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Wedding Rentals

divorce, MARRI, marriage, monogamy No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern

I was sitting in class as our professor began to go around the room asking the females a question: Would you consider a prenuptial agreement?  The make-believe premise was your parents are pressuring you to protect the family fortune.  Slowly, every girl in the room responded with “Yes,” some a little more hesitant than others.  Soon it was my turn.  My answer was no.  By my professor’s reaction, you would have thought I’d added, “And I also believe the sky is orange.”  When asked to explain, I replied, “My God does not believe in divorce, and neither do I.”  Besides, if I start my marriage thinking it will not last, why get married? His response to me was something to this effect: Sweetheart, you’re an idealist who will have to change that opinion if you ever want to make it in the real world.
My professor’s presumption was that anyone who doesn’t prepare for a marriage’s dissolution is a dreamer, ignoring reality.  A recent New York Times article, “Till Death, or 20 Years, Do Us Part,” highlights the underlying issue: concern that marriage longevity is impossible.  Simply and frankly, the author asks “whether society should consider something like a 20-year marriage contract.” Should marriage now have a starting and an ending date?  Would this be better for society?  The author admits he is “surprised and even unnerved by the extent to which some experts [he] spoke with say there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.” 
MARRI research reveals time and again that “good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies.”  Marriage helps increase men’s productivity and employment, decrease crime, promote healthy lifestyles, and protect children both mentally and physically.  Clearly, marriage benefits society; so maybe it’s not the institution that needs reexamining, but the involved parties. 
In the Times article, Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor, remarks, “We’re remarkably not innovative about marriage even though almost all environmental conditions, writ large, have changed.”  Two large problems with “innovation” immediately jump out.  First, if a school district had a high dropout rate, would we address the problem by inviting students to only attend school until sixth grade?  The state of Nevada has a 56% dropout rate, but I have yet to hear anyone propose short-term attendance contracts for these students.  Since this institution appears to be failing, maybe we should give all 12-year-olds the option to leave science class if it does not make them happy after the first semester.  Hopefully no parent would see this as a desirable option.  Most parents would work to help their children succeed, because they know education will benefit their children over the long run.  
Second, our society has already attempted to reinvent marriage through cohabitation.  The article doesn’t hesitate to say that “cohabitation isn’t making us happier. Bowling Green found in a 2010 study that of cohabitating couples 36% say both partners are ‘very satisfied,’ compared to 57% for married couples.” MARRI research confirms this finding.  According to “162 Reasons to Marry,” married couples enjoy better romantic relationships, greater fidelity, more economic prosperity, stronger parenting bonds, fewer instances of abuse and “higher levels of emotional and psychological well-being” than those single or cohabitating.  Our human alterations have only made things worse, so why should we expect different results from another man-derived change? 
One professor in the article wants to “eliminate the fantasy of marriage.”  A fantasy exists in our country, but it is NOT the desire for a “till death do us part” marriage.  The real far-fetched dream is that marriage is man-made convention for our convenience rather than a God-ordained covenant worthy of our commitment.
Whatever your views on religion, I think we can all agree that people are not perfect.  We make mistakes; we have selfish desires; we mess up.  This is why marriage will never work when its focus is two imperfect people.  Marriage would have to constantly change, change again, and then would still fail to satisfy everyone’s desires.  Paul articulates the outcome of a human focus in Romans 1:22-23:
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” 
When you place a divine institution on the shoulders of a created being rather than in the hands of the creator, you will end up disappointed.  (I owe this insight to a wonderful poem on marriage, which you can watch here.)  Maybe, just maybe, marriage exists more for God’s glorification than our personal gratification!  Marriage works when its focus is an unchanging, all-knowing, eternally perfect God. 
We are not idealists for believing marriage and commitment as the Author of Life designed it works today.  On the contrary, it is fantasy to think any perversion of His plan will prosper. Marriage “is the foundational relationship for all society,” and that’s neither make-believe nor scheduled to end in 20 years.   

