Culture’s Worst Lies About Falling In Love

There’s more to “falling in love” than pop-culture would have you believe.

by Rachel Watson

As a teenager, I read my fair share of Christian romance novels. They were full of dramatic plot lines, sexual tension, one-room school houses and Canadian Mounties.

The leading men were imperfect but in a tousled and endearing sort of way. They always knew what to say. All the female characters were beautiful, but distressed, to ensure the reader plenty of drama. Each story ended with a sigh.

Today, women can indulge their romantic side by using Pinterest. They can build relationship shrines out of images of engagement rings and couple shots and create virtual collages of attractive men, romantic dates, perfect playlists and unique wedding favors. They are collecting comparisons.

This magazine says that the right guy will know what his girlfriend wants for Christmas.

This pastor says that saving sex until marriage ensures a satisfying and uncomplicated sex-life.

This film is my favorite because he sweeps her off her feet by showing up at the prom to slow dance with her to her favorite song!

Don’t let yourself off the hook. Replace Christian romance novels and Pinterest with anything else that may have you building up unrealistic expectations. Regardless of their source, the following relationship lies pose a threat to true contentment:

Lie #1: You Will Be Happy Once You are Married.

In other words, tough luck, singles. You’re missing out. Only married people know what true happiness is.

When we hold our joy captive until we get what we want, a vicious cycle of discontentment begins. God calls us to be content right now.

But waiting for happiness, whether you are single waiting for marriage, married waiting for children, or married waiting for your spouse to change, is idolatrous territory. When we hold our joy captive until we get what we want, a vicious cycle of discontentment begins. God calls us to be content right now:

Hebrews 13:5: Be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Lie #2: Love Fixes Everything.

In films, love is the answer. Characters’ lives could be falling apart, their planet on the verge of collapse, until they meet “the one.” Suddenly problems vanish. Love is all you need, right?

Real life is different. Love as he might, a husband cannot always comfort his wife out of post-partum depression. A wife cannot simply hand her husband confidence after he loses his job. When we expect our spouse’s love to solve all of our problems, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Though it sure makes them easier to endure, love can’t make trials disappear. Love is powerful, not omnipotent.

Accepting this leaves less room for disappointment and more room for grace.

Because, you see, love does fix everything—Christ’s love. It fixes our ultimate problem of sin and separation from God. Expecting your spouse to be your Savior ensures discontent. Looking to Christ ensures salvation. He alone can remove our burdens and take our blame; and not just temporarily, but forever.

Lie #3: You Will Always “Get” Each Other.

Men seem to be particularly bad at mind-reading. My husband is thrilled when he can predict my answer to a question. He is thrilled because it is rare. When I try to read his thoughts, I usually get it wrong as well. I read something negative into a sigh or something specific into a general comment. Neither of us are any good at telepathy.

It’s important to confront this lie because believing it discourages real communication. When a woman gives her husband the silent treatment to communicate frustration, she is promoting confusion, not understanding. When a man makes a passive-aggressive comment about his wife leaving her clothes on the floor, he is not giving her a chance to change. He is just venting his anger.

I believe it takes more love to listen well and clearly articulate your thoughts than it does to buy into the myth that true love “always knows.” True love works hard to know.

Talking is the new guessing. Try it.

Lie #4: Love is Always Romantic and Unexpected.

Too many stories end right after the proposal or wedding ceremony. We don’t get to watch the couple go through life together. We don’t get to see their first fight, the way they handle money problems, discipline their kids, or how they deal with illness. As a result, many expect marriage to be just like dating.

Correcting this lie requires not just a shift in expectations, but perspective. Our culture’s definition of “romance” is too narrow. Though marriage does not contain the fluttery nerves, new cologne, and best manners of a first date, there is a great deal of romance in the regular. My 90-year-old grandpa regularly sets his alarm clock for 12 a.m. so that he can wake up my diabetic grandmother for her midnight snack. As a stoic WWII vet and survivor of the Great Depression, he has never been verbally affectionate. But when I watch him faithfully take care of his wife in this way, it is more romantic to me than any movie or book.

You asked God to mold and refine you before you were married. Don’t stop just because you have a ring on your finger.

