MUSIC, LEADERSHIP, CULTURE… and humor (sometimes)

is the church ruining marriage?

(disclaimer: this post does not represent anyone else’s thoughts rather than my own!  it is meant to foster healthy discussion, not merely controversy)

something just hit me right now as i read this interesting U.S. Today article entitled “Is Secularism Saving Marriage?” (go ahead and click to read if you want)

basically, the main supposition of this piece is that while the Church provides many great tools and principles to help marriages last, the overall divorce rate is down this year possibly due to “secular” values that married couples are embracing.

one of the cultural shifts taking place is that people are getting married later nowadays and I guess studies have shown that people who marry later generally have a better chance of lasting.  I see a practical reason behind this: the older you are, the more mature (supposedly) you become, and the better able you are to handle emotional and relational walls– “irreconcilable differences” may be better worked out when you are 35 as opposed to when you are 21.   Not always the case, of course, but a healthy theory i must say…

i don’t know if there’s a mandate in the Bible but it seems like there is a culture of “get married young, get married now!” mentality in our American churches… especially in the midwest and south (my guess based on people i’ve met, not fact).  it seems like it’s the “Christian” thing to do and i blame the Apostle Paul for this: “… if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9).  Basically, church people generally get married young because (plain and simple) they have bodily urges that will only get satisfied (with a clear conscience) after the marriage vows have been exchanged.  Great wisdom from Paul but it’s also sending virtual kids into marrriage commitments they may be unable to keep!

there is also a church culture that confuses doing “God’s work” with simply being super busy at church, often at the expense of time spent with our spouses and children.  could this be one of the main contributing factors why crappy marriages exist in such “God-centered” institutions?  Being busy at church doesn’t always mean you’re doing God’s work.  some people need to say no and go home to spend time with those closest to them!

i have heard it said that marriages amongst Christians end in divorce about as frequently or in some cases, more than, the society at large.  could this be because we are ignoring some of the “practical” and even common sensical knowledge that our “secular” friends embrace?

i guess my main conclusion outside of this marriage/divorce discussion is that contrary to popular “Christian” belief, the Church is not the main gatekeeper of truth.  some of you might find this hard to believe or even heredical but it’s the truth!  yes, those of us who profess Christ as Lord uphold the Bible as the ultimate book of truth but we also tend to entrust the Church with too much authority and in some cases, lift it as the only gatekeeper of truth.  God’s truth is everywhere and sometimes it comes in the form of “secular” wisdom.  Church culture is great but there is a responsibility for everyone to use common sense, discernment, judgment and reason.

for the record, I got married relatively young (24 years old) but I make choices daily to keep my marriage thriving.  i don’t have a perfect marriage and we have our buttload share of issues, but we’re in this to win this!  i learn so much from our church community but i’m not afraid to embrace truth when i hear/see it.

despite my lame, try-too-hard-to-be-controversial title, i do NOT believe the church is ruining marriages. obviously this is not what this post is really about. please spare your comments of blind rage and look beyond the headline!

i also realize this post is not the most comprehensive and i’m sure you may have many thoughts to bash me and theologically uppercut me… go ahead.  I never said I was an expert in this stuff!

Appreciate your thoughts!

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4 responses

  1. Excellent post.

    There is a prevailing idea that older you are the more stable your marriage. That is true to an extent, but only when looking at teenage marriages. There isn’t much of a difference in marriage stability for those marrying between 21 and 30.

    Marriage is hard work, but it’s good work…the right kind. 😉 As believers, many feel immune to the unique challenges marriage may bring. Intellectually we may know this is not true, but there is a ‘feeling’ that everything is going to work itself out. It’s that feeling may lead us to neglect even the most simple things that would enhance our relationship (pre-marital, marriage retreat, date nights, etc.). You hit it when you said, ‘could this be because we are ignoring some of the “practical” and even commonsensical knowledge that our “secular” friends embrace?’

    September 15, 2009 at 4:01 pm

  2. the article and this post is makin’ me hot!!

    1. the article says this…”And when married couples experience problems — as they inevitably do — they’re turning to trained professionals, rather than preachers, for help.” Im fully on board with trained counselors and therapists, but what’s sad is that this article is conjecturing that church staff (leaders) are no longer prepared to handle people’s issues and secondly, they’ve built no relational trust or clout for people to even want to approach them…sad. But, it does make me more convinced that believers need to lead in more places than the church.

    2. I’ve always said marriage is a choice. It’s not about a cosmic aligning of souls or even the most divine decision you need to make in your life. Marriage is deciding to love the person you choose for the rest of your life. Love is a choice, not a feeling, to put someone else’s needs before your own…the article calls it a “mutual partnership.” You can call it whatever you want, secular or religious, there’s only been one God who has put the needs of others before His own over and over again. If that’s not the model, I don’t know what is.

    Thanks for the brain food.

    September 16, 2009 at 8:10 am

  3. DK

    hey marc and kevin,
    thanks for adding your thoughts to this entry! very necessary for such a multi-sided issue! -dk

    September 17, 2009 at 6:19 pm

  4. Edwin

    whooops, I read this post about 1 month late! In northern India, supposedly, arranged marriages (the social norm that is changing) lasts longer than love marriages! Mothers (they know best right?) pick the spouses and of course they want to pick those they would be “successful”. Also, for females, if they aren’t married by their mid 20s, they are seen as “unwanted” ie single for life. Of course that is on the extreme side but that’s just the general mindset. In general, we must remember that marriage is more than just a feeling, it’s commitment and hard work! Also, I keep hearing that through marriage we have a better understanding of Christ’s relationship to God and our relationship to Him (or something along those lines). Well, that’s one awesome part of marriage right?

    October 8, 2009 at 9:25 pm

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