Divorce: Breaking Down the Building Block

divorce, family, MARRI, marriage No comments

By  Maria Reig Teetor, Intern

Watch any Hollywood romance, and you might think the best reason to get married is passionate romantic love because the purpose of marriage is the satisfaction of the couple. But marriage is about more than the couple and their feelings. According to an FRC Issues Analysis brief titled “Why Marriage Should Be Privileged in Public Policy,” marriage is “the basic social building block” and “produces a stronger nation that benefits many future generations.” MARRI research shows over 150 reasons why marriage should be protected by society.
Unfortunately, the marriage institution has been weakened by decades of widespread divorce. Let’s analyze this social phenomenon.
In the past, marriage was not only the social institution that protected and provided for children, but also an economic “investment” and a safe haven. While the couple experienced romantic love, the relationship did not exist for their mutual emotions. Until the 18th century, couples were often married according to the wishes of their parents.
The rise of Romanticism encouraged a new view of marriage with the idea of “true love.” The sexual revolution took this further when it redefined relationships as a means to personal fulfillment: “Whatever works for the couple, to enhance their emotions and bring passion to the relationship, is what marriage should be all about.” Soon these emotions and sentiments became independent of childbearing, assisted by the appearance of the Pill, which helped separate sexuality both from mutual self-giving and from childbearing.
With the legalization of no-fault divorce, it became clear that marriage was only about being “in love.” This relationship was now independent of common good, community, generosity, hard work, self-giving, children….it was only about feeling an emotional bond.
Today, since marriage is considered a private transaction, any couple is free to manipulate and even reinvent marriage. As modern “love” is individualistic, so is modern marriage. The soul of marriage has become “myself.”
This new vision of romantic love convinced people they would be happier. Unfortunately, it was an illusion. The divorce rate, often due to infidelity, has only increased. The 2011 MARRI Annual Report on Family Trends documents that in the U.S the divorce rate from 1958 to 1978 went from 2.1 to 5.3! When passionate love is the reason for marriage, it can also be the reason for its dissolution when the romance disappears.
What’s the problem? Emotions and sentiments change, mature, and grow with the couple. Does this mean that married people fall “out of love”? Of course not. But it means there must be more to marriage than feelings. There must be a mutual understanding of what you want out of life, a union in your priorities, and a solid friendship. Love must be nourished in everyday life, not just passionate encounters.
So what is the answer to our growing divorce rate? We must learn to build a marriage commitment that is based on more than passing emotions. We should plan for unions that are strong enough to do what marriage was designed to do – benefit future generations.

The Sex Secret You Won’t Find in Cosmo

abstinence, MARRI, marriage, religion, sexuality, women's health No comments

Betsy Huff, Intern
 
Pick up the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (or any issue for that matter) and you are sure to find a cover story on the “hottest new sex secrets.”  In fact, the aim of the publication seems to be to aid women in finding the most possible fulfillment in their sexual experiences and encounters.  There is a shocking, but not so new (in fact some may say ancient) piece of information that may change the way you view religion and sex.  
In February of 1999, U.S.A Today ran a cover story entitled “Revenge of the Church Ladies,” by William R. Mattox Jr., which revealed that some of the most sexually satisfied women in the country are religious women. It is no divine revelation that premature sexual activity has devastating effects on young girls, but a study that reveals in objective terms that religious women experience more frequent sexual responsiveness might come as a surprise.  Gone is the notion of the prudish, Victorian-minded and sexually repressed church woman the Sexual Revolution worked so hard to release! 
The study cites four factors that may contribute to sexual fulfillment in religious women. Sexual inexperience and lack of baggage from past sexual involvements contributes to a satisfactory sex life within marriage. Similarly, this lack of a sexually licentious past is related to less sexual anxiety due to guilt or fear of consequences from sexual promiscuity. Logically, sexual anxiety is a factor that inhibits sexual satisfaction.  Also, marriage in itself creates an environment for human sexuality to flourish.  The commitment and fidelity created by this relational union allows a woman to “let go” and thus experience more sexual responsiveness.  Finally, for religious women sex is more than just a physical act to meet a sensory appetite. The physical act is also spiritual and emotional; it is symbolic of a transcendent truth that the two are really “one flesh.”  
This is just one of many examplesof social science research supporting the way God intended and commanded humans to live. Other examples include evidence from MARRI research that supports the idea of an intact family as the best environment in which to raise happy, healthy, and successful children.  Other social science researchsupports these same ideas. As Dr. Pat Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute says, “The social sciences, done well, illustrate the way God made man.”