If everyday events like sickness and car troubles seem like romance-killers to you, then they will be. But if you expect real-life situations to enter and impact your marriage and view them as opportunities to demonstrate Christ-like love, you have a lot to look forward to.

Lie #5: Love Means Never Having to Change.

The main problem with this lie is that it is self-focused instead of Christ-focused.

Self-love says: I deserve what I want and don’t have to change for anyone.

Christ-like love says: I deserve eternal punishment but have been given eternal grace. I will continue to seek new ways to be more like Christ.

Sinners should enter marriage ready to change. You asked God to mold and refine you before you were married. Don’t stop just because you have a ring on your finger.

Our motivation for changing should always be God’s glory and Christ-likeness. Christ was a servant. He laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). He gave of himself when He was exhausted. He cared about people when they were sick, unlovely and unpopular. And He did all of these things for His Father’s glory. Ask God to chip away at your sinfulness and your spouse to forgive you when you sin against them.

But don’t enter marriage with the expectation that you will change your spouse. Though Christ-like love certainly has the power to change people, your job is to love your spouse. Think they need to change? God is one who has the power to change people, so prayer should be our first response.

There will be times when we need to boldly speak the truth in love to our spouse (Ephesians 4:12), especially if they are in sin. But there will be many more times when we are called to show them love when they haven’t changed. We need to remember that marriage, though a powerful symbol of Christ’s love for the Church, is imperfect; a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17).

-Rachel Watson, http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/cultures-worst-lies-about-falling-love#p6305CrmtOFhXwho.01

Discipleship of the Mundane – Part 4

Our lives do not culminate in a moment. We should not be hoping for one great photo shoot, because that is not what God is doing with us. Our lives are a story–they are interwoven with the next generation in a way that is impossible for us to understand.

Getting our sense of achievement and satisfaction out of cheerfully performing the tasks that are asked of us can so nothing but good in our lives. Seeing that God is asking something of you–and delighting in doing it for Him–brings the kind of peace with the mundane that can seem unattainable.

You are a Christian. This is Christian discipleship.

Why do you rejoice in making a dinner again? Because god rejoices in your doing it cheerfully, and doing it well. Why can you rejoice in cleaning the bathroom, doing the laundry, running the errands, making the beds? Because God delights in a willing and eager student.

Cheerfully embracing the mundane work in your life, diving into the challenges, working harder than you would think was possible at the little, at the trivial, at the boring–these are all ways to say,

“Use me Lord; I am your servant.”

-Rachel Jankovic, Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood (Cannon Press, 2012), 43-44.

Discipleship of the Mundane – Part 3

We don’t know the value of what we do. We can’t always see why God wants us to be doing these things, so we want to negotiate with Him. Lord, couldn’t you think of something better for me to do? Or worse, rather that complain to God, asking for Him to answer us, we complain to others.

We fuss at the children for being what they can’t help being.
We get dreamy to our [spouses], explaining yet again how repetitive our lives are.
We droop.
We make fun of our jobs to ourselves and to others.
We belittle our work,
We make much of the mindlessness of it,
And, not surprisingly, we then lose interest in it.

But imagine we could switch this attitude into a situation where we understand the value of repetition. Imagine we could see a young girl at the piano, practicing scales with a word class teacher. Imagine that instead of seeing that she was being taught the fundamentals of something amazing, she was mocking it.

Imagine she was complaining and moaning and drooping.
Imagine she wouldn’t try them.
Imagine she was hollering to anyone close enough about how unfulfilling and demeaning this work was, Or just sighing to herself continuously.
Imagine that she used as her main argument that she was above this kind of fiddly work because she was meant to be a concert pianist.

I would hope that we would all see the foolishness of this kind of attitude. Feeling above it all is simply a way of showing that it is actually above you.

We have far more than musical skills to gain by cheerfully practicing the scales that God asks us to do. He uses things like this to train us for other things. We wants to see us perfecting the work we are given, cheerfully and willingly practicing when we do not see all the value.

-Rachel Jankovic, Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood (Cannon Press, 2012), 41-42.

Discipleship of the Mundane – Part 2

Oftentimes [we] want [a calm, clean, simple life] for [our] real lives. We always want everything to look as if we have arrived, all the time. This is like focusing entirely on the victory moment.

Like a football player who never trains, but only practices his touchdown dance.
Like a woman who sets beautiful tables for a living but never feeds anyone.

