A Gradual Demise of Marriage

A recent Associated Press article by Nigel Duara reflects on data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on May 26, 2011 that shows that married couples find themselves in a new position: They’re no longer the majority. Duara writes, “It’s a trend that’s been creeping along for decades, but in the 2010 Census, married couples represent 48 percent of all households. That’s down from 52% in the last Census and, for the first time in U.S. history, puts households led by married couples as a plurality.” This ought not be a surprise to us, realizing how God’s holy ordinance of marriage is despised and perverted in our day, but I still find it shocking.

Duara continues:

The flip in the 2010 Census happened in 32 states. In another seven states, less than 51 percent of households were helmed by married couples. 

The reason, said Portland State University demographer Charles Rynerson, is twofold: The fast-growing older population is more likely to be divorced or widowed later in life, and 20-somethings are putting off their nuptials for longer stretches. 

“People in their 20s are postponing marriage for many reasons, including money,” Rynerson said. “We also have an aging population, so there’s more people living alone.” Fears of not being able to hang onto a job, a widening labor market for women and a shift away from having kids at a young age have all proved to be a disincentive for people in their 20s and early 30s to join the ranks of the married…. 

…The median age for first marriages has climbed steadily since the 1960s, when men got married at about 23 years old, and women at 20. Now, men are waiting until they’re 28 and women are holding off until 26. 

“Some of that is people coupling but not being married,” Rynerson said. “There are not nearly as many people in their 20s who are married as in previous generations.” 

The data supports that, as the Census Bureau reported last year that opposite-sex unmarried couples living together jumped 13 percent from 2009 to 7.5 million. 

We’re also living longer, with an average life expectancy of 78 years, nearly a decade longer than in the 1960s. 

To reflect the changing attitudes on marriage, the Census Bureau has broadened the definition of family this year to include unmarried couples, such as same-sex partners, as well as foster children who are not related by blood or adoption. 

And attitudes on marriage are changing, too. About 29 percent of Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a Pew Research Center study published in November, up from 28 percent in 1978.

The most grievous aspect of all this is that so much of the church has compromised, if not completely abandoned, the biblical teachings regarding marriage and the family. WORLDmagazine (June 4, 2011) contains edited excerpts of Marvin Olasky’s interview with Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family. Daly appears to acknowledge the failings of the church regarding the biblical maintenance of marriage. He says,

We’ve got to look at what God is doing in all of this…. Have we done such a poor job with marriage, is He so upset with our mishandling of it in the Christian community, along with our lust of the flesh as a nation, that He is handing us over to this polygamy and same-sex situation in order to, perhaps, drive the Christian community, the remnant into saying, ‘OK, there’s no no-fault divorce in our church?… if you’re going to be a part of this church and you’re married, you’re going to be committed to your marriage. There’s no easy way out.’ What if the Christian divorce rate goes from 40 percent to 10 percent or 5 percent, and the world’s goes from 50 percent to 80 percent? Now we’re back to the early centuries. They’re looking at us and thinking, ‘We want more of what they’ve got,’ because we’re proving in front of the eyes of the world that marriage in a Christian context works…. We’ve got to look at our own house, make sure that our marriages are healthy, that we’re being a good witness to the world. Then we can continue to work on defending marriage as best we can.

What Daly is proposing would require large scale repentance and reformation in much of the modern-day church. Many churches are filled with unmarried couples living together in fornication, and couples who are divorced and remarried. Sound preaching and teaching with regard to these issues is almost impossible to find. The key of Christian discipline with regard to sins against the seventh commandment has long been covered with rust.

Yes, it is important “to look at what God is doing in all of this.” We must see His righteous judgments in giving over, not only the unbelieving world, but also much of the apostatizing church unto the lusts of the flesh and a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:28). But may our God ever preserve a faithful remnant that, in doctrine and in life, strives to uphold the truth regarding marriage. May He preserve, in the midst of this world, His church, which is faithful in exercising the key of Christian discipline. By the grace of God, may our marriages be a faithful testimony to those around us in this evil day.

A Record-breaking Tornado Season

Certainly so far this spring, tornadoes have been “all around us.” Though we are yet early in the storm season, 2011 is already the deadliest year for tornadoes in our country since 1950. A record 875 tornadoes have torn across the USA in April. And reportedly more than 520 lives have been taken. On April 27, at least 312 tornadoes ravaged seven southern states in a 24-hour period, killing more than 300 and leaving thousands homeless. The first two weeks of May were relatively quiet, but then on Sunday, May 22, a monster tornado hit Joplin, Missouri, leaving at least 150 dead and more than 900 injured. This tornado was the single deadliest tornado in the U.S. since officials began keeping records in 1950. Certainly our hearts ache as we see and hear the reports of the devastation, the injuries, and the loss of life wrought by the many tornadoes in many places this spring.

