Or Marching to the Beat of the Sexual Revolution’s Drum
[Today’s guest post is brought to us courtesy of reader/commenter mdavid. It is presented as it was given to me. I have a few comments on it, but I will save them for the comments section, and leave them out of the OP.]
When considering present-day moral inconsistencies – and they are legion – the tolerance of divorce is one of the most indefensible. Yet we excuse it with surprising uniformity. Liberal and conservative, Christian and agnostic, black and white – we are all unified in our rejection of indissoluble marriage.
This evolution of marriage is not due to an economic cycle or an odd social phase that will be reversed in time. It is a permanent shift away from the religious culture that no longer exists in modern Western society except within isolated, and decisively unmodern, pockets. Consider: a majority of US citizens who marry will experience divorce themselves or have a close relative who does. Divorce is now completely acceptable, often celebrated, and sold as liberating. In fact, the only thing moderating divorce rates today is the rejection of marriage itself. This makes sense: why get married at all if divorce is so common? Why become a statistic? Why not stay free?
It’s important to understand that our acceptance of divorce is merely a logical response to changes in marriage law. What sort of contract can be abolished at the whim of either party – anytime, anyplace, and for any reason? If only one’s student loans were so flexible! The legal hypocrisy is rich; we hold young adults fully accountable for their college debt forever, regardless of means to pay or future life events, while simultaneously allowing marriage to be dismissed without cause. This is truly strange. Marriage used to be the most important contractual obligation one could make, certainly not second to personal debt. And rightfully so. It impacts the well-being of children, extended family, and finally society itself. Even a throwaway comment that you will pay for lunch has more legal accountability than a wedding ceremony. It’s bizarre.
It’s much worse than all that, however. Not only is divorce allowed, it’s encouraged by the law itself. Serving divorce papers to a family breadwinner is typically an immediate financial windfall for caregivers, creating a strong incentive to divorce or at least start thinking about it. And unsurprisingly, women initiate the vast majority of divorces. But nothing is steady-state. As any economic supply-and-demand model would suggest, the supply of quality male (or female) providers willing to marry under such conditions will, over time, become strained. This supply-and-demand concept was seen most dramatically in the now-defunct USSR, where laws provided little reward for productive workers. This created a painful lack of goods, to be followed by long queues of people facing empty shelves. This model applies to the family in the West today.
While people do still like the ideal of marriage, both for themselves and for society at large, the risk-reward imbalance, now enshrined into law, is simply too great for marriage to stay intact. This has midwifed a new era of cohabitation, one that is increasingly childless. While not ideal, this structure makes the risk of companionship acceptable to a growing number of people, especially productive people who are at the most risk. Back to the USSR analogy, cohabitation is the necessary “black market” of today’s marriage economics. Raise the price too high, and people will seek an alternative product.
Easy and common divorce means every marriage now operates under the legal sword of Damocles, where either party is at least subconsciously prepared to cut the thread if it benefits them personally. If you doubt this, just ask your typical bride or groom a few uncomfortable questions: What will you do if your spouse abuses you? Becomes an alcoholic? Quits their job? Realizes they made a mistake and can do better? Truth be told, those approaching marriage today are generally playing the odds that none of these things will actually happen. But when they do (and they do nearly half the time) the whole farce of modern marriage is exposed. And as families continue to shatter, the quality of potential partners in the next generation necessarily shrinks. Broken homes today beget broken homes tomorrow.
So what’s the answer? Should couples stay married in all cases? No matter what happens? Regardless of what they want? Yes. Yes. And Yes. Now, this doesn’t prevent an abused party from moving out. But separation is not divorce; it’s not even close. It’s as far from divorce as sleep is from death. If separation equaled divorce, our servicemen would be mailed divorce papers with their mobilization orders. It is understood people will often act like fools, but why should the law acknowledge their folly by allowing them to dissolve their family upon demand? Is this freedom to remarry really in the best interest of society?
Sadly, modern Christianity has been a somber but key facilitator in the game of marriage Russian roulette (if only the odds of survival – 20% – were so good!). Every major Christian denomination – Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, even the sacramental Eastern Orthodox – now allow for the abolition of a legally enacted marriage (the lone holdout is the Catholic Church, which has responded to the times by creating an even larger problem by winking at invalid marriages and then offering the resulting annulments like candy). What makes the abandonment of marriage by Christians so astonishing is the clear biblical testimonial by Jesus himself that “what God has joined [in marriage], let no man tear asunder.” And lest we forget, He then warns that remarriage after divorce constitutes adultery – and the Apostle Paul flatly states that adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Have Christians read the bible since the sexual revolution?
Until modern marriage is replaced with something more rational, the intact family will continue to fade as a mainstream institution. The resulting decline of male investment in children will lead to less productive and less well-adjusted children. This will be a fearsome political, social, and economic change agent. Family change is multi-generational, so the consequences of modern ideas about marriage and family, which were fully in place by the 1980’s, should become more and more visible throughout our communities every day going forward. And most importantly, young people – but breadwinners especially – should approach marriage and family with extreme trepidation, if at all. This trajectory is now set; only the extent of the damage remains to be experienced. My mind is prepared. How’s yours?