Why (as our cover story reports) should marriage have to be defended? Shouldn't it be part of a before-dinner prayer, like "Thank you God for this food, for this day, and for marriage"? From the time my children were little we've generally kept grace before meals succinct and highly specific; after dinner is the time for discussion of not-so-obvious prayer needs. So how did something so basic as marriage move from before dinner to after dinner?
It's easy to blame gay politics and pandering politicians, especially since they deserve blame. Nothing in what follows should be taken as criticism of the Defense of Marriage Act; Congress should pass it. But let's acknowledge a difficult truth: Heterosexual adultery creates havoc in more families and churches than homosexuality does, and churches rarely fight this No. 1 culprit by preaching, effective shepherding, or use of church discipline.
Why? For many pastors, the task is too daunting. They would have to battle the worldview-call it Playboyism-that has the dominant advertising space throughout much of American culture. Movies, ads, and talk shows all suggest to men especially that either being single or acting that way offers varieties of physical pleasure and a sense of psychological conquest. Surveys show the reality is very different, and just what we would expect from reading the Bible: Married sex beats unmarried sex in both quality and quantity. But that's not what we'd expect if all we knew were the lies of both popular and high culture.
Lies have consequences. Promiscuous singles even in their 20s have problems, but as young bodies become old and loneliness swamps lust, the ABCs of alienation, brokenness, and confusion become even more evident. Sometimes reality doesn't sink in until people hit 40 or even later, and by then decades are gone and cannot be replaced. The situation is better for people who resist Playboyism enough to get married-but after marriage temptations sink many ships, as the divorce rate suggests.
When I was purportedly pursuing higher education I wasn't a Christian. I bought what James Bond movies and a host of others were teaching even then: The good life is sleeping with many different women. Since becoming a Christian a quarter-century ago, I've often thanked God that He did not make me handsome or rich. If He had, I would have sinned sexually more than I did, because I had to work very hard for opportunities. But what if instead of getting married I had bought the lie? What if at age 51 I did not have a wife with whom I have shared a quarter-century of faithful love, and four sons of whom I am very proud? Assuming I had not died of or been debilitated by some disease, I would still be among the saddest of men.
Playboyism leads not only to personal tragedies but to enormous public effects. When a man and a woman marry, poverty takes a hit: The Journal of Marriage and the Family reports that never-married mothers are 10 times more likely to be on welfare than married mothers. When a man and a woman stay married and faithful to each other, sexual promiscuity drops not only for their generation but the next: The National Health and Social Life Survey found that teens whose parents remain married are much more likely to abstain from sex (and avoid crises that include out-of-wedlock pregnancy) than teens from single-parent homes.
Let me reiterate that being anti-Playboy should not be confused with being anti-pleasure. A famous Christian declaration from the 1640s, the Westminster Confession of Faith, includes some Q and A. The most famous question is this one: What is the chief end of man?-"end" meaning purpose. The answer goes, "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Forever begins right now, and God has given us numerous ways to enjoy Him, including being in bed with the person to whom you're married.
During this month of June, the biggest wedding month of the year, we should thank God for marriage in before-dinner prayers. After dinner, depending on the age of our children, we should discuss how marriage is under attack from various directions. We should pray for the legislative defense of marriage but even more for its cultural defense, because if we forsake the first institution God established for the creatures made in His own image, what will stop us from relinquishing every one of His kind provisions?