The executive director of the Manhattan Declaration, Eric Teetsel, told members of the Association for Church Renewal (ACR) that the threat to marriage in America is a threat to society’s very foundation. He made his case at ACR’s recent meeting in Washington, D.C., March 11.
Teetsel’s presentation addressed two questions:
- What is marriage?
- Why does it matter?
Acknowledging that individuals in every group are marked by divorce, infidelity, sexual confusion, sexual sin and brokenness, Teetsel appealed to his audience that Christians’ responsibility throughout these debates, both privately and publicly, is to show love to one another in responsible witness to Jesus Christ. “The Christian witness on these subjects has not been faithful, which makes the current climate hostile to the message we seek to proclaim.”
So, Teetsel began his appeal from a wide place. Quoting Psalm 19:1, he acknowledged that “All truth is God’s, wherever it is found.” Elaborating, he said, “It’s true that there is a theme throughout Scripture regarding sexuality and marriage, and that theme features one man and one woman. But to appeal only and always to the Bible in the midst of a culture for whom the Bible holds no authority is futile.” So, Teetsel said, Christians must appeal to the truth of God about marriage that is revealed throughout the social sciences, history and studies that plainly support the advantage that intact, biological two-parent households have on children.
Teetsel pointed to two competing views of marriage: conjugal and revisionist. “From the revisionist view,” he said, “marriage is defined as the legal recognition of an emotional union born of love.” From the revisionist perspective then, any two people who love one another should be legally allowed to wed.
The problems with the revisionist viewpoint are myriad. Teetsel illustrated one using a photo of two men named Dave and Darrell. He said, “They live together. One cooks, one cleans. They share the financial responsibilities and they love one another. Some would say they deserve to be married, but there’s just one problem: They are brothers.” Teetsel then asked, “What distinguishes their situation from any two other men who are not brothers? Is it erotic love? What if your erotic love is focused on more than one person? What if it fades over time? Should marriage last only as long as the emotion of erotic love and only be limited to the erotic love between two people?”
The revisionist view would support a definition of marriage that is not permanent, not exclusive and centers on the emotional gratification of adults, not the needs of children and society.
The revisionist view makes not only the redefinition of marriage from man and woman to some other construct possible but the further degradation of marriage to polyamory.
Teetsel summarized the ultimate fallacy of the revisionist view, stating, “Marriage is the beginning of family, and family is the foundation of society. Without a man and woman there is no possibility of children. And the revisionist understanding of marriage places the desires of adults over the needs of children.”
He then introduced the conjugal view of marriage, which defines marriage as “the permanent, exclusive, comprehensive union of one man and one woman.”
- Permanent: Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
- Exclusive: Teetsel then gave several references from the social sciences and history establishing the fact that exclusive conjugal marriage has a civilizing effect on men and a positive economic effect on women. Both also benefit by increased life expectancy.
- Comprehensive: the Biblical and social constructs of “man and woman, husband and wife, father and mother,” support the necessary complementary nature of those who constitute a marriage.
Quoting from the Manhattan Declaration, Teetsel said “Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society. Where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits – the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves.”
Teetsel then turned to comments by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964: “The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitions and the values of the child. And when the family collapses it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale the community itself is crippled. So, unless we work to strengthen the family, to create conditions under which most parents will stay together – all the rest: schools, and playgrounds, and public assistance, and private concern, will never be enough to cut completely the circle of despair and deprivation.”
In this nationally representative population-based sample of over 15,000 people aged 18-39, the study examines 40 variables between those raised by intact biological parents and those raised in other family structures. According to the study, 58 percent of 15,058 respondents reported spending their entire childhood with their biological mother and father, and 1.7 percent reported that their mother or father had a same-sex relationship.
The results are significant in that children raised by their biological parents fared better on a variety of social, emotional and relational outcome variables when compared with their peers who were raised in any other family structure.
- on 25 of 40 outcomes, there are statistically significant differences between children from still-intact, biological mother-father families and those whose mother was in a lesbian relationship
- on 11 of 40 outcomes, there are statistically significant differences between children from still-intact, biological mother-father families and those whose father was in a gay relationship
- 7 of 40 for children adopted by strangers
- 14 of 40 for children whose parents divorced late
- 24 of 40 for children raised in stepfamily mixes
- 25 of 40 for children raised by single parents
The kinds of social, emotional and relational outcomes being discussed include whether or not the young adults interviewed are:
- currently co-habitating and/or had affair(s) while married or co-habitating;
- received welfare and/or are currently on public assistance;
- employment status;
- whether they were ever touched sexually by a parent or other adult;
- whether they were ever forced to have sex against their will;
- the number of sexual partners they have had;
- markers related to education attained, smoking, arrests, depression, etc.
In every case where there is a statistically significant difference, those raised by a mother-father family that is still-intact have better outcomes than any other family construct. The implications for society are undeniable.
The demographics of marriage and family in America
Teetsel then changed gears to address the demographic realities of American families and the reality that “culture has deleted the sociological need for fathers” whose “biological job” is accomplished at fertilization. The result is not only the breakdown of the family that results in economic, emotional and social problems, but a population decline over time that is potentially perilous to the culture as a whole.
At issue is the fertility rate (TFR). The TFR is the number of babies the average woman would bear over the course of her life if she were to survive until the end of her reproductive years and the age-specific birth rate were to remain constant. A country’s TFR must remain at 2.1 in order for the population to remain static. The U.S. fertility rate now stands at 2.01. And those who are having more babies are more often unwed, less educated and less economically able than their female counterparts who are not having children.
Jonathan Last, author of What to expect when no one’s expecting: America’s coming demographic disaster summarizes his finding, saying, “People no longer put children at the center of their lives.”
Comparing the impact of choices that highly educated, economically able white American women are making to the coercion and forced abortions experienced by women in China, Last sees no statistical difference. “As a result of One-Child, the fertility rate in China is roughly 1.54. In America, the fertility rate for white, college-educated women – we’ll use them because they serve as a fair proxy for our middle class – is 1.6 In other words, America has created its very own One-Child Policy. It’s soft and unintentional, the result of accidents of history and thousands of little choices. But it has been just as effective.”
Cultures do not survive long when their fertility rate drops below 2.0. But what does that have to do with America’s marriage debate? Two people of the same gender cannot produce children.
This observation also highlights the difference between inter-racial marriage and proposed same-sex marriage. Teetsel said succinctly, “The difference is children. A man of any race with a woman of any race can have children, but no two men can have a child and no two women can have a child. There is a fundamental difference.”
Eric Teetsel is the executive director of The Manhattan Declaration. His goal is to inform and equip people to be salt and light within their sphere of influence on the three specific issues of life, marriage and religious freedom.