Tag Archives: Traditional Marriage

The meaning of marriage: a lecture at Google by Tim Keller

Painting: "Courtship", by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

Disclaimer: I have reservations about Tim Keller. I consider him to be too liberal for my tastes, especially on scientific (intelligent design) and political/economic issues. However, I think he did a good job explaining marriage in the lecture below.

Here’s the the video:

Details:

Timothy Keller visits Google’s New York, NY office to discuss his book “The Meaning of Marriage.” This event took place on November 14, 2011, as part of the Authors@Google series.

Timothy J. Keller is an American author, speaker, preacher, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is the author of several books, including “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.”

“The Meaning of Marriage” touches on topics that all readers can relate to, starting with the role of marriage in our culture, its history and the pessimism that is often associated with it. The Kellers also discuss the feelings of and acts of love, romantic relationships, gender roles, singleness, and the role of sex in a marriage.

I saw a lot of things in his lecture that echo my own views. One point where we agree is on not just looking for traits and virtues in the other person, but in seeing how they handle conflict and solve problems with you.  You have to give the other person things to do and see if they make progress and work cooperatively with you. The most important thing to look for is someone who sees potential in you and is committed to helping you realize it. You want someone who won’t give up on you, no matter how hard things get. There are fun and happy times in a marriage, but those come naturally – the real question is how well two people stick together to get things done when it’s hard. I definitely recommend Keller’s book on marriage, it’s such a good vision of what marriage could be.

Here’s an article entitled “You Never Marry the Right Person“, that discusses one of the points in the lecture.

Excerpt:

In generations past, there was far less talk about “compatibility” and finding the ideal soul-mate. Today we are looking for someone who accepts us as we are and fulfills our desires, and this creates an unrealistic set of expectations that frustrates both the searchers and the searched for.

[…]The Bible explains why the quest for compatibility seems to be so impossible. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” The understandable retort is: “But this is not baseball or literature. This is love. Love should just come naturally if two people are compatible, if they are truly soul-mates. “

The Christian answer to this is that no two people are compatible. Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:

Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become “whole” and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.

Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered—living lifeincurvatus in se. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love … ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Indeed, many people who have mastered athletics and art have failed miserably at marriage. So the biblical doctrine of sin explains why marriage—more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.

When you are courting, don’t worry about appearances and feelings and passion so much, because that is all subject to change over time, and those things won’t help you with the real challenges you’ll face in a marriage. Worry about whether they are the kind of person who can make commitments and love other people self-sacrificially – even if they are unlovable. In the long run, their ability to read and understand issues, to care for others and serve them, to keep promises, to be respectful and supportive, to argue respectfully and reasonably, and to solve problems constructively, will all be far more important than appearances and feelings and passion.

During the courtship, give the other person things to do that challenge them and see how they handle being given responsibilities – giving a person hard things to do is a much better way to test a person than recreational nights out with recreational drinking, recreational dancing and recreational sex. Marriage means commitment and hard work, not recreation. And that’s what you should test for – the ability to work hard at the relationship and to keep promises and commitments and to communicate reasonably and to work through difficulties fairly. The most dangerous thing you want to avoid is self-centeredness. You don’t want someone who is primarily interested in minimizing your feelings, and then getting her friends to agree with her that this is legitimate for whatever reasons. You want a person who has had a hard enough life that responsibilities and obligations are natural to her, and who doesn’t try to wiggle out of self-sacrificial acts of love when she doesn’t feel like doing it. Each person needs to invest in the other, so that both can have fuel to do their job in the relationship.

Why is it so hard for a working man to provide for a family these days?

Welfare spending
Welfare spending

Here’s my argument which answers the question:

  1. Feminism was behind no-fault divorce.
  2. Making it easier to divorce means that more divorces will occur.
  3. Marital instability causes women to vote for bigger government.
  4. Unmarried women vote mostly for Democrats.

*Please note that I am talking about unmarried (never married, divorced) women throughout this post.

Here’s the evidence for each point.

