Is traditional marriage really that important? Only if we want to avoid economic and social collapse.
That was the title of a recent Time magazine cover story about how the institution of marriage has changed in recent decades.
Citing a much-publicized Pew study, Time reports that 40 percent of Americans believe that marriage is obsolete. But if marriage is obsolete, then such things as healthy societies soon will be obsolete as well.
In fact, the economic and social costs of marital breakdown in America are simply staggering. Two of our Centurions, my good friend and colleague Chuck Stetson and Sheila Weber, have launched a national campaign called “Let’s Strengthen Marriage,” to re-build a culture of marriage here in America and around the world. Here are just some of the facts they’ve gathered:
In economic terms, divorce and unmarried childbearing cost American taxpayers at least $112 billion per year and significantly increase poverty rates of both mothers and children. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than single or cohabiting mothers.
The social cost is huge—like building prisons. The vast majority of the men and women I’ve met behind bars come from broken homes or have grown up without a father in their lives. In 2009, California proved that we can’t build jails fast enough to accommodate these men and women when a panel of three judges ordered the state to release 27 percent of its prisoners due to overcrowding.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, the decline of marriage does not bode well for the future. Declining marriage rates lead to declining fertility rates. And many Western nations, not to mention Japan and China, will be dealing with an economically unsustainable situation by mid century. They will have half the number of able-bodied workers and twice as many people over 65 not earning money. Who is going to pay for government debt, pensions and healthcare?
Given these disastrous consequences, how can anyone maintain with a straight face that marriage isn’t that important? How can the Church stand on the sidelines while judges and legislators seek to re-define the very institution of marriage?
We are in the middle of National Marriage Week 2011 which concludes Monday, Valentine’s Day. I want you to think about what you can do to strengthen not only your own marriage, but marriages in your church and your community. We all need to do better.
And think about what you can do to strengthen the culture of marriage—especially in the Church. Get your pastor to preach on the importance of marriage. Urge him or her to institute marriage preparation classes for engaged couples and marriage enrichment course for those already married. And talk to your children and to young adults why marriage is such a beautiful part of God’s plan for men and women.
Come to our website, BreakPoint.org, and we’ll point you to the Let’s Strengthen Marriage Campaign, as well as to other organizations like Marriage Savers that work to strengthen marriage. You’ll find plenty of resources and contacts to get you started.
Unless we begin to shore up this now-fragile institution, we are headed for both social and eventually economic collapse.
So the next time you hear someone ask, “Who needs marriage?” you need to tell them: “We all do.”
Further Reading and Information
Let’s Strengthen Marriage: A National Campaign
MarriageSaver.org | Preparing, Strengthening and Restoring Marriages