Still, the data from nearly every survey suggest that young Americans want to get married. Eventually. That makes sense. Our Creator clearly intended for male and female to be knit together in covenantal relationship. An increasing number of men and women, however, aren’t marrying. They want to. But it’s not happening. And yet in surveying this scene, many Christians continue to perceive a sexual crisis, not a marital one. We buy, read, and pass along books about battling our sexual urges, when in fact we are battling them far longer than we were meant to. How did we misdiagnose this?
The answer is pretty straightforward: While our sexual ideals have remained biblical and thus rooted in marriage, our ideas about marriage have changed significantly. For all the heated talk and contested referendums about defending marriage against attempts to legally redefine it, the church has already ceded plenty of intellectual ground in its marriage-mindedness. Christian practical ethics about marriage—not the ones expounded on in books, but the ones we actually exhibit—have become a nebulous hodgepodge of pragmatic norms and romantic imperatives, few of which resemble anything biblical.
My son Silas related a startling experience at Stanford. His dorm of about 100 residents had a “get to know you” session. At one point they asked students to divide themselves according to a series of questions—how many played a musical instrument, how many had acted in a play, how many had three or more siblings, that sort of thing. One question was whether their parents were divorced. Almost everybody in the room—all but a handful—rushed to the side of “intact family.” Silas was amazed. He expected a very high divorce rate among the families of these liberal-minded students.
College graduates may think and talk very liberally, but they don’t act like all choices are equal. Most college educated people are quite careful and determined when it comes to marriage, as with most things in life.
These statistics help explain, by the way, why the intelligentsia don’t treat divorce like the plague it is. Intellectually they may know that divorce is a very common thing and a very bad thing. But in their daily experience, among their friends and colleagues, the problem is not severe. It involves significant failures and deep wounds, but only among less than one fifth of the families they know well. College-educated opinion leaders are like people who read about bad traffic, but who find that whenever they get on the freeway, traffic is light.
Yet something happened the other day that made me think I have been too hard on my students. I often try to describe to them the way their ancestors, not all that long ago, would have chosen the mates of their children, a practice they associate today with some backward part of India. I try to help them see that the choice of a marriage partner should be based on wider considerations than romance alone. To focus this discussion, I ask them a hypothetical question. Suppose you were to be guided in your selection of a wife by one, and only one, of two factors, either your hormones or your parents. That is, would you let your parents pick your wife or would you rather trust your sensual desire, that spark of attraction that makes you light up with sexual longing?
In past years, my students were horrified at the thought of their parents choosing their marriage partners. This year was different. Many of them said they would trust their parents. In fact, more said they would trust their dads than their moms. They thought their moms would look for a good girl and disregard looks altogether, while they thought their dads would probably get the balance of moral and physical attributes just about right.
I found their conversation to be very moving, and wondered if my two young boys, when they reach the marrying age, will have that kind of trust in me. We lose something when we do not have to fight for what we believe, but what we have gained in father and son relationships is so much more important that I do not regret that my boys will never be able to relate to Cat’s in the Cradle.
A major Iranian state-owned company has told its single employees to get married by September or face losing their jobs, the press reported on Tuesday. “One of the economic entities in the south of the country has asked its single employees to start creating a family,” the hard-line Kayhan daily reported.