When I was home I was watching the Today Show with my mom at breakfast. On the Today Show talking with Matt Lauer were three ladies who had written some books I think. The topic was “marriage in America.” (Apparently also the cover of a recent Time magazine.) These three career-driven business-suit women were of the opinion that marriage in America is no longer the strong-social-mandate most people used to assume for 30-70 year olds, but should be completely optional. Why? Many reasons, including the divorce rate, the cohabitation rate, and most prominently, the recent women-in-careers outranking men statistic. Apparently more women are earning more university degrees and finally taking more high paying jobs than men. I do believe this should be applauded in so much as they are equals in the workplace, and we should be chided for our geeked-out gamer-laziness and hangovers. My agreement, though, ends there.
So far at the breakfast table, I wasn’t seriously caught off guard. However, I dropped my spoon into my cereal when they said:
Falling in love after years of building wealth can make life complicated. Cohabitation with a partner can often prevent this complication. Tying the knot can sometimes make it worse.
Make what worse? Marriage might raise your taxes? It is likely to decrease your usable income? It is likely to increase your liability and stunt your career plans? Cohabitation with how many partners?
God help us. When did career become the holy-grail of life? That line of thinking is completely based on the assumption that what people say about me is the best pleasure life can afford. That my photo on some wall or my name on some plaque or my company’s stock on some Forbes list is the marker of success, therefore, the aim of life and the source of happiness – is a HUGE leap of faith (the same type as a religious leap of faith for the record.) Or that a permanent commitment to someone else won’t help me in my life goals but instead get in the way – just as big of an assumption. As if “earning it” is more important than “living it” or “loving it” – thanks Game of Life.
Prov 4:23 “Guard your heart, because the heart is the wellspring of life.” Heart being in the family / relationships category.
Or this new line of thinking is also based on the assumption that men are only boys that can shave and get in the way of a woman’s future. Where are the men with integrity, the knights that we were told we would marry when we watched disney movies, they ask? The men with a masculinity for good, not just for chauvinism and getting a loaded house with an NFL man-cave? Well we don’t see any, they say, so let’s move on without them.
Let’s not get this career-prioritizing confused with the often sacrificial community-driven social-change careers for the good of your city. Feeling a calling to something (doctor, nurse, social worker, teacher, urban planner, school administrator, police officer) is a noble pursuit and I’d argue leads to much more job satisfaction than your typical start-up / business career. I’d also argue if you’re truly sacrificing money or time for this job, you will need a spouse to help you and make ends meet. I’m not sure these women were talking about that.
There seems to be no harm in cheering for singles. There are also times and situations that call people to be single, before marriage, or even good reasons for a divorce although it is a sad tragedy. But what was alarming to me was that they were trying to create a norm that marriage wasn’t necessarily better for our country, and that it’s becoming obsolete. Being alone is better, these women were saying, because it gives a horizon of freedom to a woman’s future they’ve never had before. Marriage can lock someone down. They ask, why did we believe in these happily ever after endings, because reality has never given a story like that. Freedom can be found in pursuing our natural desires for career and sex with multiple partners, they implied.
This argument is not a far cry away from “if it feels good, do it.” This is the naturalist argument, the argument that says it must be the way of nature, and how can nature be wrong? Just like your natural, hormonal sex-drive increase in teens and twenties must mean there’s no reason to save sex for marriage. Bible chimes in and says “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick…” (Jer 17). Some people also say: why does the church have to make us feel like sluts when we are doing something normal and natural. Well, we don’t mean to guilt you, but free sex with anyone is not God’s plan: we are trying to help you, not hate on you. We are trying to help you have a theology of the fall. The fall says: there is something wrong with the world. There is something wrong with the things that you and I desire because it leads to chaos and destruction, not to mention open sex leads to actual death through STDs and HIV. There is something wrong with you and me, and if you’ve missed that, you’ve missed basic christianity. Let’s not move on abstinence when people are unaware of that basic foundation of sin. The fall is the foundation for building a house, abstinence is like the paint or the front door. You won’t have a door if you don’t have a house.
So no, what’s natural is not always what’s right. Unfortunately, following the call of nature leads civilizations to become like ancient Egypt, Babylon or Rome. Pursuing pleasure, power, strength, but sacrificing love civility and peace along the way. The bible again says: the way of a man seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to folly and destruction. Death. (Prov 14:6). This is why the bible so often call us sheep: we don’t know the right way to go.
