March 19, 2013 § Leave a comment
Perhaps the most effective offense against a fortress is a long-term series of smaller, quieter assaults that covertly destroy one brick at a time. That must be Satan’s strategy against humanity’s most fundamental unit, the institution of marriage. The gay marriage debate has our attention now, but that’s really one piece of crumbling structure that’s been under attack for many decades, and actually much longer. Marriage was given by God and designed to be a permanent, covenantal relationship between a man and a woman (Genesis 2:24). Here’s a historical look at what has laid siege against marriage as it was originally designed.
1ST OFFENSIVE: DIVORCE
Divorce dates back to the days of Moses, when certificates of divorce were granted to the Israelites. In Matthew 19, we find out that God permitted divorce as a concession, but “it was not this way from the beginning” (19:8). Numerous times in Scripture, God gave people over to their own sinful desires and allowed certain conditions to exist, and this was one of those. Despite hating divorce (Malachi 2:16), God, knowing the persistent nature of man’s hardened and sinful heart, regulated it by adding grounds for and a process to divorce to keep a bad situation from getting worse (Deuteronomy 24).
2ND OFFENSIVE: BIRTH PREVENTION
Various methods of birth control existed from ancient times, the first being coitus interruptus, found in Genesis 38. Following various birth control experiments throughout the 1800s in the US, the early 20th century brought the coining of the term “birth control” by activist Margaret Sanger. Sanger was later instrumental in the development of the first birth control pill approved for contraceptive use in 1960, which was legalized in all US states within 5 years and available to all women regardless of reason for use by 1972.
Birth control that is non-abortive and exercised with wise motives is not sinful. But the same goes with alcohol or any other drug—it’s sinful when it’s abused. What’s abuse? There’s a distinction between birth control and birth prevention because often married couples use the pill or some other method to delay pregnancy, sometimes indefinitely, and for selfish reasons. The desire for becoming well-established in a career or enjoying personal freedom can become an idol. I fell into this trap myself, and birth control made it a lot easier for my wife and I to push parenthood back. There are justifiable reasons to delay having children related to illness, economics and other life circumstances. Today’s trends show that married couples are in better health and financial situations now than in previous decades, yet the average age for child-bearing has moved from early to the late twenties. In fact, the majority of first children are now born outside of the stability of marriage.(1)
How does delaying children impact marriage? Considering one of the chief purposes of marriage is procreation, by delaying kids or in some case deciding never to “be fruitful and multiply” means a load-bearing beam has been knocked out of the structure. Part of marriage should be family planning, rather than planning to not have a family.
3RD OFFENSIVE: ABORTION
The intentional termination of a pregnancy dates back to ancient times as well, and has been historically banned or restricted in countries around the world. While having the same effect as deciding not to have children, abortion is not preventing a child, but murdering a child. In the mid- to late-20th century, many countries passed laws legalizing abortion on various levels, beginning here in the US with the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.(2)
In addition to reducing births (approximately 42 million children are aborted annually, worldwide), abortion philosophy diminishes the value of human life, and the guilt and regret following an abortion can devastate a marriage. One wife’s take, from the Elliot Institute’s Post-Abortion Review: “Marriage vows are based on the idea of loving, honoring, cherishing and respecting each other. After an abortion, love can turn to hate, honor to dishonor, respect to disrespect, and cherishing to yesterdays newspaper.”(3) The body of evidence that conditions such as Post-Abortion Syndrome have a negative effect on marriages is vast. Effects include the resentment of spousal pressure to abort, reinforcement of defective problem solving, disillusionment and emotional disengagement, questions about identity—all of which can strike at the core of a marriage.(4)
4TH OFFENSIVE: FEMINISM
Protofeminist (precursors to feminism) movements began to surface in a few ancient cultures, but began to really move in the US in the 19th to early 20th centuries, mainly in the context of suffrage, working conditions and educational rights for women and girls. It wasn’t until the 1960s, however, that Feminism moved from the realm of fighting moral injustice in a sinful society to sinfully redefining the God-given role of women in marriage. Feminism is rooted in arrogance and has an agenda to destroy any distinctions between men and women. Christians understand that men and women have equal access to blessings in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and are created to fulfill different roles in the world, and women are not inferior in virtue or importance. Feminist Gloria Steinem popularized the phrase “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”—although she eventually married a man. Feminist attitudes undermine marriage, which require both men and women to fulfill God-given gender-specific roles that don’t function well under such an oppressive ideology.
5TH OFFENSIVE: SEXUAL REVOLUTION
It’s hard to know how to briefly summarize the 60s and the explosion of “free love,” when marriage began to show up as the cumbersome alternative to cohabitation. From communes to condos, the lifestyle caught on, and it’s pretty easy to see that legalized abortion, the sexual revolution, the rise of feminism, the advent of the pill were linked to a false hope of freedom and even fueled each other. The rise of sexual liberation outside the arena of marriage has devastated marriage over the last half century probably more than any other “progressive” movement.
6TH OFFENSIVE: NO-FAULT DIVORCE
Along with the sexual revolution’s degraded view of marriage came the need for an easier way to get out of marriage. No-fault divorce laws(5) began sweeping across the US in 1970 with the state of California. Since 1985, all 50 states and D.C. allowed married couples to divorce without any accusations of adultery, abandonment, felony, or any other legal or moral cause. From 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled in the US.(6) No-fault divorce was already law in Russia in 1918, and other countries adopted similar laws more recently, including Canada, Sweden and Australia.
