Category archives: Marriage

Speaker Pelosi’s Partisan Coronavirus Relief Bill Attacks Life and Family

by Connor Semelsberger, MPP , Mary Beth Waddell, J.D.

May 19, 2020

Partisan politics are at play again. Last week, House Democrats passed the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), a coronavirus relief bill that purports to help the people risking their lives on the front lines of the coronavirus, but in reality disregards vulnerable lives by funding abortion providers and deconstructs the idea of family.

The bill passed by a margin of 208-199 with one Republican supporting and 14 Democrats opposing. While it is unlikely to move in the Republican-controlled Senate, it is important to highlight how congressional Democrats are seeking to work against human life and the family during this pandemic.

In summary, the Heroes Act:

Attacks Longstanding Pro-life Policies

  • It creates a new “Heroes Fund” to provide an additional $13 per hour for essential workers in addition to their regular wages. Helping frontline workers who have put their lives at risk to battle the coronavirus is a good idea in principle; however, the bill’s definition of essential work includes any work conducted at outpatient clinics without any restrictions on those working at abortion clinics. It is disheartening enough that some liberal states have deemed abortion as an essential service, but pro-abortion members of Congress providing bonus pay for abortion clinic workers—while millions of Americans remain unemployed—takes abortion extremism to a whole new level.
  • Appropriates nearly $1 trillion in funds to state and local governments so they can continue conducting tests, providing essential equipment, and treating patients suffering from coronavirus. There is bipartisan support for such funding. However, the funding proposed in the Heroes Act has very limited restrictions on usage. This means liberal states like California and New York can use the federal funds to cover budget shortfalls they created by funding Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. Just a few months before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S, the Illinois legislature appropriated millions of dollars for abortion facilities that provide family planning services.
  • Provides several tax subsidies for employers that can be used to pay for health plans that cover abortion. In particular, it would provide a full subsidy for COBRA health premiums, a current program which allows the recently unemployed to remain on an employer health care plan. This subsidy would violate the principles of the Hyde Amendment by directly subsidizing employer health care plans that cover abortion. 
  • Makes substantive changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP was designed to help small businesses and nonprofits seek immediate financial relief, and many churches and religious nonprofits have been able to access the program. Large nonprofits that perform abortions are currently ineligible for the PPP because of the 500-employee limit. Instead of expanding the program to include larger charitable organizations, House Democrats prioritized making an exception for abortion providers.

Undermines Marriage and Family

  • The bill deconstructs the idea of family with the same language that some had attempted to insert into the paid family and sick leave program in the Phase 2 coronavirus relief bill. While the language in this bill doesn’t include “domestic partnership” in a definition of “spouse,” it uses multiple definitions to try and achieve the same effect. The bill amends paid leave requirements to include paid sick leave for family members including “domestic partners.” This greatly waters down the significance of the family structure and renders the word “family” virtually meaningless.
  • Redefines “sex” in the context of sex discrimination to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and medical conditions related to pregnancy. This is the same language that appeared in the infamous Equality Act the House passed last year, which would have redefined civil rights laws in a manner inconsistent with biological realities and forced organizations to provide abortions. The language would apply to this bill and the other relief bills that have already become law, such as the Cares Act.
  • Establish diversity and outreach programs that specifically prioritize gender and sexual minorities. Further, the bill would create a designated suicide hotline that politicizes the meaning of sex. An excessive focus on sexual minority status is misplaced, given the existence of other high-risk groups and risk factors such as underlying mental illness.

Additional Progressive Priorities

Partisan policies have no place in legislation intended to address a pandemic. In addition to the aforementioned provisions that seek to undermine the sanctity of human life and the family, the Heroes Act includes:

  • Provisions propping up the notion of hate crimes, which FRC has consistently opposed because they undercut freedom of expression. Hate crimes are essentially “thought” crimes, and hate crime laws punish the accused for a perceived prejudice against the victim. This is reinforced by the bill’s addition of “alternate sentencing” to existing hate crimes law, which will allow courts to order “educational classes” to correct the defendant’s alleged prejudice. Thoughts are not criminal; only actions are, and the First Amendment protects all expression, even that with which we disagree. Existing criminal law categories are sufficient to address the interests of justice without straying into the dangerous territory of trying to eradicate the thoughts of our citizens. 
  • Language taken straight out of the SAFE Banking Act, a policy that would legitimize the marijuana industry by granting them access to capital and other banking services. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, “The word ‘cannabis’ appears in this bill 68 times. More times than the word ‘job’ and four times as many as the word ‘hire.’” Reducing current federal restrictions on marijuana would, among other things, give money laundering access to international drug cartels who are already using marijuana legalization as a cover, and would radically increase investment in the marijuana industry.
  • A second round of stimulus checks with a change to allow illegal immigrants without a social security number to be eligible. Republicans led an effort to amend this policy, but came up just short of amending this language before final passage.
  • An extension of the $600 per week unemployment insurance increase through January 2021, allowing some individuals to continue collecting more money on unemployment than they would working. This perverse incentive to work was raised by Senate Republicans during the debate of the CARES Act, and now as the economy starts to open could have even more lasting impacts on the value and dignity of work.
  • Long-term changes that reshape the way elections are conducted in a way that favors Democrat candidates. This bill would require 15 days of early voting for federal elections and absentee vote by mail ballots for all voters. It would also mandate that all voters can register the same day, both in-person and online. Not long ago, many Democrats were highly concerned about fraud and interference in the 2016 election. Now, they are seeking to mandate mail-in ballots and online registration, policies that can put election security at risk.