Real life is messy because it is going somewhere. Things constantly need to be done because people are constantly growing. Repetition should not be discouraging to us, it should be challenging.

When we buy into this kind of idealism, we start seeing things as failures that are anything but.

Practice drills are not a waste of time.

Having another chance to work on things is not a sign of failure. Having room to improve is not something to be sad about, it is something that should encourage and inspire us.

God keeps giving me this to do, because this is what He wants me doing. If this is what He wants me doing, then I will do it with my whole being. He gave me the work; I will not back away from it and say it isn’t important. I will not sit on the sidelines of this drill and fuss about it.

The funny thing is that we know well that we learn through repetition.

We need to practice songs before we can sing them.
We need to try something over and over before we have mastered it.

We have accepted that part of being human. What we appear not to have accepted is the subject matter.

I don’t want to cook for the family again. I don’t want to do the laundry again. I don’t want to vacuum, to make a birthday cake, to blow a nose, to change a diaper, to pick up toys. I don’t want to practice this work that God gave me because, frankly, I’d rather not be good at it. Because, somewhere in there, we don’t like what God has called us to do.

-Rachel Jankovic, Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood (Cannon Press, 2012), 40-41.

Discipleship of the Mundane – Part 1

God likes for His people to be stretched, to be challenged, to be pushed. This is often seen in the fact that we almost never feel like we have things under control.

When we finally figure out how to handle one child, we have another.
When we think the house is running smoothly, we move.
When we feel especially comfortable, we may have to deal with a hard providence.

God does not want us to be stagnant, to sit still, to rest on the laurels of success. He has us in training–He is pushing us to grow, to learn, to confess, to rely on Him more, to give more to others, to work harder, to laugh more. This is Christian discipleship.

The hardest part of this is that we have trained ourselves to be people who think in snapshots. We look at a photo of a dreamy house–and extrapolate a whole dreamy life from that one picture.

We see calm, clean, simple.
We see a life without trouble, without endless piles of shoes by the door.

We imagine that everything that happens there is calm, clean, and simple. We want that for ourselves–a life that could be summed up in one little picture of happiness.

The problem with pictures is that they have no direction. They have no goals. There are no obstacles in the life of a photograph. And that is the reason they are so appealing. We look at them and yearn for a life with no growth, a life of arrival.

But God did not create as creatures of arrival. He made us to need to eat all the time. He made us to need to sleep at regular and long intervals. He made us to need to need to breathe constantly.

You never look at the pictures of a beautiful living room and picture yourself in it sleep-deprived with a bad headache and needing to go to the bathroom. You do not envision the Cape Cod getaway as the place the whole family would get the stomach flu.

-Rachel Jankovic, Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood (Cannon Press, 2012), 39-40.

Deuteronomy 6 For Father’s Day

Deuteronomy 6

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

“This is the command—the statutes and ordinances—the Lordyour God has instructed me to teach you, so that you may follow them in the land you are about to enter and possess. Do this so that you may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life by keeping all His statutes and commands I am giving you, your son, and your grandson, and so that you may have a long life.Listen, Israel, and be careful to follow them, so that you may prosper and multiply greatly, because Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised you a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love theLord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give you—a land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build,11 houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 13 Fear Yahweh your God, worship Him, and take your oaths in His name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you, 15 for the Lordyour God, who is among you, is a jealous God. Otherwise, theLord your God will become angry with you and wipe you off the face of the earth. 16 Do not test the Lord your God as you tested Him at Massah. 17 Carefully observe the commands of the Lordyour God, the decrees and statutes He has commanded you.18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that you may prosper and so that you may enter and possess the good landthe Lord your God swore to give your fathers, 19 by driving out all your enemies before you, as the Lord has said.

20 “When your son asks you in the future, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees, statutes, and ordinances, which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 tell him, ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand.22 Before our eyes the Lord inflicted great and devastating signs and wonders on Egypt, on Pharaoh, and on all his household,23 but He brought us from there in order to lead us in and give us the land that He swore to our fathers. 24 The Lord commanded us to follow all these statutes and to fear the Lord our God for our prosperity always and for our preservation, as it is today.25 Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’

Book Review: Pulling Back the Shades

pulling-back-the-shadesby Erik Martin

When I was asked to review Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery’s new book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, I must admit I had mixed feelings. I am not an experienced literary critic and this book–written by women, for women, about women–seemed outside my area of expertise. However, the noxious and pervasive nature of erotica today caused me to pause. The mainstream acceptance of E. L. James’ Fifty Shades series told me that Gresh and Slattery’s book was worth a review.