The experts are asking why 2011 has spawned so many deadly storms. Researchers try to sort out the causes. More of the tornadoes this year have been in the two most destructive categories, F4 and F5, than in past years. Many experts believe that La Nina, a cyclical drop in temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which lasts at least five months and repeats every three to five years, is part of the explanation. Others speculate about climate change being a factor. We may hear reports of survivors of a tornado who give thanks to God for sparing their lives, but seldom do we hear an acknowledgment that the sovereign God has sent and directed the storm. And almost never do we hear the response, “Christ is coming, and He’s coming soon,” as storms and tornadoes increase in their intensity and frequency.

Many may be reminded of specific tornadoes that have wreaked havoc in their own area and touched their own lives. Tornadoes were a familiar summer occurrence in the state of Iowa, where I grew up. And in the other places I have lived, tornadoes were a spring and summer weather hazard—also in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario. But the tornado that made the biggest impression upon me was one that struck farms and neighboring villages near Edgerton in southwest Minnesota in June, 1992. This one affected people we knew, some within our own congregation. We saw the devastation and helped with the clean-up. Some may be reminded of the very beautiful and moving meditation written by Rev. Gerrit Vos shortly after a devastating tornado struck Hudsonville, Michigan when he was a pastor there in April of 1956. The meditation, originally appearing in the Standard Bearer, is included in the book of his meditations from the Psalms entitled O Taste & See (pp. 147-152). The meditation, based on Psalm 46:8, 10, 11, was entitled “Visited by Majesty on High.” As I recall, Rev. G. Eriks, the current pastor in Hudsonville PRC, was able to speak, and read a portion of Rev. Vos’ meditation, at the 50th Anniversary community commemoration ceremony of the tornado in 2006.

Rev. Vos’ meditation speaks of how God came and roared, walking through that village leaving a path of devastation, death, pain, misery, and sorrow. It spoke of the awe that was also left in the hearts and minds of God’s children. But let us hear from him:

Our village received a very special visit by the Lord Christ. 

It was a visit of the Majesty on High. 

What we really received was a little foretaste of the end of the world. 

Some of us went to heaven in the process of that visit. Others are in the hospital because of that visit. Some of us had a brush with death. All of us were deeply impressed by that visit. 

God came to us, and He roared. I have never before heard a voice such as we heard around supper time, Tuesday evening, April 3, 1956. It sounded as though a thousand express trains were traversing the sky. 

His footsteps were seen. He walked from the southwest to the northeast, skirting our village. Everyone was aware of His august presence. 

And we were afraid. Many cowered in the basement of their homes while God ravaged their (?) properties. He flung houses and barns far and wide. Such debris was mixed with black muck and the dust of the earth. He snuffed out the lives of some of us, broke the bones and the flesh of others. They were left moaning in His wake. 

Oh yes, no one can dispute it: God walked among us; His Christ paid us a special visit; He left desolation, death, pain, and misery. 

But also awe, the awe of the childlike fear of Jehovah. 

One man said, “My Jehovah was beautiful in His raging!” And that man lost half of his worldly goods, and his life was in jeopardy. 

Yes, I have seen Him too. 

His pathway through Hudsonville was about three or four city blocks from my dwelling…. 

…The tornado calls us to a rededication, to a reconsecration. It did that to me. We have given our answer to God’s visit in our communal prayer. And we tremble at His presence now. For God says, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” 

God desires to be exalted. And, let us never forget it, He will be exalted. Therefore He walked through our town on a bias, on a line from the southwest to the northeast. Even the dogs saw Him and trembled. 

He was exalted. Even by the reprobate, although they will not admit it….. 

…Did you note that the daily papers did not connect the tornado with God and His Christ? 

But we are still, Father! We know that Thou art God. And we exalt Thee, even while we cower in the southwest corner of our basements…. 

… The papers say, “Get to the basement.” They even specify the exact corner which is safest: the southwest. Or under a table or a bed if you have no basement. I have no quarrel with the scientist. We must use the means. 

But there is a refuge that is better, far better. 

We hide in the shadow of the cross of our Jesus. 

And all is well. Amen. Hallelujah!

Do we hear this Word? Is this Word in our minds and hearts as we see and hear of the destruction, the injuries, the death wrought not only by tornadoes, but also by earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and fires? Do we hear this Word: “Be still and know that I am God!”?

By grace, we desire to exalt our God! For this God is our Father; He is our refuge and our strength, the God of our salvation. He has sent the storms of His wrath upon His only begotten Son on the cross for us! Truly, “the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge!”