In his book How the Irish Saved Civilizationauthor Thomas Cahill described the outsized role the small island played in preserving literacy and learning between the fall of Rome and emergence of the medieval period. Perhaps, if a book on Ireland is written 1,500 years from now, the title will be How the Irish Lost the Civilization It Saved.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, a referendum will be held on whether to erase the word “mother” from the Irish constitution. As originally written, the Irish constitution included provisions to protect traditional roles for women, particularly their role within the home. Now, some think that to better reflect current sensibilities, the constitution should read “the provision of care, by members of a family to one another by reason of the bonds that exist among them.”

No reference to mothers or to women.

The change might seem small, but it would put Ireland in the position of attempting to be the first nation in history to eliminate from its governing language words that describe objective realities about people. After all, “people” are, in reality, a boy, a girl, a man, a woman, a husband, a wife, a mother, or a father. To either redefine or eliminate this linguistic precision makes no real sense, outside of an imposition of radical gender ideology that seeks to eliminate certain ideas by eliminating words while also implementing other ideas through new words.

On the chopping block in this referendum is not only the support for stay-at-home moms and the recognition of the role of women as caregivers, but also the natural family itself. Another proposed change is to remove reference to marriage as the foundation of the family and the family as the foundation of society. This would enable another change proposed for an earlier section, to state that family is founded either “on marriage or on other durable relationships” (emphasis added).

To be clear, these changes are as ideological as they are linguistic, an inevitable part of an ongoing frontal assault upon Ireland’s historical Christian foundations. They track with larger trends sweeping through the Western world. Historically, some of these changes go back as far as the Industrial Revolution, when factories replaced households as the fundamental unit of production, and husbands and wives left their homes to work in factories. (Children did too, until laws were passed to regulate child labor.)

Few recognized at the time how the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution would erode the family’s central place in society, not to mention family stability, as husbands and wives went to work in different jobs. The exception was in Catholic social teaching. As a result, when the Irish constitution was written in 1937, the framers sought to protect the family by identifying it as the fundamental building block of society. The specific article regarding mothers aimed to protect them from the economic pressures to go to work. This, like the constitution’s ban on divorce, which was rescinded by referendum in 1995, was intended to protect the family.

Unfortunately, these intentions have proven to be insufficient. Economic pressures and elevated financial expectations have made two-income households the norm in the Western world. Radical strains of feminism and other related ideologies constantly deny the differences between men and women in the workforce and in family life, while constantly portraying traditional family life as oppressive to women. These same ideas, now behind the current proposed changes to the Irish constitution, were also behind the legalization of abortion in Ireland in 2018.

Ironically, though these ideas are often argued in the name and spirit of liberating women, they’ve instead made men the ideal, both in their social roles and in their ability to have consequence-free sex. Attempting to make women interchangeable with men on every level, feminist philosophies downplayed women’s strengths and unique abilities. This created the space necessary to theorize about gender as something distinct and separate from sex, determined not by biological realities but by the roles the two sexes play in society. Having already erased any distinctives, no firm foundation remained to define “man” or “woman.” Thus, we hear, sex is assigned, gender is non-binary, and “woman” is a subjective experience.

Though Ireland has never been a leading source of these ideas, putting them into law is a bellwether for whether the civilization they saved will be able to continue.

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Dr. Glenn Sunshine. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to

Image credit: ©GettyImages/e55evu

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can't find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.