Social Science Confirms Social Values on Gay Families

MARRI, same-sex parenting studies No comments

Kevin J. Burns, Intern
Conservatives are often condemned for basing their political beliefs on their theological principles.  In contrast, science is held up as the temple of positivism and acceptance of newly-forming social norms.  Science, unlike religion, is not based on “values”; rather, it is based on hard, indisputable facts. It cuts through prejudice and tradition and gets to the truth of the matter.  I make no contentions against science.  Science, in its purest form, is indeed the quest for truth. But scientists, like all members of the human species, can be biased and have their judgment clouded.  This has been the case when considering social science studies on homosexual families – until two recent peer-reviewed social science studies came to light.
 
Dr. Loren Marks of LSU recently published a review of the current research on homosexual families in Social Science Research.  His study finds evidence in opposition to the American Psychological Association’s 2005 statement arguing that there is no difference for the children of heterosexual or gay households.  Marks finds fault with the currently available social science studies, pointing out that none of the currently available studies compares a large nationally-representative sample of gay and heterosexual parents and children to each other. Instead, he finds that most of his colleagues have considered small samples that do not represent the nation and that the studies do not hold up to the rigors of scientific peer review.  Additionally, many of these studies focus on the gay parents, not on their children. Thus, the current research considers only one aspect of the family – the parents – while failing to consider the longest-term results of the relationship, as the children of gay parents mature and move into the world.
Dr. Mark Regnerus of UT Austin seeks to remedy this failing with his own study, also published in Social Science Research. Regnerus uses a large population sample and studies 2,988 children over 21 years, from ages 18 to 39. Among other things, Regnerus found that children of gay parents are far more likely to have received public assistance at some point during their lives, are less likely to be employed, less likely to vote regularly, and more likely to have been sexually abused and have suffered from sexually transmitted infections. It is important to note that this study considers only correlation; it does not look to causation. Regnerus does not argue that gay parents are bad parents.  His research merely points out that, on average, the children of gay parents are far more likely to suffer certain social ills. Regnerus does not deal with social values or theology, but with statistics.
Every child deserves the most stable family structure possible.  Family structure is obviously critical to the health and well-being of the children of that family, as MARRI showed in its Annual Report on Family Trends.  Equality is a beautiful and important thing, engrained in the character of the American republic.  However, it is logically impossible to argue for equality for gay couples while ignoring the inequality of outcomes evident among their children.

Green Sex= Great Marriage?