Unfortunately, the present national health emergency has not united Congress to help our country. Congressional Democrats have shown time and time again that they would rather score political points than help our country through this pandemic. As Congress continues to consider what steps may be necessary to provide additional relief to the health care system and economy, FRC will remain vigilant in protecting faith, family, and freedom.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus: How to Respond When Your Wedding Plans Change

by Laura Grossberndt

April 15, 2020

Has the coronavirus left you feeling lonely, helpless, angry, or blindsided? If so, that’s okay. All of these are natural human responses. Add a wedding into the mix, and you may be experiencing a particularly heart-wrenching season of life. Maybe you had hoped to have all your family and friends with you when you exchanged vows. Maybe you had hoped to get married on a particular date or at a certain venue. Maybe you had hoped to travel on a honeymoon. And now, the current global pandemic has completely upended all those good dreams, desires, and plans.

How is a couple to make sense of all this?

Several of my friends have seen their wedding plans changed in one way or another due to the coronavirus. One couple kept their original date but had to limit the number of attendees in accordance with social distancing regulations. Another received their marriage license one day, finished premarital counseling the next day, and was married in a small ceremony the third day—two months earlier than initially planned. Another postponed their wedding.

I interviewed these friends, asking what they would say to other brides and grooms facing similar complications. What follows are five truths to remember, all grounded in God’s Word. I hope reflecting on them soothes your heart and edifies your soul.

Remember God’s Sovereignty

Are you frustrated by feelings of helplessness? Are you grappling to make sense of the unthinkable?

Although you may be disappointed and still struggling to cope with the prospect of relinquishing your dream wedding, God was not surprised or taken off guard by the sudden changes. All of your days, including your wedding day, were written in His book before even one had come to pass (Psalm 139:16). What is unknown to us is entirely known to Him. Furthermore, He is completely in control and will accomplish all of His purposes and fulfill all of His promises to His people. The pandemic might have changed your plans, but it changes nothing about God or His care for you. Consider the following truths from Scripture:

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Psalm 147:5)

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. (Psalm 139:4)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28)

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’ (Isaiah 46:9b-10)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:28-32)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

From cover to cover, the Bible reminds us of God’s sovereignty. As believers, we must trust that God is using all things in our lives—even the coronavirus and the changes it is forcing us to make—for His glory and our good.

Remember God’s Compassion

Are you grieving the beautiful plans you had for your wedding day? All the time, thought, and energy you poured into preparing for a celebration that now may never happen the way you had envisioned?

If so, be comforted to know that the God who knows all things and preordains your days is also the God who cares deeply about you, more deeply than anyone else. The very same God who, in order to reconcile us to Himself, became a man (Colossians 1:19-20, John 1:14) and experienced the same kind of human sufferings and sorrows that you and I do (Isaiah 53:3). He is not ignorant of His children’s sorrow and pain. He does not begrudge or belittle your grief. Consider just a few verses that describe God’s compassionate and loving disposition toward His children:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

By meditating and holding on to these promises, we are reminded of God’s kind and gentle character in the midst of the current trial. And despite lost opportunities such as a traditional wedding with family and friends in attendance, or an overseas honeymoon, we can trust that God still loves us and has amazing plans for these new marriages.

Remember What Marriage Symbolizes

Those who desire a wedding and marriage desire a good thing. The union of a husband and wife was instituted by God Himself at the very beginning of human history (Genesis 2). Declaring that it was “not good that the man should be alone,” God created woman—“a helper fit for him”—and brought her to the man. He then gave them a command: to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). Even today, those who engage in a marriage covenant are participants in God’s good design for human relationships and flourishing.

But God’s plans for your marriage do not stop with relational intimacy and building a family. God also intends married couples to reflect the gospel. Consider the apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25-32)

By citing Genesis 2:24, Paul intentionally draws a parallel between the union of a husband and wife in marriage and the union between Christ and His church. God has always intended marriage to be a means of understanding the profound love Christ has for His bride, the church. Even if your wedding plans were taken away, be comforted in knowing that your participation in this glorious reflection of the gospel (and your participation in the gospel itself! Romans 8:35-39) is a privilege that the coronavirus has not taken away.

