As I read this, I cannot say that I was totally surprised. On one hand, Mohler begins with what appears to be a standard rant that is a little misleading:
Economists report that the wealth deficit of the unmarried as compared to the consistently married is as much as 75 percent. The unmarried are less healthy, less wealthy, and less stable in relationships as compared to married couples. And, to no one’s surprise, the ill effects of this condition are extended immediately to the children of unmarried unions and to generations to come.
(Actually, Anakin and Vox have reported on studies that indicate that married men are not necessarily better off than their single counterparts. But I digress.)
OTOH, when he says, “In other words, it is hard to imagine a plot to bring harm and unhappiness to human lives that can compare, in social and economic terms, to the marginalization of marriage,” I agree. It’s nasty for the children who grow up in single-parent households, often apart from their fathers. Cohabitation also carries a higher rate of child abuse. But again, I digress.
Still, Mohler is rightly concerned that the very sector of the population that appears to be abandoning marriage–the less-educated/middle and lower class–is the sector that once clung to it whereas the sector that is embracing it–the higher-educated and wealthier class–once eschewed it.
The illegitimacy rates are now reflecting this problem, and we will have a mother of a social problem due to it. What is missing, however, is any attempt at an explanation as to why this is happening.
I’d say there are several factors at work here.
(a) Risk: in spite of all attempts at making the financial fallout of divorce easier on women, it hasn’t happened, whereas it has blown sky-high for the men. Those folks in “middle America” aren’t so much saying “no” to marriage; they are saying “no” to marriage as we know it.
That leads to the next factor.
(b) Alternatives. If I’m not a Christian, there is no compelling reason for me to marry. Without the moral imperatives from a God who demands an accounting of my life, considering I would otherwise have no problem getting laid–I had plenty of offers in my single days–why bother with the rigamarole of marriage? Especially given the risks of divorce.
Sadly, there is another factor that bears mentioning.
(c) the Church. In the United States, the evangelical community–to include most “conservative” denominations–has been hijacked by a feminist trojan horse. I say “trojan horse” because most of the leaders who have been duped are otherwise conservative, inerrantist, pro-life, and oppose homosexuality.
Teens in the Church are growing up and doing exactly as they have been trained. They are thinking high school diploma…4 years of college…possible grad school…get established in a career. This has become more difficult over the last 25 years, as the marginal benefit of the 4-year degree has dropped substantially.
They are also doing with the Church exactly what they have been taught. They have seen the games and the fights and the hypocrisy; they see parents and leaders who proclaim a Christianity that is not taken seriously. Ergo, they are taking the faith about as seriously as Lot’s would-be sons-in-law. (In a children’s class, I once role-played Abraham, and taught them about nephew Lot, to whom I referred as “a dumb schmuck”.)
Still, marriage is hardly on the way out. The way home will take some serious societal adjustments, and the Church will have to rediscover masculinity. Burning Joel Osteen at the stake might be a nice start, but, again, I digress…
Seriously, while churches are addressing the divorce dilemma–those who attend regularly, and engage in a robust premarital counseling regimen before the wedding, have much lower divorce rates than everyone else–they aren’t addressing the front end as well as they should.
The folks at Boundless have often extolled the benefits of earlier marriage, and with good reason. Marrying earlier–for those inclined to marry–settles many issues earlier in life, provided one is realistically prepared for marriage. The best mates of both sexes usually–but not always, thank you MrsLarijani–get taken early. Time is not generally on one’s side. If you are a woman who wishes to marry, your fertility clock will be down to the 2-minute warning if you wait until after you have “established yourself” in a career. A man who doesn’t find his mate 2 years out of college will find the pickings very slim.
That said, for the earlier marriage paradigm to be successful, the Church must do a better job preparing children for that part of their lives. That means holding parents more accountable for how they instruct their kids. Today, many parents shirk their responsibility and leave that to “children’s ministers” and “youth ministers”.
One thing I often point out is that, as a children’s teacher, I am a supplement, not a substitute, for the parent teaching the child.
But confronting this matter will require pastors to abandon this fairy tale mentality that just because the family is “good”–they attend regularly, tithe, and have 2.1 kids–that they must be raising doing a wonderful job instructing their kids in the Scriptures.
The evangelical world is littered with such kids.
The good news, however, is that marriage is not vanishing. Just like the Church, the marriage covenant has taken a hit to be sure. But that covenant–a portrait of the Gospel–will last. The issue is when and how the Church will address the issues at hand.
Politically, there are some answers, but the Church can’t wait for those to happen. Still, the pastor must tackle the matters that are his charge. Rightly dividing the word of truth would be a nice start.