I must admit I’ve never read any of E.L. James’ works. After reading Pulling Back the Shades, I am even more confident in denouncing such literature. Gresh and Slattery expose the inescapable perils of reading 50 Shades of Grey.

I was able to easily read Pulling Back the Shades in about two hours. It’s graceful writing style and compact size makes it manageable for even the reticent reader.

True Satisfaction

Gresh and Slattery refuse to shrink back from hard answers, even those unpopular or politically incorrect. They hold up the Word of God as authoritative, even today, to speak into the lives of Christian women. This is not just a book attacking 50 Shades of Grey, but a guide for finding genuine satisfaction. Gresh and Slattery seek true sexual intimacy–within marriage–as a picture of a Christ-follower’s intimacy with his or her Master.

Gresh and Slattery call for revival. As they write, “this book is about the spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of women.” They want women to treasure Christ alone. He is the consummation of all the desires of the female heart.

Practical Yet Prudent

Both Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery work diligently to be circumspect. They attempt to be as vague as possible about the details of erotica, while also trying to address the problems associated with the different facets of fornication fantasy. The nature of this subject requires them to delve into more detail than would be preferred, but detail which seems necessary.

Gresh and Slattery’s book is fiercely practical. It disarms those who justify erotica. It is a great resource for those entrapped in sexual sin and seeking sexual healing. While the book is targeted towards women, many of the principles should be employed by men as they also seek sexual purity.

Pulling Back the Shades is filled with helpful discussion questions which make the book a practical devotional. It features an appendix with useful resources for accountability, online filtering, Christian therapy, and other helpful books. A second appendix is filled with valuable strategies for overcoming temptation.

Conclusions:

I would strongly recommend this book for those who entertain or endorse erotica. I also think it would be helpful for those tempted to read 50 Shades of Grey. I also recommend it for those who wish to counsel women who struggle in these areas.

I would definitely not recommend Pulling Back the Shades for everyone. It is not appropriate for children or those who are innocent about erotica. It would expose the naive to areas of sin they do not even realize exist.

If you struggle with sexual purity, frequent erotic literature, or struggle with Christ’s lordship over your sexuality, then you will find this book helpful. As with any book on sex, read carefully and prudently. Gresh and Slattery seek to help you navigate troubled waters. Don’t be cavalier, or you may fall even deeper into the bondage of sin.

May King Jesus be glorified in your mind and body!

Caesar, Coercion, and the Christian Conscience: A Dangerous Confusion

by Albert Mohler

pic2“Several states are now considering legislation that would provide explicit protections to citizens whose consciences will not allow an endorsement of same-sex marriage. The bills vary by state, as do the prospects for legislative passage, but the key issues remain constant. Millions of American citizens are facing a direct collision between their moral convictions and the demands of their government.

The cases are now piling up. A wedding photographer in New Mexico, cake bakers in Colorado and Oregon, and a florist in Washington State have all found themselves in this predicament. Each now faces the coercive power of the state. They are being told, in no uncertain terms, that they must participate in providing services for same-sex weddings or go out of business.

The bills now being considered in several states are attempts to protect these citizens from government coercion. They take the form of remedial legislation — bills intended to fix a problem. And the problem is all too real, and so is the controversy over these bills.

Those pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage are relentless in their insistence that these bills would violate the civil rights of same-sex couples. They brilliantly employed arguments from the civil rights in their push for same-sex marriage, and they now employ similar arguments in their opposition to bills that would protect the consciences of those opposed to same-sex marriage. They claim that the rights of gays and lesbians and others in the LGBT community are equivalent to the rights rightly demanded by African Americans in the civil rights movement. Thus far, they have been stunningly successful in persuading courts to accept their argument.