Not to mention the breakdown of the family structure will always lead to the rise of individualistic, competitive, rational-only, cold careless citizens interested in their personal satisfaction. Why have families? Because they prevent that kind of society. They are what have made America the super-power and the serving-leadership-model that it is. They are the nucleus of love for the individual, teaching us how and why we shouldn’t be assholes. Can teachers teach that? Should they have to? I guarantee you’ll never see that or other strong morals on public school curriculum. (Lesson plan: stop them from being assholes.)
We all know kids and friends who come from broken homes: it’s their souls that are damaged (mind, heart, will.) You can’t put your finger on it by looking at them or even testing them scholastically. Some will still have the school-smarts, but is THAT THE ONLY TEST WE HAVE FOR OUR KIDS? When did heart stop mattering? When did we become this cold-sleek steel-producing machine of a country that is only interested in the bottom line but not in people and the success of relationships? Profit before people? Commerce before compassion?
I am seriously afraid for America. We need the gospel.
My other problem would be in the category of what I call “lack of looking at our presuppositions.” Our culture has a way of changing our habits based on our changing desires, not based on what is true or testable. Some innocent, some not. If we work late, coffee shops should stay open late and even have drive thrus. (Why must we work late, not asked.) If we are constantly traveling, we will need a smart phone that can tell us everything we need to know that we wouldn’t know since we’re on the go all the time. (Why are we jet-setting for business so much, not asked.) If we aren’t happy with our attraction to the opposite gender, let’s go with what does turn us on. (Why is our attraction unnatural, not asked.) If we don’t think homosexuality is wrong, let’s change marriage. (Why is homosexuality on the rise, not asked. What does the bible, the source of the church, say about marriage; not asked.) If marriages don’t work, why can’t we have multiple short-term marriages in our life spans? (Why is marriage not working, not asked!)
Like this. “Marriage: Let’s call the whole thing off.” This is one of the most depressing articles on marriage you could ever read. Divorce happens for a myriad of reasons, but can we all start to see what happens when we have lonely hearts? When hearts are lonely hunters, finding something else to go after in life that the marriage doesn’t provide, happily ever after won’t do it. What makes our hearts seek something else besides what we find in our spouse? First of all it’s sin. Our hearts deceive us and we need a savior. And also, possibly it’s that we expect our spouses to do something a mere human could never do: complete us in some way or be the hero for our best interests they could never be. Jesus said “he knew what was in man,” that we gravitate towards selfishness in every way and away from selflessness. He also said “have no other gods before me”, which would include our wife or our husband.
What about cohabitation? Does that help the marriage trend or weaken it? This first article shows the sociological trends changing our country in the last ten years. No longer is it taboo to be living with a partner to whom you’re not (yet) married or not planning to marry. Everyone is doing it, so it must be right. Don’t be the fish against the stream. Well here is why Cohabitation isn’t the best plan. It can devalue your idea of marriage, it can damage you emotionally, and it is an open door to compromising your sexual values. By cohabiting, you’re telling someone to whom you say “I love you” that they can live with you, but they don’t have to marry you. Where is the love, the commitment in that? Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s an ability.
Love and Finances: Is Marriage a Dumb Move? Just more logs on the fire that money is more important to a majority of America than Love. But I though Paul said all we need is Love?
We need Love himself.
At the end of the day, I take hope in the fact that I have young friends who are happily, sometimes even blissfully married. Everywhere from 23-33. Not to quote them here, but they have told me things time and again, or written on blogs, about how unbelievable the sex / companionship / luminosity of a christian marriage can be. While never perfect or Cinderalla, God’s design for a marriage seems to be a great one. I’ll argue the best one. Yes, there are fights and breeches of trust and temptations etc. But by confessing to God and the power of grace, they can move past it. And by living by God’s biblical design, they find happiness because the happiness is not the holy-grail. When people see outside themselves and serve one another, having hearts grateful to God and pointing to God, happiness comes because personal happiness is not the point. When they wrestle with their identities and desires, finally reaching a place where they are not seeking some other island in the west of “if I only have that, then I’ll be happy,” healthy marriage and family seems to be more than they could ever think it would be. Certainly more joy than success can ever give you. At least four young couples I know have told me how great it is, and obviously I look up to older godly families as well, but the trick is they worship God with their joy and have their hopes set not on their own bliss, but on something bigger: the source of all joy himself.
39% of Americans polled believe marriage is becoming obsolete? Let me be part of the 61%.
“Let marriage be held in high honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Hebrews 13:4