• Marriage •
August 19, 2005
The transition to adulthood used to be one of the main goals of the young. Adulthood was seen to be a status worth achieving and was understood to be a set of responsibilities worth fulfilling. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Now, an entire generation seems to be finding itself locked in the grip of eternal youth, unwilling or unable to grow up.
August 16, 2005
Does living together before marriage lead to successful marriages? The very fact that Psychology Today takes up this question in its August 2005 cover story is significant. In essence, the article “The Cohabitation Trap: When ‘Just Living Together’ Sabotages Love,” provides a fascinating look into how secular social science evaluates the question.
August 5, 2005
The Times [London] is reporting that many American couples are adjusting wedding vows to new concepts of marriage. “Til death do us part” is giving way to “for as long as our marriage shall serve the common good.”
There is something deeply sad about all this. According to the British paper, only one-fifth of all American weddings now feature the traditional vows from the Book of Common Prayer. Until recently, the vast majority of church weddings used some version of the traditional vows. Now, many churches allow couples virtually unlimited liberty to revise or construct vows to their own liking.
The paper reports that not all are pleased with this development: Traditionalists say increasingly popular phrases such as “I promise to be loyal as long as love lasts” are undermining the lifelong commitment that has been at the heart of marriage since St Paul told the Corinthians that a man and wife are bound together “unto the grave”.
On the other hand, bridal consultant Mary Jo Gellegos argues that the revised vows simply reflect reality: I cannot recall the last time I heard a bride promise to love unto death. People are more realistic now, especially if they are on their second or third marriage,” said Gallegos, who runs a Californian agency called An Affaire of the Heart. Her comments were echoed by another observer: Sharon Naylor, the author of Your Special Wedding Vows, said she had heard vows such as “until our time together is over”. “Yet these people take the institution very seriously, especially if they are on a second marriage. They understand that you do not make a promise you cannot keep.”
Hollywood has played its part as well. Actress Julia Roberts’ wedding to Daniel Moder featured the vow to “love, support, but not obey.” And consider this: Others merely promise good manners: Will Smith, the actor, recently revealed that when he married Jada Pinkett in 1997 “our vows did not promise to forsake all others. The vow that we made was that ‘you will never hear that I did something after the fact’. One spouse will ask the other, ‘Look I need to have sex with somebody — please approve it’.”
Civilization hangs on promises kept — and on promises worth keeping. These grotesque wedding vows are parables of our times.
July 26, 2005
Teenagers ‘Who Have Never Seen a Wedding?’ William Raspberry on ‘Why Our Black Families Are Failing’
July 25, 2005
Columnist William Raspberry has written a must-read article published in today’s edition of The Washington Post. In “Why Our Black Families Are Failing,” Raspberry argues that family disintegration begins with the loss of a marriage culture. How bad is the crisis? Here’s Raspberry’s candid analysis: “What is happening to the black family in America is the sociological equivalent of global warming: easier to document than to reverse, inconsistent in its near-term effect — and disastrous in the long run.”
He pointed to a recent press conference held by a group of black pastors. Look closely at his report:
Fatherless boys (as a general rule) become ineligible to be husbands — though no less likely to become fathers — and their children fall into the patterns that render them ineligible to be husbands.
The absence of fathers means, as well, that girls lack both a pattern against which to measure the boys who pursue them and an example of sacrificial love between a man and a woman. As the ministers were at pains to say last week, it isn’t the incompetence of mothers that is at issue but the absence of half of the adult support needed for families to be most effective.
Interestingly, they blamed the black church for abetting the decline of the black family — by moderating virtually out of existence its once stern sanctions against extramarital sex and childbirth and by accepting the present trends as more or less inevitable.
They didn’t say — but might have — that black America’s almost reflexive search for outside explanations for our internal problems delayed the introspective examination that might have slowed the trend. What we have now is a changed culture — a culture whose worst aspects are reinforced by oversexualized popular entertainment and that places a reduced value on the things that produced nearly a century of socioeconomic improvement. For the first time since slavery, it is no longer possible to say with assurance that things are getting better.
Raspberry cited a youth worker who sees teenagers “who’ve never seen a wedding.” This is a truly significant development — especially as given attention in The Washington Post. Raspberry cited the work of the Seymour Institute for Advanced Christian Studies, a group that identifies itself as “A 21st Century Think Tank for the Global Black Church.” I’ll be taking a look at the Institute’s new report on the black family.
July 22, 2005
Mark Chanski, a pastor in Holland, Michigan, thinks that many Chistian men fall far short of the biblical vision of what he calls “husbanding.” Several significant cultural factors have contributed to this reality, but Chanski sees even deeper theological issues at stake. Taking his cue from billiards, Chanski describes weak husbands as “passive nice guys,” who have fallen prey to “passive-purple-four-ballism.” The purple ’4′ ball on the pool table is passive, and so are too many men, Chanski argues. His book, Manly Dominion, is worth careful attention. Young men of the rising generation of Christian men needs this book — and so do many of their fathers. Here’s a sampling:
July 22, 2005
July 8, 2005
Yesterday’s edition of The New York Times includes an interesting opinion column by Bob Herbert entitled, “Dad’s Empty Chair.” Herbert writes with passion and insight about the problem of fatherlessness and what the absence of a father means. He looks back at the death of young Christopher Rose, the boy recently killed over an iPod, and relates the concern of Christopher’s father to protect him from the evils he knew would come for his son. Take a look at these excerpts and then read the entire article:
“I was trying to hide him away from all this violence,” Mr. Rose said yesterday. “I knew that someday, somehow, somebody was going to approach him and try to hurt him.”
