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Friday, November 9, 2012

I have strong political opinions, but you don’t read this blog for my politics. So I’m going to try very hard to separate myself from the politics of our recent election – not an easy thing for me to do – and focus on what I see as the implications for marriage.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Why is marriage in such trouble? Is it the institution that has failed? Has it just become outdated and irrelevant to today’s “modern thinker?” Is it the fault of the media and its staunchly anti-marriage messages? Is the male bashing penchant of militant feminism to blame? Is the key to singleness of women their increasing financial independence?

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!



Anonymous said...

If by the church you are talking about the body of CHRIST. Then yes the culture has impacted the views that CHRISTIANS have portrayed in marriage. JESUS said when I return will I even find faith. The culture defines love (self),JESUS defined love (give). As the culture demonstrated by the outcome,who gave more to self won. CHRISTIAN marriages by what I've read and am experiencing shows that our marriages are reflecting the same as the culture is. Selfishness to the core. Crucified layed behind a stone,born to die rejected and alone. Like a rose trampled on the ground,HE took my fall and thought of me above all.That doesn't sound like our culture or what most CHRISTIAN marriages are displaying as the picture of CHRIST. And a HOLY GOD WATCHES his only plan that is us,become so like our culture. If the 3rd part of the GODHEAD dwells within us how can we not change what we live behind closed doors then to those that need to see the picture he designed CHRISTIANS to proudly display the GOSPEL.

Anonymous said...

I should have written humbly display the GOSPEL. Sorry and blessings.

Anonymous said...

I appreciated this post, as I am trying to make sense of the world. You are right on that our politics reflect our culture and the reality is that the American culture is different than I had hoped it would be. Changing the election results wouldn't change that.

That said, it is up to us to maintain our own culture. It's our job to do what needs to be done for our families and loved ones. Jesus said that we are no part of this world, just as he was no part of this world, and that we would be hated for it. It is distressing that the culture is going to heck in a handbasket, but it would be a more distressing situation if we were following along. The thing we can do is maintain strong marriages and relationships, be a living example to others, and continue to pray. And resolve even more to not be swayed by the culture.

Thanks for a wonderful and uplifting post!

Godly~Wife said...

I completely understand what you mean. If we don't portray a godly happy marriage in front of children and help them embrace His Word then the world will literally tear them apart. It's time for couples to stand up and fight for their marriages and to help their kids understand that you don't have to be like the world.

Scott said...

Thanks to both Anonymous commenters.

There is hope for our culture. I refuse to believe otherwise. The church, when it will stand up and be the church, the bride of Christ, can have an impact. Sadly we don't have the impact we might.

Scott said...

Godly~Wife - I think we don't realize what our marriages are saying to our children. It is hugely important! Probably even more important than what they hear from the pulpit or youth worker about marriage.

Steph said...

Wow so appreciate your blog today! I do agree with you that our society is in a downward spiral and yes christians don't seem to fair any better in regards to marriage statistics. I so want my children to see a happy marriage and to know that they do exist but it takes lots of hard work and learning to be Christ like. To daily be unselfish is a struggle for any Christian I can't imagine how it is for a non Christian. So I guess what you are saying is very true we must as Christians be a light to those who are blind and hopefully a little at a time we can influence our society to change. It scares me to think of the future for my kids if we dont change as a nation!!! Our country was founded on such high principles and it seems they have been lost along the way! Thanks for the input today!!

Anonymous said...

This was great information Scott, I too find the problem to be squarely on the shoulders of the church.

Scott said...

Thanks Steph and Robyn. We must not despair or give in. God is strongly for marriage. He made it after all.

I want to add that I did not intend this post to be bashing the church. I love the church. Jesus loves the church. We are his voice in the culture and he is able to redeem what the culture wishes to destroy.

My intent is to encourage us, myself included, to be salt and light when it comes to marriage. I have great hope along that line! I wouldn't be doing this blog if I did not.

Strong Man said...

I think you've nailed it here. Well-done.

It won't matter what's preached over the pulpit if children grow up in homes where marriage looks to be too hard and no fun. But we can improve our preaching and attitudes.

