The Murphy Brown Debate- 19 Years Later

On May 19, 1992, then Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle, dared to argue in a San Francisco speech that the Los Angeles riots were caused in part by a “poverty of values” that included the acceptance of unwed motherhood, as celebrated in popular culture by the CBS comedy series Murphy Brown. The title character, a divorced news anchorwoman, got pregnant and chose to have the baby, a boy.  The episode was watched by 38 million Americans. “It doesn’t help matters,” Quayle complained, when Brown, “a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman” is portrayed as “mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another ‘life-style choice.’ ” (TIME magazine).

In 1990, 30% of all children were born out-of-wedlock; today the percentage hovers well over 40%.   At that time, Mr. Quayle was called things like “the world’s greatest fool.”  But was he?  “After the 1992 election, the family values issue seemed to fade. Dan Quayle’s attack on Murphy Brown’s single motherhood backfired. The public clearly preferred candidate Clinton’s focus on the economy and his more inclusive version of the family theme: family values means valuing families, no matter what their form.” (  After awhile, we were then thrown in a long discussion concerning what the definition of “is” is.  It seems like Americans too quickly forgot Quayle’s admonition to traditional family values but remember Clinton with fondness.

Such alarming trends have caused some to say, “The family trend of our time is the deinstitutionalization of marriage and the steady disintegration of the mother-father child raising unit. This trend of family fragmentation is reflected primarily in the high rate of divorce among parents and the growing prevalence of parents who do not marry. No domestic trend is more threatening to the well-being of our children and to our long-term national security.”

Within one’s lifetime they will either have to change the truth of God’s Word or allow the truth to change them.  In our homes, our personal lives, and our communities, we must be true representatives of the truths found in God’s Word or face the extinction of Biblical values in our own generation.  The stakes are high and we cannot afford such an awful return on God’s investment.

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