There are plenty of youngsters who grow up fine without a father in the home. But that’s not a good argument in favor of fatherlessness. Most of the youngsters getting into trouble and preying on others come from fatherless homes, as Mr. Rose pointed out. “There’s no one out there,” he said, “to tell them: ‘Hello! Wake up. You guys have to stop doing what you’re doing.’ “
Kids who grow up without a father never experience that special sense of security and the enhanced feeling of belonging that come from having a father in the home. So they seek it elsewhere. They don’t get that sweet feeling of triumph that comes from a father’s approval, or the warmth of the old man’s hug, or the wisdom to be drawn from his discipline.
July 5, 2005
Stephanie Coontz is back on the op-ed pages, staying on-message with her new book about the transformation of marriage. She celebrates the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada and Spain, assured that these events serve as further evidence that marriage, at least as we have known it, is dead — or at least utterly transformed.
In her latest article, published in Tuesday’s edition of The New York Times, Coontz suggests that Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family is right when he argues that the arrival of same-sex marriage means that marriage as we have known it for 5,000 years is dead. Don’t jump to the conclusion that Coontz is with Dobson on what this means, however. Coontz simply argues that marriage has been so completely transformed — by heterosexuals — that the advocates of homosexual marriage are certain to have their way.
Here’s her main argument: Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution. Heterosexuals were the ones who made procreation voluntary, so that some couples could choose childlessness, and who adopted assisted reproduction so that even couples who could not conceive could become parents. And heterosexuals subverted the long-standing rule that every marriage had to have a husband who played one role in the family and a wife who played a completely different one. Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too.
She’s right about much of this — especially the way that heterosexuals have transformed marriage and forced the institution to adapt to autonomous individualism. What she misses is how the Christian vision of marriage is both more traditional and more revolutionary that anything she has yet seen. I’ll be revisiting Coontz and her arguments in coming days.
Meanwhile, check out this article on bisexuality from the same edition of The New York Times. It’s a masterpiece of sociology, ideology, and plain perversity masquerading as science. The article is too sexually graphic to be quoted at length here, but it was interesting that the researchers found that the majority of supposedly bisexual men are apparently homosexual in some form.
June 30, 2005
Spain–once a bastion of Catholic culture and commitment–has now embraced same-sex marriage. “Spain became the third country to legalize gay marriage Thursday in a parliament vote that left gay activists blowing kisses to lawmakers and the powerful Catholic Church issuing veiled calls for defiance,” reported the Associated Press.
From the same news story: “It is a historic day for the world’s homosexuals. We have been fighting for many years,” said Beatriz Gimeno, a longtime leader of the gay rights movement in Spain. “Now comes the hardest part, which is changing society’s mentality.” The report added that Gimeno “blinked back tears as she hugged her partner, Boti Garcia.”
June 30, 2005
The Canadian House of Commons passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage on Tuesday. The 158-133 vote puts Canada in line to become only the third country to legalize homosexual marriage, joining Belgium and the Netherlands. According to press reports, the bill needs only to be passed by the Canadian Senate (where it is supported by a wide margin) and to receive royal assent (which is considered a formality).
The Vancouver Sun celebrated the passage of the bill with an editorial claiming that the move would “enhance Canada’s reputation as a human rights leader.”
Take a look at how the paper addressed the issue of religious liberty:
Indeed, there’s reason to believe the new law will be beneficial, not just for gays and lesbians, but for their children and for society, as it recognizes and formalizes the commitment of gays to take care of each other and their families.
And though it might not be readily apparent, the law will also enhance religious freedom. Although not all religious groups oppose the law — in fact, the United Church, the second largest religious body in Canada, supports same-sex unions — many were among its most vociferous opponents.
In addition to their belief that the government shouldn’t formally recognize what they regard as sinful behaviour, many religious people fear that their churches will eventually be forced to perform gay marriages against their will.
These opponents proposed a variety of amendments to the bill to protect religious officials’ right to refuse to perform gay marriages. But as the Supreme Court of Canada made clear in Reference re Same-Sex Marriage, those amendments are generally beyond the jurisdiction of Parliament, since the provinces have authority over the solemnization of marriage.
Nevertheless, the court also maintained that “the guarantee of religious freedom in s. 2(a) of the Charter is broad enough to protect religious officials from being compelled by the state to perform civil or religious same-sex marriages that are contrary to their religious beliefs.”
The court further stated that churches could not be compelled to permit the use of church buildings for gay marriages or to otherwise assist in such unions.
Consequently, the new law actually broadens religious freedom because, while not infringing on the right of religions to refuse to perform gay marriages, it will make it possible for them to choose to sanctify same-sex marriages that are, for the first time, fully recognized in law.
Will these protections last? There is very real reason to believe that they may not last for long. Canadian “hate speech” laws have already been used to intimidate churches and Christian organizations from teaching that homosexuality is a sin. In a now-infamous exchange before the Canadian Parliament, the nation’s attorney general once refused to answer when asked if the Bible would be considered hate speech. There is big trouble up north.
SEE ALSO: Gay Marriage Around the Globe, BBC News; Gay Marriage Cements Canada’s Liberal Reputation, Reuters; A Landmark Win for Gay Couples, The Toronto Star.