1. Feminism was behind no-fault divorce, according to this feminist, pro-no-fault-divorce writer.

Excerpt:

Households of 2010 don’t look quite like they did in 1969, when no-fault divorce actually was a controversial topic and these counter-arguments held some weight. The working dad/stay-at-home mom model of the middle class has been replaced by two-parent earner households and a growing number of working mom/stay-at-home dad arrangements. In working poor and impoverished families, the one-parent provider model was never the norm. No-fault divorce seemed scary when it had never before existed, but the truth is that its introduction was long overdue. Feminist groups at the time supported no-fault divorce, as it provided women an escape hatch from desperately unhappy marriages in a society where they were already disadvantaged on almost every level, regardless of their marital status. Imagine an abusive marriage in 1968, when the court-savvy abuser could actually force the victim to stay in the relationship forever. Imagine that now, and you know why domestic violence attorneys are in full support of introducing no-fault divorce to New York. And the judges aren’t the only problem.

Note that the author of this piece thinks that it is not women’s fault that they choose men who they then want to divorce. It’s not the woman’s fault that she is unhappy with the man she courted with and then chose and then made vows to – women need a no-fault escape hatch, and children do fine without fathers.

2. Easier divorces means more divorces.

Abstract:

This paper analyzes a panel of 18 European countries spanning from 1950 to 2003 to examine the extent to which the legal reforms leading to “easier divorce” that took place during the second half of the 20th century have contributed to the increase in divorce rates across Europe. We use a quasi-experimental set-up and exploit the different timing of the reforms in divorce laws across countries. We account for unobserved country-specific factors by introducing country fixed effects, and we include country-specific trends to control for timevarying factors at the country level that may be correlated with divorce rates and divorce laws, such as changing social norms or slow moving demographic trends. We find that the different reforms that “made divorce easier” were followed by significant increases in divorce rates. The effect of no-fault legislation was strong and permanent, while unilateral reforms only had a temporary effect on divorce rates. Overall, we estimate that the legal reforms account for about 20 percent of the increase in divorce rates in Europe between 1960 and 2002.

It seems obvious, but more evidence never hurts. About 70% of divorces are initiated by women, either because they chose to marry the wrong man, or because they are unhappy with the right man.

3. Marital instability causes women to vote for bigger government for security.

Excerpt:

Giving women the right to vote significantly changed American politics from the very beginning. Despite claims to the contrary, the gender gap is not something that has arisen since the 1970s. Suffrage coincided with immediate increases in state government expenditures and revenue, and these effects continued growing as more women took advantage of the franchise. Similar changes occurred at the federal level as female suffrage led to more liberal voting records for the state’s U.S. House and Senate delegations. In the Senate, suffrage changed voting behavior by an amount equal to almost 20 percent of the difference between Republican and Democratic senators. Suffrage also coincided with changes in the probability that prohibition would be enacted and changes in divorce laws.

[…]More work remains to be done on why women vote so differently, but our initial work provides scant evidence that it is due to self-interest arising from their employment by government. The only evidence that we found indicated that the gender gap in part arises from women’s fear that they are being left to raise children on their own (Lott and Kenny 1997). If this result is true, the continued breakdown of the family and higher divorce rates imply growing political conflicts between the sexes. 19

Bigger government must be paid for by higher taxes, of course, which makes it harder for one working man’s income to provide for a family. In fact, feminists wanted men to be displaced as sole-providers. They would prefer that women are “equal” to men, and that means making women get out and work like men. Feminists had every reason to want bigger government and higher taxes to make traditional single-earner families unfeasible financially. They did it for equality.

4. Women are in fact observed to vote for bigger government.

Excerpt:

On Tuesday, the nation made history. It made history in electing the first African American president; it made history in building a bigger margin for the first female Speaker of the House; it made history in delivering the biggest Democratic margin since 1964; it made history in sending a record number of people to the polls and the highest percentage turnout since the 1960 election. Analysts will spend the next few months sifting through the data, trying to figure out what happened and why. Historians will likely spend the next several years and decades studying this election, as well. But one thing is immediately clear. Unmarried women played a pivotal role in making this history and in changing this nation. They delivered a stunning 70 to 29 percent margin to Barack Obama and delivered similarly strong margins in races for Congress and the U.S. Senate. Although unmarried women have voted Democratic consistently since marital status has been was tracked, this election represents the highest margin recorded and a 16-point net gain at the Presidential level from 2004.

In fact, there was a recent (2011) study showing that unmarried women do in fact vote for higher taxes and more government as a substitute for a husband’s provider role.