That sets up the inevitable collision of law and values and Christian conviction. In each of the cases listed above, the key issue is not a willingness to serve same-sex couples, but the unwillingness to participate in a same-sex wedding. Christian automobile dealers can sell cars to persons of various sexual orientations and behaviors without violating conscience. The same is true for insurance agents and building contractors. But the cases of pressing concern have to do with forcing Christians to participate in same-sex weddings — and this is another matter altogether.

Photographers, makers of artistic wedding cakes, and florists are now told that they must participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies, and this is a direct violation of their religiously-based conviction that they should lend no active support of a same-sex wedding. Based upon their biblical convictions, they do not believe that a same-sex wedding can be legitimate in any Christian perspective and that their active participation can only be read as a forced endorsement of what they believe to be fundamentally wrong and sinful. They remember the words of the Apostle Paul when he indicted both those who commit sin and those “who give approval to those who practice them.” [Romans 1:32]

The advocates of same-sex marriage saw this coming, as did the opponents of this legal and moral revolution. Judges and legal scholars also knew the collision was coming. Judge Michael McConnell, formerly a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and now director of Stanford University’s Constitutional Law Center, suggested many years ago that the coming conflict would “feature a seemingly irreconcilable clash between those who believe that homosexual conduct is immoral and those who believe that it is a natural and morally unobjectionable manifestation of human sexuality.” Accordingly, he called for a spirit of tolerance and respect, much like what society expects of religious believers and atheists — what he called “civil toleration.”

But the advocates of same-sex marriage are not friendly to the idea of toleration. One prominent gay rights lawyer predicted just this kind of controversy almost a decade ago when she admitted that violations of conscience would be inevitable as same-sex marriage is legalized. Chai Feldblum, then a professor at the Yale Law School, also admitted that her acknowledgement of a violated conscience might be “cold comfort” to those whose consciences are violated.

But perhaps the strangest and most disappointing dimension of the current controversy is the entry of some Christians on the side of coercing the conscience. Writing in USA Today, Kirsten Powers accused Christians supporting such legislation of “essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.” She explicitly denied that florists and bakers and photographers are forced to “celebrate” a same-sex union when forced to provide their services for such a ceremony.

Well, my wife and I recently celebrated the wedding of our daughter. We not only celebrated it, we paid for it. And I can assure you that we were expecting our florist and cake baker and photographer to celebrate it as well. And we employed them for their artistic ability and we paid for their expressive ideas. Kirsten Powers went on to suggest that Christians who have such scruples about same-sex weddings are hypocritical if they do not refuse to participate in the wedding of an adulterer. As a matter of fact, some Christian wedding vendors do indeed try to screen their clients in this way. But the fact remains that the marriage of a man and a woman is, in the biblical point of view, still valid. No union of same-sex couples is valid according to the Bible. This is a huge and consequential matter of conscience and conviction.

Jesus, we should note, was often found in the presence of sinners. He came, as he said, to save those who are lost. But there is not a shred of biblical evidence to suggest that Jesus endorsed sin in any way. To suggest otherwise is an offense to Scripture and to reason.

Just days later, Powers was joined by Jonathan Merritt in yet another essay in which they argued that conservative Christians are selectively applying the Scriptures in making their case. They also denied that forcing participation in a same-sex ceremony is a violation of conscience. They wrote:

“Many on the left and right can agree that nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience. But in order to violate a Christian’s conscience, the government would have to force them to affirm something in which they don’t believe. This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic.  If you lined up 100 married couples and asked them if their florist “affirmed” their wedding, they would be baffled by the question.”

Well, the issue is really not what “society really believes” about baking a wedding cake, but what the baker believes. Reference to what “society really believes” is a way of dismissing religious liberty altogether. If the defining legal or moral principle is what “society really believes,” all liberties are eventually at stake.

Their article also perpetuates another major error — that the wedding of a man and a woman under sinful circumstances is tantamount to the wedding of a same-sex couple. In their words, “This makes sure to put just one kind of ‘unbiblical’ marriage in a special category.” But a same-sex marriage is not “just one kind” of an unbiblical marriage — it is believed by conservative Christians to be no marriage at all.

The state might decide to recognize a same-sex union as a marriage, but to coerce a Christian to participate in a same-sex wedding is a gross violation of religious conscience.

