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Thomas: Nation's greatest asset is healthy respect for marriage

POSTED: March 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

As we approach "Super Tuesday," which involves primaries or caucuses in 24 states including Georgia, the political rhetoric is going to reach a level that is almost unbearable.

As the candidates talk about domestic issues, such as health care and education, one phrase that will almost certainly be uttered by practically every candidate will be, "our nation’s greatest asset." The use of this phrase will be in reference to our children. I believe they are just a bit off base with this bold declaration.

I’m not sure if it is appropriate to refer to any one item as a nation’s "greatest asset." I believe that certainly there are many important factors that support a strong and healthy nation. Children would be on the list; however, ahead of them I would place a few things. Foremost would be strong and healthy marriages. (I can’t believe I have to say this, but by marriage I mean the union of one man and one woman.)

I believe that at the foundation of any great nation there must be a healthy view of and a great respect for marriage. That is the best hope for our children. Government programs and politicians’ promises mean very little when children are growing up in homes full of conflict and strife, or in homes where the marriage between their parents has ended.

Strong and healthy marriages lead to strong and healthy families. Strong and healthy families lead to strong and healthy communities. Strong and healthy communities lead to strong and healthy churches, schools, businesses, governments and so on. Each of these institutions lies at the heart of a great nation.

If politicians want to demonstrate that they care about children, then taking a strong stand for marriage (along with modeling a strong and healthy marriage) would be a great start. In "Marriage and the Law: A Statement of Principles" published by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, the authors note that, "Children raised outside of intact marriages have higher rates of poverty, mental illness, teen suicide, conduct disorders, infant mortality, physical illness, juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. They are more likely to drop out of school, be held back a grade, and launch into early and promiscuous sexual activity, leading to higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases and early unwed parenthood."

I submit that the single most damaging phenomenon to children in our culture is not poverty, a depraved media or poor education, but the breakdown of the traditional family. Too many children are not growing up in homes with their mother and father present and active.

I would also submit that the greatest gift that parents can give a child is a strong and healthy marriage. Recently, my wife and I have been participating in a Bible study on parenting. The study is called "Growing Kids God’s Way" from the worldwide ministry of Growing Families International (www.gfi.org).

Early in the study, marriage is referred to as, "the Crown of Creation." The study points out that the husband-wife relationship "must be viewed as the priority relationship in the family," with, "all other relationships (functioning) subject to that of the husband and wife." They added that, "You can never be a better parent than you are a spouse."

I believe that after an individual’s relationship with his or her Creator, the "priority" relationship in the universe is the husband-wife relationship. When this foundational relationship breaks down, many suffer. The study also notes (as I alluded to earlier) that chaos in the family equals chaos in society.

If we want to solve the many social ills that plague our culture, changes need to begin at home. Traditional marriage needs the respect and support of government, the law, the church and individuals alike. Otherwise, our nation as we know and love it is in great peril.

Trevor Thomas is a Gainesville resident; Web site, http://www.trevorgrantthomas.com/. His column appears regularly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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