Abstract:

The last three decades have witnessed the rise of a political gender gap in the United States wherein more women than men favor the Democratic party. We trace this development to the decline in marriage, which we posit has made men richer and women poorer. Data for the United States support this argument. First, there is a strong positive correlation between state divorce prevalence and the political gender gap – higher divorce prevalence reduces support for the Democrats among men but not women. Second, longitudinal data show that following marriage (divorce), women are less (more) likely to support the Democratic party.

What follows from voting Democrat?

Since the Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006, and then the Presidency in 2008, the national debt has more than doubled from about 8 trillion to 20 trillion. A lot of that money was spent in welfare for single mothers, which only makes the women and their fatherless children more dependent on government. Children raised in unmarried home are far less likely to marry themselves, and to be independent of government. Which means that they will vote for bigger government when they start to vote, since they can’t make it through life on their own strength.

If more people vote for Democrats then we will get higher taxes to pay for all the government spending. Higher taxes means that a married man can no longer retain enough of his earnings to support a family. And that means his wife has to work, and that means that his children will learn what the government schools decide they should learn – so that all the children will be equal and think the same (pro-government) thoughts. This should not be controversial, because it is what it is. But if we want to talk about the decline of marriage honestly, then we need to be talking to single women about how they choose men, when they have sex with men, and how they vote at election time. You really can’t have it all.

Do husbands and wives have specific responsibilities in a marriage?

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
Marriage advice from someone who knows

I found another awesome post by Lindsay.

The post starts explaining how a woman supports a man in his role as spiritual leader of the home. I always talk about the responsibilities of a husband/father in the home being protecting, providing and leading on moral and spiritual issues. Most young, unmarried women I know are thoroughly indocrinated in radical feminism, and reject these roles.

Lindsay is fine with men leading in all 3 of those roles, but this is the part of her post that I really liked:

Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be the primary influences in their children’s lives. That doesn’t happen if the children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.

Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love, teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.

So, given the needs of children, I am convinced that women are called to be with their children, training and caring for them as their primary caregiver. Does that mean a mother can’t have any job outside the home? In theory, no. In practice, yes. A woman’s priority must be her own family. If she can have her children with her or leave them for only a short time each day, she may still be able to provide the necessary training and care they need from their mother and earn some income. But in doing that, she needs to be sure she is not neglecting her husband’s needs either. Theoretically, a woman can have it all – keeping a job and caring for her family too. The problem is that it is a very rare woman who has the energy to keep up with the constant needs of her children for care, training, discipline, and love and those of her husband for companionship, sex, and a partner in life as well as the logistics of running a household and still have something left for even a part-time job.

What usually happens when a woman has an outside job is that her family simply suffers the lack. Either her children spend a lot of time with other caregivers or teachers or her husband does without the companionship and marital intimacy he needs or some of the household chores descend on the husband, taking away some of his time and energy to train his children spiritually and impact the world for Christ. Often it’s a combination of these. A woman simply cannot meet all the needs of her family when she is spread that thin and, as a result, something important gets left undone.

I wish I could find women who had definite ideas about what they wanted to do with their children, but thinking back over previous relationships, what I usually hear is that they want to go on mission trips, do pro-life protests, have careers, etc. No one looks at these little kids with any sort of plan to grow them into anything. I just think it’s depressing that kids are not part of most women’s plans. If there is any plan at all it’s that there should be no plan, and the kids can just do anything they want.

How depressing for the man to think about when he has to pay all the bills to raise kids who are aiming at nothing, and will surely hit it. What kind of man is excited about having children when his wife is not on board with making them into anything special? The worst of all is when the women who are thoroughly indoctrinated in radical feminism actually reject men who are good at the three roles, and make excuses for more “fun” men who are lousy at all three roles! The world is going backwards.

Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on marriage and family

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

I am sure you will all LOVE this lecture delivered by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse at Houston Baptist University. (60 minutes, start listening at 11:15 though!)

Topics:

  • what is the purpose of marriage in society?
  • do children really need a mother and a father?
  • is each child entitled to a relationship with their 2 bio-parents?
  • how is the purpose of marriage being re-defined today?
  • how does same-sex marriage redefine traditional marriage?
  • should the state be able to determine who counts as a parent?
  • are mothers and fathers interchangeable?
  • how did no-fault divorce redefine marriage?
  • does the government provide an incentive to divorce?
  • are men interchangeable with women?
  • where did feminism come from? how did it start?
  • how does the Marxist worldview view marriage and family?
  • who do feminists believe should be raising the children?
  • how Christianity conflicts with Utopian views
  • what can a Christian university do to turn the tide?

