Exploding myths about cohabitation

1171173373_12cd9932e3_zUniversity of Virginia sociologist Bradford Wilcox has published a study of the effects of cohabitation, couples living together without marriage.  He especially looked at the impact on children when their parents are not married.  He quantified his study by examining what percentage of children over time are still living with their parents.

Now one could deduce using common sense that couples who are not married are going to have less stable families, with children being adversely affected.  This study, though, gives an abundance of empirical data.  Not only that, it looks at cohabitation globally, finding consistent patterns across nationalities and cultures.  And it explodes at least three common myths that people had assumed about cohabitation.

The complete study is here.  Read an interview with Prof. Wilcox on his findings after the jump.

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The two kinds of romantic love

8096547973_367546a4eb_zOne kind of romantic love leads to life–to marriage, fruitful sexuality, children, family, virtue.  The other kind of romantic love leads to death–to sin, sterile sexuality, abortion, family destruction, ruin.

These two kinds of romantic love are explored in one of the most morally illuminating books of literary criticism I have ever read:  Love in the Western World by the Swiss Christian scholar Denis de Rougement.

A romance novel will often set up a triangle in which a woman has to choose between two suitors:  One is a good guy who cares for her, whom her parents like, and who would make a good husband.  The other is nearly a villain, an “anti-hero” who sometimes mistreats her, is a social outcast from her circles, and who even seems dangerous.  Young adults novels are often built around the same pattern,  with the choice between an all-American popular boy and a troubled, misunderstood, passionate “bad boy.”  Many literary novels have been about a happily married man who is lured away from his angelic wife by an exotic, sensual, forbidden beauty.

Sometimes the characters make the right choice in committing themselves to the good person.  But, more often than not, they choose the one who is bad “in society’s eyes,” but who offers them excitement, passion, and the thrill of transgression.  Romance and young adult novels often stop when the choice is made, imposing a “happily ever after ending.”  But honest works of literature, like Anna Karenina, show what happens next, with the forbidden love resulting in ruin, despair, and even death.

More importantly, the pattern keeps asserting itself in real life.   [Read more…]

Pastors have happier marriages, stronger families than usual

Luther_im_Kreise_seiner_Familie_musizierendBarna Research has published a new study on the problems, challenges, and personal life of pastors.  (You can buy the study here.)  Among many other findings is that, on the whole, pastors have much happier marriages and much better relationships with their children than typical Americans.

And yet, despite their strong families, pastors report that their ministries have sometimes put a strain on their marriages and children.

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The ethical non-monogamy community

Carl Trueman reflects on an interview with a member of “the ethical non-monogamy community.”  That is, a married mother who has sex with men she isn’t married to and who argues that her promiscuity is good for her children because it makes her a better mother.  (Should this be another protected sexual identity?)

She claims to be “sex positive”–that is, that she has a positive attitude towards sex–but Prof. Trueman shows that she is really “sex negative.” [Read more…]

Pope says most married people aren’t really married

Roman Catholicism famously doesn’t believe in divorce.  But it does believe in annulments, a procedure which determines that for one reason or another–immaturity, not knowing what they are getting into, etc.–a valid marriage never took place.

The implication is that many couples who had a church wedding and a marriage license, who have had children together, and who have lived their whole lives together are not really married.  I suppose this comes out if the couple wants to break up the marriage and, if they are Catholic, receive an annulment, but even if they stay together, they can never really know if they are married.

I would say that, from a Lutheran perspective,  this is another example of Roman Catholicism’s being not nearly sacramental enough.  Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament, but the objective sacrament doesn’t make the marriage, just the subjective experience of long ago when they first became married.  Similarly, Catholics can’t really know if they have been saved, even though they have been baptized, received Holy Communion, etc.

This is also an example of legalism in religion, in which laws that are too difficult to fulfill are, in practice, weakened by creating technicalities and loopholes that make it easier to accomplish while defeating the whole purpose of the original law.  (If you don’t believe in divorce because marriage is a sacrament and thus permanent, don’t have annulments either!  These are just divorces by another name, even though they “save the appearances” of permanent marriage by declaring that a marriage never happened, though at the expense of your whole sacramental theology.)

Anyway, the Pope last week said that, because of the lack of commitment, “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null.”  His handlers later edited the original transcript to change “the great majority” to “some,” but still. . . .If so many people who have gotten married are really just living together, committing fornication and their children illegitimate (to use other Catholic categories), then the line between wedlock and cohabitation is fatally blurred.  If marriage, however, is a VOCATION, a calling from God, it’s a different story. [Read more…]

The First Amendment Defense Act

A bill is before Congress that would protect individuals, churches, and other organizations from being discriminated against because of their beliefs about gay marriage.  The First Amendment Defense Act, which ingeniously frames the issue in terms of discrimination, has been bottled up in committee for over a year.  Lawmakers don’t seem to want to take it up, even though Republicans control both houses.

Though President Obama would surely veto the bill, both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (though not John Kasich) have promised to sign it. [Read more…]