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February 15, 2014

What is marriage now?

A recent article declared “Marriage died in 2013” www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/12/31/marriage-died-in-2013 . Extreme maybe, but the fact is marriage has been “dying” in our culture for some time. Consider that the divorce rate is somewhere around 50%. Although the data may be arguable (data always are), this rate appears to be 4-5 times the rate in 1900. I won’t quibble; the rate is much higher than in the past. For that alone, one could suggest marriage is dying. Let’s think back then to that time, or 1950 for that matter: Marriage was generally considered normal for young men and women and normal marriage was: between a male and female (you would not have needed clarify that), maybe 16-20 years of age. They had a small wedding; they probably married in a church. They then lived together and started raising a family. The wife did not work outside the home. Divorce, cohabitation, homosexuality, and polygamy were taboo. Birth control was minimal. I am just saying, this is under that big bell-shaped curve; I am not saying things were perfect.
At the beginning of the 21st century, in addition to the much wider acceptance of divorce, both cohabitation and homosexuality are widely accepted. Polygamy, curiously, remains taboo. Furthermore, there are more marriages without children, and of course, a very large portion of mothers is in the workforce. For various reasons, we have a very high rate of single parent homes. All of these factors challenge, and most diminish marriage. It has become less and less of a cultural institution, and certainly less sacrosanct.
The divorce rate and cohabitation have crept up on us, in some ways. Acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage has come about by a very organized and powerful lobby. Roles of women have changed as women have become empowered, largely by their own abilities, and rightfully so. Polygamy is still under consideration.
If the question is the need for some sort of civil union to officially recognize a relationship, why not? It truly may be extended to whatever type of union one would like recognized by the state. The author of the above article contends that polygamy will be one of those. I agree, and ironically, there is no clear moral reason that it should not be. Some have even “married” their pets. Child marriage is practiced in some countries; will that be sought here? The door is swinging wide open; there are various opportunities. If a person wishes to confer relational legal status to another, again, why not?
But the status of marriage is another matter. Our society will have to decide, and is deciding, both how marriage will be defined and what it will do with the vacated former roles of traditional marriage. Especially, society must be concerned with the environment in which children will be raised. Unfortunately, the train has left the station. In our country and the western world, the new paradigm is here. In fact, there is no room for discussion, especially when it comes to gay marriage. The courts are redefining marriage almost weekly, as they strike down state laws.
All of these developments would have been shocking in the early 1900’s. To some, they are shocking now. To those who hold to the traditional form and even sanctity of marriage, I would suggest this form of marriage will still exist. Hold it and guard it. It will be by choice that couples choose and validate this path. Churches should be even more careful to uphold all of the traditional meanings and the honor of marriage. Those who wish to pursue some form of union outside traditional mores and outside the church, let them be. This battle cannot be won, as we move toward a more secular society.