Why Marriage Matters

Say you’re having a conversation with a non-believing friend or a co-worker, and you want to defend the traditional Christian view of marriage. You are well prepared to appeal to Scripture—to talk about how God made man and woman, how He instituted marriage.

But your argument falls flat. Especially since your friend doesn’t believe there is a God in the first place, or believe the Bible.

Which is why sometimes the best arguments we Christians can make are prudential ones—those that appeal to common sense and the common good.

So the next time you talk about the importance of traditional marriage with a non-believer, be ready to cite the July 13th cover story from Time magazine.

In her article, “Why Marriage Matters,” Caitlin Flanagan provides a powerful, prudential defense of traditional marriage. Reflecting on the painfully public infidelities of Governor Sanford, Senator Ensign, and others, Flanagan laments the state of marriage in America and shows why its deterioration should concern us all.

She writes, “There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and misery in this country as the collapse of marriage.” That collapse “hurts children, it reduces mothers’ financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it the least: the nation’s underclass.”

And Flanagan isn’t shy about showing how marriage benefits children. She writes, “On every single significant outcome related to short-term well-being and long-term success, children from intact, two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households.”

She also believes that “few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home.” I’ve seen this over and over in 30 years in our nation’s prisons.

And the voices corroborating this come from unlikely allies. Flanagan cites one feminist, Maria Kefalas, who confessed, “Women always tell me, ‘I can be a mother and a father to a child,’ but it’s not true. The mom may not need that man, but her children still do.” function fbs_click() {u=location.href.substring(0,location.href.lastIndexOf(‘/’));t=document.title;window.open(‘http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=’+encodeURIComponent(u)+’&t=’+encodeURIComponent(t),’sharer’,’toolbar=0,status=0,width=626,height=436′);return false;}

Another study, by Princeton sociologist and single mother Sara McLanahan, shows that “children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents’ race or educational backgrounds.”

Flanagan also challenges her readers by asking what is the fundamental purpose of marriage. If it’s “simply an institution” to make us happy, then she writes, we “might as well hold the wake” for traditional marriage right now.

If, however, marriage is “an institution that still hews to its old intention and function,” that is, “to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation’s safe passage into adulthood”—well, that’s something worth defending and sacrificing for.

What seems like a juggernaut for gay “marriage” is aimed at us. This is a good time for us to give good, prudential arguments to our friends, neighbors, and churches. And don’t let up or accept the inevitability. Keep on fighting—truth is on our side.

Further Reading and Information

Caitlin Flanagan, “Is There Hope for the American Marriage?,” Time, 2 July 2009.

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