1959. Typical American household. A working father, his doting housewife, a strapping athletic son, a smart pretty daughter. All sitting down for a family dinner.
2009. Typical American household. A single mother. Her boyfriend. Two rebellious daughters. A sullen teenage stepson. All in separate rooms going about their own business.
As Rebecca O'Neill stated in Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family, "For the best part of thirty years we have been conducting a vast experiment with the family, and now the results are in: the decline of the two-parent, married-couple family has resulted in poverty, ill-health, educational failure, unhappiness, anti-social behaviour, isolation and social exclusion for thousands of women, men and children."
Over the years marriage has lost its luster in our society. Some people view matrimony as a dated, stifling ritual. Others have broadened the term's definition to include multiples types of unions including same-sex relationships and even "marriages" between humans and inanimate objects! The institution of marriage must be redefined and standardized to restore order to our culture.
We have become flippant regarding marriage. The phrase "till death do us part" seems to carry little to no weight in modern marriages. More and more wedded couples are separating, severing families and burdening children. This decline in the traditional nuclear family is altering society. Stepparents, half siblings, and child support are becoming the norm. Alternative lifestyles are emerging with unmarried couples living together and having children out of wedlock, homosexual couples creating families, and single parents depending on child support from their ex-spouses. Our culture is so comfortable with disposable, ephemeral marriages and abnormal unions that marriage is no longer taken seriously. Marriage is even the subject of elementary playground teasing-"If you love basketball so much, why don't you marry it?" Marriage is no longer considered a sacred and holy union between one man and one woman. The cries of egalitarians for equal marriage rights are somewhat off-base. If people choose to love someone of the same sex or choose to love an inanimate object such as the Eiffel Tower, that is their own prerogative, but to call these relationships marriages is inaccurate.
Fundamentally, marriage is essential for a thriving society. Humans crave companionship on both a physiological and a biological level. We are not creatures created to live alone. Once children reach adulthood, they must leave the comfort of their parents' care and begin their own lives. Traditional marriage satisfies both these needs. Without marriages to create new families, society would become a free-for-all mating ground. I realize that technically, marriage is not essential for reproduction and thus the advancement of generations, as current trends no doubt illustrate. However, children born out of wedlock typically grow up with a weak sense of familial values and continue the vicious cycle of illegitimate births, shotgun weddings, divorce, and remarriages. Children need both maternal and paternal influence throughout their development. Who is better suited to be their character role models than their biological mother and father? I realized that certain situations practically demand divorce and that remarriage can be a blessing, but all in all, marriage needs to be respected and preserved as a sanctified right.
Unless we as a society redefine true marriage, and resurrect some traditional family values, we will raise a generation with no sense of family values or structure who will only continue down this slippery slope of cultural decline.