By James Coburn
Congressman James Lankford called on churches to step up and help people with families.
Divorce rates in Oklahoma are ranked in the top five in the U.S., according to okmarriage.org. Divorce rates even have an effect on the U.S. economy, Lankford said Tuesday evening at a town hall meeting at the University of Central Oklahoma. Lankford will run for re-election. Edmond Democrat Tom Guild has announced his intention to run for the 5th Congressional District office as well.
Divorce rates among husbands and wives living in southern states are higher than their counterparts in other parts of the U.S., 10.2 per 1,000 for men and 11.1 per 1,000 for women, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Four of the 10 states with fewer than average divorce rates for women, ranging from 6.0 to 8.9, were Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
"We have a dramatic increase in government because our families are collapsing," said Lankford, R-Edmond. "The weaker our families become, the more government has to step in and help them."
Americans are compassionate when they see children and women in need, he said. People begin to engage as a society to help families through their churches, the United Way and independent agencies. The federal safety net also responds to families in need.
"But as the family collapses, we engage even more, which sometimes causes the family to collapse even more, and it's growing on us," Lankford said. "We've got to transition a couple of things. One thing is we've got to transition our safety net to be a safety net. It has become a hammock for some people rather than a safety net."
Lankford said families are destroyed along with their self esteem when people who receive perpetual funding. Children grow up watching their family members' lose their self esteem without a route out of government dependency, Lankford said.
"I think it destroys their guidance," Lankford said. "Every person is created in the image of God. They have value."
It is also important not to destroy the outreach in place for securing families, he said. America must find a way to help people discover their own gifts and value, Lankford said. Partnering people to mentor and connect with families through churches and by adopting classrooms will help future generations, he said.
"Your church should lead the way in helping families," Lankford said. "And if your church is not doing that, find some way for churches to get involved in that."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture noted in its annual report that from 2008-10, an average of one in six Oklahoma households, 16.4 percent, experienced food insecurity.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama called for changes in Head Start. His office released a list of 132 Head Start programs in 40 states that he said are deficient.
"These programs will now have to compete for federal funding," Obama said.
Lankford commended Obama for saying there are many things that the federal government cannot fix in life, families being one of them.
"I completely agree with him on that," Lankford said.
The need for mentors is not something the federal government cannot solve, Lankford said. As a college student, Lankford observed families at his church to learn the values of a successful marriage. Lankford spoke of his own family in which every one has been divorced except for himself and his wife Cindy.
"Cindy and I have the longest marriage in our family. And it has meant a great deal to us and our kids to break that chain," he said.