Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Hendersons of Dounreay

Sit down, dear reader, accept a dram of good single malt and make yourself at home in the old manse while I  tell you the bloody and woeful tale, full of blood-guilt and treachery, of the Hendersons of Dounreay. It was a dark and stormy night and the North Sea wind howled around the castle walls at Dounreay...actually, can the Scottish brogue. I doubt many of my readers will be that much interested in what follows, but since I've nowhere else to publish it here it is - and I'll try and make it as interesting as possible (for those interested in the history, I've inserted some hyperlinks).  I'm currently on two weeks'  recreational leave which gives me time to pursue one of my sporadic hobbies: genealogy. After a few false starts in the past I've now managed to trace the Scottish side of the family back to the 1700s. The Hendersons hailed from Dounreay in Caithness, the northernmost county in Britain (actually from Buldoo, a hamlet in the shadow of Dounreay castle, both of which are now part of the town of Thurso (from the Old Norse Thjórsá; we'll come to the Norse connections presently), the northernmost town in mainland Britain.  An artist's impression of Dounreay Castle, based on the still extant ruins, is pictured - alas, the Hendersons of Dounreay didn't actually live in the castle as they were but poor "crofters", as Highland tenant farmers were known, who lived very much "outside the walls" grinding out a subsistence existence off the miserly coastal plain soils. Crofting was a "hard scrabble" existence at the best of times, especially on the north coast of Caithness where Dounreay is to be found, where from what I've seen in pictures at least and from my research the land or climate does not look particularly favourable even for subsistence farming (note: the smiling man in the pic below is obviously not a crofter: he is too happy and well-fed to be such).

Anyone familiar with the recondite facts of Scottish clan history will twig that my Scottish ancestors are of the Caithness branch of the Henderson Clan (quite separate from the more famous Hendersons of Glencoe), who separated from the Gunn clan following the Battle of St Tears - no, not Tolkien's mythical battle as told in The Silmarillion but an actual battle (probably not without its own mythical elements) fought between Clan Keith and Clan Gunn in 1478 for control of Caithness. As the bloody history goes, following the underhanded usurpation of sovereignty over Caithness by the Keiths at the Chapel of St Tear, where the blood of Gunn's still stained the walls two centuries later according to a history compiled in the time of King James  (the feud was only officially settled in 1978 - and you thought German Lutherans were stubborn!), the second son of the Gunn clan chieftain, Henry Gunn, avenged the honour of the clan and retrieved its sovereignty over Caithness by attacking the Keith castle that very night while the Keiths were celebrating their murderous exploits, killing the Keith chieftain with an arrow to his throat and subsequently retrieving the all-important clan chieftain's brooch, symbolic of his power and authority over land and people. Henry expected to be made chieftain himself upon his triumphant return to the Gunn hearth, but when his older brother objected and violence threatened to ensue (no precious petals, these Scots!) Henry did the honourable thing and, like Abraham separating from Lot, went his own way peacefully and retired to some of the less promising farmland of Caithnessrather than engage in internecine warfare (they were Christians, after all!). This action is a beacon of light and charity that I cling to in this otherwise dark history; it's not for nothing that the Henderson Clan motto is Sola Virtus Nobilitat (Virtue Alone Ennobles). Those relatives and others who remained loyal to Henry and went with him into local exile styled themselves "Hendersons" (Sons of Henry).

Now (and this is where it gets really interesting), let's delve a little further into the far-reaches of Scottish history in these parts. Those up with their Scottish history will know that Caithness was, along with the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Norwegian territory from the late 8th C. until 1266 (actually Orkney wasn't ceded until 1468), and the locals spoke a form of Norse called Norn into the 1500s, around which time Gaelic became dominant (no English for a long time in these parts; even my ancestors who came to Australia in the early 1800s would have known Gaelic as their mother tongue). In the Orkneyinga Saga the King of Scotland is none other than Karl Hundasson! Without historical parallel, Hundasson is a mysterious figure, perhaps a caricature (Hundasson means literally "son of a dog"!) of King Macbeth of Scotland (whom Shakespeare later loosely based his eponymous play on.). I'm not suggesting that I'm descended from King Macbeth (!), but the Norwegian name Hundason/Hundasson, along with Erlandsson, Haraldsson, Magnusson etc. was common in the far north of Scotland well before the formal establishment of the Henderson Clan, and it is most probable that my original ancestors from this family line were indeed Norwegians, or, more accurately, Norsemen. In fact the Gunn Clan claims descent from the Viking Jarls (Earls) of Orkney, probably via Gunni, the grandson of the infamous Scottish Norwegian Viking, Swein Asleifsson, who features in the Orkneyinga Saga (the lovable Swein is pictured above, doing what he did best: attacking the hapless and much smaller indigenous Scottish Picts. The Norsemen were renowned for their height; my own blonde-haired, blue eyed paternal grandfather was 6'4", an unusually tall frame for his generation  - unfortunately, no doubt through dilution with British blood, the male DNA line lost 8" by the time I came along, although the blue eyes and fair hair survived ;0). Recent DNA investigations of male Gunns and Hendersons from the Caithness line do indeed prove the family link and also the Norwegian ancestry.

