keep a ring on it

This week’s Time magazine has an insightful cover story, “Why Marriage Matters.” Along the way it claims that “There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage. It hurts children, it reduces mothers’ financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nation’s underclass.”

And then there is this paragraph, which has implications for single moms and lesbian parents: “Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. ‘As a feminist, I didn’t want to believe it,’ says Maria Kefalas… . ‘Women always tell me, “I can be a mother and a father to a child,” but it’s not true.’ Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. ‘The mom may not need that man,’ Kefalas says, ‘but her children still do.’”

Here is the bottom-line conclusion: “The fundamental question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of the century is this: What is the purpose of marriage? Is it—given the game-changing realities of birth control, female equality and the fact that motherhood outside of marriage is no longer stigmatized—simply an institution that has the capacity to increase the pleasure of the adults who enter into it? If so, we might as well hold the wake now: there probably aren’t many people whose idea of 24-hour-a-day good times consists of being yoked to the same romantic partner, through bouts of stomach flu and depression, financial setbacks and emotional upsets, until after many a long decade, one or the other eventually dies in harness.”

“Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function—to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation’s own safe passage into adulthood? Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can’t be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children’s lives—that’s the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.”

YIKES!! What can the church do to help this situation? (Besides excommunicating the weekly Christian politician who confesses his affair—and putting a muzzle on Mark Sanford).

5 Comments

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  1. Jonathan Shelley July 4, 2009 — 6:02 pm

    I think one of Zach’s comments on “what the what?” is insightful – about having reservations about marrying someone based on bachelor/bachelorette party behavior. I think Zach’s serious approach to blessing a marriage as God’s institution underscores how lax many pastors and churches are in their teachings on marriage and the role the church ought to take in sactioning marriage. I don’t have an answer to how overworked pastors can better connect with couples during the pre-marriage counseling sessions, but I do think it is a symptom of, if not a contributor to, the fact that evangelical Christians have a higher divorce rate than the national average (according to Barna).

  2. Cover story of Time? Wow. Sounds great, but is America ready to deny themselves and do what is best for the next generation? The divorce rate and gay marriage agenda suggests not….

    Brian

  3. I’m catching up on your blog, Mike, so I’m a little late on this one. And I’m surprised it didn’t generate more discussion. Everyone must have been on vacation, grilling, or shooting of fireworks.

    eph5v2: Probably not. Are we (America) good at denying ourselves for any reason?

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the biblical material on marriage, and I can’t shake the reality that marriage is a picture of God’s relationship with his people. Yahweh was Israel’s husband (she was his unfaithful bride), and the church is the bride of Christ. This is a powerful image, and a bit unnerving when you look at typical marriages (and the divorce rate).

    What can we learn about marriage if we look at how God relates to us (and vice versa)?

    Can and should the church work at communicating this imagery more clearly (first of course to believers, but then) to the broader culture? Or will it simply fall flat?

  4. One other thought: This goes way beyond looking at marriage as a way to “raise the next generation”. It actually becomes part of proclaiming the gospel. We illustrate grace and forgiveness and make it clear for all to see by forgiving and loving our spouses well (espeically when they hurt us)….or we conceal/confuse grace and forgiveness by embracing bitterness and strife with our spouses. Ouch.

  5. Darrell:

    Mark Galli wrote an insightful cover story for Christianity Today this month on gay marriage, in which he said that once evangelicals made marriage and sex about our own personal happiness, it became harder to tell homosexuals that they couldn’t marry if it made them happy.

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