Marriage is in trouble in Middle America. High rates of divorce, nonmarital childbearing and single parenthood were once problems primarily concentrated in poor communities. Now, the American retreat from marriage is moving into the heart of the social order: the middle class.
This retreat from marriage imperils the social and emotional welfare of children. It also threatens the American Dream, insofar as adults who do not get and stay married are less likely to strive, to succeed and to save for the future.
This stark assessment emerges from a new report, When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America, sponsored by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the New York-based Institute for American Values.
I'm not aware of any similar studies in Australia, although I'm sure the statistics could be tracked down without too much trouble, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the same trends are evident here and in the UK as well. I believe this trend is a clear sign of a retreat not only from marriage, but also from the Christian foundations of these societies.
One curious feature of the present state of marriage, then, is the push to gay marriage. I believe it is simply explained. Firstly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, according to the statistics marriage is relatively stable and highly valued among the liberal, educated and financially secure, and studies of homosexuals show that they are over represented in that cohort of society. Secondly, gay marriage is a highly symbolic act of rebellion against God's order of creation, and that is true whether its proponents realise it or not. Furthermore, the arguments for gay marriage appear highly plausible in already de-Christianising societies where Enlightenment notions of individual rights trump communal welfare. People without religious commitments generally just don't "get" the argument that marriage is the sacred union of a man and a woman. Note the report's linkage of the decline of marriage to the decline of religious commitments and the moral and communal values that go with them.
Click on the post title for a link to an article in Christianity Today about the report.