Darrow Miller and Friends

The Power of Words: Redefining Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

  1. The Power of Words: Redefining Marriage (Part 1 of 2)
  2. The Power of Words: Redefining Marriage (Part 2 of 2)
  3. 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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Scott Allen serves as president of the DNA secretariat office. After serving with Food for the Hungry for 19 years in both the United States and Japan, working in the areas of human resources, staff training and program management, he teamed up with Darrow Miller and Bob Moffitt to launch the DNA in 2008. Scott is the author of Beyond the Sacred-Secular Divide: A Call to Wholistic Life and Ministry and co-author of several books including, As the Family Goes, So Goes the Nation: Principles and Practices for Building Healthy Families. His most recent book is Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice. Scott lives with his wife, Kim, in Bend, OR. They have five children.


  1. David L. Bertsch

    December 25, 2008 - 11:01 pm

    What a great article! I printed the two part piece so that I can read it to my wife and children for their protection, happiness, and education.

    • Disciple Nations Alliance

      December 26, 2008 - 6:46 am

      Thanks for your response, David! We would never know the impact without people sharing with us. Thanks again.

      Tim & the Team at DNA

  2. Abraham Kumela

    December 29, 2008 - 10:49 pm

    An amazing article. I am always blessed to read the perspectives from Disciple Nations…your articles and books are resetoring the original essence of major life facets.

    God Bless You all and Keep up the great works.


  3. Bill Garaway

    January 6, 2009 - 10:56 am


    I wanted to encourage you that your words are not coming back void.

    I’ve been consumed earning a living this past year. In my spare time I helped manage a local Congressional campaign, where our candidate focused on Proposition 8. Through that I met a local lay preacher,
    Chauncy, (black Soledad prison guard) who was the most outspoken believer in the district. He’s a self-taught apologist (Norm Geisler over the
    internet), a quick study, bold and gracious.

    Sunday he was invited (along with another black pastor) to share his views at Inner Light Ministries (a New Age church led by a black lesbian pastor). The dozen members of our church and ten of his friends were the only pro Prop 8 attendees among the 300+/- present.

    Below is an email to Chauncy and the Congressional candidate, which I copied to those who attended from my church.

    The only “change” I’d suggest is you don’t make it a “home school” focus.
    God says parents are responsible to train up their children. A portion of
    that can be delegated, i.e. Christian schools. I’m old enough to remember
    when “en loco parentis” still had meaning in public schools. Unfortunately,
    that’s a distant memory and schools no longer notify parents when “controversial” moral issues are discussed.

    Most Christian schools do not teach a comprehensive biblical world and life
    view. However, there are significant exceptions where schools recognize
    responsibility to parents and equip children to be leaders in every sphere
    of life. You are probably aware of Doug Wilson’s Classical Education
    approach and the growing number of schools that have adopted that method. My daughter married his son and we’ve started a local Classical co-operative which hopefully will mature into a school. Btw, we home schooled all of our children.

    Thank you so much for your labor. Please give Darrow my regards. God
    willing, I’ll be able to indulge my mission habit more in the near future.
    We’re looking forward to having Gila visit us early February.

    I noticed you graduated from Willamette. Did you know Jason Atkinson. He’s currently a State Senator from the Medford area. I’ve taken him to
    Kurdistan twice and last month he helped host a conference on agricultural
    opportunities in Portland.


    Bill Garaway

    PS. David Bertsch (who commented above) is a friend of mine.

    This is critical to our discussions. Remember, I ALWAYS say “whoever defines the terms wins the debate.” This, more than any other reason, is why we are “losing” the debate and why it is so important that we reclaim the meaning (definition) of marriage.

    Scott did not write this in reference to our battle, but he sees the big
    picture. I have an extra copy of Webster’s 1828 Dictionary you can borrow.
    Words have meaning and we cannot allow our culture’s foundational
    institutions be re-defined without a fight.

    We need to get together to debrief. I commend you and Richard for your
    boldness, faithfulness to God and gracious demeanor. You both stood for
    Truth and frequently hit the nail on the head. However, we must improve
    our focus, disarm their arguments and avoid rabbit trails to overcome a
    culture (even in the believing church) that has allowed its foundations to
    be destroyed.

    Let’s talk.