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Friday, April 16, 2010
During my morning drive to work yesterday I listened with dismay to a talk show discussion between Bill Bennett and Robert Rector concerning a National Review Online article he wrote on the problem of illegitimacy in America.

What caught my attention was this statistic: 40% of children born in 2008 were born out of wedlock. Does that number astound and frighten anyone besides me? (The article, which I read later, states that in 1963 that number was 7%, and was recognized at the time to be a growing problem.)

The interview and the article focus predominantly on the economic and societal impacts of these dismal statistics, which are profound and many, but what grieved me most are the implications for marriage.

These numbers beg the question: Is the US becoming a post-marriage society in which the institution is seen as outdated and unnecessary?

I suppose the answer lays party in how you define marriage in the first place. I participated in recent discussion over at Project M on the definition of marriage. As for me, I cannot separate marriage from its spiritual implications, so I defined that marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman (yes, I do limit it to that, as politically incorrect as I may be) made before God and the community, which includes family, friends, and society at large.

I know that many do not share my view on the importance of marriage or see it as a God-ordained and deeply spiritual in nature. Many see it as an increasingly irrelevant superstition. That breaks my heart. I think it breaks God’s heart too.

Am I over-reacting? Do you agree with me that there is an all-out attack on marriage and the traditional family coming from every direction? Do you see Satan’s fingerprints on this as I do? The stench from the decay of marriage is clear. Statistics don’t lie. Poverty and welfare increase. Children do worse in school and are more likely to get involved in crime and drugs. And there is a generational impact that seems to propagate down the family line.

I’m not saying that having a piece of paper that states you are married fixes all these problems. Not at all. Bad marriages and rampant divorce rates contribute to just as many societal ills as does illegitimacy. I suppose it isn’t surprising that so many have given up on the institution as it stands today.

The answer is found in getting back to marriage as it was originally designed by God to be, in getting to a covenantal bridal paradigm understanding that makes marriage as enriching as it is enduring.

I refuse to despair. I believe that the restoration and strengthening of marriage in our nation is not only necessary but also possible. Otherwise I would not be writing for this cause.

Will you believe with me?


Kathleen Quiring | Project M said...

Excellent post, Scott. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

You're right, those statistics are devastating. All studies on the subject suggest that children who are born to married couples thrive much better. And, like you, I believe that God ordained it to be that way. Children were not meant to be born and raised outside of marriage.

I know it probably didn't come across that way in my post which you allude to, but for me marriage is inherently spiritual as well. For me, marriage is a covenant made before God as well as human witnesses. So I definitely agree with you.

On the one hand, I want to acknowledge the secular idea of marriage as occurring simply before a community of witnesses -- I agree that these marriages have some legitimacy; but on the other hand, I don't think marriage stands much of a chance when separated from the One who designed it. So I have difficulty talking about marriage to a mixed audience. I don't want to say that their marriages aren't legitimate, but I also don't want to say that marriage doesn't need God.

I agree that marriage in this culture needs to be restored. So I'm glad we're on this team together.

Scott said...

Thanks so much, Kathleen, for sharing your thoughts.

I don't ever want to imply that marriages outside a life of faith don't have meaning. I'm sure there are great marriages out there among couples that don't have any real understanding of God's hand in its design. I'm fine with that and never mean to judge those who don't share my views on marriage.

I can understand your struggle to try to speak in your blog to a mixed audience. I have decided not to even attempt it. My burden is for those inside the church - those who believe in God, although I think some of the concepts I promote can do wonders for marriages regardless.

My hope and prayer is that one day the church will lead in this by example. The statistics and divorce and struggling marriages should be way different for those who believe, but sadly that's not the case. I'm on a mission to change that. And I'm glad we're on the same team too - maybe just playing different positions.

Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation here. Your thoughts are always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Is there all-out attack on marriage and the traditional family coming from every direction? I say yes.

I don't think we can afford to adopt the world's view on anything. We should not be content having marital relationships without the covenant agreement before God.

I think we as Christians should have a Biblical view on marriage, and make every effort to not get a divorce. The world is always watching us! Just like with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Instead of bowing to worship the image of gold themselves, some Chaldeans/people serving the king were watching them! Waiting to see if they'd bow or not! If they were doing what they were supposed to be doing they wouldn't know if the three boys bowed or not. Someone is always watching!

Anonymous said...

I think that things simply change. We know more now than we did 30 years ago in so many things. Medicine, technology, psychology, physics ... all have advanced. We know more details about things that are true, and things that are not that we once thought were.

This type of divide seems to happen in many things. I am a martial artist for example. Have been studying martial arts since I was 9 or 10. There are the traditionalist type of martial arts. Wear white, don't question the instructors, a punch is this way because it has been this way for 1000 years. Then there is the type I study. We take our knowledge of kinesiology, physics and say, actually a punch is better if done in this way. We change and abandon the old way in favour of the new. Happens all the time.

The only difference I can see with marriage is religious beliefs. And if you are not religious (in the God sense), then you have to ask yourself what is the point. One example, in this post, the author gives a definition of marriage:
"marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman (yes, I do limit it to that, as politically incorrect as I may be) made before God and the community, which includes family, friends, and society at large."

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but I personally will not teach my child that everyone is equal in the eyes of God regardless of race, everyone should be respected, God loves all and treats all equally, God is understanding and loving, then in my next breath say but if you love someone of the same sex, God doesn't approve. It is inconsistent and I would expect my child to call me or anyone else on it. And if she did call me on it, I couldn't give her a good answer. My parents couldn't give me one that was acceptable and logical.

My point with marriage is that I think that society view on marriage is really a fall out from the many different religions and beliefs that people have. As such you will never obtain an agreement on what marriage is and what it isn't. But the discussion of course allows people to ponder and further define it for themselves which is a good thing.

I have been married for 14 years and my wife and I are very strong in our relationship. Our views and beliefs have changed since we first were married -- I believe for the better.

Scott said...

Favor, thanks for your comments. I agree that the world is watching the church/Christians and by and large isn't impressed with what it sees. It will take more than a dramatic decline in divorce rate and rock-solid marriages to change that, of course, but that's a good place to start!

Clear, I appreciate you coming here and I'm glad you shared your perspective. I agree with you that things chage over time and that it is only natural. I guess what I'm questioning is whether the change away from the centrality of biblically defined marriage in our culture is a good or a bad thing. Of course, my opinion is that it's a bad thing.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the same-sex marriage question. I don't really want to debate it, but I would like to state clearly that I know that God loves gays just as much as straight people. It's not inconsistent to love someone and to disapprove of their actions at the same time. I know because I have kids.

I have purposefully targeted this blog at Christian marriages, but I always welcome contributions by those who don't hold a similar Christian world view. Dialogue and diversity of opinion help us all gain clarity on our beliefs. Stop by any time.

Anonymous said...

I am not trying to debate the same-sex marriage, it was just a point. For what it is worth, I grew up Christian specifically Roman Catholic. Went to Church every Sunday, participated in Church activities, so I understand it quite well, just don't agree with a lot of it. Christian religions have good intentions for the most part, just the execution sometimes causes issues.

You have answered one question I had -- the fact that you target Christian marriages immediately separates "marriages", which creates segregation, so an objective of a 'single' definition of marriage is by it's very nature not possible. At the end of the day, as long as everyone respects everyone Christian or otherwise it is all good.

Gretchen said...

Yes, I see Satan's fingerprints all over it. I am saddened and scared for our country; but praise Him for the peace that passes understanding when I become aware of scary statistics (like 40%, yikes!)

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