Unfortunately, for many young men, marriage looks no fun and not worth it. We need to make sure marriage is enjoyable, rewarding, and safe for men, not just women. Men need and deserve the respect that goes along with their increased responsibility as leaders.

I see too many men making tremendous sacrifices, neglecting their own needs, and always saying "yes, dear"--thinking in the process they are loving their wife--when in reality that may be the opposite of what she really wants and needs. When neither is happy, too often the recommended remedy is more of the same--which just makes it worse. Then--neither their boys nor their girls are really interested in that kind of future.

Strong Man said...

Still---I've not answered your good question about the election and marriage.

Gay "rights" advocates are suggesting the votes in Maine and Washington to allow gay marriage are a shift in momentum and reflect changing societal views about the importance of marriage.

I suggest the dramatic increase in the rate of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births is a huge problem--and that this election may be just an indicator of a cultural change, rather than a cause of anything new and dramatic.

My biggest worry is for religious freedom. That as a result of these new laws, my children will be forced to learn in government-funded schools that heterosexual marriage is morally and practically equivalent to homosexual marriage. That publishers will start requiring equal numbers of photos of gay couples and hetero couples--something that I find morally abhorrent and damaging to marriage.

We're already seeing infringements on religious freedom with forcing Catholics to allow gay couples to adopt and to fund contraception.

J said...

While I agree that the culture has been shifting against marriage for many years, I struggle with where to put the onus. Yes, the church has failed its members in many respects, but we don't reach many of these people at all now. They don't come to church, so even if we shouted from every pulpit, would it make a substantial difference?

When I was growing up (oh so many years ago), institutions like the school, the church, and even media held similar cultural norms which emphasized families. That's no longer true.

I believe the church is becoming far more like the one experienced by the Corinthians, where we exist in sharp contrast to the culture around us. I hope to be that city on the hill, the light of the world, the salt of the earth. But I do fear for whether we will take back our culture.

Paul Byerly said...

Great post!

This problem has been a long time in the making. I grew up in church, being a teen in the 70's. Watching the married folks in our church, the youth decided that if we were going to have any fun sexually, we would have to do it BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED. How sad that the godly couples we saw sent this message.

Is it better today? A bit, but not enough. Until we in the church have great marriages worth of emulation, we need to shut up and work on ourselves. (IMHO)

Anonymous said...

Marriage is dead.
It is the churches fault.
I have been saying this for over 10 years.
Marriage is the most important relationship on earth.
The church has had over 2000 years to get this right and this is the best they can do?
This is one of the main reasons I no longer call myself a christian or rather why I am no longer a christian.
Sorry for the tone, I have been bitter and angry about this for some time.

Unknown said...

The world has been trying to redefine marriage from the beginning. The voting % in the church has been horrible. We must vote our Christian Values, not the world's values. God is very clear on what is right and what is wrong.
Too many people do not want to be held responsible for their actions.
You are correct in that the church, we Christians, must stand for God's values or we will continue to be stood upon.
God Bless,

Jen said...

This is a good post. But I'll say again what I've said for years: the church needs to fulfill its duty and start standing up for what is right while not excusing what is wrong. I see the church fail to defend godliness while making excuses for sin ALL THE TIME. It stands for nothing! This isn't true of every church and is a generalization, yes, but I think the churches that will say, for instance, that living together before marriage is wrong and that, married couple staying together through a rough patch (not abuse or adultery, but just a bad season) is the right thing to do are becoming fewer and fewer. Maybe if the church stood for what is right—and pointed out that the sheep must do the same—people might pay attention to it.

Scott said...

Thanks to all for the great comments! One thing we need to realize is that WE are the church. It's not just pastors, priests and leaders. Yes leadership need to help create an environment where marriage is valued and encouraged and strengthened (and not just those in crisis). But we can do our part by relentlessly pursuing great marriages ourselves and sharing what we have with others. That's when the church is the church - in community.

Unknown said...

Having traveled all over the world, the only thing I could add would be culture and its impact on marriage and sexuality among teens. I see that this can greatly impact how a message is accepted in a culturally different atmosphere.

Austin Walker
Spiritual Life at Compass Rose Academy

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