The French writer Gustave Flaubert famously spent weeks sometimes pondering a single word looking for just the right one - what he called "le mot juste."
Flaubert recognized that sometimes there really is only one perfect term to describe the essence of a particular thing. Well, there is one perfect word to describe our culture's dissonant approach to marriage and family, and that word is incoherent.
An article in yesterday's Washington Times reports that there is a growing concern about "irresponsible fatherhood" in our society: "Despite myriad efforts by fatherhood programs, too many men are ending up in multiple relationships, with multiple children from multiple mothers."
An expert quoted in the article suggests that men need to "advised... to 'slow down,' 'prepare for fatherhood,' realize that a mother and child are 'a package' and 'take time' to select a loving partner and future mother."
But these efforts to address a very real concern are incoherent in a cultural context where powerful forces are pushing a radical agenda to redefine marriage and thereby necessarily redefine the roles of parents, making 'fatherhood' an expendable option and devaluing the unique services that men and women each provide in raising children.
To preserve and promote fatherhood requires first that we preserve and promote the true definition of marriage. Marriage is like a key-word for a cipher which, when you get it wrong, causes all the connected code-words to fall apart too. Fatherhood depends on the meaning of the unique and special union of one man and one woman. And for that union, le mot juste is "marriage."