But wait, there's more! How did the Hendersons of Dounreay come to Australia? In the late 1700s the Highland Clearances (in Scottish Gaelic: Fuadach nan Gàidheal; banishing of the Gaels. Highland Emigrant's Monument, Helmsdale, Scotland pictured) began, as the farmland which the crofters earned their meagre living from was given over by the absentee Scottish landlords to the more profitable sheep and wool growing (a practice called Enclosure, which had already begun in Tudor times in England). The crofters were expected to survive on less arable land or become fishermen or kelp collectors, and many were evicted altogether when the landlords refused to renew their annual tenancy agreements. Some emigrated to the Scottish Lowlands but many others ventured further to Canada (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Winnipeg), the United States (the Carolinas) and various parts of the colony of New South Wales, Australia. Thus today there are more descendants of Scottish Highlanders in these parts of North America and Australia than there are in Scotland itself. The Highland Clearances were only stopped in 1886, when the British parliament passed an act granting security of tenure to Highland tenant farmers, which mean that crofting survived well into the 20th century - a dubious benefit, to be sure, since most of their emigrant relatives had long since achieved self-sufficiency and even a measure of modest prosperity of which their Scottish cousins could only dream
(by the early 20th C., my great-grandfather, the grandson of the original Highland crofter emigrant Henderson, had established his own "stock and station agency" or rural supplies and livestock auctioneering small business).

 That's the point where, by the grace of God and their own hard work, the story of my Scottish ancestors gets better, but less interesting - no marauding, no more inter-clan bloodshed or evictions at the hands of heartless landlords (not that I know of, anyway), just a tale of dour and sober Presbyterians  - to this day the consumption of alcohol is verboten on Presbyterian Church of Australia premises; I wonder how they celebrate the Lord's Supper? ;0) - working hard to improve their lot in a new and strange land. Like quite a few other Scots emigrants to Australia, my ancestors settled in the Bega district of southern New South Wales, which has a maritime climate not unlike their Dounreay home - not as bitterly cold in winter, though - but with richer farmland, and there their presence continues to this day. Just as in Canada and the USA, the Scottish emigrants to Australia made a contribution to their adopted land that belies their small numbers. Indeed, although it is a fact unknown to most Australians, there is an unpretentious tomb in Scotland upon which is engraved the epitaph "The Father of Australia", and not without good reason.
Interestingly, the contemporary world-wide Clan Henderson chieftain was a medical doctor who resided here in Toowoomba until his death in 2004, after which his son, who resides in Brisbane - my old home town, itself named after a Scottish governor of New South Wales - inherited the title.



Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ecclesiastical Schadenfreude?

A correspondent suggested I was indulging in ecclesiastical schadenfreude (joy in another's misfortune) in my post on the current Vatican scandal. I thought my tone and comments in that post were sober enough to  deflect such a charge, but evidently not. So, just to clarify - to delight in the current ills besetting the Vatican would be un-Christian. Why, even Aristotle noted in his Ethics that there is a malevolence in taking pleasure in another's misfortune which is incompatible with the justice we should strive for in all our relations with others. If even a pagan can come to such a realization, than the Christian has no excuse to indulge in such sentiments.

As I remarked to David in response, my acute interest in the Vatican leaks scandal is moral and theological and not evil-minded. An institution which claims to be the guarantor of God's grace in the world and, I might add, an infallible guide in matters of faith and morals, surely invites scrutiny as to its own moral life? Is it not reasonable to expect only  the highest degree of probity from men who claim to be the leaders of the "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church" and, by divine right, the successors to the Holy Apostles? To scrutinize or test the actions of such men against the very standards they inculcate in others is the duty of a Christian, since one must firmly decide for or against such momentous claims and it is, as our Lord said, "by their fruits that ye shall know them". When I thus consider the Vatican, T. S. Eliot's line from 'The Hollow Men' comes into my mind: Between the idea and the reality...falls the shadow. In the case of Rome the shadow seems conspicuously long. 

