By Glyn Carpenter, New Zealand Christian Network
A Christian understanding
“Because marriage is a gift of the Creator, uniting a man and a woman, and affirmed by Jesus himself, intended for the birth and nurture of children and for building up human families in mutual support and care, it is a lifelong commitment.
Such marriages generate growth in oneness of heart, body, and mind, and provide stability to family life, so that children are cared for lovingly and grow to full maturity. In this way marriage is foundational to a good society.”
NZCN Healthy Marriage discussion group, 2013
Marriage – Why it matters
Healthy marriages are a foundation for strong families and strong communities.
Evidence strongly suggests that outcomes for children, on a range of social and emotional indicators, are better when parents are married. And outcomes for adults who are married are generally better than in other co-habiting arrangements.
Many parents achieve exceptional outcomes despite divorce, bereavement, or children born outside of marriage.
But this does not alter the statistics that show better outcomes for marriage.
Marriage involves a publicly declared commitment which is a stronger basis for the security which enables children to grow and flourish than uncommitted relationships.
Marriage creates a unit that performs better financially and economically. This not only benefits those in the family but also increases the likelihood of a beneficial impact for society.
Marriage statistics suggest a correlation with lower rates of violence and domestic violence. These are problems that plague our society.
Marriage – where is it heading?
The rate of marriage has declined over recent decades in favour of casual and de facto relationships. This has gone hand-in-hand with a rise in the rate of divorce.
Some people focus on recent challenges to the legal definition of marriage as a factor in the erosion of marriage. But this is more a symptom than a cause of the problem.
Andrew J. Cherlin,
Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, says that two shifts occurred around the start of the 20th century – over 100 years ago – that have had a serious impact on marriage. (Andrew Cherlin, The-Marriage-Go –Round, Vintage Books, 2010)
- Radical individualism – making self-interest the top priority
- ‘Companionate marriage’ – the notion that marriage is just about adult companionship, exacerbated today by the idea that romantic love is sufficient basis to get married.
If the present common attitude to marriage is not changed for a better one that appreciates the importance of marriage, the best we can expect is that the situation will drift along – maybe a bit better at some times, maybe a bit worse at others.
At worst, we may see a continual slide over time away from marriage, from commitment, and from God.