Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Boundless, a web site affiliated with Focus on the Family, ran an article by Deborah Crittenden about the cost of delaying marriage. They got a lot of flak, but are standing by the article. That's fine, but I wish they'd been a little more gracious in their defense of an article that clearly offended a lot of people. Ms. Crittenden's world is very different than mine. None of my friends sit around and proclaim our "fierce independence." We'd all welcome marriage. As one friend said, "If singleness is a sin, I'd be happy to repent!"

In defense of Ms. Crittenden, her article contains a stark fact. The percentage of women in their 20s who are married dropped significantly between 1965 and 1995. The problem is that Ms. Crittenden makes an assumption about why this happened. Her own life experience leads her to conclude that today's single women consciously delayed marriage in favor of a lifestyle that includes higher education, independence, and a successful career track. It's nice anecdotal evidence, perhaps, but let's consider the societal shifts that occured in that same 30 year time frame.

The single 20-something women of 1995 are the offspring of those married 20-something gals of 1965. They are also members of Generation X, or as some have started calling it, GenerationEx; statistically, 50% of those 1965 marriages ended in divorce. This trend has had profound effects on today's young men and women. Elizabeth Marquardt and Judith Wallerstein have each thoroughly studied and extensively written on these effects.

Another social shift worth noting is the extreme mobility of today's culture. Both sets of my natural grandparents grew up in the same town. Their families knew each other. On my dad's side, my grandparents met in grade school and had years of interaction before wedding vows were exchanged. On my mom's side, my grandpa's sister was a good friend of my grandma; that's how they met. But things have changed. We're on the go. Suitors today are rarely lifelong family friends or gradeschool companions.

So what does this mean? I think for starters it means that we need to have more compassion and less judgment. I think it's also time for the Church to welcome singles. Few churches really do that, you know. We need to reach out to the singles in our midst and embrace them as friends. You might be surprised at the insight some of them have into contentment, obedience, and even marriage. And, of course, I think we all need to understand better how the culture of divorce has affected today's young adults.

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