A Third Way.
Nothing much stands still. Broad social movements are always underway. Individuals within a society don't always follow the crowd, so there are many exceptions. The sexes in America have experienced two broad social movements, under each of which women have generally fared much better than their sisters in other parts of the world:
First Way. Sex and love go together. Women once put off sexual intercourse until marriage. This may be referred to as America's monogamy phase, if a monogamist is is defined as one who mates for life. It lasted until the mid part of the last century. It had the advantage of stability, of insuring children a home with both parents, etc. Its main disadvantage was that most women were dependent on men, men who often did little to advance their quality of life. Great social forces combined to eventually eliminate the dominance of the First Way.
Second Way. Sex and love don't go together. We have, albeit slowly, entered the modern period, where neither women nor men make any appreciable pre-marital sexual sacrifice. "Marriage" now is mostly an exclusive legal state, too often little more than a commercial partnership. This may be referred to as America's polygamy phase, if a polygamist is defined as one who mates with more than one partner. The jury is still out on the Second Way. It has done much to free women from traditional chains which barred their efforts to reach equality. But it is being blamed for the ever-increasing single parent-homes, child abuse, spousal abuse, gangs, etc.
Neither of these models produced overall societal satisfaction. So we are exploring a Third Way, a way defined by family, in the hope that we can do something to strengthen families. Deep families. Our life is family life. Our families so serve the needs of its members that breaking them up is, generally, unthinkable. We make no effort to go back to the First Way. Or any of its religious-based variants. And we soundly reject the Second Way. Third Way families are families in which the parties are equals in fact and in name, unless they agree that one or the other is in charge of certain incidents of the marriage.
We think Jesus, the Jew, was one of the greatest men to have ever lived. His views on marriage were fairly straight-forward and considered progressive at the time. He wanted Jewish families to stay together. He deplored the then common practice, where an older husband threw out his wife when she had lost the ability to excite him, her beauty waning, more or less in tandem with his sexual urge. In those days, throwing out the mother of his children dealt her an often fatal blow, and also the children, who were raised without one of their parents. Jesus flatly prohibited that practice, though he did compromise somewhat by allowing the husband to add another wife. For want of a better term, we call the situation Jesus faced at the outset of his pilgramage "pandogamy," being a society where a significant number of women are living alone and a significant number of children are living with only one parent.
Now society is again faced with the evils of pandogamy. As reversing the gains of the woman's movement is neither practical nor desirable, more and more of those who follow Jesus' teachings are acknowledging the essentially polygamous nature of modern family life. Many good women are now reconsidering polygamy, for reasons important to them. They want their children to have the steady influence on one father-figure in their lives, they enjoy the company of sister-wives, or they enjoy the professional freedom gained by spreading the baby-sitting and household chores, they enjoy the increased standard of living brought about by pooling resources, or they have other reasons. But many good women as well are strongly opposed to polygamy, which all too often means that their children are raised without a father-figure or with a series of father-figures. Nonetheless, whether to accept or reject polygamy is strictly the woman's choice, based on her assessment of what is best for her, her children, and society at large.
The problem, of course, is that we have created a legal fiction to the effect that so long as the state recognizes a man and woman as legal spouses, exclusive to each other for the duration of the marriage, a third or fourth spouse cannot be legally added. Serial monogamy is fine with the state, but formal polygamy in all forms is generally illegal in most of the Western world. A spouse can practice informal polygamy with relative impunity. A man can legally father as many children as he wants, by as many women as will have him, but once he tries to superimpose the permanence of marriage on those relationships, once he opts for formal polygamy, off to jail he goes. At least in most Western countries. This strange situation cannot be explained logically, but rather is understandable only by looking to polygyny's history: Joe Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, used polygyny to build his church. Women of child-bearing age were expected to be pregnant and, until Brigham Young came along, to live with the children in separate houses, often in separate towns. The husband would visit each of his wives a few times each month, but mostly the women lived alone and raised their children without any steady input from their father. Women were considered breeding stock. By the time Brigham started his more humane "one roof" brand of polygamy, freeing women from the cruelty of multi-roof polygamy, the damage had been done. And, as polygamy has remained illegal since then, it is now practiced largely by a bunch of religious deviants, men and women convinced that they will receive some sort of reward in heaven, or by child molesters and other men who aren't capable of establishing a relationship with a competent, adult woman. These problems stem from laws making polygamy illegal, rather than from the nature of polygamy.
The bottom line is simple: No society will long last if its women are living alone or its children are raised in homes devoid of either a father or a steady father-figure. To the extent it can be truthfully said that Western society is deteriorating, losing character, etc, the steady increase in fatherless homes is the main cause. Women need to bring men back into the home. This is the Third Way and it is up to them. Jesus showed us how. Government should get out of His way.