and not even seen as sin: because the understanding of marriage is corrupt, then the marriage itself is no longer viewed by the couple in its proper fullness: it is not martyrdom in their eyes, rather a simple contract meant to fulfill their own desires and wants. This of course, has a terribly negative effect upon the children they raise: the children are told that marriage is to be avoided, they are emotionally scarred by the selfishness of the parents, who exploit their children for their own desires in the divorce proceedings, bringing nothing but misery to all involved. It is therefore critical to understand the martyric nature of marriage, otherwise, those who marry are engaging in a simple, cold, contract, to be annulled at a whim when one party is no longer satisfied.
So then, the question is, how to raise children? The answer of course, is in the Church. The Church has the tools to help the husband and wife raise their children: the Divine Liturgy, the sacraments, the monastics, all of these that can engage children at a small age. However, the most important part of this is prayer. Though cliche, the saying is true: the family who prays together, stays together. Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnika, in his seminal work, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, had this to say on family prayer:
It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. Prayer attracts God’s Grace and all the members of the family feel it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Pray always.
It is therefore important to make time for prayer, to pray with one’s children, and to pray often. Through prayer, love, and the sacramental life of the church, one can raise their children to be good, loving, Christians. We have seen in many studies, that children raised without mothers and fathers grow up to be broken, suffering with psychological issues, are less likely to finish their education, and more likely to end up in criminal gangs, addicted to harmful narcotics, and imprisoned. It is the traditional family unit: the mother and the father, that is most likely to raise stable and well-adjusted children. For what real reason do we have to change this formula? For centuries it has worked perfectly fine, and it is only radicalists who have little regard for truth that wish to bring an upheaval to this institution, driven by their passions and pleasures to do so. The modern rise of third-wave feminism, which falsely teaches that marriage is an ‘oppressive’ tool used by patriarchal forces to subjugate and enslave women has much to do with this. Though good-intentioned in their beliefs, thinking they are going to liberate women from tyranny, and ill-intentioned in their desire to ‘liberate’ women sexually (the real intention is to justify their self-slavery to their passions), all they have managed to do is contribute to the growing problem of divorce in the West, and now we see that fewer millennials wish to be married, or marry at very late ages, some not even wishing to be blessed with children, viewing them as ‘burdens’ they do not wish to bear. They view marriage and children as a hindrance to their own personal freedom, ultimately valuing their material pleasure over the beauty and martyrdom of marriage, and the true blessing of children. This view of the traditional family devalues the richness and depth of a loving, Christian marriage, and dehumanizes children, viewing them as objects, obstacles in the way of their career-paths. It is rather dark and sad in a way. The third-wave feminist decries marriage as slavery, and upholds the value of choice in having children; though I have yet to meet a married couple in which the wife bemoans her slavery, and every parent I have met has only told me how wondrous and joyful it is to have children. The description of this institution as given by the feminist, and the reality of it are two different things, it seems.
In regards to my experience as a newly married man, I can say that it is truly a martyrdom. I can say with certainty that if I did not understand marriage through the martyr’s lens, through the theology of the Church, I would not still be married to the most wonderful woman in the world, and I can also say, that there is no other woman I would want to walk the path to salvation with.