Remember to Embrace an Eternal Perspective

Getting married during a global pandemic involves a great deal of deferred or sacrificed hopes. As we have already covered, God is not ignorant or unfeeling towards these present disappointments. In fact, if you have been forced to delay celebrating your marriage with friends and family, no one can understand your situation better than God, because He, too, is waiting on a wedding celebration! Consider:

  • Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to women waiting up all night for the bridegroom—who was delayed—to appear for the wedding feast (Matthew 25:1-13). We, like these women, must wait for the bridegroom to appear before the wedding celebration can begin.
  • When He instituted the Lord’s Supper (symbolizing the covenant between Himself and the church) the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the day He would drink it again in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29). Jesus will not drink the wine until He is finally united with His bride.
  • We know from Revelation 19 that the wedding feast of the Lamb will not occur until the second coming of Christ.

As Christians, we are assured of our Savior’s love. We are betrothed to Him, sealed with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). However, we have yet to see that love’s full fruition. We still live in a fallen, broken world that groans for redemption, and we must wait with patience (Romans 8:18-25). In this way, your deferred hopes for your wedding celebration are not unlike our present spiritual circumstances.

Be comforted that God knows what it is to wait for a wedding celebration! Live in expectant hope, learning to embrace the now and not yet of the promises we have in Christ.

Remember to Delight in Your Beloved

The most important component of a wedding is not the ceremony, not the reception, but the marriage it commences. I say this not to belittle the secondary things—which are themselves precious and good—but to remind you that the thing that remains—your spouse—is the better portion.

If the coronavirus changed your wedding plans, you now face a choice as to how you will respond. Choose to treasure your unique wedding story—even if it in no way resembles what you had planned. Choose to glorify God through your marriage and your response to this temporary adversity. Choose to delight in the one you love.

I hope you and your spouse will choose to delight in this better portion.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19)

I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go. (Song of Solomon 3:4)

To Abandon the Nuclear Family Ideal Is to Abandon Being Human

by Daniel Hart

March 12, 2020

With the publication of “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake” in the latest issue of The Atlantic, well-known commentator and journalist David Brooks ignited a raging debate in the blogosphere, which resulted in a symposium hosted by the Institute for Family Studies in which eight writers and scholars responded to Brooks’ article.

Putting aside the provocative title (for now), Brooks’ mammoth 9,000-word piece can be boiled down to one central idea: in our fragmented culture full of victims of detached nuclear families, our society must find better ways to take care of these victims through a renewed emphasis on extended families and “forged families”— communities of support that surround these children and adults so that they can, in Brooks’ words, “live and grow under the loving gaze of a dozen pairs of eyes, and be caught, when they fall, by a dozen pairs of arms.”

Brooks’ article is a fascinating read. He goes through the history of the societal trends that have affected the American family, starting in the 1800’s during the “era of the extended clans,” then moving to the golden age of the nuclear family in the 1950’s and early 60’s, then into the broad pattern of disintegration that affected the family starting in the late 60’s, and finally into our current era full of broken homes and ascendant individualism.

Brooks then launches into an impressive illustration of how “forged families” are sprouting up across the country, citing numerous examples of people forming common living spaces organically through websites like CoAbode, Common, and Kin as well as organizations that are helping those who are in particular need of a forged family like The Other Side Academy for felons and Becoming A Man for disadvantaged youths. He concludes by emphasizing the importance of expanding the idea of what we traditionally think of as a family, since “Americans are hungering to live in extended and forged families, in ways that are new and ancient at the same time. This is a significant opportunity, a chance to thicken and broaden family relationships…”

Is a “Communal Ethos” Supplanting the Nuclear Family?

Brooks’ article is an important contribution to the public discussion of the problems that plague the family and what we can do as a society to help this bedrock institution. But it is also riddled with puzzling generalizations and odd assertions. In his concluding paragraph, he says this: “But a new and more communal ethos is emerging, one that is consistent with 21st-century reality and 21st-century values.” The tone Brooks uses here is positive. But one has to wonder: Is this a good thing? Why should we be celebrating “21st-century values” when they are the result of the “21st-century reality” of disintegrated families?

Part of the problem with Brooks’ thesis is the confusing manner in which he frames it. He prefaces his article with this: “The family structure we’ve held up as the cultural ideal for the past half century has been a catastrophe for many. It’s time to figure out better ways to live together.” But later, he suggests that the nuclear family is a good option, albeit one option among many other equally good options: “The two-parent family … is not about to go extinct. For many people, especially those with financial and social resources, it is a great way to live and raise children.” This ends up being a backhanded compliment, implying that having a nuclear family is only a good option for people who are well off.

More problematic is the way that Brooks (perhaps unintentionally) seems to set nuclear families and “forged families” against each other, which makes his argument similar to a “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Brooks envisions a world in which forged families are in place around broken families so that children from these families have a better chance of being supported and don’t fall through cracks. This is certainly a laudable goal, but it also illustrates a central problem with his thesis: The kinds of people that one would want in a “forged family” are people who themselves came from a strong nuclear family with a supportive mother and father to begin with, because this family structure provides the best outcomes for children and society in general. Shouldn’t our focus be on trying to uphold and support these nuclear families?

