Saving America's Traditional Family
The traditional family, going all the way back to Biblical times, has been defined as one with two parents in the household; a father and a mother. An extended traditional family includes grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. These are the “relatives” mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:8. The message in this verse from Scripture makes clear that family is important to God. Unfortunately, because Christ is being removed from the culture in America, the traditional family is struggling. In fact, the demise of the traditional, family is happening right before our eyes.
Traditional families are based on the sustained marriages of men and women. This is why when a man and a woman are joined in marriage in a Bible-believing church their vows include words to the effect they will remain married forever through good times and bad as well as in sickness and in health. A marriage blessed by God is one intended to last until the spouses are parted by death. This fact is why the findings of a study undertaken by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in 2020 are so disturbing. Titled “The Demise of the Happy Two-Parent Home,” the findings of this Congressional study are shocking:
In 1962, 71 percent of women aged 15 to 44 were married. By 2019 this number had declined to just 42 percent.
In the 1960s, less than one percent of couples living together were unmarried. Today that number has risen to more than 12 percent.
In 1960, births to unmarried women represented just five percent of all births. By 2018 this number had risen to 40 percent. This number would be even higher were it not for the prevalence of abortion.
In 1970, 85 percent of children in America lived with two parents. By 2019, this number had fallen to 70 percent.
What these statistics demonstrate is that the traditional family, as defined in the Bible, is in decline. Christians need to know why the traditional family is in peril and why rescuing it is important.
WHY IS THE TRADITIONAL AMERICAN FAMILY IN PERIL?
The overriding reason behind the demise of the traditional family in America is the systematic rejection of God and acceptance of sin that has pushed Christ and His Word out of the culture. The Biblical model concerning family structure is of no interest to people who look to themselves rather than God’s Word for guidance in life. Hence, the rejection of God coupled with the acceptance of sin is the root cause of the demise of the traditional family. There is also an important contributing cause.
The study conducted by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress listed the growth of the welfare state as a major factor in the demise of the traditional two-parent family. Welfare was originally envisioned as a temporary safety net, but continual increases in the monetary and material benefits it provides have turned the safety net into a comfortable hammock and welfare into a way of life. Welfare now provides a level of support that enables and even encourages single mothers to stay single and on welfare indefinitely. Women who collect welfare risk losing their eligibility if they get married. Because of this, welfare is no longer viewed as a temporary expedient by many recipients. Instead, it has become a way of life.
Consider this finding from the Joint Economic Committee of Congress: The financial and material benefits of welfare for single mothers are 133 percent higher today than they were in 1940 and 56 percent higher than they were in 1960. When the government requires remaining single as a condition for collecting welfare no one should be surprised when women do not get married. When the government incentivizes remaining on welfare rather than going to work, nobody should be surprised when recipients refuse to work.
Another factor that is undermining the traditional family is the concept of same-sex marriage. The growing number of same-sex marriages has created a new family structure in which both parents are either male or both are female. Adoption of children by same-sex couples is on the rise. Further, the concept of same-sex parenting is rapidly gaining broad-based acceptance as elementary school children are required to read books with titles such as Timmy Has Two Mommies or Susie Has Two Daddies. Many schools also teach young children to avoid using masculine or feminine pronouns.
THE TRAGEDY OF DIVORCE IN AMERICA
One of the most devastating factors in the demise of the traditional family is divorce. America has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. Consider the following statistics about divorce in our country:
The current divorce rate in America is double what it was in 1960.
Approximately 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce.
Approximately 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
Approximately 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.
There is a divorce in America every 13 seconds or 277 divorces per hour, 6,646 per day, 46, 523 per week, and 2,419,196 per year.
Women file for divorce more often than men (66 percent of divorce proceedings are initiated by women).
During the average wedding reception, 1,385 divorces occur.
The current divorce rate of 16.9 percent per 1,000 married women is actually down from the all-time high of 22.6 percent in the early 1980s. However, this fact is deceiving. The divorce rate is lower than the all-time high in large measure because young people are putting off marriage longer or simply choosing to cohabitate without the benefit of marriage. Further, divorce statistics do not include the broken relationships of unmarried but cohabitating couples.
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT THE DEMISE OF THE TRADITIONAL FAMILY
To play a positive role in helping revive the traditional family, begin by studying what the Bible has to say about marriage and family. Helpful verses for providing wise counsel to people who are considering marriage or who are struggling in their marriages include the following:
Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This verse may help you make the important point that God ordains marriage, not cohabitation and not single-parent families.
Hebrews 13:4: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” This verse may help when you need to have a difficult conversation with a person who is being unfaithful in marriage. It makes the important point that God knows what is happening, is not pleased by infidelity, and will judge those involved in adultery.
Ephesians 5:33: “However, let each of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” This verse may be helpful if you are trying to provide wise counsel to spouses who are failing to love and respect each other. Husbands who enter into marriage for self-serving reasons may not understand what it means to love their wives. Wives who enter into marriage for the wrong reasons may not understand what it means to respect their husbands. This verse makes the point that love and respect are essential in marriage.
Malachi 2:16: “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” This verse may help you provide wise counsel to someone who is contemplating divorce. Clearly, the Lord disapproves of divorce except under very specifically defined circumstances. This verse warns against casually tossing aside a marriage.
To speak the truth in love about marriage and family as part of the wise counsel you provide others, you must know the truth, and God’s Word is the truth. Knowing what the Bible says about marriage and family will equip you to point the way to Christ for people who are contemplating marriage as well as married couples who are struggling and considering divorce. The verses recommended here are just to get you started. The Bible has much more to say about the subjects of marriage and family.
Once you have studied what Scripture says about marriage and family, pray that God will intercede in marriages that are falling apart and help the spouses rebuild their marriages on a solid Biblical foundation. Pray that God will help couples replace fleeting infatuation with Biblical love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13.
When you have studied the Bible, prayed, and taught your own children and grandchildren about the sanctity of marriage, consider trying the following additional strategies. They may help you play a positive role in restoring the traditional family:
Be prepared to speak the truth in love to people who are contemplating marriage. Explain the difference between infatuation and Biblical love.
Be prepared to show people who are struggling in their marriage the difference 1 Corinthians 13 can make in overcoming the various reasons people give for divorcing.
Know the Biblical reasons in Mark 19:9 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 for pursuing a divorce and be prepared to share them with people who are contemplating a divorce. Note these verses state the instances in which divorce is allowable not mandatory. If the offending spouse is repentant and willing to atone for his or her sins, reconciliation may be possible.
Encourage your pastor and church to provide premarital counseling for members of the congregation and community. Young people who are fully aware of what the Bible teaches about marriage and who take these teachings to heart before marrying are less likely to divorce.
Encourage your pastor and church to provide marriage counseling for couples who are struggling in their marriages. There are few problems in a marriage that cannot be overcome if the spouses commit to the teaching in 1 Corinthians 13 about Biblical love being a verb.
Encourage your church to offer marriage seminars that are open to the community that teach participants about the value of the traditional family, the definition of a Christ-centered marriage, and Biblical love as explained in 1 Corinthians 13.
The traditional, Biblically-defined family is the most important institution in America, but it can survive and thrive only in a Christ-centered culture. Be prepared to make this point to people who are contemplating marriage on the basis of infatuation or who plan to cohabitate rather than marry. When you talk with unbelievers who are concerned about the demise of the traditional family, let them know they cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue to reject God, accept sin, and expect there to be no consequences. Broken relationships, divorces, and destroyed families are examples of what happens in a nation that rejects God but accepts sin.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com