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Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

But there is no cause for rejoicing. The Grand Rapids Press, July 15, 2005, headlined its article on the subject: “Americans dodge divorce by skipping marriage.” The figures presented are shocking indeed. Geoff Mulvihill, with the Associated Press, wrote:

The divorce rate in the United States is falling, and a new study offers an explanation: More people are shacking up instead of getting married. 

In a report released today, the co-directors of the National Marriage Project, a nonpartisan institute at Rutgers University that promotes marriage, said couples who get married are more committed to each other than those who just live together. 

The study analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other researchers.

Nine of every 1,000 married women in the United States divorced in 1960, according to the study. The rate increased to more than 22 per 1,000 in 2004. 

Meanwhile, the number of unmarried, opposite-sex couples living together has climbed from 439,000 in 1960 to more than 5 million now. 

And the marriage rate has fallen over the past three decades: Seventy-seven out of every 1,000 single women got married in 1976; last year, the number was fewer than 40 per 1,000, the study found….

Of interest also is the fact that seven states still have laws against “cohabiting.” But these seem routinely violated without consequence. USA Today reports:

The almost 1 million unmarried heterosexual Americans who live together in Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia are violating state laws against “lewd and lascivious” cohabitation. 

Such laws are remnants of an earlier era; North Carolina’s is vintage 1805. And although they remain on the books, anti-cohabitation laws are rarely enforced. 

But a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s statute is making its way through the courts and is drawing new attention to these old laws. 

“The idea that government criminalizes people’s choice to live together out of wedlock in this day and age defies logic and common sense,” says Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, which filed suit on behalf of Debora Hobbs. 

Hobbs is an unmarried woman who lost her job with the Pender County Sheriff’s Department because she and her boyfriend live together…. 

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in March to overturn the North Carolina law; the case probably will be scheduled for a hearing this fall, Rudinger says. 

Hobbs “is continuing to live with her boyfriend because she believes it’s her constitutional right,” Rudinger says.

One of the individuals mentioned in the above article was quoted, “You should be allowed to live like you want to live.”

One can only wonder how far such reasoning will go. Will one claim the right to live in cohabitation with a minor? Some would insist, “But there are good laws against that.” Yet, not so many years ago the same was true of fornication—it was against the law of the land (as well as contrary to God’s laws). Not long ago there were laws against the practice of homosexual acts. But that is no longer true. There was a time when divorce was granted by some states only on the ground of proven adultery. But no more. Now most states will grant “no-fault” divorces.

All of this represents a devilish attack on the institution of marriage—and upon the covenant that God establishes with His people in the line of continued generations. What is being destroyed in the world has also affected the church. The very sins condemned in Scripture are now being condoned and even approved within many of the mainline Christian churches. Satan’s attack has seemingly been devastatingly effective. Many would insist that these deviations are in fact one’s “constitutional right.” The laws of the land are increasingly made to conform to the imagined “constitutional rights” of the individual. It has reached a point where many believe that those who oppose the murder that is abortion should not be appointed or approved for judgeship on the Supreme Court. This would mean that any Christian who faithfully adheres to the Word and law of God is automatically disqualified. When the morality of Scripture is forsaken, then each can do what is deemed right in his own eyes. The devastating consequences are becoming increasingly evident. The marriage vow “until death do us part” has been increasingly interpreted to mean, “until I find someone more desirable and attractive to me.” The wrenching consequences were expressed in theRocky Mountain News. Betsy Hart, of the Scripps Howard News Service, not only writes about her own sad experience, but presents a spiritual testimony with it:

It’s that time of year for wonderful wedding celebrations. In many ways I think that this June, after 17 years of marriage myself, I am more committed than ever to the sacredness and significance of marriage, something I’ve written about so many times. So then this June finds me living a terrible irony: I’m passionate about the importance of marriage—but my husband has, sadly, ended our marriage and I will soon be divorced. 

Dear readers, it’s because my commitment to marriage, and to my husband and our children, was all real that I worked hard to save my family, and to help my husband want to stay within its folds, for his sake as well as ours. I loved him. I believed we were close, and that I was loved and faithfully cherished in return. But I was wrong. So, when he finally left, my shock and grief were total. Yet, I know the children and I will be OK. 

I fully believe that God is sovereign in this, and is even (somehow) using these terrible events for his own honor and the ultimate well-being of my children and me. 

…In the wake of my discoveries there were times when my pain and anger were overwhelming to me. But through this terrible ordeal, I’ve also come to see more than ever that sin is powerful— and blinding. And in turn, this has convinced me that my husband chose to leave his family not because he could see clearly, but precisely because he couldn’t. 

Such thinking is at odds with today’s “divorce culture,” which seems to consistently paint marriage break-ups as at some level rational, not wrenching and destructive (which is why it has to deny that there are so many innocent victims of divorce). In contrast, having the understanding that I do I can have genuine compassion for my husband—compassion which is completely compatible with my appropriate anger over what he has done.

The writer concludes:

Sadly, the prevailing divorce culture does not seem to consider divorce a profoundly destructive thing. I do. And I don’t just mean for the individuals involved, especially the children. I mean for our culture as a whole. 

Yet I also know that my own tragedy does not have to define me, or my children. I don’t know what the future holds. But I do know that God’s mercies are new every morning, and so even now I can look forward to every new morning with increasing joy and hope in the future.

Hardly ever does one find the sadness and difficulty of divorce so eloquently expressed. Less often still does one find that expressed in the secular press from a positively spiritual viewpoint.

One might conclude that Satan surely has been succeeding in his endeavor to destroy marriages and families not only within the unbelieving world, but increasingly also in what is called church. The fornication of shacking up together is no longer condemned by an unbelieving world, and increasingly not by the churches either. The biblical definition of marriage is considered no longer applicable in our modern society. With Scripture we cry out, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”