contraception, divorce, MARRI, women's health No comments

Katie Staudt, Intern
Last week, MARRI blogger Amanda Brennan wrote a post entitled “Green Sex” (see a few posts below). Amanda explained how there is a strong push in society to “Go Green” in order to be better stewards of both the earth and the human body. Yet, at the same time, over 40% of women between 15-44 are using some form of hormonal birth control that pumps dangerous chemicals into their bodies. So while people are attempting to be organic and healthy, they are sabotaging their own efforts by using hormonal contraceptives that have a number of health risks.
However, some people are beginning to question the use of hormonal birth control (and all forms of artificial birth control) for more than just its health risks. A new website called 1Flesh is a grass roots effort that was just launched by a group of young people as a “revolt against artificial birth control” with the goal to “bringing great sex to the entire universe.” 1flesh.orgis a provocative website (read their “About Us” page) that asks their readers to consider a host of compelling arguments from a secular viewpoint, primarily utilizing the fields of medicine, sociology, and philosophy.
One argumentthat 1Flesh presents is the connection between divorce and artificial contraception. They state that “the national divorce rate doubled from 1965 to 1976, at the same time the use of artificial contraception was made widespread and acceptable.” This is no coincidence. Distinguished sociologist Robert Michael from the University of Chicago, in his analysis “Why did the U.S. Divorce Rate Double within a Decade” (published in Research in Population Economics) explained that the “sudden widespread use of artificial contraception during the same period is responsible for about half (45%) of this increase.” MARRI’s working paper on the correlates and effects of contraceptive use cites the same research. I’d suggest reading the whole argument presented by 1Flesh regarding divorce rates, especially if you’re still skeptical; but assuming the research is true, we must consider the implications of divorce. 
Divorce, while widely accepted, has catastrophic effects for the individuals involved and for society at large. Children are particularly harmed by divorce, as clearly illustrated by MARRI’s  “Effects of Divorce on Children.” It shows that children of divorced parents generally have lower educational attainment, weaker relationships with their parents, earlier and greater sexual promiscuity, more social and psychological problems, greater risk of marital problems and divorce later in life, and many other negative effects.
If the research is correct and artificial contraception indeed leads or contributes to higher divorce rates, perhaps green sex is not only healthier for your body; it might make for a healthier marriage and society, too.

No One Can Have It All: Reevaluating career priorities for the health of the family

family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, mothers No comments

Betsy Huff, Intern
The recent cover story of Atlantic Monthly “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”by  Anne-Marie Slaughter, a tenured professor at Princeton who also spent two years as director of Policy Planning  at the State Department, is only the latest fuel to the fiery discussion concerning women juggling the demands of a high-powered career and family. With this article comes praise and criticism from all sides.  Some reproach the author’s laments because of her highly privileged background, which allowed her the “luxury” of stepping down from a fast-paced political career in D.C. to a distinguished academic career at Princeton. If only most women were so fortunate.  As Rick Newman comments, “Unrealistic expectations, in fact, are often the core problem that working Moms face when trying to juggle the demands of office and home. Some working Moms have no choice but to try to do everything, because there’s no husband or not enough money. But others do it because they choose to.” 
Newman is certainly right about the debate being about unrealistic expectations, but not just of women. Both men and women need to reevaluate their priorities when it comes to balancing career ambitions with the health and needs of a family.  A family in which either parent is basically absent from a child’s life due to an 80 + hour work week is detrimental to a child’s well-being. Absent fathers are just as damaging as absent mothers. In the Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s publication “162 Reasons to Marry,” an abundance of social science research is referenced supporting the idea that an intact family is best for a child’s social, mental, physical, and educational well-being. 
No one can have it all, no matter who we are, or what our family looks like. It’s time the debate is shifted from mom and dad fighting over who gets to work and who has to stay home, to what is most beneficial to children and in turn beneficial to society as a whole.   Suzanne Venker hits the nail on the head when it comes to advocating for the health of the family in a commentary on her website, centering the debate back to where it belongs- the well-being of the children. She says, “The children — and whether or not we value them. Our actions, our choices, are the only way to prove what we value. The rest is just talk…That’s why two parents are so critical for childrearing. This is a perennial that we as a nation cannot seem to face…Children’s needs conflict with adult desires. Period…The ability to sacrifice one’s own desires for the needs of others is crucial to building healthy relationships. There are no shortcuts.”
Venker concludes and I agree, “Until Americans start reevaluating their priorities, we will never be successful in raising strong families.”

