Pew Research recently released some numbers that offer a glimpse into America’s growing disconnect with marriage and the ideas of traditional family structures.
“Indeed, about 39 percent of Americans said marriage was becoming obsolete. And that sentiment follows U.S. census data released in September that showed marriages hit an all-time low of 52 percent for adults 18 and over.” (AP)
Considering the moral climate in our country this isn’t shocking. But there is a bigger issue wrapped up in this discussion that doesn’t typically find a voice. The majority of the arguments orbiting the marriage/family debate are financial (taxes, benefits, ect…) and traditional (Judeo-christian cultural ethics). Could it be, however, that the greatest benefits of marriage don’t have anything to do with finances or the mindset of “we’ve always done it this way”? GK Chesterton said that before you tear down a fence you should probably try to find out why it was put up in the first place.
In the same AP article was a quote from Andrew Cherlin, a professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. He said,
“Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn’t dominate family life like it used to…Now there are several ways to have a successful family life, and more people accept them”
It would seem that success, in the eyes of secular sociology, isn’t defined by any objective standard at all. What is meant by “succesful” in this “willy-nilly” definition? Staying together for a long time? Pooling financial resources to the benefit of both parties? Reducing the collective carbon footprint through cohabitation?
Author Paul Tripp makes this observation: “Marriage is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end.” Until Christians (not evangelical t-shirt wearers, but legitimate followers of Christ) can see that marriage was built by God to do more than merely benefit a society, or be a financial steroid, or bring stability to a culture we are without an argument that carries any legitimate “Gospel-weight”. Ephesians 5 says that marriage is a mystery that was designed and instituted to reveal things about our relationship with God that we could never understand without it. So essentially, marriage is about discipleship and spiritual maturity.
It is only with this kind of mindset and mentality that the Church will ever be able to leverage the power of the Spirit of God in this discussion. Every other argument simply sounds like political rhetoric and tradition-for-tradition’s-sake nonsense.