Having said this in my defence, though, I will happily confess to using the various scandals of the Vatican as an antidote to the romantic longings for a return to Rome which seem to afflict some Lutheran pastors and laity in these poor and difficult times for the church of the Augsburg Confession. Whenever such a longing arises in my own heart and my head goes dizzy with thoughts of incense and Latin chanting, and the ancient Tempter approaches pointing to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in his hand, one whiff of  pungent "Vatican Salts" is all it takes to regain my Lutheran consciousness!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

"It all began in the accursed seventh year of the papacy of Benedict XIV..." Just Another Vatican Scandal Pt II

"the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:25b-28

"Between ourselves, these are two things that I have always observed to be in singular accord: supercelestial thoughts and subterranean conduct..."
Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

"At the Vatican, everyone is against everyone, and everyone feels they have God on their side."
Der Spiegel, 2012

"It all began in the accursed seventh year of the papacy of Benedict XVI, with striking parallels to the latter part of Pope John Paul II's papacy. The same complaints about poor leadership and internal divisions are being aired outside the Vatican's walls, while the pope himself seems exhausted and no longer able to exert his power...
When compared with expectations, the results of Benedict XVI's seven years as pope have been rather modest. The German pope will not be remembered much for his avowed fight to preserve the unity of the Church. Instead, he will be remembered as a victim of circumstances and of fragmented, competing factions, as a pontiff plagued by scandals, mistakes and gaffes. He even built walls back up that seemed to have been worn down long ago. His papacy has consisted of years of ongoing apologies and alleged or actual misunderstandings."
          Read it all here

Personally, it's difficult not to have some sympathy for Ratzinger, an intellectual and sometimes brilliant theologian thrust into the halls of power with great expectations that he would definitively reform the Roman church after decades of the ascent of liberalism and the rise of moral corruption to the surface. It was always going to be a tall order for the mild-mannered and devout German to outwit the Vatican insiders, who seem to take their inspiration more from Machiavelli than from the Gospels.
As this scandal increasingly plays out in the unforgiving light of media scrutiny, it might be said by some in defence of Rome that all churches suffer from sometimes vicious ecclesiastical politics. True enough, I suppose, but none seem to rise - or perhaps should that be sink -  to the levels of Rome; after all, how many church hierarchies today can, on their own authority, imprison an apparent whistleblower in a cell with only the barest of amenities without appeal to a judge unconnected with the prosecution (habeus corpus!)? Furthermore, most other church bodies do not claim that their hierarchies are the succcessors to the Apostles and the only guarantors of God's grace in this world. That claim would seem to require a higher degree of probity than that usually associated with the Roman curia. 
It is premature to judge what the legacy of Ratzinger's papacy may be, but it does seem clear that he has not been the great reforming pope it was hoped he would be. Once again, it seems, the motto is proven true: Rome is semper eadem, always the same!     

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

Psalm 146:3-4

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Walther on Worthy Reception of the Lord's Supper

"He, therefore, who would receive the Lord’s Supper worthily and for his benefit must previously have come to repentance and faith, must previously have obtained grace and have become a true Christian. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is in and by itself not beneficial; rather the benefit depends on how one partakes. It does not work ex opere operato. It is not like a medicine which one need merely swallow to have the benefit. It is rather like a treasure house whose treasures can be taken, grasped and held only with the hand of faith." 

CFW Walther, Pastoral Theology, as quoted in Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, III: 382, fn 132    

The phrase ex opere operato means literally by the very act of the sacrament being performed. It applies to Roman Catholic doctrine wherein a sacrament (not just the Lord's Supper) is effectual simply by being performed provided no mortal sin places an obstacle in the way of beneficial reception of the grace offered. Such mortal sins must be confessed orally and priestly absolution received prior to reception for the sacrament to be received beneficially. For Lutherans the power and deceit of sin is such that we cannot be sure of identifying every mortal sin we have committed, and in any case the only mortal sin that proves an irremovable obstacle to worthy reception of the sacrament of the altar is the lack of faith in our Lord's words of promise: "This is my body given for you...this is my blood of the new testament, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins". Thus the examination of conscience prior to communing has as much or even more to do with faith as with repentance, although faith itself is simply the "open hand" into which God places his treasures of forgiveness, life and salvation.   

