- The Power of Words: Redefining Marriage (Part 1 of 2)
- The Power of Words: Redefining Marriage (Part 2 of 2)
- The Power of Words
Today, over 50% of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Could the skyrocketing divorce rates and broken lives left in their wake be caused, in part, by the redefinition of marriage from a legal and religious contract instituted by God to a form of “social and legal dependence?”
In the U.S., the number of cohabiting couples increased 75% from 1990 to 2000. Cohabiting couples have twice the breakup rate as married couples, as well as significantly higher rates of assault, depression, and abortion. Could this explosion of sexual promiscuity, cohabitation, and related violence and depression be caused, in part, by the loss of the first two purposes of marriage as set down by Noah Webster in 1828: Namely the prevention of promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, and the promoting of domestic felicity or happiness?
Today in the U.S. over 95% of parents send their children to government or private schools, in effect, outsourcing their education to “professional educators.” Today this practice is so embedded in the culture, among both Christians and non-Christians, that home-schooling parents are still viewed as an extremist and potentially dangerous fringe element. Until just recently, parents who took their responsibility as the primary educators of their children seriously by taking them out of public schools and educating them at home were breaking the law in several states, and many spent time in jail. What was an unquestioned assumption and practice in 1828 is today a radical idea. Could this be related to the loss of the third purpose of marriage as set down by Noah Webster in 1828: Namely the “protecting, providing for and education of children?”
I was stunned to see the correlation between the redefinition of marriage from 1828 to 1984 and real-life social problems–from divorce to cohabitation, to depression and violence, to the wholesale outsourcing of the education of children from parents to government institutions. But I was even more stunned when I clicked on my Microsoft Word program to see how dramatically the definition of marriage has changed in the brief 24 short years from 1984 to 2007. Consider that every day, millions of children and adults alike are using Microsoft Word to type papers and conduct research, myself included. When they hit the “tools” button and look up definition of the word “marriage,” this is what they find:
Marriage is “a legally recognized relationship, established by a civil or religious ceremony, between two people who intend to live together as sexual and domestic partners.”
This literally took my breath away. Take a moment and compare this to Webster’s 1828 definition. Virtually nothing of that earlier definition has been retained-not even an echo. Between 1828 and 2008, marriage has been totally redefined. What struck me is that it has already happened!
What stood out for me most dramatically was the complete absence of “man and woman” or “husband and wife” from the Microsoft definition. Now marriage is merely between “two people.” Could be two people of the same sex. Could be two people in the same family. Gone, of course, is any sense that marriage is a contract, or that it has any religious or biblical roots. Gone now are all three purposes provided by Noah Webster in 1828. Marriage now is merely a relationship (legally recognized!) between two people who want to live together and have sex. Period. Not a single mention of husband, wife, life-long commitment, family, children, education, happiness, the prevention of sexual promiscuity . . . all gone.
The past few years witnessed the stunning rise of the same-sex marriage movement. An increasingly organized and growing vocal minority is demanding state-sanctioned homosexual “marriage.” These demands have made it into courtrooms and have been challenged by ballot initiatives across the nation. Today Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as all of Canada legally sanction gay marriage. This movement is a direct result of the redefinition of marriage. It is not causing or forcing the redefinition as I had assumed. It is merely reflecting it. Marriage has already been redefined. If you are a parent and your child is doing a research project on marriage using Microsoft Word, they will be taught the new definition. This new idea or concept of marriage will inevitably work its way out into the culture in the form of new policies and practices. I emphasize the word “inevitable.” It seems to me that the only thing that can prevent this from inevitability will be the re-instatement of the 1984 or an earlier definition of marriage. But can this happen? If it does, it will only be through a pitched battle, and at present, only one side is on the field and engaged-the forces that are behind new definition reflected by Microsoft. The battle must be joined by those of us recognize our calling to be a blessing to our culture, and who understand that this blessing is directly related to our fighting to retain the biblical definition of words. May we lovingly join the battle with all the power and grace that God grants us.
-Scott D. Allen
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