“Green Sex”

contraception, MARRI, sexuality, women's health No comments

Amanda Brennan, Intern

In the last few decades society has jumped on an environmental bandwagon, a green one to be exact. People are trading in junk food for organic food, companies such as Bank of America are reducing paper intake by doing more online banking, and recycling has become strategic and readily-available. The idea that was initially meant to help the environment has developed into a “Go Green” craze. The initiative has opened people’s eyes to being better stewards of both the earth and the human body. But has it been eye-opening enough? 
Ashley E. McGuire of the new women’s magazine, Verily, presents a fresh take on the subject of “Going Green” in reference to sex. In the article, Love and Living Green, the author reveals that being a good steward of the human body is not only about minding what food and drink goes into your mouth and how much you exercise, but also about realizing the importance of sexual health. McGuire describes the present trend of making more nutritious choices by avoiding foods drenched in pesticides, ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, and hormone-tainted meats. Yet, as the author points out, deadly chemicals enter women’s bodies each day by way of hormonal contraception. 
 “As Americans quasi-obsessed with eating organically–with making sure no chemicals go into our produce and no hormones into our meat–we are at the same time culturally attached to a most un-organic method of sex and reproduction,” explains McGuire. The author is not the first to bring this reality to light. Dr. Janet Smith, Chair of Life Ethics and Professor of Moral Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan,explains in Contraception: Why Not?, “We live in a culture that is beginning to realize that it’s bad to put chemicals in the air and in the water supply and food. But women are putting chemicals in their bodies day after day, month after month, year after year, to stop something that’s perfectly healthy.” McGuire notes that “over 40 percent of women aged 15 to 44 in this country [are] using some form of hormonal contraceptives.” 
The data from the Guttmacher Institute coincides with The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s Annual Report on Family Trends. From 2006 to 2008 it is shown that 28 percent of women aged 15 to 44 used the birth control pill during sexual intercourse. The remaining 12 percent noted above in the total 40 percent must be attributed to other hormonal contraceptives such as the patch, certain IUDs, and the vaginal ring. In any case, the reality is this: destructive artificial hormones are making their way into the human body and the environment via human waste despite peoples’ attempts to lead a wholesome lifestyle. Thousands of women seek to be healthier; however, their efforts are often in vain due to the effects of hormonal contraceptives, which are believed to contribute to health risks such as high cholesterol, breast cancer, liver cancer, cervical cancer, high blood pressure, and blood clots. 
In order to create a healthier environment for the earth and its inhabitants, people must be aware of what they are putting into their bodies via food, drink, air, and now in the realm of sexual health. Adopting “Green Sex” and grasping the truth of hormonal contraceptives will only benefit society. So, ponder McGuire’s ending question, “As our culture increasingly embraces eating and living organically, is it time to extend this philosophy from the kitchen to the bedroom? Is it time to reconsider life’s most organic act – sex? Is it time for green sex to go mainstream?” And decide for yourself.

Truth, in love.

abstinence, Christianity, MARRI, youth 2 comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) recent video stated that “[e]ighty percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex” and “almost a third of evangelicals’ unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.” This is a staggering statistic, and one which raises some serious questions. Adelle Banks from the Huffington Post sought to address with her recent article. Most central of all, what should the evangelical response be to this erosion of chastity and rise in abortion? 
Evangelical Leaders have stated that “abstinence campaigns and anti-abortion crusades” are not having the same effect anymore. Furthermore, Banks claims the Christian youth are frustrated by the way the church has handled the issue of sex. One can hear that premarital sex is wrong, but that is not satisfying in a culture that is constantly conveying it is good to have sex before marriage. One Christian young mother stated, “The Bible says not to do it, but I think, for most people, they need more than that.…We want to know why. And most of the time folks aren’t prepared to answer the question why.”
 
One answer can be found in the social and medical sciences. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s 162 Reasons to Marry contains numerous studies that show those who wait to have sex within marriage are the most fulfilled sexually, emotionally, physically, and even materially than other marital statuses. However, while this truth must be presented, it must also be done in love. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, a woman who was caught in adultery is about to be stoned by her accusers, a punishment fully merited under the current Law. When confronted as to whether this punishment should be carried out, Jesus stated, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (NASB). While He had every right to, Jesus did not condemn this woman. Similarly, we might be “right” in our statements to others, but be wrong in our message. However, the truth, when presented in love, will make the difference we truly seek.

