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Saturday, March 12, 2011
This is the second in a series on a recent marriage study “The State of Our Unions 2010” published by the UVA National Marriage Project.  If you missed it, you can catch part 1 here, where I examine the influence of shifting attitudes on premarital sex and cohabitation.

Changes in religious practices is the second factor the study reported affecting the state of marriages among the moderately educated, which the study defines as having a high school diploma, but no college degree. Here is a telltale chart:

The report describes the trend this way:
Over the last 40 years, then, Middle America has lost its religious edge over their more highly educated fellow citizens.

So in a striking turn of events, highly educated America is now both more marriage-minded and religious than is moderately educated America—in some important ways. Accordingly, Middle Americans are now markedly less likely than they used to be to benefit from the social solidarity, the religious and normative messages about marriage and family life, and the social control associated with regular churchgoing, especially in comparison with their neighbors who graduated from college.

I understand that the report is written from a secular viewpoint, but it doesn’t exactly stir up my passion for seeing the church be a radical source of hope for marriages. What they say sounds more like a bunch of religious platitudes: social solidarity, positive marriage and family messages, and social control. What the heck is social control anyway and what does it have to do with Jesus?

Anyway, it makes me want to jump up and down and shout, “There is so much more to it than that!!”

On the surface, there is clearly a correlation between the dramatic decline in regular church attendance and the shift in sexual mores that I discussed in my last post. With the shift away from faith in the vast middle there is a corresponding dramatic increase in the acceptance of pre-martial sex and cohabitation. This is bad news for marriages. Now, I’m not naïve enough to claim that those who simply attend church will automatically follow the biblical path of abstinence before marriage.

But truthfully, where else besides the church are people going to hear hope-filled, marriage-positive messages? Nowhere else.

But the sacramental and covenantal nature of marriage is not just a bunch of religious rules. It’s totally not about the “thou shalt nots.” God’s design for marriage is not intended to rob you of pleasure or passion. NO! It is exactly the opposite. The fact is that God designed it the way he did in order MAXIMIZE pleasure and passion for a lifetime.

His way is the surest foundation for a lifelong marital bliss.

My feeling is that the church, in general, puts to much emphasis on the sinful nature of premarital sex and cohabitation, wagging a religious finger in the face of young adults. And while I do believe that these things go against the heart of God and can reap future damage to both our souls and our bodies, the greater tragedy is that we often miss the chance to portray the beauty and power of God’s intended design by focusing too much on the avoidance of sin. Accusation doesn’t very often bring people into the light or change their behavior.

Instead let the church paint a clear picture of a more excellent way, a way that results in better marriages, deeper marital intimacy and more fulfilling sex lives. Let’s have millions of examples of terrific marriages in the church be a shining light that not only wakes people up to the hope that is God’s design for marriage, but even draws people back to Jesus by the beauty and passion in the Christian marriage they observe.

Let us be an amazing, powerful and compelling living picture of Christ and the Church!!

This is my hope. Yes, I dream big.


Tom and Debi Walter said...

We read this excellent post on our way home after church this morning and wanted to thank you for saying so well our thoughts exactly!

Marriages were created to mirror Christ's love for His Bride, the church. If we are doing our job well, others will be drawn to Him through what they see on display in our relationship. This certainly raises the bar of WHY we pursue great marriages - it's all for HIM. And just like God He gives us great gifts as a result.

We continue to be amazed at the gift God has given us in knowing HIM and in loving each other. After 32 years, it just gets better and better. Yeah, Christians who are married and put God first have the best sex. It's a well-kept secret that maybe shouldn't be so secret anymore.

We will most likely be referring to this post in the next week on our blog. You've really stirred us up - thank you, and God bless you richly!

Tom and Debi

Scott said...

Tom and Debi,

Thanks so much for your comment! You two are just a bit ahead of our almost 29 years, but we feel as you that it just keeps getting better every year!

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