May 25, 2010
My 1,500th Weekly Column
This is my 1,500th weekly
column, which I began writing in 1981. What have been my goals in writing?
I call the column Ethics & Religion
because I was struck by a curious paradox. Gallup Polls report two-thirds
of Americans are members of a church or synagogue and two-fifths attend
services weekly, making the U.S. the most religious modern nation.
Yet ironically, our divorce rate is the
world’s highest by far: double that of Canada and triple that of Britain or
France. Our teen birth rate is the world’s highest. We are also the most
violent, with a murder rate six times higher than England.
How can we be so religious and so
Each week I address this paradox and
try to show how to “not love with words or tongue but with action and in
truth” (I John 3:18).
I have few answers for crime, but a
winner for innocent children of the incarcerated. Last Christmas I
suggested churches create an Angel Tree project, affiliated with Prison
Fellowship, to buy gifts for children of prisoners. Plan for this step now
that blessed 300,000 children last year. For detail on this or other
columns go to
www.ethicsandreligion.com; and click on 2009.
On March 3 I suggested that U.S.
Attorneys enforce federal laws against obscenity, now available on the
Internet, corrupting many. The Obama Administration has not filed a case.
One reason for the high teen birth rate
is the latest craze of “sexting,” in which girls as young as 9-15 email nude
pictures of themselves. On April 21 I outlined answers for parents.
I’ve offered more solutions on how to
better prepare for, enrich or restore marriages. In 1981 I wrote, “It is
time to acknowledge that the American church is partly responsible for the
soaring divorce rate. According to one study, 88% of all U.S, marriages are
blessed by the church. However, America’s divorce rate is soaring off the
charts,” rising from 393,000 in 1960 to 1,170,000 in 1979.
I suggested that couples
considering marriage take a premarital inventory, such as PREPARE/ENRICH
which asks couples to respond to 165 statements such as “Sometimes I wish my
partner were more careful about spending money.”
A second proposal was to train marriage
mentors to review these relational issues with the premarital couple.
Frankly, I saw no results of these
columns. But in 1983 I began to be invited to speak to clergy, and
suggested all the churches in town require an inventory and offer mentoring,
creating a “Community Marriage Policy.” Clergy in Columbus, Ga. Biddeford,
Me. and Shreveport politely applauded, but nothing happened.
Finally, in Modesto, Cal. I opened with
this prayer, “Lord, you know I have failed every time I gave this speech.
Today I ask for the words – or the ears – that might make a difference.”
Result: 95 pastors, priests and a rabbi signed America’s first Community
Marriage Policy. They said, “Our hope is to radically reduce the divorce
rate among those married in area churches.”
Much more than that has been
accomplished. By 2001 the county divorce rate was down 57%, and it has
remained about half of what it had been. The result: school dropouts fell in
this decade by 18.4 percent and teen births by 30 percent, double America’s
In reporting this column I have looked
for other answers. Here are four more:
Enrich existing marriages. Every marriage runs down over time,
but the Georgia church which created the successful “Fireproof” movie, has
also created a six-week “Fireproof Your Marriage” course that includes DVD
excerpts, a Leader’s Guide, a Participant’s Guide to spark both group
discussion and strengthen each couple’s marriage.
Restore troubled ones: Every church has couples who have
survived adultery or abuse. But few churches train such couples to tell
their recovery story to those in current crisis, saving 8 of 10 marriages.
Pastors typically send them to counselors. I reported April 7 that “All
forms of marital counseling are associated with a two- to three-fold
increase in the likelihood of divorce.”
Reconcile the separated with Marriage 911, a course
taken by a person trying to save a marriage with a same gender friend,
when their spouse wants a divorce. It saves half of marriages for only $28.
Help stepfamilies succeed with Stepfamily Support Groups which
save 4 of 5 marriages, 70 percent of which usually divorce.
The clergy of 228 cities have
implemented these strategies in Community Marriage Policies, saving 100,000
marriages from divorce. (Disclosure, my wife and I help create CMPs.)
Thanks to the newspapers
publishing this column, and to my readers!