Is Traditional Marriage Dead or is it Being Resuscitated?
In the sixties many teenagers rebelled against their parents, adults who held traditional biblical values, especially related to dating and sex. In their eyes, sex was only permissible within the confines of marriage, an institution mandated by the Almighty Creator. These teenagers adopted an extreme materialist worldview, one devoid of spirituality and objective meaning. They would have countered with a retort, asserting their personal definition of spirituality.
This “spirituality” was not the of their parents, instead it focused on exploration and self gratification. Contrasting with their parents (and their generation), Baby Boomer teenagers felt no need to defer to Scripture, a perceived relic with nothing of value to contribute. This period saw a major Exodus from the Church (and Synagogue), with stores electing to open on Sundays, the day traditionally allocated for religious services and family.
This period also saw the birth of “no fault divorce”, the ability to seek marital termination without cause or reason. While the libertarians saw this as a milestone towards complete emancipation, the family breakdown had a devastating impact on people for generations to come. Instead of a divorced family being a social pariah, it became the norm, not the exception. Over time it became normalized, developing the sentiment that marriage is not for life but (instead) for love.
Of course, life and love are two completely separate concepts. The former suggests a permanent commitment, one ending only upon death. On the other hand love is a fleeting emotion, a rush that can go up only to crash back down. Should you base your life on an emotion, especially one that is subject to fluctuation? What if you decide that you love someone only to change your mind the morning after?
The Judeo-Christian premise asserts that love is a byproduct of commitment, not the other way around. Instead of living just in the moment, Scripture instructs all people to put the marriage before one's own personal interest or agenda. Is this easy? Of course not. Then again, if it were easy it wouldn’t be valuable.
Does this sound preachy, perhaps a bit cliché and dated? Perhaps to the Boomers, a generation that experienced traditional religious life. Consider the Millennials-and Gen Z’ers-two generations who have never known a world structured in this fashion. Perhaps some children attend religious services, especially among the ethnic-immigrant communities to the West. However, for the average White Canadian (or American) there is little familiarity with such things, despite interest growing (in online religious queries) after Covid manifested. Despite the immediate gratification of commercialism, it provides nothing worth living for, nor a hill worth dying on.
As the old mantra goes “the best way to predict the future is to understand the past”. Life is about change, unceasingly change, reflected beautifully in the seasons. When one ideology gets pushed to the margin, a greater force demands change in the opposite direction. This can be seen clearly with elections, cycling rapidly between conservative and liberal priorities. Putting this into context, the emptiness of materialism forces people to search deep for meaning, the kind that cannot be bought at the local mall.
Marriage is a gamble, perhaps the biggest gamble that one can make. However, if done correctly, can lead to a lifetime of happiness, children, grandchildren and legacy. Jewish marriage seeks to connect past couples to the (specific) couple getting married that day, bridging the generations; connecting the nation of Israel beyond time and space. The Christian view sees marriage as the ultimate reflection of God’s love for humanity, demanding spouses be selfless in their dedication to the family. Both teach that honouring one's wife (or husband) is a form of service to the Creator.
In conclusion, marriage isn’t dying, instead it is being delayed. This can be problematic for women, especially considering the fertility clock that beats louder after age thirty. As unfair as it seems, men are given more time to decide, a recipe for disaster when courting a woman nearing that age threshold. This (in itself) can cause problems in dating, with the female rushing towards marriage in a way that can make the man uncomfortable.
It is easy to cite all the divorce statistics, highlighting the reasons why marriage is unfavourable and so forth. However, (in my opinion) this is very shallow thinking, suggesting an insecurity with one’s ability to select a good mate. This is difficult-clearly-but doable, especially with a little support.