Ethics & Religion
A Column by Michael J. McManus
 

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Ethics & Religion
Column #2112
Feb, 3, 2022
Writing Columns About Marriage
By Mike McManus

I am retiring after nearly a half century of writing columns. At one time, this column, Ethics & Religion, was published by 120 newspapers. Some years earlier I wrote an economic and political column, The Northern Perspective, which reached about 70 papers at its peak.

However, newspapers are shrinking and 2,000 have closed. For example the largest paper in Alabama, The Birmingham News, now publishes only three days a week.

I have found it a joy to write Ethics & Religion. I want to thank my editors and readers. You have given me the opportunity to write about what I care about - especially marriage.

This is February - marriage month. Therefore, Valentine's Day will be my farewell column.

Sadly, the number of Americans who are married has plunged. There were only 2,077,000 marriages in 2015 - fewer than in 1970 - though the population in those years grew from 203 million to 331 million.

The major killer of marriage is cohabitation which has soared from 21-fold from 430,000 couples to 9 million in 2018.

Yet I do not know of a single religious leader who had denounced cohabitation.

One pastor profoundly impacted my life, the Rev. Everett (Terry) Fullam, who was Rector of St. Paul Episcopal Church, Darien, Conn. In a sermon he asked, "What are you doing to serve the Lord? Don't tell me that you are an usher (which I was). That is insignificant Christian service."

"What are you doing that makes you unique as a person to serve the Lord?" he asked. At that time I was writing The Northern Perspective, suggesting solutions to problems of the old industrial states. How could my journalistic talent be used to serve the Lord?

Suddenly I thought about the boring church pages that appear in every daily newspaper. I could write a column that would put content on those pages. And since I was already a syndicated columnist, editors might be open to this suggestion, if the column were well written.

Consequently, I began writing Ethics & Religion in 1981. Some years later, a book publisher who read my weekly column, suggested I write a book on marriage, which became Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce. To write the book, I stopped writing my political column.

The book was a success. It inspired religious leaders in 230 cities to invite my wife and me to come to their cities to make marriage a high priority. We trained 10,000 couples to prepare for, enrich and restore troubled marriages. We helped pastors and priests to create 230 Community Marriage Policies that cut divorce rates. An independent study by the Institute for Research & Evaluation, estimated that we helped cut city-wide divorce rates by an average of 17.5% - enough to save 200,000 marriages from divorce.

Nine of our cities slashed divorce rate rates by 50% or more, such as Modesto, CA, the first city to adopt a CMP, Austin, Kansas City and El Paso, where the divorce rate plunged 79%! One gratifying result is that El Paso has had America's lowest crime rate for four straight years. And Austin, with a 50% drop in its divorce rate, has America's fourth lowest crime rate. Why?

If couples stay married, few of their children become delinquent.

But most Americans live in areas with high divorce rates. Therefore, I have looked for, and found five interventions to reduce divorce:

1. The Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment asks premarital couples whether they agree or disagree with 100+ statements such as,
- "We have decided how to handle our finances."
-"We have some important disagreements that never seem to get resolved."
About a fifth of the couples who take the inventory decide not to get married. But over 20 years, fewer than 5% of couples we prepared for marriage have divorced.

2.All marriages run down and need enrichment. There are many CDs which can be bought for only $5 to give a booster shot, such as Ten Great Dates by David and Claudia Arp.

3.Many marriages get into crisis. One pastor who developed an answer asked if there were couples in his church whose marriages were once in crisis, but had healed. Over five years, seven "back-from-the brink" couples met with 40 couples in crisis, saving 38 of them!

4.What if one spouse wants a divorce? The other partner can meet with a friend of the same gender and take a course, Marriage 911, that saves half of these crisis marriages.

5.Stepfamilies usually divorce at a 70% rate. But if a church creates a Stepfamily Support Group, 80% of these marriages can be saved.

An independent group, the Institute for Research & Evaluation, studied our Community Marriage Policies, concluding they cut the divorce rate an average of 17.5% - enough to save 200,000 marriages from divorce.

There is hope for marriage in America.

Consider Scripture: "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed be kept pure." (Hebrew 13:3)

_________________________

Copyright (c)2022 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to www.ethicsandreligion.com. Hit Search for any topic.

 

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