In the year 1900, the American scholar Albert Edward Winship conducted a study entitled “Jukes-Edwards: A Study in Education and Heredity,” involving two families. The family of Jonathan Edwards were staunch followers of Christianity; Jukes, the head of the second household, was an atheist.
Jukes and Edwards were not strangers to one another. In fact, Jukes had once openly chastised the latter for his faith: “You believe in Jesus,” he said, “but I will never do!”
Winship traced the development of both family lines for almost 200 years preceding 1900, before compiling his findings into the book. The extraordinary results can be summarized as follows:
The Edwards family had a cumulative population of 1,394, including a number of noted professionals: 100 university professors, 14 university principals, 70 lawyers, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 60 writers, 300 pastors and theologians, 3 legislators, and 1 vice president.
The Jukes family had a cumulative population of 903, within which there existed many folk of a lower demographic: 310 hoodlums, 130 prisoners (serving upwards of 13 years), 7 murderers, 100 alcoholics, 60 thieves, 190 prostitutes, 20 businessmen, and 10 business students in educational prison reform.
Winship’s readership has often questioned the difference between the two family lines. Were socio-economic factors the only factors at play in the relative successes of the Edwards family? Some have argued that the answer to the Jukes family’s successful lineage lies, quite simply, in the power of faith.
The importance of faith
To expound this idea, sympathizers of the Edwards family have identified two important seeds that were planted by the family’s faithful ancestors, and were cultivated by the generations that followed.
The first seed was one of goodness and love. Indeed, the Edwards family produced a number of people who gravitated towards benevolent professions: doctors, professors, and educators.
The second seed was the fear of God. Children born into the Edwards family were taught that “God follows you, and He will always know what you do.” It could be argued that the Edwards’ moral behavior stemmed from a deep respect for the omnipresent gaze of God.
Why, then, did the Jukes family produce so many deviants? This family, conversely, did not educate their children to have faith or fear the wrath of God.
Without God, some argue, the Jukes children had the space to believe that they were infallible. Faith and love, when harnessed in conjunction with humility, have the power to achieve greatness.
The Jukes children dared to commit sinful deeds. For those who have faith, earthly laws will only go so far towards providing adequate punishment for sinners but heaven’s law has the final word.
If Winship’s findings can be distilled into a moral message, we might conclude that teaching our children to love and have faith is the kindest lesson we can give them. The Edwards family enjoyed success through multiple generations, and they needn’t be the only ones.