There is more that can be said, of course, and Walther does so, but this is enough for now.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

God Save Our Gracious Queen

 "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. " 
Romans 13:1-5
"I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."
1 Timothy 2:1-2

 "the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the does not destroy the State or the family, but very much requires that they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced in such ordinances. Therefore, Christians are necessarily bound to obey their own magistrates and laws save only when commanded to sin; for then they ought to obey God rather than men."
Augsburg Confession, Article XVI, Civil Government

"Gracious Father, you have exalted your Son as the King of kings and Lord of lords and yet he rules as the humble servant of all. We thank you that under him you have established governments and rulers for the world and blessed us through them. Today we give you thanks for Elizabeth, our Queen, and for the 60 years of her reign. Grant her joy and peace in her duties, sustain her with good health, and strengthen her to continue in faithful obedience to you and devoted service to her lands and peoples, now and all the days of her life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Prayer Upon the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Lutheran Church of Australia 

Yes, Australia is a constitutional monarchy, much to the consternation of my American friends who wonder why a  modern and progressive nation so like their own would continue to tie itself to such an outdated institution with a foreign-born monarch as head of government to boot (actually, Australians are profoundly different from Americans, but that is the subject of another post). The answer is really quite simple: the constitutional monarchy and the Westminster system of government it heads has provided the politically stable foundations on which modern Australia's prosperity and relative peacefulness has been built. That's not to say this is a perfect system of government, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill's remark apropos democracy generally, it is the least imperfect system that we have found. Thus the attitude of a majority of Australians to the question of a republic is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", especially given the political turmoil which we see presently engulfing many republics. In tumultuous times it would appear there is much to be said to for having an apolitical head of state who, unlike the American or French president, for example, can sit above the fray and provide a sense of unity, continuity with the past and hope for a future under the blessing of God. Constitutional monarchy "has the runs on the board", to use a cricket analogy we are fond of  "down under", while republics seem apt to fray at the edges until the fabric of society tears irreparably and chaos ensues (cf the Weimar republic of post WWI Germany).  And besides, the Queen, like her predecessors, is highly respected and personally popular among Australians, even republicans!

Like most British and Commonwealth children of the first two post-war generations (I was born in the 1960s), I grew up singing 'God Save Our Gracious Queen' every morning on the school parade ground, the classroom still entertained a portrait of the Queen in the place of honour above the blackboard and, while it was already by my time an anachronism, a map which showed all the countries of the British Commonwealth coloured in pink. Why pink and not red is apparently something to do with printing, but in any case the train of pink countries from East to West across the map powerfully conveyed the reality of the old saying that this was an empire/commonwealth on which the sun never set and inspired us with the sense that, although we were in those days a relatively insignificant antipodean Anglo-Saxon enclave (with significant Irish, German and other  minorities) on the wrong side of the world, we were connected to an entity much larger than ourselves.  Yes, I am aware that all this was the the legacy of an imperialism and colonialism which involved the imposition of the will of one people upon another by means of armed force. Australians generally are fans of neither imperialism nor colonialism, but the paradox is that we are the children of both.  Therein lies the only way to reconcile ourselves to this aspect of our history: that out of evil God brought good. I would also maintain that of all the colonial powers, Britain was demonstrably the most benign (compared with France, Spain, Portugal, Holland and Germany) and mostly a power for good over time, as the mode of de-construction of empire showed (witness also the fact that the vast majority of former colonies maintain membership in the Commonwealth to this day, even those who are republics). 

For deep-seated personal and emotional reasons then, not to mention political pragmatism, I would find it impossible to vote for a republic while the present monarch sits upon the throne.  There is also the matter of political philosophy: as I get older I am also increasingly convinced that radical and revolutionary republicanism is the bed-fellow of atheism and fosters the iconoclastic individualism that threatens to tear post-modern societies apart. In contrast, the "given" nature of monarchy and its contribution to the maintenance of institutions which build social capital and community make it for me the natural polity of a society whose ethos has been historically informed by faith in the Triune God.

