An Actress, A Governor, and the Culture War

I remember when I first saw Natalie Portman’s picture. Our oldest son, Nathan, had just graduated from high school in 1999 and received his high school yearbook. As a joke, he pasted a photo of her next to his in the South Kitsap annual– as if she was in his graduating class!

He liked her then. She was a rising star.

In 2011, her stardom hit paydirt when she won her first Oscar as Best Actress for her performance in Black Swan. Her acceptance speech was short and seemed sincere–but one little sentence in it caused an old debate to re-surface:

How important is marriage to having children?

The answer to that question determines the overall happiness and stability of societies.

I hope we choose well in the 21st century.

Here are the actual words of Natalie Portman on February 27 at the Academy Awards:

“So many people helped me prepare for this role.  Mary Helen Bowers spent a year with me, training me, Michelle Rodriguez and Kurt Froman and Olga Kostritzky, Marina Stavitskaya, and my beautiful love Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed the film and has now given me my most important role of my life.”

“Given me the most important role of my life.”

She was referring to the role of motherhood.

Natalie was clearly pregnant on stage–and also unmarried. She’s had sex (or was in some type of “relationship”) with Black Swan’s choreographer, Benjamin Millipied, and together they’d produced a baby.

In all thirteen generations of American history–except the last two–that reality would have been looked down upon as not ideal or desirable. Children were supposed to be born into marriages where both the presence of a mother and father was necessary and vital to to their nurture and future success.

But Natalie Portman is a part of a generation that no longer believes in the ideal–God’s order of things. She believes that sex or “love” is all that’s required to bring a child into the world.

Enter the Governor–former Governor Mike Huckabee–who is considered one of the leading presidential contenders for 2012. On a March 3rd talk show hosted by Jewish commentator and film critic, Michael Medved, Governor Huckabee shared his perspective on Ms. Portman’s example:

”You know, one of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine.’ But there aren’t really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie.”

It’s true that Natalie Portman has more resources than most to raise her child out of wedlock. The Governor was right on that point. But he went on to say:

”Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing.”

That is also a sobering truth. The largest single cause of poverty in America is single parent homes–children being born out of wedlock.

Then the Governor-and-possibly-presidential-candidate-Huckabee–shared some down right scary statistics:

“You know, right now, 75 percent of black kids in this country are born out of wedlock. 61 percent of Hispanic kids — across the board, 41 percent of all live births in America are out of wedlock births. And the cost of that is simply staggering.”

Let those stats sink in for a moment.

  • Three out of four African-Americans that you know were born missing a dad or mom.
  • Six out of ten Latinos are victims of single-parent homes.
  • And nearly four-in-ten of all live births in the United States are children that will not grow up “normally” in the loving nurture and more-successful structure of a two parent home.

That’s a huge problem–for any society.

The Heritage Foundation rightly points out that:

“Couples who are married have a higher average household income, more assets, and better health than many of their single or cohabitating counterparts. Conversely, families that are headed by unmarried females make up more than half of all families living in poverty. And paychecks are not the only reason two parents are better. Research shows that ‘improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income.’ With four of every 10 U.S. children now born outside of marriage and welfare spending skyrocketing—especially on single-parent households—policymakers and taxpayers can no longer afford to overlook the effects of family and marriage on civil society.”

This is an important discussion. And it’s not just about abstract statistics.

I am personally close to a situation right now where a young teenager is devastated and hurting. She lives with her mother but they don’t get along because of the brokenness of the home. She spends weekends at her father’s place–and cries. She goes back home to her mother–and doesn’t feel loved and protected.

She’s missing security and blessing because the nuclear family is not valued and encouraged.

But back to Mike Huckabee’s analysis. Governor Huckabee was not  singling out Natalie Portman for ridicule or disrespect–just commenting on a national problem that she had brought to the forefront by her words at the Oscars. A few days after, he clarified his remarks: 

“In a recent media interview about my new book, A Simple Government, I discussed the first chapter, ‘The Most Important Form of Government Is a Father, Mother, and Children.’ I was asked about Oscar-winner Natalie Portman’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Natalie is an extraordinary actor, very deserving of her recent Oscar and I am glad she will marry her baby’s father. However, contrary to what the Hollywood media reported, I did not ‘slam’ or ‘attack’ Natalie Portman, nor did I criticize the hardworking single mothers in our country. My comments were about the statistical reality that most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death. That’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that society often glorifies and glamorizes the idea of having children out of wedlock.”

For the past week Natalie Portman’s words and Mike Huckabee’s response have dominated the social media. One side has said that what Natalie Portman has done is okay–it’s modern, individualistic, and is nobody else’s business. The other side has retorted that it is not helpful to our society to popularize or condone having children outside of marriage. It only hurts the kids–and the entire society in which they live.

During my lifetime, this is the second major national discussion we’ve had on out-of-wedlock births. The first occured in 1992 when Vice President Dan Quayle made his famous remarks about ficticious TV single mom Murphy Brown–and the media escoriated him for it. At the time, Quayle was tarred and feathered as prudish, out-of touch, and bigoted for his criticism of single motherhood.

Years later, the press quietly admitted that Quayle had been right–and that the growing epidemic of single parent homes was a major problem in our nation.

Apparently we have short memories.

So I welcome the debate again in 2011. Because here’s the simple truth: Sex outside of marriage is not good for people; Having children out-of-wedlock hurts kids and increases poverty; We should not glamorize or condone single parenting; We should work hard to keep our marriages intact–a gift of love, security, and prosperity to our children and their children.

That’s the bottom line.

Elevate marriage and family–discourage its counterfeits.

We are in a culture war over the future of marriage and family. Natalie Portman currently represents the secular side that wants to minimize the importance of the nuclear family. I hear a “demonic echo” coming from that direction. Satan wants to destroy kids and inflict poverty and despair upon people. One of his greatest strategies is to bend and break the traditional family.

I ask you to pray for Natalie Portman and many others like her.

Mike Huckabee represents the other side–the Judeo-Christian consensus that believes that God has something vital to say on this subject. He loves all human beings–especially vulnerable children–and created the family structure to nurture, protect, and defend them. Governor Huckabee wants families and children to be strong, productive, and fruitful.

And now you know the real reason that this story hit the front pages. Mike Huckabee might run for president of the United States in 2012, just as Dan Quayle ran for Vice President in 1992. The secular media, who do not believe in the importance of marriage and family, saw this as a great opportunity to try and cut him down to size.

Let’s not let them succeed.

Mike Huckabee is right on marriage, single parenting, and out-of-wedlock births. I asked my wife to order his book, A Simple Goverment, for my birthday.

Maybe he’s right on a few other important ideas that are vital to America’s future.



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