Christmas—it’s a time of gift giving! As we ponder the greatest gift of all—God’s Son, Our Savior, it is also appropriate that we consider some of the other gifts that God, in His love and mercy, has given to us as human beings.
The gift we are focusing on today is the God-ordained institution of marriage between one man and one woman, and the subsequent blessing of an intact and healthy traditional family. It is impossible to overstate how important this first God-created institution is. The more I see what is happening in our state and in our nation, the more I am convinced that the root of the problem for nearly all of our ills is the breakdown of marriage and family. We have not treated this incredible gift with the care it surely deserves and requires.
Today, we have allowed this gift to human kind and society to be grossly distorted.
Witness the recent passage of same-sex marriage as the law of the land in three states—Maine, Maryland and Washington—and the failure of a marriage protection amendment to pass in neighboring Minnesota. While Maine, Maryland and Washington have very liberal track records, the final vote margins resulting in passage was actually very narrow in each state, reflecting the very real struggle in these extremely left-leaning states on this critical issue. That reminds us that the truth is that Americans still favor marriage as we have always known it to be—between one man and one woman.
The National Organization for Marriage conducted scientific nationwide polling on Election Day which showed that 60% of all Americans voting across the country believe traditional marriage should be protected. That’s across the board, in even the most liberal states, Contrary to what the mainstream media want us to believe, Americans have not placed a rubber stamp of approval on redefining and destroying this gift marriage to include persons of the same sex.
While the redefinition of marriage continues to threaten the solid foundation of America’s families, cohabitation and divorce are other factors that threaten this gift from God that provides for healthy relationships between men and women and among all family members, especially children.
The Pew Research Center report on families, released last year, found that 44% of adults say they have cohabited at some point. Talk about ignoring a gift to our own peril – since 1990, the marriage rate in Wisconsin has fallen 22%–while unwed childbirth rates have skyrocketed over the same time period. Much of that drop in the marriage rate and the unwed childbirth rate can be directly attributed to the rise in cohabitation.
Looking further into divorce statistics, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services notes that 54% of all Wisconsin divorces in 2011 involved families with children under 18 years of age. Among divorces involving children, an average of 1.9 children were affected by each divorce.
While Americans still favor marriage, these statistics show us that there is much work to be done in order to preserve this godly gift, and that work needs to begin in our own backyard.
In September of this year we witnessed the signing of the Community Marriage Agreement in Racine. The Agreement is a covenant, a promise, among church leadership to commit to preserve and strengthen, prepare, build and repair traditional marriages. It is Wisconsin Family Council’s desire to encourage more pastors throughout the state of Wisconsin to undertake this important effort in order to increase the marriage rate, reduce the cohabitation rate, provide ongoing mentoring for married couples, and produce healthy families in their community and beyond.
What then can we say about families? We know that without marriage millions of children will grow up without support systems needed to acquire the social, organizational, financial and educational background, in addition to the spiritual background, they need to become contributing members of a civilized society. In fact, statistically these children are very likely to experience a host of problems that could be avoided by being brought up by their married mom and dad.
Marriage and family are timeless, priceless gifts, given to us for our good and God’s glory. They are gifts necessary for our very survival and are worthy of each of us doing everything we can to strengthen, preserve and promote them.