Not that Australian republicanism is all that radical or revolutionary by historic standards; in fact, to date it has failed to inspire with an alternative, republican ethos or philosophy (cf the United States and France) at all, and has persisted with the view that republicanism is simply about exchanging a British monarch for an elected Australian as head of state. While republicans persist with that argument, I think most Australians will continue to ask why, if the political system is not broken, we should attempt to fix it? 

So, God save our gracious Queen, long may she reign over us!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Cohabitation Stats

Sociological Reasons Not to Live Together

from All About Cohabiting Before Marriage

"'Till death us do part' has been replaced by 'as long as I am happy.'"

Those who live together before marriage are the least likely to marry each other.
A Columbia University study cited in New Woman magazine found that "only 26% of women surveyed and a scant 19% of the men married the person with whom they were cohabiting." A more comprehensive National Survey of Families and Households, based on interviews with 13,000 people, concluded, "About 40% of cohabiting unions in the U.S. break up without the couple getting married." One of the reasons may be that those who cohabit drift from one partner to another in search of the 'right' person. The average cohabitant has several partners in a lifetime.
Those who live together before marriage have higher separation and divorce rates.
Psychology Today reported the findings of Yale University sociologist Neil Bennett that cohabiting women were 80% more likely to separate or divorce than were women who had not lived with their spouses before marriage. The National Survey of Families and Households indicates that "unions begun by cohabitation are almost twice as likely to dissolve within 10 years compared to all first marriages: 57% to 30%." Another five-year study by William Axinn of the University of Chicago of 800 couples reported in the Journal of Demography that those who cohabit are the most accepting of divorce. In a Canadian study at the University of Western Ontario, sociologists found a direct relationship between cohabitation and divorce when investigating over 8,000 ever-married men and women (Hall and Zhoa 1995:421-427). It was determined that living in a non-marital union "has a direct negative impact on subsequent marital stability," perhaps because living in such a union "undermines the legitimacy of formal marriage" and so "reduces commitment of marriage."
Those who live together before marriage have unhappier marriages. A study by the National Council on Family Relations of 309 newlyweds found that those who cohabited first were less happy in marriage. Women complained about the quality of communication after the wedding. A physical relationship is an inadequate foundation upon which to build a lasting lifelong relationship. A study by researchers Alfred DeMars and Gerald Leslie (1984) found that those who live together prior to marriage scored lower on tests rating satisfaction with their marriages than couples who did not cohabit. A study by Dr. Joyce Brothers showed that cohabitation has a negative affect on the quality of a subsequent marriage (Scott 1994). Cohabitors without plans to marry were found to be more inclined to argue, hit, shout and have an unfair division of labor than married couples (Brown and Booth 1997).
Those who are sexually active before marriage are much more likely to divorce. A study of 2,746 women in the National Survey of Family Growth performed by Dr. Kahn of the University of Maryland and Dr. London of the National Center for Health Statistics found that nonvirgin brides increase their odds of divorce by about 60%. Some would argue that cohabitation does not automatically mean that sex is taking place. However, cohabitation and sexual relations are related or that there is a strong correlation between them. Sex usually does accompany cohabitation (de Neui n.d.); Webster's Dictionary, in fact, defines cohabitation as "living together as or as if husband and wife." If cohabitants live together like "husband and wife," having sex is a very reasonable expectation. Therefore, the assumption is made throughout this writing (granting some occasional exceptions) that cohabitants do have sexual relations.
Those who have had premarital sex are more likely to have extramarital affairs as well.