This is a fun lecture to watch, because she’s very articulate, informed, and passionate. She’s an excellent speaker, because she taught economics at Yale University and George Mason University.

I’ve learned a ton about marriage and economics by listening to Jennifer Roback Morse. I like to complain a lot about women today not thinking much about love, marriage and parenting. But Dr. J knows everything about those topics. It’s useful stuff for young people to know – it’s never a bad idea to think deeply about marriage as an enterprise, and to understand the challenges to marriage.

Ryan T. Anderson presents the case for natural / traditional marriage

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
What effects does redefining marriage have on society?

I spend Tuesday night working through 3 chapters of Anderson’s book “Truth Overruled”, so I thought I would re-post this old post on marriage.

A must-read long paper from the Heritage Foundation. It’s a great concise presentation of the reasons why the United States should not redefine marriage. (H/T A tweet from Ryan T. Anderson)

Abstract:

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.

Excerpt:

Supporters of redefinition use the following analogy: Laws defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman are unjust—fail to treat people equally—exactly like laws that prevented interracial marriage. Yet such appeals beg the question of what is essential to marriage. They assume exactly what is in dispute: that gender is as irrelevant as race in state recognition of marriage. However, race has nothing to with marriage, and racist laws kept the races apart. Marriage has everything to do with men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers and children, and that is why principle-based policy has defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Marriage must be color-blind, but it cannot be gender-blind. The color of two people’s skin has nothing to do with what kind of marital bond they have. However, the sexual difference between a man and a woman is central to what marriage is. Men and women regardless of their race can unite in marriage, and children regardless of their race need moms and dads. To acknowledge such facts requires an understanding of what, at an essential level, makes a marriage.

And a bit later:

If the law taught a falsehood about marriage, it would make it harder for people to live out the norms of marriage because marital norms make no sense, as matters of principle, if marriage is just intense emotional feeling. No reason of principle requires an emotional union to be permanent or limited to two persons, much less sexually exclusive. Nor should it be inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands. This does not mean that a couple could not decide to live out these norms where temperament or taste so motivated them, just that there is no reason of principle to demand that they do so. Legally enshrining this alternate view of marriage would undermine the norms whose link to the common good is the basis for state recognition of marriage in the first place.

Insofar as society weakens the rational foundation for marriage norms, fewer people would live them out, and fewer people would reap the benefits of the marriage institution. This would affect not only spouses, but also the well-being of their children. The concern is not so much that a handful of gay or lesbian couples would be raising children, but that it would be very difficult for the law to send a message that fathers matter when it has redefined marriage to make fathers optional.

And one last one:

In fact, much of this is already occurring. Heritage Foundation Visiting Fellow Thomas Messner has documented multiple instances in which redefining marriage has already become a nightmare for religious liberty.[48] If marriage is redefined to include same-sex relationships, then those who continue to believe the truth about marriage—that it is by nature a union of a man and a woman—would face three different types of threats to their liberty: the administrative state, nondiscrimination law, and private actors in a culture that is now hostile to traditional views.[49]

After Massachusetts redefined marriage to include same-sex relationships, Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to discontinue its adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples against its principles.[50] Massachusetts public schools began teaching grade-school students about same-sex marriage, defending their decision because they are “committed to teaching about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal.” A Massachusetts appellate court ruled that parents have no right to exempt their children from these classes.[51]

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission prosecuted a photographer for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.” Doctors in California were successfully sued for declining to perform an artificial insemination on a woman in a same-sex relationship. Owners of a bed and breakfast in Illinois who declined to rent their facility for a same-sex civil union ceremony and reception were sued for violating the state nondiscrimination law. A Georgia counselor was fired after she referred someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor.[52] In fact, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports that “over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.”[53]

This article is long and comprehensive. It will take some time to read. It’s includes logical arguments as well as empirical evidence from research – with footnotes. I really recommend taking a look at the article. Even if it takes a long time to read, it will definitely expand your mind to think about why we had a definition of marriage in the first place, and what we would lose by changing that definition. When you debate people who want to redefine marriage, it’s very important to appeal to logical arguments and evidence from studies. Get the conversation away from emotions and instead introduce facts and arguments.

You can get an even longer treatment in the new book by Ryan T. Anderson and his co-authors Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George. This is *the* book to get on the marriage issue.