Whatever statistics you turn to, the picture of marriage in America is not pretty—not when roughly half of all marriages end in divorce; not when Barna data show that cohabitation has increased by 443 percent since 1970; not when children in the nineties face at least an even chance of growing up in single-parent households. And as anyone who has been near churches knows, Christians are far from being exempt from divorce and family breakdown.
Some observers, like religion columnist Mike McManus, even suggest that the institution of marriage in society is “dying.” He points to studies that show we now have the lowest percentage of married adults (58 percent) in America’s history. And the percentage of men in their thirties who have never married has tripled since 1970, largely because many couples live together instead of marry.
There are a few glimmers in the dark picture. Pepperdine University sociologist Jon Johnston notes that for all the divorces, the mood of society is still not truly antimarriage; the percentage of marriages actually is rising. Dennis Guernsey, who teaches counseling and family therapy at Seattle Pacific University, notes that research indicates “families are not going out of business.”
All are agreed, however, that marriage in America is in crisis, and that the problem has many roots. Our largely amoral media, for example, must shoulder some blame.
So must new divorce laws that hit Western Europe and the United States in the 1960s. So-called no-fault divorce allowed the marriage contract to be voided with the affirmation—by one party—that the marriage was in “irremedial” breakdown. While some reform of the fault system was warranted, the new laws created a situation where, notes Johnston, divorcing is ...1
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