Why is marriage an issue?

Posted: Jun 05, 2002 12:00 AM
During this marriage month, Washington folks are debating the Defense of Marriage Act that would help states to stand up against gay "marriage." That act should be passed, but compassionate conservatives should at the same time acknowledge a difficult truth: Heterosexual adultery creates more havoc in America than homosexuality does, yet ministers and rabbis all too often make their peace with this No. 1 culprit. Why? For many pastors, the task is too daunting. They would have to battle the worldview -- call it Playboyism -- that has the dominant advertising space throughout much of American culture. Movies, ads and talk shows all suggest to men especially that either being single or acting that way offers varieties of physical pleasure and a sense of psychological conquest. Surveys show the reality is very different, and just what we would expect from reading the Bible: Married sex beats unmarried sex in both quality and quantity. But that's not what a Martian coming to Earth and viewing the lies of both popular and high culture would suspect. Lies, once believed, have consequences. Promiscuous singles even in their 20s have problems, but as young bodies become old and loneliness swamps lust, the abc's of alienation, brokenness and confusion become even more evident. Sometimes, though, reality doesn't sink in until people are 40 or even 50, and by then decades are gone and cannot be replaced. The situation is better for people who resist Playboyism enough to get married -- but even after, that temptations sink many ships, as the divorce rate suggests. When I was in college and graduate school, I did not believe in God, and I bought what James Bond movies and a host of others were teaching even then: The good life is sleeping with many different women. Since becoming a Christian a quarter-century ago, I've often thanked God that He did not make me handsome or rich. If He had, I would have sinned sexually more than I did, because I had to work very hard for opportunities. Now, I wonder what would have happened if, instead of getting married, I had bought the lie? What if at age 51, I did not have a wife with whom I have shared a quarter-century of faithful love and four sons of whom I am very proud? Assuming I had not died of or been debilitated by some disease, I would still be among the saddest of men. Playboyism leads not only to personal tragedies, but to enormous public effects. When a man and a woman marry, poverty takes a hit: the Journal of Marriage and the Family reports that never-married mothers are 10 times more likely to be on welfare than married mothers. When a man and a woman stay married and faithful to each other, sexual promiscuity drops not only for their generation but the next: The National Health and Social Life Survey found that teens whose parents remain married are much more likely to abstain from sex and avoid problems that include out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Let me reiterate that being anti-Playboy should not be confused with being anti-pleasure. A famous Christian declaration from the 1640s, the Westminster Confession of Faith, includes some Q and A. The most famous question is this one: What is the chief end of man? -- end meaning purpose. The answer goes, "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Forever begins right now, and God has given us numerous ways to enjoy Him, including being in bed with the person to whom you're married. All through this month of June, the biggest wedding month of the year, we should thank God for marriage. We should pray for the legislative defense of marriage, but even more for its cultural defense, because if we forsake the first institution God established for the creatures made in His own image, what will stop us from relinquishing every one of His kind provisions?