And it will not stop with bakers and florists and photographers. What about singers and other musicians? Under the argument of Powers and Merritt, they can be forced to sing a message they believe to be abhorrent. What about writers for hire? This argument would force a Christian who writes for hire to write a message that would violate the deepest Christian convictions. To be forced to participate in an expressive way is to be forced to endorse and to celebrate.

The most lamentable aspect of the Powers and Merritt argument is the fact that they so quickly consign Christians to the coercive power of the state. They should be fully free to try their best to present a biblical argument that the right response of Christians is to offer such services. But to condemn brothers and sisters as hypocrites and to consign their consciences to the coercion of Caesar is tragic in every aspect. We can only hope that they will rethink their argument … and fast.”

-Albert Mohler, http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/02/24/caesar-coercion-and-the-christian-conscience-a-dangerous-confusion/

Chai R. Feldblum, “Moral Conflict and Conflicting Liberties,” in Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts, ed. Douglas Laycock, Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., and Robin Fretwell Wilson (New York: Rowan and Littlefield, 2008). Quote from Judge Michael McConnell also found in this chapter.

Kirsten Powers, “Jim Crow Laws for Gays and Lesbians?,” USA Today, Wednesday, February 19, 2014.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/02/18/gays-lesbians-kansas-bill-religious-freedom-christians-column/5588643/

Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt, “Conservative Christians Selectively Apply Biblical Teachings in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate,” The Daily Beast, Sunday, February 23, 2014. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/23/conservative-christians-selectively-apply-biblical-teachings-in-the-same-sex-marriage-debate.html 

Thou Shall Have More Kids

by Jen Pollock Michel 

“It’s not often that a company asks you to “go make babies,” but Chicago’s National Public Radio Station, WBEZ, is imploring listeners to “Do it. For Chicago.” Their surprising marketing campaign, called the 2032 membership drive, also prompts their audience, saying “Hey Interesting People, get a room already. And then put a crib in it.”

But NPR may have failed to do their math. In her New York Times essay, “Opting out of Parenthood with Finances in Mind,” Nadia Taha estimates the cost of raising a child at a whopping $1.7 million. At that amount, if WBEZ listeners follow the station’s advice, they wouldn’t have much left for philanthropic contributions.

Recognizing the potential economic disadvantages of starting a family, Taha and her husband decided “that the single decision that can best help us achieve [our financial goals] is one that many newly married, affluent young adults don’t usually consider: Don’t have children.”

Money talks. Money decides. Although we may not follow Taha’s extreme advice, we too can be tempted to let finances decide the size of our families. However, as Christians, we need to challenge the uncontested assertion that money should act as the primary factor for making such decisions (acknowledging, of course, that our ability to conceive isn’t really up to us).

I grant there are economic considerations to having children. Days after I discovered that my surprise pregnancy was a twin pregnancy — we already had three children at the time– my actuarial husband worked to reconfigure our college savings spreadsheet. It didn’t look good. If we hoped to send our children to the private Christian college we’d both attended, we’d need to start saving more money than we earned.

I can sympathize with families who ask, “Can we afford more kids?” and “Where would we live if we did?” We aren’t theDuggars, but as a family of seven, we struggled to secure a place to live when we recently moved to a large city (Toronto). Buying a house is expensive, and renting isn’t so straightforward. “Too many children,” one landlord insisted.

We can’t add up the costs of a big family without acknowledging the advantages, though. Having more kids, which necessarily divides a parent’s attention, forces children earlier into roles of responsibility.

In her essay for The New Yorker, “Spoiled Rotten,” Elizabeth Kolbert writes that Americans are raising “a generation of kids who can’t, or at least won’t tie their own shoes.” Her essay is a haunting look into the way American parents baby their children, and a quick panorama of some new parenting book titles– The Price of Privilege, The Narcissism Epidemic, Means Moms Rule, A Nation of Wimps– suggests we have a new crisis on our hands: parents expecting less of their children at home, and kids mastering fewer and fewer life skills.

Not in my house. “Conscientious” is a word my husband and I consistently hear applied to our children, though we wouldn’t credit ourselves for this. Our children simply have to remember their lunch boxes, field trip money, and gym shoes because it’s unlikely we will. Moreover, their contribution to the household in the form of consistent chores is necessary and needed.

