Focus on the Family's upcoming release, "Irreplaceable," is a journey of forgiveness and of discovery for their New Zealand executive director, Tim Sisarich. The film documents Sisarich's quest around the globe to find the true meaning and purpose of family, and his discovery of how the sexual revolution, feminism, and a lack of accountability for men have lead to the destruction of the family worldwide.
Sisarich married as a young man, and now has five children. He is very involved in his kid's lives, despite the disengagement of his own father growing up. "I want my kids to be strong and connected," says Sisarich, who believes that being a good father and husband will help his family to flourish. Focus on the Family asked Sisarich to investigate the negative factors which have influenced the devaluing of the traditional family around the world. After kissing his wife and children goodbye, Sisarich set off on a journey across the globe to speak with experts in different cultures about their views on family.
Author and Commentator Eric Metaxas says that the family unit is "the building block of civilization, [and] of culture ... One world view says God has a plan of hope and beauty, and the family is an integral part of that plan. The other world view says that family is simply a social and cultural construct, it has no inherent value, and therefore we can unmake everything and recreate it in some other form." Many cultures today view the family as a dispensable commodity, but Metaxas strongly disagrees. He believes that history teaches us that when society chooses to put personal interests before those of the family, both the family and society will perish; however, when the family is put first, cultures flourish as well.
After speaking with Metaxas, Sisarich more clearly understood what the root of his quest would be: is man able to redefine the family, or is truth already defined?
"It used to be all about family. The formula was simple: two adults, two kids, and the world was built around it. But times are changing," Sisarich says - today, many are delaying marriage and some married couples choose not to have children at all. The majority of couples cohabitate without being married, thinking that this will increase their chance of having a successful marriage; statistics indicate the opposite, however.
It all began with the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s, which lead to widespread promiscuity, adultery, and use of pornography. God designed intercourse to be within marriage, and the effects are devastating when marital love is taken out of its proper context.
The Baby Boomer generation largely instigated a trend of divorce in America, causing many children to grow up in a broken home. America is very much a consumer-driven society, where people are primarily searching for happiness - if something is difficult, we would rather try something new than work hard to stick to the task. Unfortunately, this search for individual happiness affects society's marriages.
The contractual view of marriage undoubtedly stems from the modern-day perspective of utopia: in individualistic America, our feelings matter most. The "perfect life" is the "easy, self-satisfied life" with no restrictions and total autonomy - most notably, sexual freedom and the liberty to leave one's spouse if personal needs aren't satisfied. Instead of working through their disagreements - which actually strengthens a marriage - people separate. It is as if people now think that marriage feels "unnatural."
Commitment-less relationships also spawned from the sexual revolution, resulting in the rise of one-night stands. Highly prevalent in college, young men and women are trying to separate emotion from sexual intercourse, giving into carnal desires without making a commitment. Young men who engage in such activities are often applauded, while girls who have multiple partners are deemed "sluts." This damages both men and women emotionally, leaving many feeling unsatisfied and shameful. Yet many feel obligated to continue with such a lifestyle, because of pressure from our culture.
The modern view of marriage has also lead to the devaluation of the role of parenting. Through a strong marriage, children can see love and commitment played out on a day-to-day basis, and this informs their thinking. Many children grow up without a married mother and father these days, however, and this influences their world view. Divorce breaks children's hearts; their view of the world as either a safe or dangerous place is often based on the unity of their parent's marriage. Sisarich is grateful that his mother highly valued her role as a caretaker, so much so that she would not divorce her husband who was imprisoned and an adulterer.
Though God designed men and women to complement one another, our culture doesn't value gender roles. Studies of the anatomy of our brains prove that men and women are wired quite differently, and biology does affect our disposition. The feminist movement in the 1960s and 70s worked to destroy gender roles; instead of celebrating women's unique abilities and viewing their qualities as highly valuable, women tried to hide their differences from men so that men would respect them as being capable in the workplace. Women eventually started to view children as a barrier to their success, and many believe that they couldn't be productive members of society as a mother.
America's fertility rate is at an all-time low, and people are choosing to have fewer children all over the globe. "Why are children seen as a hassle and not a miracle?" Sisarich asks, incredulously. The availability of a variety of contraception methods has lead to fewer births, and abortion is rampant all over the world. In the United States, an abortion is often performed because of parental preferences - we often value babies based on their health, and 90% of prenatal diagnosis which indicate that a child has autism or down-syndrome end in abortion. Surrogacy is a growing trend as well, revealing a heightened emphasis on personal comfort and the commoditization of children.
Many women who choose to abort their children do so because the father is either absent or is pressuring her to have an abortion. Modern society tells men and women to "run from work," and to pursue pleasure; if the responsibility of raising children were more highly valued, fathers would be more accountable to commit to raising their children. "We've created a culture where it's ok for guys to get away with a bunch of stuff," Sisarich says. Because of this, fatherlessness is rampant and has caused much damage to society. In fact, 85% of youth in prison come from fatherless homes, and the vast majority of inmates have had a difficult relationships with their fathers. Having a present but disengaged father can harm children as well.
Toward the end of the film, Gene Wohlberg shared his testimony. A man who had once left his family for another woman, Wohlberg tells his story of redemption as the prodigal son - one who was forgiven much by his Heavenly Father. Thankfully, he and his wife have reconciled, and Wohlberg says that his life goal is to have his bride of 35 years know how loved she is.
"The story of the prodigal - my story - I don't know anyone that could have made more mistakes in life that I did," Wohlberg says - but even unfaithful fathers have hope. "You can be forgiven - that's what [God] does, He came for guys like me - the prodigal. That's why Jesus came - that's His story," he says. Wohlberg is now a genuine servant of others, and his testimony has helped Sisarich to forgive his own father. He rejoices in knowing that there is hope for anyone who comes to Christ.