With the release of the Manhattan Declaration back in November, Christians all over the country boldly reaffirmed the importance of traditional marriage for our society.
The Declaration’s logic is compelling. Let me read a short excerpt: “Vast human experience confirms that…where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits-the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves.”
Well, I couldn’t agree more, simply because of what I’ve witnessed in 34 years ministering inside the prisons with Prison Fellowship. Every time I set foot inside a prison, I see the results of splintered families. So many of the prisoners I talk to tell me about growing up without dad.
Indeed, the Department of Justice reports that more than 60 percent of prisoners grew up in households without a father. Some 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
I firmly believe that if we strengthen marriages and make traditional marriage a priority, we will keep untold thousands of children from ever going to prison.
But by strengthening marriages, we will also keep many children from living in poverty-that’s because divorce impoverishes children and women. Of the children under age 6 who live below the poverty line, 59 percent live with single mothers, while a mere 6 percent live in households with married couples.
On the other hand, a report by the Institute for American Values shows that marriage is a “wealth-generating institution,” which provides married couples with the economies of scale, responsibilities, and support necessary to thrive financially.
Finally, divorce and out-of-wedlock births are extraordinarily costly to American taxpayers. The Institute for Marriage and Family puts the price tag at over $100 billion every year.
So the question is this: If strong marriages benefit society and are key to curing a whole host of social ills, where do we begin?
We have to start with ourselves. Which is why I’m so excited that Christians from all over the country will be participating in National Marriage Week next month, from February 7th through 14th.
The organizers of National Marriage Week are urging every church in America to place marriage and family ministry on a par with worship, stewardship, outreach, and education.
That means marriage preparation classes, including teaching on dating and courtship. We also need marriage enrichment programs to strengthen existing marriages.
If we cannot strengthen and heal marriages in our own congregations, we have nothing to offer our society, which so desperately needs a renewed and vital understanding of the benefits and blessings of healthy marriages.