In an excellent response to Brooks’ article, sociologist Bradford Wilcox acknowledges the important role that extended and forged families can play in supporting disintegrated nuclear families, but strongly cautions against the tendency of thinking that these structures can “replace” the nuclear family. Wilcox points to social science data showing that outcomes for children raised by a single parent and grandparent are no different than if they had been raised by a single parent alone, and that children raised by extended family without either parent fair even worse. In the case of forged families, Wilcox reveals a much more disturbing pattern:

Over the years, study after study has detailed the many possible downsides to introducing unrelated adults, especially men, into children’s lives without the presence of those children’s married parents.

This is because, sadly, adults who are unrelated to children are much more likely to abuse or neglect them than their own parents are. One federal report found that children living in a household with an unrelated adult were about nine times more likely to be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused than children raised in an intact nuclear family.

All of this points to what is most problematic about Brooks’ article—how he deemphasizes and discounts the nuclear family ideal. It is certainly true that we are living in an era in which the nuclear family has been abandoned in innumerable ways, but the fact remains: every person who has ever lived has a mother and a father—a nuclear family. Furthermore, every human being has an innate longing to know and love their biological parents, even if they don’t know them. We can no more abandon the nuclear family ideal than we can abandon being human.

It may be possible to reject the nuclear family through adultery, divorce, abortion, etc., and it is certainly true that millions of children have been tragically left behind by the failure of their parents, but all of this is not the fault of the institution of the nuclear family. It is the fault of the people within a nuclear family who often fail to uphold the institution through love—by staying true to their spouse and caring for and nurturing their children.

Where Human Flourishing Finds Its Source

Still, there are many brilliant nuggets of wisdom and fresh insights in Brooks’ “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake” and in his symposium response to those who critiqued him, particularly when he discusses how we should instill a sense in our children that we all have a variety “families” outside of our nuclear families that we should work to nurture: our churches, our friend groups, our places of work, our schools, community organizations, the military, etc. But taken as a whole, Brooks’ article casts a suspicious eye at the nuclear family ideal.

This is tragic, because despite Brooks’ best intentions with his article, he loses sight of the fact that in order to solve societal ills, we must focus on root causes. While it may be true that extended and “forged” families play an important supporting role in our larger societal life, they can never replace a mother and father. As study after study has shown, if we want to get at the root causes of our societal ills, we have to find ways of keeping moms, dads, and their children united as a loving family.

Brooks’ article is also a fresh reminder of the importance of ideals. When we deemphasize and sideline ideals, we sideline our most innate and aspirational yearnings and sell ourselves short as human beings. Far from being a mistake, the nuclear family ideal is the gold standard by which human flourishing finds its source.

We’re Going to Succeed”: Kobe Bryant’s Inspiring Marital Steadfastness

by Daniel Hart

February 12, 2020

Following the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant (along with eight others including his daughter) in a helicopter crash on January 26, many stirring tributes have been written about his tenacity, relentless drive to always improve, and ferocious competitiveness on the court as a player. One of his most inspiring character traits was how he applied his legendary competitiveness and refusal to give up to all aspects of his life, particularly when dealing with the potential end of his marriage to his wife Vanessa.

After an incident in 2003 in which he was accused of sexual assault (and was eventually acquitted in court), Kobe publicly admitted to committing adultery and apologized to his wife at a press conference. Eight years later, his wife filed for divorce due to “irreconcilable differences,” but in 2013 the couple announced that they had called off the divorce. Clearly, Kobe and Vanessa went through some extremely challenging periods in their marriage, but they persevered and remained committed to their vows. In an interview, Kobe described his drive to succeed in his marriage in the same terms he often used to describe his work ethic in basketball: “Commitment and [the] competitiveness of ‘We’re going to succeed.’” He went on to describe his marriage in this way: “That’s all the beauty of it: having the persistence and determination to work through things — very, very tough things — and we’ve been able to do that.”

Kobe and Vanessa’s perseverance and tenacity to fight for their marriage no matter what the circumstances is a stirring example for all married couples to have the resolve to never give up on their marriage, no matter how insurmountable difficulties may seem.

In honor of National Marriage Week, here are some tried and true ways that couples can work through challenges and maintain peaceful and happy marriages:

  • In general, be kind. As written about in The Atlantic, numerous studies have all concluded that “kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage.”
  • When you see something that needs to be done around the house, do it as quickly and quietly as you can without mentioning anything to your spouse, even if you feel that they should have done it. This builds trust between spouses and is a visible sign of how much you love and care for them, which most likely will be noticed and appreciated the more you do it.
  • Be “teachable.” In other words, be willing to compromise or do things differently than how you grew up doing them or used to do them before marriage.
  • Acknowledge that your own shortcomings may be a result of wounds that you received in your past, likely in childhood from those closest to you. It is imperative that you seek the root cause of these wounds in order to be authentically healed, which will in turn create tremendous healing in your own marriage.
  • A key outlook during difficult times in marriage is to see suffering as having redeeming value, just as Christ suffered for us in order to redeem us from our sins. If you don’t see the cross as something bad, this changes everything. In order to have true love for our spouse (to will the good for them), we must be willing to serve them by practicing sacrificial love, to sacrifice our own wishes and desires for the sake of our beloved. It may seem like a paradox, but it’s true—when we sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, we find true fulfilment.
  • Express gratitude to your spouse on a regular basis. When you thank them for even the small things they do—washing the dishes, cleaning up the spilled oatmeal off the floor—your spouse will feel loved and appreciated. This goes a long way toward maintaining marital harmony.
  • Never stop trying. Even when things are not going smoothly in your marriage, always be willing to keep trying to make things right by putting in the effort, even if you don’t feel like it. Your spouse will almost certainly notice this. There’s nothing more disheartening for a spouse then when they feel like their own efforts are not being noticed and, even worse, are not being reciprocated. If your spouse feels like you are not trying your best in the relationship, they will feel less motivated to keep trying themselves, which can create a larger mess than before.
  • Don’t let small annoyances about your spouse anger you. Let them be an opportunity to grow in the virtue of patience. If there is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed, bring it up as calmly and deliberately as you can so that you don’t hurt your spouse in the process.
  • When you feel hurt by the words or actions of your spouse, don’t swallow it and let it fester. Pick a good time to talk about how and why they hurt you as gently, honestly, and openly as possible. Depending on the severity of the issue, it may not be a good idea to immediately hash it out with your spouse just after the hurtful incident occurred, since this could lead to further insensitive words being said in the heat of the moment. It may be prudent to pick a time at least a day or two later after things have cooled down. You may even discover that your spouse had no idea that the incident in question hurt you, and will be glad to know about it so that they can be more thoughtful in the future.
  • Challenging times in marriage are opportunities to grow closer together. This can especially be achieved by praying together as a couple.

Churches Are Sticky”: How Believers Can Help to Strengthen and Save Marriages

by Daniel Hart

October 23, 2019

Although the divorce rate in the U.S. has declined over the last few years, the raw number of divorces that continue to take place in America is still disturbingly high—an average of well over 800,000 per year. As a result, over one million children suffer the effects of their parents’ divorce every year.

Let’s not gloss over these statistics. As Dr. Pat Fagan has written, “The marriage between a man and a woman is the single most important human relationship. Period.” When that relationship is severed, particularly when children are involved, the result is often catastrophic—not only for the husband, wife, and children, but for society at large.

In an extensive synthesis of the major research on divorce, the Marriage & Religion Research Institute (MARRI) found that “[d]ivorce detrimentally impacts individuals and society in numerous ways across all major institutions.” This impact includes:

  • Family: Divorce permanently weakens the family and the relationship between children and parents. It frequently leads to the development of destructive conflict management methods, diminished social competence, the early loss of virginity, diminished sense of masculinity or femininity, more trouble with dating, more cohabitation, greater likelihood of divorce, higher expectations of divorce later in life, and a decreased desire to have children.
  • Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
  • Education: Divorce diminishes children’s learning capacity and educational attainment.
  • The marketplace: Divorce reduces household income and deeply cuts individual earning capacity.
  • Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
  • Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.

What is most heartbreaking about divorce is how it affects children. Elizabeth Marquardt’s landmark book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce presents an intimate portrait of how profoundly divorce affects the children caught in its snares, not just in their childhood years but throughout their entire adult lives.

As believers, what can we do to change the culture of divorce in our country?

The Critical Role Churches Play in Decreasing Divorce

As reported by Christianity Today, something amazing happened in the Jacksonville, Florida area between 2016 and 2018. In a coordinated campaign that involved about 50 Protestant and Catholic churches and 40 nonprofit organizations in Duval County, over 58,000 people took part in a variety of marriage enrichment events and programs over the course of those three years.

The results were astonishing. A report done by the Institute for Family Studies found that “‘divorce fell about 21 percent more in Duval County’ than in comparable counties across the United States” during the time of the marriage campaign.

JP De Gance, the head of the campaign, pointed out that what was unique about it was how it combined the forces of both secular nonprofits and local churches, who all had the shared goal of reducing the number of divorces in the Jacksonville area, which had a higher divorce rate than other comparable metro areas around the country before the campaign began. In particular, De Gance noted the “sticky” nature of relationships within church ministry compared with secular organizations:

What we later realized is that churches are the best at strengthening marriages. And the reason, using secular social science arguments, is that churches are sticky in a way that nobody else is sticky. And when you show up to your local Boys and Girls Club, a secular NGO, there isn’t a deep membership who is passionate about forming personal relationships outside of the programs that exist there. But with churches, that’s a huge part of what they do. So, if you go to a ministry at a church, you’re going to meet somebody, and they might invite you over for dinner. You might be invited back to join one of their small groups. You might be invited back for a service. You’ve got a deep reservoir of your membership passionate about forming one-to-one, life-changing relationships, which produces the stickiness that churches have over other NGO’s. So, in Jacksonville, churches made the difference.

