With the news of COVID-19 choking our email in-boxes and our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik-Tok pages, you probably missed the recent data and statistics about the death of marriage in American culture. Looks like this glorious institution is going the way of 8-track tapes and typewriters. But, sadly, this is no surprise for those of us who love marriage and who examine American culture and its downward spiral related to marriage, family and sexuality.
The story with its alarming date was released April 29, 2020, in a flurry of headlines-US News & World Report (https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2020-04-29/us-marriage-rate-drops-to-record-low); United Press International (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2020/04/29/US-marriage-rate-is-at-record-low/9591588188259/); ad infinitum.
The bad news, actually, came out of a federal agency that we have been hearing much about, unrelated to marriage, however. The news came from The National Center for Health Statistics' National Vital Statistics System, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-not the agency nor its data that most American view nor are interested in tracking. The report stated and revealed that the “U.S. marriage rate is lower than at any point in over a century (1867!), with only 6.5 unions per 1,000 people.” In order words, marriage is dead; if not dead, it has been intubated, on life support and the peak/flow volume on the respirator/intubation dial is on its highest level ever.
Respectfully submitted by Dr. William Devlin, volunteer CEO of REDEEM!, an organization committed to sharing God’s Love in 15 countries in the war zones. Devlin has his earned doctorate in urban emotional trauma.
Culture watchers, prognosticators and futurists were predicting the death of marriage since the late 1960’s. Remember the ‘sexual revolution’? Those of us who bring attention to this dismal data about the death of marriage and thus life-long committed heterosexual partnerships and the benefit of sexual relations only in the context of monogamy are pilloried, criticized as being ‘judgmental’ and ridiculed as cultural Neanderthals and sociological Luddites.
Not being a prophet nor the son of one, I co-wrote a column in the Christian Post at the end of January 2020 along with a business-owner/activist/pro-life advocate Mrs. Carla D’Addesi (she is the mother of three home-schooled daughters and the wife of an esteemed surgeon) about the selfishness and narcissism of the current generation of millennials. (https://www.christianpost.com/voice/gen-z-millennials-leaving-a-legacy-of-narcissism-an-open-letter-to-gen-zers.html)
By the comments section in this on-line editorial, you would have thought we were calling for the extinction of bacon and lattes. Mean, nasty, sarcastic would be even-tempered words to describe the vitriol in response to our column. The column was written, not as a judgment but as a warning and as an evaluation. We should have added that the generation before the current one (OK boomer)) was the one that gloried in no-fault divorce, contraception, The Pill, sex without children and consequences and the like. Yes, we should have said that-but the mistakes of the previous generation do not have to be repeated in subsequent generations. ‘Friends with benefits’ hasn’t worked in that generation and it won’t work in any generation. And, by the way, I am big fan of sex within marriage (please hold those vindictive eremitic comments).
Eight years ago, an article in The Atlantic (no friend to dusty, musty, moldy old-school monogamy) (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/the-death-and-life-of-marriage-in-america/252640/), author Derek Thompson (happy birthday, May 18, 1986), a Gen-Xer, wrote: “At first blush, the institution of marriage is crumbling. In 1960, 72% of all adults over 18 were married. By 2010, the number fell to 51%. You can fault the increase in divorces that peaked in the 1970s. Or you could just blame the twentysomethings. The share of married adults 18-29 plunged from 59% in 1960 to 20% in 2010. Twenty percent!”
As a pastor of urban New York City churches (think Washington Heights and The South Bronx) since 2008, I’ve counseled scores of cohabitating couples. In my counseling/life coaching, I frequently ask the young woman what she gets out of a non-committed relationship (i.e. civil or religious marriage). The question is frequently met with a blank stare or a look at the floor of the pastors’ office. Young men enjoy all the benefits without any of the commitment. Sounds harsh, right?
But ask any family lawyer what ‘rights’ benefit the young woman and her children, if any, in a court of law. You might as well be looking for alligator fur or chicken teeth. In the current non-committed, shacked-up, cohabitating, “marriage-is-only-a-piece-of-paper” mindset and mentality, children are most at risk and little kids always suffer the worst of consequences. Don’t believe it? I invite you to come to my pastoral sessions and hear the heartbreak of cohabitation, emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially.
The solution to the pollution? Those of us who are married: let’s work it out. If we are not working on our marriage, we are working on our divorce (divorce rate is the same in the church as it is in the popular culture). Obviously if there is domestic violence of any sort, that must immediately be dealt with (I am not a patriarchist). And if we are living with someone who we are not married to but ‘committed to’ (fer sure), by all means, get married. Provide a safety net for yourselves and for children. And pastors/clergy, teach about the benefits of marriage (it is in The Good Book). After many conversations with college/career or young adult pastors, it is clear that many of these guys are cowards when it comes to challenging young people that marriage is a gift as singleness is a gift (shackin’ up and FWB are not gifts).
Your choice. Put another dose of morphine in the vein of marriage and allow it to go into the dustbin of history or dust off your CPR manual and get to work in reviving the honorable institution of marriage. You will be saving a culture if you commit to the latter.