Good Morning! 

Everyone knows the name Audrey Hepburn, one of Hollywood’s screen legends. Born “Audrey Ruston,” she used the name “Edda van Heemstra” during the Nazi’s occupation of the Netherlands, where she was living as a young girl.  

The “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” star, who was well familiar with confronting oppression and selfishness, once said: 

“It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first, and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it’.” 

We begin with a new study that suggests Americans would be wise to head Hepburn’s advice:  

  1. The Post Pandemic State of Marriage and the Family

Focus on the Family president Jim Daly writes: 

Coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, you might have missed news last week of a significant study concerning the current state of the American Family.  

“The Divided State of Our Unions: Family Formation in (Post) Covid America” confirms much of what we’ve been tracking here at Focus on the Family regarding the rapidly evolving dynamics surrounding attitudes toward marriage and children.   

A crisis almost never leaves anyone the same, so a fair question to ask is just how has the global pandemic impacted our relationships?   

The news is both good and bad. 

According to this new report, which comes to us from the Institute for Family Studies, the American Enterprise and the Wheatley Foundation, interest in marriage is up by two percent across the general population and up by eight percent for those who regularly attend religious services.  

In other words – faith matters.   

Most of us becomes the product of the people we spend time with, so it makes sense that being part of a church community would influence our feelings towards marriage and family. A good church celebrates and encourages family formation because the Bible has a lot to say about these special relationships – specifically that God invented and blessed both institutions.  

Sadly, the study also reveals a declining interest in children for both the religious and non-religious – though far more for those who claim no faith at all.  

According to the data, “religious” people reported a 1% decline in interest of having children compared to an 11% decline for the non-religious. Politically speaking, Republicans were far more interested in having children than Democrats and Independents.  

What’s behind these troubling trends?  

It would seem to me that selfishness sits at the core. Getting married, having children and providing for a family is a lot of work. It’s even inconvenient. It’s a lot “easier” to do your own thing and focus on your own desires.  

Of course, time and wisdom suggest benefits associated with such independence are often short-sighted – and short-lived. The “carefree” lifestyle may pay a quick dividend, but over the long haul, studies show people regret not investing in their marriage or having children. It’s a timeless joke that you should have children so you’ll have someone to care for you when you’re old – but companionship has its advantages at every stage and season of life, especially in the later years.  

I have a female colleague who discusses the sting of riding a Ferris wheel alone. At an amusement park one day she watched couples and parents happily going around and around, talking and laughing. My co-worker desires to be married. But there she was without someone that day with which to enjoy the ride and the view – both literally and metaphorically. 

I recognize that God does call some people to the single life, whether for a season or for a lifetime. But it’s also true that we were made for relationship and the trends we’re seeing regarding a growing disinterest in marriage and relationship are cause for concern. 

As someone blessed with a wonderful wife and two great sons, my heart aches for those who desperately want a spouse and children but have not yet realized that dream. Please join me in praying for these individuals – as well as praying the Lord would impress upon the rising generation the benefits and blessings of marriage and family. 

  1. Abortion Doesn’t Promote Equality for Women 

From the Wall Street Journal: 

Here’s a measure of how far American women have progressed since 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade: Then, no woman had ever been elected attorney general of a U.S. state, and none would be for another dozen years. Now, Mississippi’s attorney general is defending the constitutionality of her state’s law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. Earlier this year Lynn Fitch appointed Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart, who on Wednesday will make the state’s case to the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. 

“Everything has changed in the last 50 years,” says Ms. Fitch, 60, a Republican who was elected in 2019, in an interview. “Our laws are much different. The culture is different today than it was 50 years ago. And certainly the workforce and the workplace has changed.” That’s part of the reason the justices should uphold Mississippi’s law, the state argues. 

Roe, as Mississippi notes in its brief to the court, “suggested that, without abortion, unwanted children could ‘force upon’ women ‘a distressful life and future.’ ” Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) asserted that the “ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Mississippi disagrees: “Modern options regarding and views about childbearing have dulled concerns on which Roe rested.” 

Ms. Fitch elaborates. “Maternity leave is very commonplace, where it wasn’t 50 years ago,” she says. Paternity leave “was unheard of 50 years ago.” A 2020 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 55% of employers in the U.S. offer paid maternity leave and 45% offer paid paternity leave. 

  1. Mississippi Abortion Case a Long Awaited One for Clarence Thomas 

From the Washington Post: 

“Our abortion precedents are grievously wrong and should be overruled,” Thomas wrote in a dissenting opinion in 2020. The case concerned restrictions on abortion clinics and the doctors who perform the procedure, whom Thomas repeatedly referred to as “abortionists.” 

