Don McLean wrote a song back in 1972 (I think) entitled “American Pie.” There are numerous theories about McLean’s intended meaning, but most seem to agree it’s his lament over the lack of “danceable” music in the 1970’s. The death of Richie Valens, the Big Bopper, and, more importantly, Buddy Holly was the single most significant tragedy in the direction, or lack of, in modern music. McLean seems to be arguing that when Holly died, the future of music died with him. It was a death that brought devastating, culture-changing consequences. But what really happened, in my opinion, was that in the decade of the 60’s, a cultural revolution brought about by rebellion, drugs, and sexual promiscuity destroyed the harmony of the American Family. A more significant kind of death took place with much greater consequences in our culture, and it’s been occurring all around us for over 50 years. The sad part is that it doesn’t even arrest our attention anymore.

According to Barbara Dafoe Whitehead (The Divorce Culture [New York: Vintage, 1998]), “For most of the nation’s history, divorce was a rare occurrence and an insignificant feature of family and social relationships.” Divorce did not become commonplace until after 1960, according to Whitehead.  She says that divorce “doubled in roughly a decade and continued its upward climb until the early 1980s, when it stabilized at the highest level among advanced Western societies. As a consequence of this sharp and sustained rise,” says Whitehead, “divorce moved from the margins to the mainstream of American life in the space of three decades.” The consequent divorce culture means death for the American family.  Our last fifty years define “The Day the Music Died.”

Sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman, in his 1947 book Family and Civilization, recorded his keen observations as he compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. Eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture Zimmerman studied: “Marriage loses its sacredness; … is frequently broken by divorce; the traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost; feminist movements abound; there is increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general; an acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity and rebellion occur; there is refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities; a growing desire for, and acceptance of, adultery is evident; there is increasing interest in, and spread of, sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.” God is really good at breathing new life into dead entities. Let’s pray that he will do that with the American Family – one family at a time. Maybe as the body of Christ in the world today, we, the church, can speak to the Family with the authority of Christ and shout, “Lazarus, come forth!”