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Following the most recent election cycle, “family values” conservatives like Tony Perkins heralded the supposed return of an America where evangelicals ran the show. These conservatives cited statistics like those published by the Pew Research Center, which reported 44 percent of voters cast their ballots based upon social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. And of course, that November, all 11 states with proposed initiatives passed constitutional amendments that placed a ban on homosexual marriages in their respective states. Moreover, the opposition toward homosexual marriages is staying constant. According to a survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports in July, 66 percent of Americans look unfavorably on homosexual marriages.
However, the way Americans view family, marriage and sexual practices is in no way an endorsement of traditional Christian ideas about life. To claim so might be a calculated political move, but it has nothing to do with orthodox theology or correct statistics.
Some of the very people who vehemently oppose and criticize homosexual marriage are basking in the hypocritical light of a double standard. Their mantra is “save marriage” – from homosexuals presumably – but the practices of the average American have nothing to do with a devotion to chastity. In other words, what is marriage being saved from when Britney Spears, while in a drunken stupor, gets married in Vegas for 55 hours? And aside from social repercussions, there’s very little encouragement from our nation for couples to stay married.
Statistically, somewhere between 40 to 45 percent of marriages end in divorce. According to studies conducted in the early ’90s, more than half of all first marriages begin with cohabitation, and about 40 percent of U.S. children will live with their unmarried mother and her boyfriend before their 16th birthday.
Additionally, a recent survey of wedding planners showed that half of this year’s 2.6 million marriages in America will take place in a house of worship, and only about 20 percent of those marrying will stick to the traditional vows – apparently, the new thing to do is make a vow of commitment “as long as love lasts” or as long as the marriage “serves the common good.” On the premarital end of things, Northern Kentucky University researchers found in 2003 that 61 percent of those who signed abstinence-till-marriage pledges broke their commitments. And, of the other 39 who didn’t, 55 percent said they’d had oral sex and didn’t consider it to be sex.
The devotion to real marriage is truly floundering. It’s not as if we’re on the slippery edge of total moral anarchy, but the values of a stable marriage and family have been lost on the 20th century and even as we begin the 21st century.
The blame for this failure cannot, however, be laid on the feet of homosexuals in this country. While it is much easier to villainize homosexuals as the threat to marriage in American society, as if Rosie O’Donnell was hiding behind a bush waiting to mug it off us, the true source of our family, marriage and sexual problems, as Christians perceive them, is the fact that we do not value monogamy. Yes, homosexuals seeking to redefine traditional marriage are a threat, but not nearly as widespread as the lusts of the heterosexual.
St. Paul taught the first century Corinthians that marriage is to last until death, and St. Augustine taught that marriage is a holy sacrament. Yet, even within many in the contemporary Christian community, such high devotion to the marriage union is not evident. Within the greater popular culture, the command to marry till death is a joke. Conservatives harp about the importance of what we, as a society, endorse, but since we already endorse no-fault divorce, it’s hard to find much virtue in our Americanized marriages.
Serious marriage and chastity is not found in America, and the virtues exhibited by society no doubt have a relationship to this failure. The wrongs of redefining marriage began long ago and are a result of the failures of heterosexuals. These problems will not end at legislation or litigation; rather, this culture war will play out in the hearts and minds of individuals.