Is Marriage Becoming Obsolete?

By November 22, 20103 Comments

This week my schedule is kind of crazy as I romp around the state of North Carolina catching up with friends and family. It has been such a BLAST–I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving!! With my schedule being what it is, I thought I’d do something a little bit different for this post: Open the floor to your own insights.

So here’s the topic: Today I ran across an article on entitled “Is Marriage Becoming Obsolete?”  In it the author, Stephanie Coontz, shares some startling statistics. On the one hand, “40 percent of Americans believe that marriage is becoming obsolete.” Kind of scary, huh? However, she also points out a seemingly contradictory set of numbers: “Only one in four unmarried Americans say they do not want to get married. And among currently married men and women, 80 percent say their marriage is as close as or closer than their parents’ marriage.”

Coontz spends the remainder of the article exploring the reasons for these conflicting responses, and she does a good job of weighing the possibilities. However there is much more to the picture than she can account for in one article. Just take a look at the comments section of the article. I lost count of how many people began their response with the barbed intro “Marriage is a joke!” Aside from the sociological and moral shifts in our society, it sounds like a lot of people have simply been burned.

So take a look at the article and let me know what you think. Why are so many Americans rejecting marriage as an institution while simultaneously embracing the need for family more than ever? And what does this rejection mean for Christians? How can our marriages and lives be a witness to the power and beauty of marriage, as well as the divine love that it represents?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!


  • Katie says:

    Christianity Today covered the same study and took a decidedly different tack on it. They pointed out that only 16% of those living together unwed showed no interest in getting married. Of those who are in a romantic relationship, most want to get married. I’ve seen it argued in several places that the number of people living together unmarried is higher today because in the current economic climate people are putting off weddings.

    In fact I think one of the first things we as a society could do to increase marriage rates is move people’s mentality away from the grand “wedding industrial complex.” Make it cheaper than tens of thousands of dollars to get married and have brides spend less than 16 months planning. Evangelicals actually seem to get this right – many plan simpler weddings in a shorter amount of time for less money.

    I also think that the culture of intolerance being the only vice is causing people to reject marriage – for everyone else, but not for themselves. As folks look around and see homosexual couples who cannot marry, single parents, co-habitating parents, blended families, and other non-traditional forms of family, they see people they want to not only tolerate, but accept (either because these people are friends or because they don’t want to be “intolerant”). When your high school friend can’t marry his partner or your college roommate is a single, never married mom, it might feel like slapping him or her in the face to elevate marriage.

    Of course as Christians we know that marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and the church and that our lives are called to be lived in passionate pursuit of godliness and holiness in accordance with God’s Word. I think the best way that we as individual Christians can bear witness is to live our marriages (our parenting and our whole lives) in the light of Scripture with the joy that only redemption can bring. The church needs to proclaim the beauty of marriage and also prepare people for the challenges it presents in a real and public way. In all of it we need to love our neighbors not just so that they will (hopefully) come to Christ, but because we are commanded to care for the image of God in all.

  • Emily Gidcumb says:

    Well, as a married lady I don’t think marriage is obsolete because that would mean my lifestyle is obsolete which I would disagree with because I am living it. I think in general statistics like this are misleading because there is no breakdown into further groups. Like which of those 40% are married vs. unmarried. What ages does those 40% represent mostly? Things like that, that could indicate what the statistic means more clearly. Also, different people when asked “is marriage obsolete” could be thinking in many different contexts. Maybe it is obsolete for advancement in society but not for emotional happiness. So, I think it is hard to know what opinion is actually being reflected by this statistic. As far as I know people are getting married everyday so how can it be obsolete?

  • Jenn Pappa says:

    I think the most interesting thing about this article is that she breaks down the value of marriage to basic economic benefits and returns, instead of focusing on the emotional joy and spiritual value that marriage brings to both individuals and families. If we look at marriage for just these reasons, then yes, marriage seems silly and imprudent based on the statistics in her article. But if that’s the only value of marriage, then why are gay rights fighting so hard for it? Why do people long for it so acutely?

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