3 Ways Churches Can Minister to Marriages

The success of this marriage campaign in Jacksonville is a great reminder of the power that we believers have to change lives and impact culture. Given its success, believers should take note of the content of the campaign and should consider imitating it in our own churches if possible. The main nonprofit partner that provided the programming of the Jacksonville campaign was Live the Life, which has excellent resources on ways to minister to engaged couples, enrich marriages, and heal marriages in crisis.

Here are some takeaways from this campaign that we can bring to our own churches to strengthen marriages and decrease divorce.

1. Ministering to and Mentoring Engaged Couples

A template for a strong marriage needs to be formed before a couple ties the knot. This in turn will make it less likely that married couples will be blindsided by major conflict that they did not anticipate years into their marriage, which could lead to divorce.

Obviously, it would be impossible to prepare for every major conflict that could arise within marriage, but there are ways to set healthy and realistic expectations for what marriage actually is and provide couples with ways to effectively navigate differences in their personalities and resolve conflicts.

One invaluable service that churches can provide for engaged couples is to implement a strong marriage preparation program. A key element of this can be to provide each engaged couple with an already married mentor couple from within the church congregation. Engaged couples can meet with their mentor couple weekly or monthly to discuss the particulars of what marriage looks like.

A mentorship program can be mutually beneficial for both couples. It’s a wonderful way for the engaged couple to benefit from the wisdom of the married couple and also for the married couple to be enlivened and enriched by the fresh perspective of the engaged couple. It’s also a great way for married couples to volunteer and be a part of an invaluable ministry within their home church.

2. Providing Marriage Enrichment Ministries

As JP De Gance pointed out, the Jacksonville campaign “illustrated to churches that this [marriage enrichment] is a gap in ministry, and that they need to fill that gap, and that we can resource them on how to do it.”

Every marriage, no matter how strong, is a journey of learning and discovery that never stops until death. But after many years of marriage, many couples tend to fall into patterns and habits that make them lose sight of the beautiful reality of marriage. That’s why every couple needs a shot in the arm from time to time to reinvigorate and enrich their marriage.

There are many marriage enrichment programs out there that churches can implement if they choose (a few are listed below). Another option is for your church to create your own ministry—here’s a helpful guide on starting your own.

3. Helping to Heal Marriages in Crisis

De Gance also noted another important aspect of offering marriage ministries: “[W]hile the churches were running ongoing marriage enrichment, folks who have serious problems would surface at those events.”

Marriages that are in serious crisis will need more help than a simple marriage enrichment small group, weekend, or retreat. These couples may need more professionalized help than what your church can offer. But simply offering a marriage ministry in the first place can be a springboard for these couples to fully face the deep crisis in their marriages instead of continuing to put it off.

Therefore, it will be important for your church to have resources available that you can refer these struggling couples to. Here is a brief list:

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

The Summer of Love: The Beauty of the Marriage Covenant

by Hugh Phillips

June 27, 2019

During the month of June, the wedding season is in full swing. Yet, June is also celebrated as “LGBT Pride Month.” Throughout this month, the LGBT lobby argues that they are “celebrating love” and claim that their movement is based in love and a respect for human dignity. However, much of the LGBT movement is based on a misguided notion of love that is rooted in a harmful postmodern hedonism that, as Nancy Pearcey details in her book Love Thy Body, actually devalues human dignity.  

In this season, Christian conservatives must draw Americans toward the beauty of the true love that the natural marriage covenant between one man and one woman provides. To do this we must properly define love.

Competing Views of Love

Natural marriage and the LGBT movement represent two competing worldviews on what love and marriage actually mean. The LGBT movement, born from the sexual revolution, bases its definition of love on subjective feelings and emotions. They argue that all feelings, attractions, and passions for a person, and any relationships that result, should be celebrated and protected by state law.  This view can be tied with the modern assertion of marriage and relationships as merely contractual agreements.

 Pearcey discusses this when she notes that, long before the sexual revolution, the secular worldview devalued the basis of love and marriage from an unconditional covenant to a contract focused on how the relationship can benefit each individual. Thus, the modern view of relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is based on personal fulfillment of desire and is no longer grounded in selfless love and fulfillment based on adhering to God’s natural design. This irrational view of relationships overlooks the unnatural and harmful effects of such relationships while also disregarding a truthful view of what love actually is.

Biblical Love and the Marriage Covenant

By contrast, the biblical worldview sees relational love as an objective choice and duty that, while often accompanied by emotions, is not dependent on those emotions as the basis of the relationship. In fact, as C.S. Lewis notes in The Abolition of Man, the hallmark of adulthood is being able to train one’s emotions so that they conform to the moral law of God’s natural order. Marriage is the greatest expression of and training ground for this because, under the biblical model, the couple are called to give up their own desires and wants for that of their spouse.

