This week it was reported that the New Zealand Prime Minister is expecting a child with her partner. They are a lovely couple, but why don’t they get married? Is it because women want to retain their independence and the men do not want to be tied down? Marriage is not necessary any more for social acceptance. Weddings have become fewer and fewer. Church weddings even rarer. What is the Christian view of this sea change?
Marriage is rooted in our creation. Genesis 2:24 tells us: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they will become one flesh.” These words were quoted by Jesus: “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-8)
Jesus affirmed the definition of marriage in terms of the original biological creation: the male uniting to the female. This is the normative pattern of human completion.
This is the biblical understanding of marriage. Whatever the state, courts, or different cultures may decide, the biblical understanding of marriage is between one man and one woman. Only a man and a woman can become ‘one flesh’ in a procreative and unitive way. That is the way God made all creatures, male and female, to reproduce. The pleasurable biological unity of the man and the woman is designed by God for procreation to ensure the future of the family and the marriage.
This understanding of marriage is under attack today. The National Marriage project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the New York based Institute for American Values has issued a report entitled “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America.” They conclude that the basic foundations of American life are in jeopardy with a growing decline in marriage among the middle class.
What has caused this trend? The authors of the report identify three factors:
- Permissive attitudes. There is more acceptance of divorce and extramarital sex.
- More risky behaviors, such as multiple sexual partners and marital infidelity, neither of which contribute to stable marriages.
- The decline of middle class values such as emphasis on education and deferred gratification.
A nationwide poll and census data analysis by the Pew Research Center in association with Time magazine show that only 52 percent of American adults were married in 2008, and the proportion of those surveyed who said they think marriage is becoming obsolete jumped to 39 percent. Thirty eight percent of American children are now born outside marriage. The acceptance of cohabitation, contraception, and abortion, has separated sexual activity from marriage. Only 40 percent of Americans consider children fundamental to marriage.
Those who argue for a new definition of marriage maintain that it is no longer a social or sacred institution but a private contract. As a result of easy divorce there has been an eroding of lifetime commitment and an explosion of multiple marriages, serial polygamy, or consensual cohabitation. When marriage is seen to be no more than an official rubber stamp affixed to a purely private contract, people cease to see the point of it.
What do you think? Why are people not getting married as they used to? I would be interested in your comments.