7TH OFFENSIVE: GAY MARRIAGE
One of the most compelling very recent essays I’ve seen on the case against gay marriage was written by a gay man. Doug Mainwaring writes in The Public Discourse (I’m Gay and I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, March 8, 2013) that he opposes gay marriage not on grounds of religion or tradition, but logic and experience. His own story tells of his discovery of purpose and deep fulfillment as a father and a husband to one wife, while deriding the marriage liberalism’s preoccupation with superficial eros sexuality and it’s obvious inadequacies to give children what they desparately need, a dad and a mom. “Genderless marriage is not marriage at all. It is something else entirely. … denying children parents of both genders at home is an objective evil. Kids need and yearn for both.” Not a professing Christian, Doug probably doesn’t realize that he finds fulfillment in heterosexual marriage and fatherhood because he was made to do this, despite his confusion over his basic sexuality. And although he believes he was born gay, Doug resisted sex with other men, and “denial didn’t diminish or impoverish my life. It made my life experience richer.”(7)
A side note on the importance of stable marriages for the sake of children: Most of the kids we minister to in our youth group are from broken families. Not all children of divorced families carry such burdens, but the kids we give rides to rarely want to go home Wednesday nights after our youth meetings. Each one asks to be dropped off last, and they would all prefer to run an errand to get milk with me, something I’d normally do after taking them home. Drugs, sex, violence and theft are often coping mechanisms for normal life for them at home. My experience is that kids truly suffer from families that are not balanced with an involved father and mother in their lives.
As Ryan T. Anderson outlines in The Leadership Foundation’s backgrounder, Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It, reveals that gay marriage would undermine the benefits that marriage brings on society in ways no other relationship does, and further distance marriage from the needs of children. Men and women are complimentary, and simple biology shows that the survival of the human race depends on heterosexual unions.(8)
In recent days, former president Bill Clinton, who signed the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act into law just 7 years ago, now says it’s unconstitutional. Republican Senator of Ohio Rob Portman recently came out in support of gay marriage after his son came out as gay, and Portman attempted to use the Bible to justify his support for homosexuality.
Gay marriage is indeed a fresh new idea, but the arguments used to advance it can be also used to advance really any type of imaginable union. Since the beginning of history, marriage has always been between a man and a woman, until the year 2000, when gay marriage laws began to enter civil societies around the world.
But this type of assault on marriage is anything but new, and in fact those embroiled in the debate over gay marriage can be myopic in their view of history. It is incredibly short-sighted to think that we have just recently discovered the truth that the right for gays to marry is a basic human right. Clearly it isn’t. It’s also short-sighted for the rest of us to think that this is the biggest brick in the foundation of marriage. Clearly it isn’t.
What an incredible and incredibly sneaky arsenal that has been launched. The assault that has chipped away at marriage over the millennia has come in waves, but each wave of attack has amassed slowly, almost unnoticed, until it’s powerful enough to take out another block from the foundation.
8TH OFFENSIVE: THE SLOW FADE
There is another threat to marriage that is perhaps the most well-camouflaged of all, and it typically comes from within. A friend recently preached about a dangerous “slow fade” that happens in marriages, and is a pretty accurate picture of what’s happened to marriage as a whole. Slow Fade is also the title of a song by Casting Crowns,(9) written about a typical fall from grace. Lead vocalist Mark Hall describes this: “Nobody falls, it’s just a slow fade. It’s a series of minor compromises until you’re in a place you never thought you’d be, doing things you never thought you’d do and rationalizing all of it.” In the context of individual marriages, the slow fade invades in the course of life, slowly driving couples apart. Divorce may result, or a couple may resign to a life of misery together, feeling stuck, ineffective as “what God has joined together” to raise Godly children and serve His purposes in the kingdom. People don’t crumble in a day. This is a slow fade.
Destroying marriage would be an enormous victory for Satan. What’s the best defense against the slow fade, or any other incoming attack? I think we need to recognize how small the offenses are once they start to advance. We may be looking for giants on the horizon and overlooking the trolls digging under the wall. Guarding our marriage means guarding our hearts against not just the obvious external dangers, but the small compromises we make inside the walls.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)
I’ve become aware of some of the little assaults that may be creeping into my own marriage, and the possibilities are many: laziness, complacency, bitterness, laziness, sexual temptation, idolatry, shadows from the past. Any number of seemingly small compromises will grow if undetected.
Man’s will substituted for God’s will is still the secret of the world’s unrest. When we are not anchored in God’s Word and a church community, we are trading God’s will for our own and are left without the the clear vision and discernment to detect a camouflaged enemy. God’s Word provides us with an unwavering, uncompromising stronghold of truth that defines marriage (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 24, Matthew 19:6). When we deviate from the divine plan, anything goes. We have no real plan of defense against the Father of Lies, who is waiting to deceive and accuse and kill us slowly. The body—and bride (Ephesians 5:22-23)—of Christ known as the church is an incredible force in supporting and strengthening our marriages, IF we let it be that. It’s encouraging to see sermon series at my church dedicated to that, and couples young and old seeking counsel and prayer to keep their marriages alive and strong.
Stopping the offensive and rebuilding the damage begins with an awareness of the problem and a broad view of history that shows us how the enemy has made its attack all along—a quiet, concentrated, brick-by-brick assault on a slowly fading marriage institution. “It was not this way from the beginning.” At the beginning of that history is the Creator’s foundation of marriage. That’s what we must protect and our blueprint for rebuilding what’s been destroyed. Seeing the big picture of marriage history shows us the assault it has endured, but keeping a watchful eye on the big picture of the purpose of marriage reminds us that it is a sacred covenant. The love and commitment of God with His chosen people, of Christ and His church, of the relationship His creation was made to have with the Creator comes into view. That is so much bigger and more important than any idea of marriage as a human social convention, and this view can save marriage. It starts with your own.