Premarital sexual attitudes and behavior do not change after one marries; if a woman lives with a man before marriage, she is more likely to cheat on him after marriage. Research indicates that if one is willing to experience sex before marriage, a higher level of probability exists that one will do the same afterwards. This is especially true for women; those who engaged in sex before marriage are more than twice as likely to have extramarital affairs as those who did not have premarital sex. When it comes to staying faithful, married partners have higher rates of loyalty every time. One study, done over a five-year period, reported in Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles indicates 90% of married women were monogamous, compared to 60% of cohabiting women. Statistics were even more dramatic with male faithfulness: 90% of married men remained true to their brides, while only 43% of cohabiting men stayed true to their partner (Ciavola 1997). In another study published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family researchers analyzed the relationships of 1,235 women, ages 20 to 37, and found that women that had cohabited before marriage were 3.3 times more likely to have a secondary sex partner after marriage (Forste and Tanfer 1996:33-47). It was also found that married women were "5 times less likely to have a secondary sex partner than cohabiting women" and that "cohabiting relationships appeared to be more similar to dating relationships than to marriage."
Those who live together are likely to have a fleeting romance rather than a lasting relationship.
A romance is not the same as having an ongoing relationship. Relationships take time and work to develop and maintain; romance is a positive feeling toward another person. Romance without relationship is a brief encounter at best. Romance, in today's disposable society, is hastily devised and easily discarded at the first sign of conflict or disillusionment. There is no lasting commitment when times get tough. Good relationships are built upon knowing and enjoying each other on social, recreational, spiritual, intellectual, and communicative levels, not only the sexual level.
Those who have "trial" marriages do not have better marriages.
Trial runs or half steps, to test whether the relationship "works" are not successful, in fact quite the opposite is true. Research indicates that couples who live together before marriage have significantly lower marital satisfaction than those who do not cohabit and they have weaker marriages, not stronger ones. Conventional wisdom says it is acceptable to have a "trial period" to "try the shoe on first to see if it fits" or to "test drive a car before you buy it." For marriage, however, just the opposite is true! "All a man's ways seem right to him..." (Proverbs 21:2). A newly married couple makes a deliberate effort to accommodate each other because they know their relationship will be for life. They want to build compatibility, not test it. (Harley 1996). Walter Trobisch said that,"sex is no test of love, for it is precisely the very thing that one wants to test that is destroyed by the testing." Laura Schlessinger, host of the nationally syndicated "Dr. Laura" radio show, scolds people nearly every day for "shacking up with your honey." It's the "ultimate female self-delusion," Mrs. Schlessinger says, listing cohabiting as one of the "Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives" in her book of the same name. "Dating -- not living in -- is supposed to be about learning and discerning" about a prospective mate, she says.
Those who live together have no lasting commitments or responsibilities. Cohabitation involves "no public commitment, no pledge for the future, no official pronouncement of love and responsibility. Theirs is essentially a private arrangement based on an emotional bond. The 'commitment' of living together is simply a month-to-month rental agreement. "As long as you behave yourself and keep me happy, I'll stick around."
Marriage, on the other hand, is much more than a love partnership. It is a public event that involves legal and societal responsibilities. It brings together not just two people but also two families and two communities. It is not just for the here and now; it is, most newlyweds hope, 'till death do us part.' Getting married changes what you expect from your mate and yourself. Some would argue that "the marriage license is only a piece of paper" and that "if God knows the heart, then He knows the truth of the marriage" and therefore being "married" by the church or state is an imposition and irrelevant. We are, however, admonished to obey the laws of our government in Scriptures (c. Mt. 22:21; Mk. 12:17; Lk. 20:25), which requires us to have legal marriages. (Common law marriages are recognized, in varying forms, in only 16 states - see the "Legal Reasons").