Marriage is the best institution in which to express the biblical model of love. This is revealed in God’s original purpose for marriage. The Bible is clear that the marriage covenant was created by God as a metaphor for His sacrificial love and salvation for His people. Theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul noted: “Marriage is ordained and instituted by God—that is to say, marriage did not just spring up arbitrarily out of social conventions or human taboos. Marriage was not invented by men but by God.” Thus, when Paul speaks on marriage, it makes absolute sense when he urges husbands to “…love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…” Covenant marriage is an institutional protection of covenant love.

The biblical model of love and marriage, as revealed strikingly in God’s design for marriage, is revolutionary because its emphasis is, not on the individual, but on the other person. This is explicitly shown in the marriage vows which detail and initiate the marriage covenant. In the vows, the focus is on one’s duties and obligations to the other person, not on fulfilling one’s own desires. This is an expression of biblical love. When Paul speaks on the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, all the characteristics are strikingly focused towards the good of others and not one’s own good.

This is why Family Research Council has always defended natural marriage and has seen it as the bedrock of a safe and prosperous society. Besides the plethora of proven social benefits that marriage has for society, it is one of the keys to the future of America, both culturally and politically. It is so for this reason: it both teaches and models selfless love for another, a trait vitally necessary for the survival of any Republic such as ours.

The Beauty of True Love and the Marriage Covenant

In an age of LGBTQ “rights” and the celebration of sexual confusion and personal desire above all, our culture must return to a celebration and respect for the beauty of the selfless marriage covenant. Let’s return to the picture of a man and a woman sacrificially committing themselves to each other in marriage on a beautiful summer afternoon. Let’s also think of the beauty and powerful testimony of that same couple, now old, having remained faithfully committed in a lifetime of service to each other under God. Most Americans would smile at this picture. Why wouldn’t they? Such a relationship is a natural human desire!

Thus, in an era dominated by individualism and obsessed with personal autonomy and choice, Christians and conservatives should counter the LGBT movement by showing the beauty and joy of the mutual sacrifice and commitment of the natural marriage covenant. Nothing will counter the harmful effects of the sexual revolution or show the Gospel more clearly than the picture of a man and a woman unconditionally giving themselves to each other’s service for a lifetime. Against this type of true love and commitment the sexual revolution has no power.

So, this summer, let’s respond to LGBT Pride Month by celebrating the beauty of marriage according to God’s design and the couples who have been faithful in marriage. Let us also recommit ourselves as a movement to living out in our own marriages the faithfulness of the marriage covenant and truly mirroring God’s faithfulness towards us, His redeemed! It’s June—thank God for the wonder of His gift of marriage!

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

3 Things to Remember About the Importance of Marriage This Valentine’s Day

by Hugh Phillips

February 14, 2019

Most people see Valentine’s Day as a fun opportunity to express their love to their spouse or significant other. Therefore, it’s a great time for Christian conservatives to take this opportunity to emphasize, through public policy and social activism, the critical importance and beauty of marriage, both to individuals and to our culture as a whole.

Marriage, designed by God to be between one man and one woman, reveals the beauty of God’s design for social order. FRC has consistently argued that marriage is critical to the maintenance of society and is the foundation of civilization. Yet too often, modern conservatives overlook the importance of marriage in the war for the soul of America. The following are three things Christian conservatives must make clear:

1. Marriage is a gift.

In a time when young Americans are putting off marriage, whether it be to find that perfect job or get one more degree, a sense of loneliness is drifting over American society. Against this background, Christian conservatives must remind society of the importance of marriage and the beauty of a life-long relationship to one person. In today’s anti-marriage and anti-commitment culture, Christian conservatives must argue that marriage is one of the most fulfilling and essential aspects of life. God’s design for marriage is such that having a spouse provides the necessary emotional and spiritual support that we all need every day.

2. Marriage is a responsibility.

In the modern day, many argue that marriage is not only old-fashioned, but unnecessarily restrictive of the freedoms of individuals. Christian conservatives must respond to this argument by showing that marriage is one of the healthiest and most necessary steps a young person must take to mature. A society that values marriage is happier and more productive. When discussing marriage, as with other issues like government, Christian conservatives must make clear that it is not unlimited freedom but ordered liberty that makes for happy, fulfilling lives.

3. Marriage is critical to the maintenance of society.

Only strong families can ensure a stable, healthy, and safe society, and families are only strong if marriages are strong. The many social problems America faces arguably have their root in the breakdown of marriages caused by the rise of the sexual revolution in the 1960’s. If social problems are to be eased, the value of marriage must be upheld in public policy and in the culture at large.