“The Constitution does not constrain the States’ ability to regulate or even prohibit abortion,” he added. 

Thomas has written that Roe cannot be sustained because the Constitution is silent on the subject of abortion. He has complained that the court bends its own rules and procedures to protect Roe and 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed the right and was the decision Thomas objected to in his first term on the court. 

In 2019, he related abortion to eugenics, praising an Indiana law that would have made it illegal for someone to perform an abortion because of the fetus’s race, sex, disability or diagnosis of Down syndrome. 

“Each of the immutable characteristics protected by this law can be known relatively early in a pregnancy, and the law prevents them from becoming the sole criterion for deciding whether the child will live or die,” Thomas wrote. 

“Put differently, this law and other laws like it promote a state’s compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.” 

  1. Progressives forget that parents are in charge of kids’ education 

From the New York Post: 

Up until the early 1800s, many parents embraced the spiritual duty set out in the book of Proverbs to “train up a child in the way he should go,” with church-established schoolhouses striving to support them. But with increased immigration and urban development came the call to offer free government-subsidized schooling for all. What began as a lofty endeavor complete with non-denominational moral instruction has, in the modern era, descended into an environment openly hostile to the Judeo-Christian ideas that fueled Western civilization and our unique American experiment. As sociologist Susan Rose put it, the public school became “the substitute for the American national church.” 

As publicly funded “experts” took over the role of educating American children, the role of parents was largely marginalized. Today, we’re reaping the consequences of that shift in responsibility.

Meanwhile, more parents are choosing to take on the role of primary educator to their kids. By the start of the 2020-21 school year, the number of school-age children getting taught at home in the US more than doubled from the year before to 11.1 percent, and a new study suggests homeschooled kids are healthier, happier and more likely to attend religious services than many public-school graduates. 

5.   Teachers in California Learn How to Undermine Parents and Recruit Students for LGBT Clubs

From The Daily Citizen: 

The California Teachers Association recently held an event, the “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities,” in Palm Springs, California. 

Two middle school teachers taught a workshop, “How We Run a ‘GSA’ [Gay-Straight Alliance] in Conservative Communities.” The pair gave advice about recruiting kids into a GSA club and circumventing parents who ask questions. 

Kelly Baraki and Lori Caldeira described their workshop this way: 

In previous presentations, we shared how we started our middle school equity/diversity/GSA club. We shared how we recruited students, how we ran our meetings, and some of the activities we used to build community. We were riding high for several years…until we weren’t…we crashed spectacularly! When we last presented, we shared the obstacles, challenges, and failures we experienced. And yet, we persist. We are still here. And we’d like to share the story of how we rebuilt our program and clawed our way back to existence. 

How do the two entice middle schoolers to participate? 

Abigail Shrier, a journalist and author, received documents and audio files from the event. She writes

Speakers went so far as to tout their surveillance of students’ Google searches, internet activity, and hallway conversations in order to target sixth graders for personal invitations to LGBTQ clubs, while actively concealing these clubs’ membership rolls from participants’ parents. 

The teachers circumvent pesky parents who might want to know whether their children are part of the GSA.  

6.   More pregnant women are turning to marijuana 

From the Deseret News: 

Legal sales of cannabis, first for medical and now for recreational use, have spread across the country. Yet despite what seems like years of public messaging on the idea that marijuana is a basically harmless drug that we are needlessly penalizing people for using and selling, many Americans still seem uneasy about encouraging its use. And they may be right. 

You don’t need to look far for reasons why. Take the case of pregnant women: A study published this fall found that children of mothers who use marijuana during or soon after pregnancy are twice as likely as other kids to become anxious, aggressive or hyperactive. The article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes how researchers looked at the presence of a chemical in the placenta, as well as hair hormone levels in young children, and then measured the performance of those children on standardized behavioral assessment as well as their heart rate variability. 

These are not small findings and they are even more concerning when we consider that many pregnant women are seeking out marijuana to relieve symptoms of pregnancy, like nausea. Women “tend to think smoking and drinking during pregnancy need to be avoided at all costs, but not cannabis,” Yoko Nomura, a behavioral neuroscientist at City University of New York and a co-author of the study, told The New York Times. “We have a long way to go to educate pregnant women, policymakers and even OB-GYN doctors on this issue.” 

7.   Children in the Netherlands are among the world’s happiest. Here’s what the parents do differently 

From CNBC: 

Children in the Netherlands are among the happiest in the world, research has suggested, and experts say that there could be a number of reasons why this is the case. 

Anita Cleare, author of “The Working Parent’s Survival Guide,” told CNBC via telephone that it was important to understand the role of socio-economic factors in influencing children’s happiness. She explained that if a child has certain needs met, which is more likely in an affluent country, there’s a greater chance of achieving happiness. 