Jessie Bernard in "The Future Of Marriage" states: "One fundamental fact underlies the conception of marriage itself. Some kind of commitment must be involved...Merely fly-by-night, touch and go relationships do not qualify. "People who marry "til death do us part" have a quite different level of commitment, therefore a quite different level of security, thus a quite different level of freedom, and as a result a quite different level of happiness than those who marry "so long as love doth last." The "love doth last" folks are always anticipating the moment when they or their mate wakes up one morning and finds the good feeling that holds them afloat has dissolved beneath them."
Those who live together miss something in the maturing process.
In this "alternative lifestyle," the aim is to have all the benefits and privileges of a mature, married person without accepting the responsibilities which maturity demands. Crudely stated, "why would you buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" Our society encourages people to focus on the present and live for today -- "if it feels good, do it." But the act of formal marriage implies an emphasis on the future. Cohabitation also points to a missing ingredient in the process of becoming mature: the willingness to make commitments and live up to them. A willingness to defer immediate pleasures in pursuit of a worthwhile goal is a mark of maturity. People who make a commitment and accept total responsibility for their choices are more likely to develop self-respect, personal pride, and integrity. Persons who go from one relationship to another develop patterns opting out of a stressful situation rather than hanging in there and dealing with it; these patterns can carry over into a marriage (Anonymous n.d.). See the resource on relationship maturity.
Those living-together avoid dealing with some of the joint decisions that married couples have to make.For example, money and property tend to be either 'his' or 'hers', not 'ours.' Consequently, it isn't all that important how he or she spends his or her money. In-laws are rarely a factor; they often disapprove and stay aloof from the couple. Nor do most in-live arrangements have to adapt to children (Dunagan 1993).
Those who live together often have a "marriage of convenience" or a "marriage of compatibility" rather than a marriage of commitment. "Marriages of convenience" are disposable; marriages of commitment are lifelong and not to be dissolved. Commitment means being determined that the two of you will stick it out no matter what ("whether in sickness or in long as you both shall live"). When there is an agreement without commitment it is easy to give up. When there is a commitment ahead of time, you hang-tough through good times and the bad and don't bail out at the first sign of trouble. As one pastor put it: "Imagine building a wonderful house, but without nails. In the first stiff wind, it will collapse" (McManus n.d.). Commitments are said and kept "before God" and with His help, and "in a the company of people"; an agreement is made between two people and kept only as long as it continues to be convenient for either party. A lifetime commitment, provided by marriage, is needed in order for a relationship to be pleasing to God. When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, he pointed out her lack of commitment (Jn. 4:16-18). The Bible says men are to love their wives like Christ loved the Church. Christ was so committed, that he died for the Church (Eph. 5:25). The Bible also says that a husband must not divorce his wife (1 Cor. 7:11). That's commitment to stay and continually work on the relationship (de Neui n.d.).
Those having premarital sex may be fooled into marrying a person who is not right for them.
Sex can emotionally blind. Real love can stand the test of time without the support of physical intimacy. "If you establish a mutually satisfying sexual relationship, you lose objectivity and actually cheat on the test of time. The only way to rationally decide whether your love is for keeps is to remove any preoccupation with eros, sexual love. Otherwise you may marry a mirage, not a person you really know."
Those living together have superficial and significantly weaker relationships. Researchers have fund that couples who live together before marriage have weaker marriages (DeMars and Leslie 1984). Anyone can make love, but not everyone can carry on a meaningful conversation. A good relationship is much more than physical intimacy. Beauty is more than skin deep; there is a deeper intimacy of the mind and spirit that takes the time and commitment of a marriage to develop to the fullest. Physical attraction is insufficient glue with which to build or maintain a lasting relationship. A more recent study at Johns Hopkins University, again confirmed that couples who cohabit have quite different and significantly weaker relationships than married couples (Schoen and Weinick 1993:408-414). They determined that men and women looking for someone with whom they could cohabit search for "characteristics such as education which can reflect a short-term ability to contribute to the relationship." The researchers found, "While cohabitors anticipate time together, married persons anticipate a lifetime." They also discovered that most cohabitations end within two years and that "cohabitations are not informal marriages, but relationships formed by looser bonds."
Those who live together have more difficulty resolving conflicts.
Attempts are made to resolve conflicts with a hug, kiss, or more--rather than developing the ability to talk through them. The qualities that hold a relationship together - trust, honesty, openness, deep friendship, spiritual intimacy - take time and effort to develop. When you focus on the physical aspect, you short-circuit that process. Physical intimacy is a mistaken attempt to quickly build emotional bridges, but relationships built on such an inadequate foundation eventually collapse. A recent study at Penn State University (Brown & Booth 1997) comparing the relationship qualities of 682 cohabitors and 6,881 marrieds, (both White and Black, aged 19 to 48 years of age), found that cohabitors argue, shout and hit more than married couples.
Those who live together before marriage can kill the romance. A woman most often see living together as romantic, while the man views the arrangement a "practical" solution that will help them iron out differences and strengthen their love (Scott 1994:80). In fact, live-in couples may find it harder to build lasting love precisely because they have lost their starry-eyed, romantic "illusions."