Demography: The Russian Case Study

divorce, MARRI, social institutions, world population No comments
MARRI Interns
Studying the social effects of marriage is seldom without surprise for the researcher because those effects manifest themselves in some of the most unexpected locations.  This dynamic confirms that the family is the foundation of civilization, and a concurring case study of this dynamic is Russia’s declining demography and its significant geopolitical import.
Writing recently in Foreign Affairs magazine, Nicholas Eberstadt of the National Bureau of Asian Research argued: “Over the past two decades, Russia has been caught in the grip of a devastating and highly anomalous peacetime population crisis.”  Yearly deaths in Russia are exceeding new births by 800,000 per year, disease is ubiquitous, and life expectancy is below several developing sub-Saharan African countries. 
According to Eberstadt, one of the many factors contributing to Russia’s decline is “family formation trends,” including sub-replacement-level birth rates and a divorce rate of 56 percent. These family-related factors are substantial in themselves, but a body of research shows that familial stability also correlates to better performance on a number of indicators that are also problematic in Russian society.  A number of the other facts Eberstadt mentions as causes of concern – risky behaviors, educational performance, and public health – have correlatives with familial and marital stability, and the literature suggests that an increase in the strength and stability of familial ties in Russia might go far to ameliorate those problematic factors as well. Indeed, recent MARRI research on the social effects of marriage (and divorce) suggest that only an unfeasibly exorbitant amount of social spending would be able to rectify the social costs of fragmented families. 
While simple reduction of all of Russia’s ills to a function of family structure exclusively would be too myopic, the Russian Case Study confirms the correlation between familial instability and social weakness more broadly, and it demonstrates that MARRI’s research has applicability on both a domestic and an international scale.

Marriage as a Public Good

human capital, MARRI, marriage, social institutions No comments
Julia Polese, Intern
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute is running a series of articles on Public Discourse this week about the follies of a conception of marriage that is exclusively private. Answering slogans like “Get the government out of the marriage business” and “Leave it to the churches” that are popular in some libertarian circles, Morse outlines the public goods of marriage. It is in civil society’s best interest – even the smallest of government, night watchman state-touting libertarian’s interest – to maintain traditional marriage as a public good. As a primary mitigating institution between the citizen and the state, marriage provides a stopgap to the encroaching central government on civil society, maintains order in raising children with a mother and a father, and, moreover, Morse argues, is inextricably linked with the current societal involvement of the state. “The government is already deeply involved in many aspects of human life that affect people’s decisions of what kind of relationship to be in,” she writes. “For instance, government’s policies regarding welfare, health care, and housing have contributed to the near-disappearance of marriage from the lower classes, not only in America, but throughout the industrialized world.”
Despite the difficulties social contract libertarians following John Stuart Mill’s intellectual tradition may have in articulating a justification for the covenant-based institution of marriage, Morse’s argument from protection from encroaching government appeals to such a political theory. Jean Bethke Elshtain explains the role of the family in a democratic society in her article “The Family and Civic Life,” calling on totalitarianism’s interest in destroying the family, a particular, in favor of the state, a universal: “to destroy private life; and most of all, to require that individuals never allow their commitments to specific others – family, friends, comrades – to weaken their commitment to the state. To this idea, which can only be described as evil, the family stands in defiance.” Thus, it is a good sign the state is involved in the “marriage business,” encouraging a civil institution that has its own authoritative structure separate from legislatures and executive branches. Morse argues this point from the problem of parenthood: if marriage disintegrates, the state becomes the de facto parent, becoming literally paternalistic.
 
The Marriage And Religion Research Institute’s research and publications corroborate this theory of the family with social science research. A paper entitled “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage” points out the human capital provided by marriage that is essential to a flourishing society apart from the state. It is in the citizens’ best interest for the state to recognize the traditional intact married family and, thus, it should be promoted and upheld.