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McManus - Ethics & ReligionNov. 1, 2006
Column #1,314
Advance for Nov. 4, 2006
Why Support for Traditional Marriage is Eroding
by Michael J. McManus

"After failing to defeat a single state constitutional marriage amendment in 2004, homosexual activists are increasingly optimistic they can post a landmark victory in at least one state this year," reported the Baptist Press.

"It could be a watershed year," said Carrie Evans of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual activist group.  In South Dakota a July poll showed the amendment losing 49-41 percent.  Arizona has mixed polls, one showing passage, the other, defeat.

In Virginia opponents have raised $1 million to defeat the measure, three times that of supporters.  Opposition spending has whittled down the percentage supporting the  amendment from 56 to 52 percent.

Last week I predicted that all of the marriage amendments will pass, which I stand by. But why is the support so shaky, when 20 states passed them by 71 percent?

Two factors are involved. First, many of the proposals are "hard marriage amendments" that not only limit marriage to a man marrying a woman, but also forbid "civil unions" of same- sex couples, giving all the rights of marriage, except the name. To many, this step seems to be a harmless concession to gays.

Not true.  As Virginia's Catholic bishops put it. "God Himself is author of marriage. Therefore, marriage had a built-in design and purpose long before any nation, religion or law was established...Governments therefore, have a duty to preserve this institution. No other voluntary relationship can be regarded as the equivalent of marriage, which is unique in its stability, the environment it provides for the development of families, and the protection it accords spouses and children."

Gays rightly point out that half of marriages are failing, creating instability for children. Future columns will suggest reforms to lower divorce rates. However, no state should  sanction the creation of motherless and fatherless families. A child deserves to be brought up by a mother and a father.

A poll by George Barna this week outlines another reason why support for traditional marriage is weakening. For this, America's churches and synagogues can only blame themselves, since two-thirds of Americans are members of a house of worship.  Congregations have access to most people, but have not used it well to make a case for traditional marriage.

"Baby Busters" in their 20's and 30's, children of Baby Boomers, hold less moral positions than their parents on 12 out of 16 issues.

Two-thirds of young adults say that cohabitation is morally acceptable vs. half of older adults. "Most young adults contended that engaging in sex outside of marriage and viewing pornography are not morally problematic, while only one-third" of Boomers agreed, Barna reports. 

"Almost half of Busters believed that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are acceptable, compared with one-quarter of older adults...Young adults were significantly more likely to accept gambling, profanity, intoxication and illegal drug use as morally acceptable behaviors."

Clergy are likely to dismiss these differences as the normal rebellion of youth and assert that what's needed is to persuade them to accept Jesus and be "born again." 

Sorry, the data shows that doesn't work.

Just 33 percent of born-again Boomers think cohabitation is morally acceptable compared to 59% of born-again Busters. "The research shows that people's moral profile is more likely to resemble that of their peer group" than the "tenets of one's faith," Barna asserts.

What does work is to provide secular evidence of scriptural wisdom.  Consider a study  showing that only 14 percent of virgins who married 1980-83 had divorced by 1988, but 24 percent of the sexually active had divorced.  That's more than two-thirds higher.

When mentoring a premarital couple, my wife and I cite the data and say to a couple, "You have a choice. You can't become a virgin again, but you can become chaste from now till the wedding.  If you do so, you reduce your odds of divorce.  If you want God's blessing, you need to consider playing by His rules.

"We are inviting you to sign an Optional Premarital Sexual Covenant in which you agree to limit your sexuality to French kissing.  If you go over the line the male pledges call me within 24 hours or his fiance will call my wife. After prayerful discussion, tell us your decision in two weeks."

Of 54 couples that we've mentored, only eight were chaste.  But of 46 who were sexually active, a encouraging 43 signed it, or 93 percent!

None who have done so have divorced.

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