ON-Lion Letter

"In statistical sum, the United States has the highest family fragmentation rates (also known as family breakdown rates) in the industrial world," writes Mitch Pearlstein in his introduction to a March Center of the American Experiment (CAE) symposium.  "How high?  About 40 percent of all American babies, for instance, come into this life outside of marriage.  Other rounded-off proportions include 30 percent for white children, 50 percent for Hispanic children, and 70 percent for African-American children.  And divorce rates, even though they have moderated for some groups, remain harmfully high."

Pearlstein is the founder and president of CAE, which is in Minneapolis.  His most-recent book is Broken Bonds:  What Family Fragmentation Means for America's Future.  Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation supports his and CAE's work on family fragmentation.

The new symposium, Fragmented Families and Silence of the Faithful:  How Religious Leaders and Institutions Must Speak Up and Reach Out, includes 34 essays from 36 experts, practitioners, and commentators.

"[T]here's something distinctively compelling about" the symposium, Pearlstein notes.  "Which I suspect is not surprising given the emotional power and eternal nature of the subjects at hand."

According to one contribution, from Stephen B. Young, "Because religious institutions, traditions, and leaders -- or the lack thereof -- shape the beliefs, virtues, and habits that constitute personal character, they load the dice of life for or against success in social relationships."

According to another, from David Lapp and W. Bradford Wilcox, "In an era when America is coming apart along class lines, religious congregations have an opportunity to become places where people from across class lines can come together for a common goal."

"[M]y colleagues and I," Pearlstein concludes, "hope that clergy and lay leaders at churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions will find this rich and eclectic anthology worth sharing with congregants, friends, and other constituencies."

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