Social conservatives must not give way but instead defend the sanctity and importance of marriage. This can be done on the public policy level by, for example, eliminating the marriage penalty and reforming divorce laws to reflect the value of the marriage covenant. Even more importantly, Christian conservatives must defend and promote the sanctity of marriage in the broader culture. Only then will public policy victories on this issue increase as the nation realizes the importance of marriage to our society. Happy National Marriage Week, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

Marriage Gives Love a Canvas to Paint On

by Daniel Hart

February 8, 2019

This week is National Marriage Week, so it’s a great time to reflect on the beauty and fundamental importance of marriage.

Over the last few decades, a plethora of social science has come out about how marriage is highly beneficial for the health and well-being of men, women, children, and society in almost every way.

Whether our culture admits it or not, all of these studies merely confirm what we already know deep down to be true. All of us are born with an innate intuition that there is something primal and essential about marriage that goes to the core of who we are as human beings. Even liberal Hollywood stars have an instinctive sense that there is something distinctive and vital about marriage. Liam Hemsworth, who recently married Miley Cyrus after a 10-year on-and-off again relationship, observed: “We’ve been together for a long time and it felt like it was the right time to do it…Not much about the relationship changes [after marriage], but you kind of have… the husband and wife thing, it’s great. I’m loving it.”

Children do too. When a child grows up with a single parent, there will inevitably be a day when that child asks of their own accord, “Where is my Dad?” or “Where is my Mom?” This primordial question about our origins points directly toward what marriage is: the binding, natural, covenantal vow that our Creator designed to keep men and women, mothers and fathers—and therefore society itself—bonded together. When something is missing from this bond, we know it to our core, even as children.

Sadly, the influence of culture has caused many to ignore their intuition, and as a result, marriage is now widely seen as at worst constraining and at best optional. Many now ask, “Why should I bother to get married?” The cultural ubiquity and acceptance of cohabitation, contraception, and divorce has made marriage seem irrelevant in the minds of many.

There’s one simple answer to this question: love. We were created by Love itself (1 John 4:9), we came into the world through an act of love, and our purpose as human beings is to love. Simply put, marriage gives our capacity for love a canvas to paint on, a canvas that is formed by the vow that we make to our beloved. Day in and day out, that canvas is right there in front of us—our spouses and our children—waiting to be loved. And as the years stretch on and we recommit ourselves to our vow on a daily basis, God continually infuses us with His grace, stretching that canvas ever larger and our hearts ever wider, making all things new with each sunrise.

Millennials and the Future of Marriage

by Caleb Sutherlin

October 8, 2018

Millennials are bringing down the divorce rate in America. Research by University of Maryland professor Philip Cohen indicates that the divorce rate has fallen by eight percent from 2008 to 2016. According to Cohen, “the overall drop has been driven entirely by younger women.” While older generations are still getting remarried and divorced, millennials are staying together longer.

But there’s a downside. Few millennials are actually getting married—about 59 percent are unmarried/never married. This is significantly higher than the historical averages for the same age group. Citing the U.S. Census Bureau, Gallup found that at the same age, about “36% of Generation Xers, 48% of baby boomers and 65% of traditionalists were married when they were the age that millennials are now.”

Cohen suggests one reason for this is that millennials are being more selective about who they marry and when. Many are waiting to marry until after they have a stable career and have completed their education. These are good indicators of marriages that will last. For now, divorce rates are likely to continue to fall.

Despite these hopeful signs, we are living in an era marked by a drastic decrease in marriages. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research has found that “the peak marriage rate of 92.3, observed in 1920, is nearly three times the rate in 2016.” The institution of marriage is now a leaning pillar in our society.

With so many unmarried young adults (myself included), the number of single parent households is also rising. Socially, being a single parent or having children out of wedlock is now widely accepted: “The rates of acceptance currently stand at 68 percent amongst millennials.” Having compassion and understanding for single parents is vital, but we must at the same time acknowledge and have compassion for the children who are born out of wedlock and who must bear the consequences of their parents’ choices.

What could this mean for the future? What kind of lives are we encouraging for our children? Let’s look at the numbers. Children from single parent households are more likely to struggle with poverty, have an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, are twice as likely to commit suicide, are less likely to finish school, are more likely to commit crimes, and are more likely to become pregnant as a teen than their traditional family counterparts. The fact remains that families do best when they have a married father and mother. Again, saying this is not to denigrate single parents who are doing their utmost to provide for their kids. But there are profound societal consequences as the normalcy of single parenthood increases.

Most importantly, these statistics show a distressing outlook for the future. Millennials no longer find comfort in marriage that has been a staple in generations past. As single parent households rise, the future is foreboding.

Pew Research has found that “Fewer than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.” This shift in culture is compounded by the fact that “34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980.”

As less marriages take place, there will be fewer examples of healthy marriages for children to emulate. Fortunately, we have the example from the Bible. We know that husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). This kind of love requires dying to one’s self for the sake of the other—a lesson that is of the utmost importance in today’s society.

Trends and statistics can give us an idea of what is to come, but the future is never set in stone. The importance of marriage is not and should never be a partisan issue. Everyone should stand to protect and promote the family for the betterment of society.

Caleb Sutherlin is an intern at Family Research Council.

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