All of us are concerned about the state of the home and the state of the family in our nation. The need to stabilize the family and strengthen the home is voiced at virtually every level in our society. National conferences, state conferences, and local conferences focus on the crisis.

     Voices of concern cry out from poverty areas. As families collapse, gangs provide a place to belong and a group to care. Youth violence is today's neglected problem that will radically impact our society's future.

     The number of people who want an enduring marriage is increasing, but the divorce rate remains steady. The cohabitation rate is soaring. Many adults are afraid of marriage. Spouse abuse and child abuse are epidemic in every socioeconomic level.

     As a direct result, new religious movements devote themselves to our national family crisis. Each of us express genuine concern for our own specific religious context. Within our own congregations, troubled marriages and broken homes document the crisis and the need.


     We could decide to address this crisis by being mutually supportive and collectively active. We could decide collectively to attack the problem. As leaders, we could agree unanimously on what should be done, and we could publicly endorse our agreement. That all has merit. However, if we conclude that these actions will reverse the situation, we are mistaken.

     The problems attacking homes and families have visibly escalated for over forty years. The concept of a successful family in the 1950's and the concept of a successful family in the 1990's have little in common. The problems and needs confronting a 1950's marriage relationship and those confronting a 1990's marriage relationship represent completely different worlds.

     We cannot address these problems or needs by attempting to roll the clock back. Everyone lives in the age, the time, and the situation of now. When we refuse to address the problems and needs of now, we do not address any problems or needs.

     With mutual agreement, we could stress permanent marriage and denounce divorce. We could document the horrible things divorce does to the rejected wife or husband. We could document the many ways that divorce devastates children. We could document the catastrophic economic impact of divorce. We could document statistically that children from divorced families are more likely to divorce. We could document statistically that children of divorced families are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior.

     If those things were done, the impact on the realities producing troubled marriages and broken homes would be minimal. We could do those things and actually watch the problems and needs increase.

     Why? That course of action is based on an assumption. The assumption: correct knowledge will reverse the problems and meet the needs. That assumption is incorrect. Only correct knowledge will not address the realities that produce the problems.

     As an example, consider the knowledge that God wants marriage to be an enduring relationship. That is correct knowledge. However, that knowledge does not teach people how to build an enduring marriage. It does not teach constructive conflict resolution or communication skills. It does not teach how to create and sustain healthy love. It does not teach how to be financially responsible.

     That knowledge does not address the problems that destroy relationships. Until the things that attack and destroy relationship are addressed, the family situation in our society will not improve. If every person believed that God wants enduring marriages, relationships would continue to fail. Believing people still would not possess the basic skills and understandings necessary for a successful relationship.


     Beyond knowledge, what is needed to make marriages enduring?

     First, there must be an accurate definition of marital success. Success is not the mere refusal to divorce. Many failed marriages never divorce. Refusing to divorce will not neutralize the destructiveness of a failed relationship.

     Second, a significant percentage of the adult population has little understanding of unconditional love. That reality must be addressed. Many simply do not know how to love. Their false concept of love is self-centered and conditional, not other-centered and unconditional.

     Third, a significant percentage of adults do not know how to build relationships. That reality must be addressed. Troubled marriages, abusive marriages, failed marriages, or divorce robbed these people of the opportunity to see a successful relationship. These men do not know how to be husbands. These women do not know how to be wives.

     Fourth, a significant percentage of adults do not know how to communicate. That reality must be addressed. They never developed communication skills. They do not know how to listen to gain comprehension. They listen to defend or to defeat.

     These are only four realities that must be addressed. The knowledge that God endorses enduring marriages and opposes divorce does not address them.


     In a desire to promote unity, we seek to do so (1) by correcting perceptions, (2) by correcting inaccurate convictions, and (3) by advancing knowledge. Our assumption: better knowledge produces unity. Again, I submit that is an invalid assumption. Knowledge alone cannot address the realities of our situation.

     More than knowledge is needed. (1) We have an incorrect concept of unity. The definition, "Unity is conformity and uniformity," is incorrect. (2) We have not learned how to love. (3) We have reduced faith to an intellectual pursuit that results in affirmation. (4) We have not learned how to nurture. (5) We perceive unity to be a matter of defending instead of a matter of being.


     These realities assault unity and sabotage the pursuit of unity. They create problems that cannot be resolved only by acquiring better knowledge, by stressing intellectual insights, or by promoting correct biblical principles.

David Chadwell

Peacemakers Magazine, Alma, AR
March 1997, Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 12

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