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Why faith and family matter to everyone

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Editor's note: The following is an updated version of a previous column from the Eyres, "Why only faith and family can save America," published Jan. 28, 2014.

Should faith and family matter to you if you don’t have faith or a family?

I (Richard) was a little amused the other day when an acquaintance told me he didn’t read the Deseret News because he did not have a bit of interest in faith or family. (By the way, I was pleased that those were the two words that he identified with the Deseret News.)

Now, granted, this is an unmarried person without children who does not go to or believe in a church, so you might claim that his disinterest in faith and family is legitimate and natural.

Incidentally, this is a person who is very interested in politics and very verbal and passionate about the dangers of too much government and regulation.

I told him that if he really wants limited government and a smaller public sector, he had better change his tune and become very interested in faith and family.

Here’s why:

One clear lesson of history is that politics and the public sector, if not balanced and held in check, will expand and grow at the expense of individual freedoms and independence.

The only things strong enough to accomplish this balance and restrain government are faith and family. The greatest institution (the sovereignty of God) and the most basic institution (the family) are the only elements powerful enough to keep public institutions from growing and spending excessively and from sucking away individual agency.

Faith and family, if healthy and vigorous, can squeeze government down to size. If faith and families are not strong, the process works in reverse.

Faith is the force from the heavens above, the belief that God’s word is more important than man’s. Family is the force from the grass roots below, the belief that households are the fundamental unit of society that all else depends on.

When faith and family weaken, the institution in between — government — starts to swell and expand, partly because of its inherent thirst for power, and partly because it is trying to do the social jobs that family and religion are failing to do.

The problem, of course, is that government, when compared to family or to churches and other grass-roots institutions, is horribly costly and inefficient at handling social problems, welfare or moral training.

From the Roman Empire to modern-day China, the decline of family solidarity and of religious faith has precipitated not only growing decadence but also expanding government and the steady loss of individual freedom. And as government grows, it tends to become protective of its powers and creates programs and policies that are ever more oppressive and increasingly secular and either immoral or amoral — either anti-family or without regard for family.

This is why communist and socialist governments and all totalitarian regimes try to eliminate religion and undermine families. Churches and synagogues are marginalized or eventually banned, and families are unfairly taxed or depleted by restrictions on how many children they can have. The norms and personal priorities in such societies begin to shift from commitment and family focus to materialism and self-focus, and people begin to abandon parenthood and family ideals in favor of more personal comfort and greater reliance on government programs.

Does faith and family matter? To my acquaintance who says he has none of either? To everyone? To all of society?

You decide.

Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Their new book is "The Turning." Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or at valuesparenting.com.