Thursday, February 28, 2008

Marriage Today

A study done at the Center for Applied Research at Georgetown University (as reported in the Wall Street Journal Friday February 22, 2008), discovered that young Catholic adults -millennials- born between 1982 and 1989 believe in marriage but their faith is not an important part of that belief. They believe strongly that marriage is a lifetime commitment and that couples don't take marriage seriously when divorce is an easy option. They believe these things much more strongly than their parents do. What they don't believe as strongly is that the faith of the Church needs to inform their beliefs about marriage at all. What they tend to believe is more of what they have learned from their culture. They believe that who they marry must be their "soul mate" and that falling out of love is an acceptable reason for divorce. "Catholic young people have an individualized idea of who should set the rules", said Christian Smith, a sociology professor at Notre Dame. He went on to say, "Most younger Catholics have defined their inner self as the authority, and many freely distance themselves from church practices they don't believe in."

I find that to be true among Protestants, as well. In fact, it is a culture wide phenomenon. However, as far as marriage goes, it is pretty much left up to the couple to decide its meaning and how it is lived out. I have had couples come to me to do a marriage service for them and when I ask them why they want to get married in the church the best they can offer (usually the bride to be) is that she just always wanted a church wedding. How the Christian faith informs her decision or practice of marriage is not part of it.

The trend that I see is for even Christian young people to wait longer to get married and to live together before they do. If what they have is true love, then they choose to get married. If true love fails, then they choose to end the marriage.

In one of my early marriage sermons I said marriage is a calling from God. It is a "vocation", to use the Catholic term. Two Christian persons are responding to something God is doing in their lives. God is the center of their relationship. He will support, sustain and bless them. This understanding is missing as many couples think about marriage today. For most of them it seems like marriage is something the two of them have just come up with. In fact, the idea has been around a long time.

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