Having said that, and having consistently expressed strong opposition to the concept and practice of same sex marriage, I must also point out that no actions taken by the states, courts, legislative bodies or executive branches of government can change the fundamental nature of marriage in God’s eyes. While I am highly disappointed in the continuing degradation of marriage as an institution in our society, I cannot honestly say that these recent actions by government have done any more to hurt the institution of marriage than actions and attitudes of society in general, including, I am sorry to say, self-professing Christ-followers.
Long before the concept of same-sex marriage became a realistic possibility in our culture, heterosexuals were doing more than their fair share to degrade and defile marriage. If we are outraged by society’s acceptance of same-sex marriage and view that as a threat to the institution of marriage, we should be equally offended by other practices that have trivialized marriage as well.
For example, sex outside of marriage (either pre-marital or extra-marital sex) is a fundamental threat to the institution of marriage. As our society has become accepting of sex outside of the confines of the marriage relationship, we have seen a cheapening of both sexual relations and of marriage. The idea of “saving yourself” for marriage is quaint and seemingly archaic in our culture, though God’s standards of confining sex to the marriage relationship has never changed. Whenever a celebrity or athlete acknowledges he or she is a virgin, it becomes news (generally mocked and ridiculed).
I’ve actually heard supposedly Christian ministers advocate the practice of living together before marriage. Some suggest that this is the best way to really get to know your partner before you make a lifetime commitment. If that were true, then the rate of divorce among those who lived together before marriage would logically be lower than that of the general population, but multiple studies have indicated that is not the case. In fact, those who live together before marriage divorce at the same or perhaps even slightly higher rates than those who don’t live together before marriage. Of course, this practice of co-habitation has become so common that it’s increasingly difficult to find a couple who didn’t live together before they were married. This is even true for many couples within the evangelical church.
While the practice of extramarital sex is still ostensibly frowned upon in our society, it really doesn’t cause many raised eyebrows when someone admits to such a relationship. Especially among men, there is a sense that “boys will be boys”, and thus a fact of life to which we must become accustomed.
While divorce rates for committed Christians (as opposed to those who define themselves as “Christian” because they’re not Jewish, Muslim, etc) is lower than the general population, it is still exceedingly high. Many Christians feel no compulsion to save their marriages through counseling and intense effort. As one man told me a few years ago (a former pastor, no less), he wasn’t happy in his marriage and simply wanted out. We grow bored. We grow restless. We grow weary. We want out.
I was watching a show recently that is set in the 1960’s, and they referred to the child of a divorced couple as coming from a “broken home”. When I heard that phrase, I thought to myself, when was the last time I heard a divorced family referred to as a “broken home”? That is exactly what it is, but we don’t use that terminology any more.
And of course, this doesn’t even take into account the countless joyless marriages in which people muddle through for one reason or another, including religious convictions. Unfortunately, those religious convictions are not strong enough to motivate them to practice love and submission in accordance with the standards of Scripture. They’re going through the motions, but in the process, they are hardly glorifying Christ through their loveless, joyless marriages.
I mention all of this because I think we Christians need to understand that there are a lot of practices, beliefs and attitudes that threaten the institution of marriage every bit as much as same-sex marriage. We get all bent out of shape because of the declining morals in our society, but we need to acknowledge that these morals go far beyond just the fairly recent acceptance (“tolerance” as society refers to it) of homosexual marriage.
Maybe we shouldn’t get on our high horses to decry the way “the liberals” are harming marriage until we take a long hard look at the damage we conservative Christians have already done to what God intended to be a holy and consecrated institution for the welfare of mankind.