Now, I recognize that traditional family values do not equal biblical Christianity. Plenty of folks from other religions see marriage as the cornerstone of civilization (including Mormons, Orthodox Jews and Muslims).
But these two examples give us a window into the future of marriage and family in North America.
The picture of a man and woman who wait until their wedding night to consummate their relationship and then remain committed for 40, 50, even 60 years as they grow in their love for each other and raise their kids and enjoy their grandkids simply isn’t the norm anymore. It’s likely that churches will be one of the few places you’ll find people married more than 60 years.
The arrival of same-sex marriage is just the next train stop on a journey that began with the proliferation of birth control in the 1950s and 1960s. When pleasure and reproduction were divorced from a holistic understanding of sex, the idea that sexual expression and childrearing should be reserved for the committed relationship of a husband and wife began to disappear.
Add the abortion culture of the 1970s, the establishment of no-fault divorce, an increase in single moms and deadbeat dads, and the rise of reproductive technologies, and it’s no wonder that people today don’t think of marriage as a central institution for bringing new life into the world, but instead as an emotional and sexual union of two partners.
The bad news: When you look at other countries that legalized same-sex marriage decades ago, you notice a dramatic reduction in the number of people getting married. In all likelihood, we will soon resemble our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world: We will stand out for being the very thing that our grandparents would have thought ordinary. One of God’s greatest gifts to us in common grace (the institution of marriage) will be disregarded, leading to a number of societal ills and further breakdown of the family.
The good news: In our churches, we have the opportunity to show the world a better way. To show the world what biblical manhood and womanhood looks like. To show the world the difference between a covenant and a contract, the difference between commitment based on feeling and a covenant based on faith.
The absence of a marriage culture will make biblical marriage stand out all the more. We’ll be ordinary oddballs. So let’s not waste the opportunity.