"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3)
As I wrote a few years ago, I believe that at the foundation of any great nation there must be a healthy view of and a great respect for traditional (biblical) marriage. 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 any great nation.
Recently that Hollywood scholar Cameron Diaz gave us an illustration of the secular, godless worldview on marriage: "I do (think marriage is dead). I think we have to make our own rules. I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."
When it comes to redefining marriage, the first thing that comes to mind is, of course, gay marriage. As tragic as gay marriage is, however, I believe that our culture is faced with a greater problem on the marriage front: cohabitation - or to put it more plainly, "shacking up"- or to put it more spiritually, "living in sin."
The current generation in America is shunning marriage for cohabitation at an unprecedented rate. According to the 2010 edition of the State of Our Unions report by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values: "The number of unmarried couples has increased dramatically over the past five decades. Most younger Americans now spend some time living together outside of marriage, and nonmarital cohabitation precedes most new marriages."
According to the report, between 1960 and 2009, cohabitating couples in the U.S. increased more than fifteenfold. Also, "About a quarter of unmarried women age 25 to 39 are currently living with a partner, and an additional quarter have lived with a partner at some time in the past. More than 60 percent of first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared to virtually none 50 years ago."
Now those of the worldview of Diaz might ask, "so what? Why shouldn't we make our own rules?" As is often the case, when we go our own way, ignoring the wisdom of the one who made us, there are tragic consequences.
According to a recent federal study, the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, children living with their mother and her boyfriend are about 11 times more likely to be sexually, physically or emotionally abused than children living with their married biological parents.
Likewise, children living with their mother and her boyfriend are six times more likely to be physically, emotionally or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents. In other words, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, "one of the most dangerous places for a child in America to find himself is in a home that includes an unrelated male boyfriend — especially when that boyfriend is left to care for a child by himself."
According to the study, children who live with their cohabitating biological parents don't fare much better. In these circumstances, children are more than four times more likely to be sexually, physically or emotionally abused and they are three times more likely to be physically, emotionally or educationally neglected than children living with their married biological parents.
Again, according to Wilcox, "a child is not much safer when she is living in a home with her parents if her parents' relationship does not enjoy the legal, social and moral status and guidance that marriage confers on relationships."
Also according to the study, not only does cohabitation do little to prepare couples for marriage (which is often the excuse for cohabitating), but "a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage."
The solution to this travesty goes far beyond simply uttering "I do." However, the solution does begin with a simple step of recognizing that marriage is not a man-made institution that we are free to redefine using "our own rules"- at least not without devastating consequences.
Trevor Thomas is a Gainesville resident whose columns appearly frequently and on gainesvilletimes.com.