Summary: In a culture that acts as if marriage were of no consequence, there exists a fascination with marriage. Paul’s statement that it is a Great Mystery explains why there is such a fuss about marriage.
I know that all of you stand in line at grocery stores, and though I have not done any grocery shopping here in Orange City, I’d bet a bundle that the experience here is pretty much like my experience in a small town in North Texas. When I go through a checkout line, I am treated to a large display of tabloids. I can remember them from my boyhood, when I’d be standing in the checkout line with my mother. I looked forward to standing in the checkout line, because I would get to see pictures of bat-boy leering out at me, or pictures of aliens shaking hands with President Kennedy in the White House. Later those same aliens would be shaking the hands of President Johnson, and then President Nixon, and then President Ford, and every other president since then. Surely the United States must belong to several interstellar alliances by now!
But, in the past years, I’ve seen fewer and fewer pictures of bat-boy and aliens in the White House. Instead, I’ve been treated to colorful pictures and screaming headlines about celebrities and who they’re dating, who they’re breaking up with, and who they are marrying, or who they’re divorcing.
What I have noticed over the past decade or so is that bat-boy and the aliens in the White House are becoming relatively rare at the checkout lines. In their place we now find a wealth of information, news, gossip, commentary, celebration, and retailing aimed at marriage and those who are getting married and those who want to get married.
Celebrities are the grist of the machine that churns out all the gaa-gaa-goo-goo journalism about celebrities and their marriages. But, there’s stuff in the grocery store checkout lines for ordinary folks too!
I am always flabbergasted when I pick up Bride’s magazines. Those things are thick, glossy, flamboyantly fashionable, and about 90 percent advertising. And, you have to pay five or six bucks for a lot of them. And, just yesterday I saw something on the stand I’d never seen before – a magazine named “Older Bride.” Yup – it was obviously aimed at 40 or 50 year old women who were getting married. There were articles for those getting married for the first time, and other articles for those getting married for the second or third times.
Now, this got me to wondering, “What’s big deal about marriage?” For Christians, marriage at least has the possibility of a meaning and purpose different from what you find out in the world, right? But, even so, what’s the big deal with marriage among those who are so happily SECULAR and non-religious?
You see, in the past couple of decades we have witnessed many startling developments with respect to marriage out there in our country, developments that suggest that no one should care about marriage any longer.
For example, the divorce rate has been running around 50 percent for quite while now. And, this dismal statistic is artificially low because there are hundreds of thousands of divorces which never occurred, BECAUSE the weddings required for them have NEVER happened in the first place. Since 1960, the percentage of the population that marries has plummeted 43 percent. Households made up of Married couples are now BELOW 50 percent of ALL households, while single-person households have skyrocketed. A recent University of Chicago study reveals that cohabitation without marriage is now the dominant lifestyle for the below-30 segment of the population.
The problem here is not confined to the secular segments of our country. About ten years ago now, the Christian pollster George Barna ignited a firestorm of controversy when he reported that the rate of divorce among evangelical Christians was AT LEAST as high as the general population, perhaps a few points higher. Because he was faced with a firestorm of criticism, George Barna repeated his polling, and he not only confirmed his original findings, he turned up something even worse – Among those identifying themselves as evangelical Protestants who had ALSO experienced a divorce, over two-thirds of them had this divorce AFTER they had become Christians! Barna uncovered a powerful correlation between becoming a Christian and getting divorced.
And, there’s yet another feature of the marriage habits of Americans that would suggest that marriage is no big deal at all. Last year, Rutgers University published a lengthy study of young men who defer marriage well into their 30s. Among the reasons the Rutgers study listed for this behavior were these
1. They can get sex without marriage very easily.
2. They can enjoy the benefits of having a wife by cohabiting rather than marrying.
3. They view marriage as a financial liability because of the high probability of divorce and the high expectation of financial loss from divorce.
4. They are waiting for the perfect soul mate and she hasn’t yet appeared. One man resounded to a questionnaire on this point with these words: “How would I feel if I got married and someone BETTER came along afterwards?”