Sally Koslow, author of Slouching Toward Adulthood, suggests, “The best way for a lot of us to show our love would be to learn to un-mother and un-father.” Maybe it’s regrettable that my husband and I can’t do more for our children… but maybe our “un-mothering” and “un-fathering” allows them just the room they need to grow into responsibilities of their own.

Regardless if yours is a small family or a big one, we need to ask ourselves: Do we continue to allow culture to shape our vision of the good life? Does the state of our bank account take priority over all things?

Marilynne Robinson, in The Death of Adam, laments the way economics imperiously rule in our culture today. “Suddenly we act as if the reality of economics were the reality itself, the one Truth to which everything must refer.”

Unfortunately, I can’t say that my husband and I believed in the benefits of a large family before it became our reality. Even today, as I sit in our basement playroom to type this article, I realize what the mathematical factor of five does to a life. (It’s a mess.)

If the good life is measured by financial security, economic flexibility, even Pinterest-perfect homes, having more kids may indeed jeopardize these goals. But if we take our cues from Scripture, we can’t help but admit that children aren’t liabilities. They are assets (Ps. 127:5).

It will simply require faith to suspend our disbelief.”

Jen Pollock Michel

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/february/thou-shall-go-make-babies.html?paging=off

Fact Checker: Divorce Rate Among Christians

By Glen T. Stanton

“Note: FactChecker is a monthly series in which Glenn T. Stanton examines claims, myths, and misunderstandings frequently heard in evangelical circles.

“Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world!”

It’s one of the most quoted stats by Christian leaders today. And it’s perhaps one of the most inaccurate.

At bottom, it is used to explain that Christians are not doing well in living out their faith. But it could also be taken as a statement that redemption by and real discipleship under Jesus makes no real difference when it comes to marriage.  But mainstream sociologists would tell us that taking one’s faith very seriously—in word and deed—does indeed make a marked positive difference in the health and longevity of marriage. Based on the best data available, the divorce rate among Christians is significantly lower than the general population.

Here’s the truth…

People who seriously practice a traditional religious faith—whether Christian or other—have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice.

What appears intuitive is true. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes—attend church nearly every week, read their bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples—enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public, and unbelievers.

Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced.[1]

Other data from additional sociologists of family and religion suggest a substantial marital stability divide between those who take their faith seriously and those who do not.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that “active conservative Protestants” who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans.[2]

The following chart shows the relative risk of divorce by religious affiliation among Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish adherents. (Wilcox controlled for other socio-economic factors that impact marital health, thus providing a clearer, cleaner measure of the actual religious dynamic on marriage.)

 

Faith Affiliation

% Divorce Likelihood Reduction

Protestant – Nominal

20

 Protestant -Conservative

 

-10

Protestant – Active Conservative

 

-35

Catholic

-18

Catholic (nominal)

-5

Catholic – Active

-31

Jewish

39

Jewish (nominal)

53

Jewish – Active

-97

Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, working with an absolute all-star team of leading sociologists in the Oklahoma Marriage Study, explains that couples with a vibrant religious faith had higher and more levels of the qualities couples need to avoid divorce.

“Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction. These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage.”

These positive factors translated into actual lowered risk of divorce among active believers.

“Those who say they are more religious are less likely, not more, to have already experienced divorce. Likewise, those who report more frequent attendance at religious services were significantly less likely to have been divorced.”[3]

The Take-Away

These data indicate that the divorce rate among serious believers is not something to crow about. It is still higher than most of us are comfortable with.  But there is no reliable, mainstream social-science data that has this rate higher than the general population. Faith and discipleship do make a difference in our lives, but it doesn’t make all our problems go away.


[1] Bradley R.E. Wright, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites …and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010), p. 133.

[2] W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Williamson, “The Cultural Contradictions of Mainline Family Ideology and Practice,” in American Religions and the Family, edited by Don S. Browning and David A. Clairmont (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007) p. 50.

[3] C.A.  Johnson, S. M. Stanley, N.D. Glenn, P.A. Amato, S.L. Nock, H.J. Markman and M .R. Dion  Marriage in Oklahoma:  2001 Baseline Statewide Survey on Marriage and Divorce  (Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Department of Human Services 2002) p. 25, 26.”

-Glenn T. Stanton, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/09/25/factchecker-divorce-rate-among-christians/