Cleare said an assertive parenting style, which sets “clear boundaries with lots of love and warmth … has consistently been shown to correlate with positive outcomes for children.”  

  1. Former White House Spokesperson Shares How Faith Guided Her: God Puts Certain Desires in Our Hearts for a Reason 

From Fox News: 

McEnany was appointed Former President Donald Trump’s press secretary in April 2020 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now a co-host on Fox News’ ‘Outnumbered,’ the former political official opened up about the emotions she felt before taking the podium for the first time. 

“On a spiritual level, I was a mess,” she said. “All of a sudden when I took the podium, all those tears, all the fear, it had melted away and I had this total and complete serenity that I know was only made possible because of Christ and because of Christians across the country praying for me and the entire administration.”  

McEnany told Earhardt that she initiated a new tradition with her team before press briefings to pray that helped overcome the “good and evil battling each other.”  

During the episode, McEnany referenced stories from her new book, “For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey Through the White House and Beyond.”  

McEnany told Earhardt the inspiration behind the title of her book was her father’s suggestion that she was “made for such a time as this” when she was offered the job as press secretary. The quote is a reference to Queen Esther’s story in the bible. She said the main takeaway of the book is that the message can be a sign for everyone if they “just ask God to show it to you.”  

  1. Fans Pour Funding – and Faith – Into a Hit Drama About Jesus 

From the Wall Street Journal: 

The success of the series is a powerful reminder to Hollywood that faith-focused projects can sometimes become breakthrough hits. But what makes “The Chosen” even more of an outlier is the way it is supercharging the crowdfunding model to sustain production through multiple seasons. Though “The Chosen” is free to watch, viewers have poured $40 million and counting into its production budget, enough to pay for three out of a planned seven seasons. The costs of building the new production facilities, on a 1,200-acre camp owned by the Salvation Army, are being covered by a smaller group of the show’s fans. 

Producers say viewership was sluggish when the first season premiered for a fee in 2019. But the audience spiked when they made the series free on a “Chosen” app, now the show’s main distribution hub, and viewers continued to multiply during the pandemic’s lockdown months. The show has been translated into 50 languages, and is licensed to video services from Amazon to Peacock. Producers estimate that its 16 episodes have been viewed 312 million times. Now the “Chosen” audience is set to converge in person in movie theaters. 

Starting Dec. 1, about 1,700 theaters will feature screenings of a “Chosen” Christmas special, including musical performances and a new episode in which Mother Mary (a series character played by Vanessa Benavente) flashes back to her son’s birth. Distributor Fathom Events, known for one- or two- day releases of classic movies, live opera and other specialty fare, expanded the “Chosen” event to 10 days. Ticket sales are approaching $6 million so far, putting “Christmas with ‘The Chosen’” on track to be Fathom’s bestseller ever, according to chief executive Ray Nutt. 

  1. Here’s How to Connect Children in Need with Forever Families 

Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman write for Fox News: 

Whether you are considering adoption, knee-deep in the process itself or are simply wanting to learn more, there are resources available to reduce the financial barriers as well as answers, insight and guidance both pre- and post-adoption. These gifts – as we call them – were not as accessible or available when we were in the midst of adoption, and as we have grown and learned more, we have been committed to walking alongside children and families on these journeys of hope and healing.   

Today, there are organizations, nonprofits, and ministries – like Show Hope – that offer financial aid grants to help offset the cost associated with adoption, and some of these same entities are even offering funding for post-adoption needs, including medical and behavioral health. State and federal tax credits are also available for adoptive families as well as no- or low-interest loans. Available today are sliding scale fees based on a family’s income or ability to pay, and subsidies are offered for adoptions through foster care. Employers are also stepping up and offering adoption fee benefits for employees as well as maternity and paternity leave comparable to parents welcoming children biologically.   

As Mary Beth has said countless times, “Not everyone is called to adopt, but everyone is called to do something.” And we stand by that truth today. Apart, we can do so little, but together, we do so much.     

RELATED: 8-Year-Old Is Selling Cupcakes To Buy Christmas Gifts For Kids in Foster Care – From Sunny Skyz: 

8-year-old Summer Linn wants to help those who might feel like no one cares about them feel “wanted and loved” this holiday season. 

She’s baking and selling cupcakes to buy Christmas gifts for foster kids, because she knows it’s hard for Santa to find children in foster care. 

“He’s very busy,” she said. “They get moved a lot. They’re special no matter what anyone says or does. Seriously. They deserve a good Christmas. They need a good home.” 

She has already adopted 13 kids for Christmas.