Ruth Speaks Out

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The Fate of Nations Hinges on the Future of Marriage

Posted on Friday, May 14, 2021

a speech by Don Feder, Coalitions Director of the Ruth Institute to The Family Symposium 2021 of the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum – May 14, 2021

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be with you today, to once again address the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum – this time, on the importance of marriage to both individuals and society.

I can’t imagine anything more important. Marriage is central to everything that concerns us as family advocates: Having children, the protection of innocent human life, childrearing, social stability, and curing existential loneliness.

Civilization will rise or fall, based on whether marriage as an institution is renewed or continues on its current course of decline and eventually fades to oblivion.

Marriage is as old as humanity itself.You might say society began when men and women first started committing themselves to each other in marriage.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is largely a family history. It’s the story of Abraham, who married Sarah, their son, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and Jacob, Rachel and Leah, and their descendants.

In the beginning, God did something no government agency or social program has ever succeeded in doing – He created a family through marriage. In the beautifully poetic words of the King James Bible: “Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”Also, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” From this we can see that marriage is an essential part of God’s plan for humanity.

Why one man and one woman? Because male and female complement each other, psychologically as well as physically. The Vatican’s Charter of the Rights of the Family notes: “The family is based on marriage, that intimate union of life in complementarity between a man and a woman.”

There’s a more mundane version of this in the movie “Jerry McGuire,” where the title character tells his wife, “You complete me.”

Perhaps we take marriage for granted because it was once such a natural part of life that it required no justification. You didn’t need to explain to people why they should marry any more that you had to explain to them why they should breathe or eat.

But now, given that state of the institution worldwide, we need to offer a rationale for marriage, especially to the young.

So, why marriage? Here are five reasons:

  1. Married couples are healthier, better off financially, happier and less at risk then their single counterparts.
    1. In the United States, married couples have double the net worth of those who never marry.
    2. Married couples have a lower risk of disease – from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to respiratory problems.
    3. Husbands and wives are 10% to 15% less likely to die prematurely.
    4. Remaining single has been called one of the greatest health risks people can voluntarily assume.
    5. Marriage lowers the risk that individuals will become victims of violent crime.
    6. To recap, individuals who are married are wealthier, healthier and safer. But what about the benefits to society?
    7. Simply put: In marriage, there’s someone else looking out for you. And that can make all of the difference in the world.
  2. Children need a mother and a father (male and female role models) in the home. Children who are living with their married, biological parents are happier, better-adjusted, better students and less likely to fall prey to the pathologies that afflict far too many of the young these days -- drugs, alcohol, crime and pre-marital sex.
  3. Society needs children – Marriage leads to children. Despite the myth of overpopulation, worldwide fertility (the number of children the average woman will have in her lifetime) has been cut almost in half in the past 70 years – falling from 4.7 in 1950 to 2.4 today. This is perilously close to replacement level fertility (2.1). Population growth will stop in this century. Population decline will soon follow. While children are born out of wedlock, most women feel that to have more than one or two requires the kind of security that comes from marriage. So, more marriage equals more children.
  4. Men and women need each other – As marriage has declined loneliness has increased markedly – so has mental illness, addiction and suicides. In Genesis, God says: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him." What was true in the beginning is true today: There is no substitute for the companionship provided by a life partner. Most of us have an innate need to connect intimately to another human being. The Talmud tells us that in the beginning, all souls split into male and female parts. The purpose of marriage is to unite the halves – for each of us to find our soulmate.
  5. Society needs to solve the problem of destructive male instincts – The most dangerous force in any society is unattached males between the ages of 16 and 30. Prisons are filled with them, so are halfway houses, homeless shelters and drug rehabilitation centers. We know this to be instinctively true. Say you were in a bad section of a city at night and you saw a group of tough-looking young men coming toward you. Would you be relieved to learn that they were married? Of course you would. Men and women are different. Men need women to tame the destructive aspect of male nature. (Within marriage, women force men to grow up.) Women need men for protection and security.

If all of this is true, then why is marriage everywhere declining. Pope Francis warned: “Marriage and the family are in crisis. The revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom but in fact it has brought spiritual devastation to countless human beings.” The devastation is all about us.

  • In the United States in 1970, 70% of all adults were married. By 2018 -- in the space of less than 50 years -- the figure had fallen to 50%.
  • Among adults 18 to 24 years old – those in their prime child-bearing years – 45% were married in 1960, compared to only 9% by 2016.
  • Among adults (ages 18 to 44) the number who have ever lived with an unmarried partner now exceeds the number who’ve ever been married (59% to 50%)


Powerful forces are working against marriage:


  1. Commitment-phobia among the young – It’s not just marriage. The generation that’s now in their 20s and 30s seems adverse to any type of commitment. They change jobs every two or three years. They don’t date; they “hook up.” The thought of growing up terrifies them. Their most enduring relationship is with their phone. Marriage takes work, especially in the culture in which we live. Millennials seem to gravitate toward the type of relationships that require the least amount of effort.
  2. Acceptance of cohabitation – Among 18-to-29-year-olds, 78% think cohabitation is all right, even if the partners don’t intend to marry later on. Cohabitation is stiff competition for marriage. Once a couple living together out of wedlock carried moral opprobrium. No longer. Now, it’s whatever-works. Absent is the requirement of exclusivity. There are no ceremonies at the start. Nothing at the end. In most cases, not even a verbal commitment. Now it’s: Do you promise to stay together until boredom sets in or something better comes along?
  3. Absence of fathers in the home – In the United States, 35% of children grow up in homes without fathers. In place of them, there are a succession of the mother’s boyfriends. The childhood home is a school for learning what married life is all about. Without it, children grow up never knowing how husband and wife are supposed to relate to each other. It also makes them less likely to commit to marriage later in life.
  4. A materialistic society that values things over relationships – Generally, the more time and effort we put into acquiring possessions, the less we have for people. There are commercials for new cars, computers and flatscreen TVs. Hare you ever seen an ad for marriage? Until corporations find a way to make a profit from marriage, you won’t. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Singles have more disposable income, which makes them targets for advertisers.
  5. An anti-marriage culture -- Culture has a profound impact on our lives. Movies, music, television and the news media – tell us what to think and, in many cases, how to think. To say the culture is anti-marriage is like saying Planned Parenthood is anti-pregnancy. Regarding marriage, the media’s message is simple: Who needs it? It’s archaic. It will tie you down. Divorce is expensive. Make your own way. When I was growing up, back in the dark ages, there were TV shows like “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show.”Father, mother and children was the norm. Today, it’s the exception. By the way, in entertainment-land, singles living together almost always turns out well – unlike real life. Sex outside marriage is the new normal considered so natural that it’s hardly worth commenting on. Increasingly, Hollywood tries to avoid depicting characters smoking, drinking and engaging in other risky behavior. Sex outside marriage does not fall in this category.
  6. A decline of faith – Religion is the strongest force for marriage – Again, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” The Bible tells us marriage is part of God’s eternal plan. Faith sanctifies the bonds of matrimony. But, like the institution of marriage itself, religion is declining. According to opinion surveys, in 2009, 17% of Americans described themselves as “atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular.” Now the figure is 26%. Where church attendance is the weakest, marriage plays a smaller and smaller role in society. Europe is the continent with the lowest church attendance, the lowest rate of marriage and the lowest birth rate.
  7. The Sexual Revolution – The Sexual Revolution is all about desire (however fleeting), detached from loyalty or commitment. It tells us that sex is an absolute right. Marriage is based on exclusivity – on the expectation that sex will be confined to marriage. The Sexual Revolution tells us this is old-fashioned and unrealistic.
  8. Governments (especially of the left) view families as competition - Families are an independent power base in competition with the State. Often, the demands of family are at odds with the demands of government. The need for social cohesion should incline governments to encourage family formation. Instead, the opposite is often the case. In the United States, the Biden administration strongly supports homosexual rights (including gay marriage), abortion on demand at any stage of pregnacy, public school indoctrination and transgenderism (so-called). All weaken the family.

The epitome of the Sexual Revolution is Cultural Marxism.

Almost a century ago, Georg Lukacs, a Hungarian intellectual and one of the fathers of Cultural Marxism, wrote that traditional culture must be destroyed for the workers’ paradise to emerge. Lukacs observed: “I saw the revolutionary destruction of society as the one and only solution to the cultural contradictions of the epoch…Such aworldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries.” By the “old values,” he meant faith and the family – founded on marriage.

Antonio Gramsci, an Italian contemporary of Lukacs, said much the same thing. According to classic Marxist theory, the Russian Revolution should have been the catalyst for revolution worldwide.

Instead, until the Second World War, Bolshevism stopped at Russia’s borders. Writing in the 1920s, Gramsci concluded that family and church gave workers what Marxists call a “false class consciousness,” which meant that even though they were part of the proletariat, they behaved like bourgeoise. So, the only way for communism to succeed was to eliminate religion and the family.

Thus the decline of marriage is a milestone on the road to revolution -- to radically remaking society.

Without marriage, we will enter a brave new world where individuals live largely by and for themselves and social arrangements are transitory and utilitarian. Procreation will be increasingly rare.

To counter this, we need to return to our roots – especially the Bible, a handbook for family living.

Once upon a time, even the United Nations understood the primacy of marriage and family.

Article 16 of the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights acknowledged that the family, based on marriage between man and a woman, is “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” and, as such, is “entitled to protection by society and the state.”

To say the family based on marriage is “the … fundamental group unit of society,” means it’s the foundation. Demolish the foundation, and the entire structure collapses. Marriage is the glue that holds society together.

That’s why marriage matters, and the fight for marriage is the fight for our future -- the fight for civilization itself.

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