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Friday, November 9, 2012
I had to wait a few days to write this post, otherwise my emotions might have had me saying things I would end up regretting. Today I’m a little less emotional, having had time to rationalize in my mind what just happened to our nation.
The truth, I’ve concluded, is that nothing “just happened.”
Culture vs. Politics
Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said,
The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.In truth, culture and politics are not so cleanly separated ideologically. Still, I believe this year’s election made more of a cultural statement than a political one.
Bottom line: our culture is in trouble. Those of us who watch and write about what our culture is doing to marriage don’t find that at all surprising. But things didn’t change on Nov 6th, and things would not have changed if the outcome of the election had been different.
The Marginalization of Marriage
It’s an established fact that marriage is on the decline in America. Three simple facts point to this most effectively:
- There are fewer married women in the US today than single women for the first time in our history, according the the US Census Bureau.
- 42% of all children born last year were born out of wedlock (by ethnicity: whites=29%, Hispanics= 53% and blacks=73%), according the the National Marriage Project 2011State of Our Unions report.
- Cohabitation in 2010 as compared to 1960 has increased by a factor of 17, and the rate is increasing. The number of cohabitating couples doubled just in that last decade.
Marriage and the Church
No doubt all these factors play a part. The question in my mind, and the one I’ve been mulling over since my election-eve disappointment, is which are causes and which are effects. For the most part, I have decided that they are effects rather than causes.
My belief is that marriage is failing largely because the church has failed marriages.
That’s a strong statement, I know, and perhaps slightly overstated. But we need to face this fact, and do something about it, if we ever hope to re-establish biblical marriage and families as the cultural foundation of our society. It’s time for the church to wake up and be the church and stop blaming our culture and society, and yes, even our government for the state of things.
My experience and observation has been that most of the church’s efforts in regards to marriage have focused on distressed marriages and divorce. That’s way too late! It’s not like that in every church, but in the majority, I would venture. We need to get comfortable in the church talking about sex and intimacy and biblical marriage roles and not leave all the discussion to secular circles. We need to challenge men to man up and lead with love. We need to accurately define biblical submission.
Most of all, we need to stop looking for solutions “out there” and start taking a hard look at ourselves.
Our Messages to Young People
Exit poll data show that young people (under 30), backed Obama and his marriage-unfriendly agenda by a huge margin, 60% compared to 37% for Romney. Why so? I believe it’s because the messages young people embrace and identify most with are coming from the culture and society at large and not from the church. We are failing to reach them with the power of the Gospel of grace because we are teaching them about rules instead of about relationship.
That carries directly over into what they understand about marriage.
Rather than focusing on simply telling our teens and young singles not to have sex, we should be explaining to them about the joy, intimacy and passion that await them in God’s amazing design for marriage. Kids should be inspired by their parent’s deliriously happy marriages. For the most part, they are not. In their piece The Marginalization of Marriage in Middle America, W. Bradford Wilcox and Andrew J. Cherlin of the Brookings Institute stated that “43 percent of moderately-educated young adults aged twenty-five to forty-four report that, ‘marriage has not worked out for most people they know.’” That is sad. Very sad.
We Have the Secret
As Christians, we have the inside track on marriage!
We know the One who invented marriage, and we have a heavenly Bridegroom who has shown us an ideal example of marital bliss in His relationship with us as his bride. What more could we ask for?
The marriages in the church should be so amazing and enduring that the world should be looking to us for answers. It’s not. Despite some differences in marriage statistics between the churched and un-churched, there isn’t nearly the contrast that there should be. After all, we have the secret: Jesus.
So what is your take on the implications for this election on the state of marriage in our nation? Please leave a comment - I really want to hear your thoughts!
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