Those who live together before marriage often lay a foundation of distrust and lack of respect.
Mature love is built on the security of knowing that your love is exclusive. There is no one else. Premarital intimacy causes you to wonder: "If he or she has this little control with me now, have there been others before me and will there be others in the future too?" As suspicion and distrust increase, you slowly lose respect or the other person. The trust factor is an important ingredient in a healthy marriage--the knowledge that each partner can relax and be him/herself at the most intimate level without the fear of doing something that will drive the other away -- is missing from the living-together arrangement (Anonymous n.d.). Premarital sex lays the groundwork for comparisons, suspicions, and mistrust. Real trust grows in the context of the life-long commitment within a monogamous relationship of marriage.
Those who live together do not experience the best sex.
The best sex is found in the marriage relationship. It is reported that if a couple abstains from sex before marriage, they are 29 to 47 percent more likely to enjoy sex afterward. In a study by Dr. Evelyn Duvall and Dr. Judson Landis, evidence was found that premarital sex was not as satisfying.
A study by Linda Waite, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Chicago and reported in "Psychology Today," found the frequency of satisfaction rose considerably after couples adapted during marriage. Married people lead more active sex lives. While cohabiting couples have similarly high levels of sex, married men and women have more satisfaction in the bedroom. That's because married people know the tastes of their partner better and can safely cater to them, while the emotional investment in the relationship boosts the thrill.
A recent Michigan study, found that individuals who have never cohabited outside of marriage were more likely to rate their relationships stronger than those who have cohabited (49% of non-cohabitors rated their relationship a "10," compared to 36% of those who have cohabited) (Michigan Family Forum 1998).
In another recent study by the Family Research Council titled "What's Marriage Got to Do With It?" found "72 percent of all married 'traditionalists' (those who strongly believe out of wedlock sex is wrong) report high sexual satisfaction. This is roughly 31 percentage points higher than the level registered by unmarried 'nontraditionalists.'"
Sexual happiness grows only through years of intimate relationship. The height of sexual pleasure, usually comes after ten to twenty years of marriage (Fryling 1995). Good sex, Frying says, begins in the head. It depends on intimate knowledge of your partner. The Bible uses the words "to know" to describe sexual intercourse (e.g., Adam "knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore" a son (Gen. 4:1). Real love described in scripture elevates human sexuality from mere animal sex to intimate expressions of love and commitment. Psychiatrist and medical researcher David Larson, after researching the subject with Mary Ann Mayo, says that "The most religious women are most satisfied with the frequency of intercourse...and were more orgasmic than are the nonreligious" (Larson and Mayo 1994:14).
Those who live together often face parental disapproval.
It is difficult to keep the secret quiet. Lies have to be told over and over again to cover up the truth. There are issues of monetary support from parents, what to do with the partner's possessions when they visit, and guilt about going against their wishes and lying to them(Jackson 1996). The fear of loss of parental support is substantial (Johnson 1996).
Those who live together hurt their children. Penn State sociologists Wendy Maning and Daniel Lichter estimate that 2.2 million children in America live with one parent and an unmarried partner (Stalcup 1996). Children need the love and care of real parents. Unstable and broken relationships traumatize children for life. Children of cohabiting couples who come from previously broken marriages get mixed messages and view their parents as having a double standard. For example, the cohabiting parents have great difficulty establishing moral guidelines for their children, especially when they reach the dating age.
Those who live together before marriage often lack a common purpose.
Many couples drift together. They date, have sex, sleep together, spend a weekend together, eventually begin to bring clothes, toothbrush, etc. for the convenience and one day look up and realize they have migrated into a shared living arrangement. The lack of common purpose is a problem then, Johnson (1996) says, because now they are deep into the relationship and haven't begun to talk about the important things, like "are we going to work it out? What is going to be our future? What is going to be down the road?" They have not thought about "being obligated to the other person." "They don't want to be committed. They want it where they can get out pretty easy if they want to. Easy to walk out the door." Realistically, marriage carries with it a lot more expectations -- a house, a car, all the matching silverware, and the couch. Cohabitation is a way of getting out of all those expectations
Those who live together before marriage do not have an egalitarian relationship.Even though most young people claim to want an egalitarian marriage, studies have found that invariably living arrangements for cohabitants follow the more traditional role format. According to Johnson (1996), men tend to go to school, go play, come home and they want their meals cooked, the house clean, their clothes ready to go. Women find themselves on the short end of the stick performing all those very roles that are contrary to egalitarian marriage.
Those who live together before marriage do not have specialization of responsibilities.
The evidence clearly shows that "living together" is qualitatively different from marriage. The commitment of marriage makes specialization in chores and responsibilities sensible; spouses count on their partners to fill in for them where they are weak. By contrast, cohabitation is unstable, easy to get out of, and makes specialization less rational.
Those who live together before marriage have less support and benefits. Marriage is far superior to cohabitation at connecting people to others - work acquaintances, in-laws - who are a source of support and benefits. It links people to a world larger than themselves.
Copyright All About Cohabiting Before Marriage. Used by permission. Note: As of 12/08/2008 the website and page for this article has been shutdown. A new address for this website has yet to be located.