Knox Presbyterian Church

A community fully alive in Jesus Christ

80 Mill St. North, Waterdown, ON L0R 2H0
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Census 2011 and the state of marriage in Canada

Fri, 09/21/2012 - 16:18 -- George Robertson

My article for the Thursday, September 27th Faith Matters column in the Flamborough Review.

The 4th century BC Greek philosopher Socrates, with my slight paraphrase, wrote that, "By all means marry.  If you get a good spouse, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."

It might seem that more Canadians than ever are fearful of becoming philosophers.  Census 2011 reveals that marriage is on a clear decline in our nation.  Last week's Hamilton Spectator had the stats comparing 2006 to 2011.  Locally and nationally, marriage is down and common law couples are up.

Marriage has taken on a highly negative meaning for an increasing number of people.  Most of us have heard the quips that reveal an underlying skepticism about the desirability of being married.  "From wedding to warfare."  "Marriage is made in heaven.  That is why people 'harp'."

Is there any truly positive value in being married that would make it a clear and better choice than living together without being married?

Gary Thomas in his book, Sacred Marriage, asks the question, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"  Could it be that marriage has a purpose and meaning that goes beyond our personal happiness and comfort?

"I sure hope not," can be our too hasty and foolish response.  Are we not inclined to be dishonest about the disordered and messy condition of our humanity?  We expect too much from our partners.  There is an individualism that runs deep in our lives resulting in the placing of an unfair and heavy burden on the other one in the relationship.

We want our partners to be the primary means of our happiness and fulfillment in life.  What an impossible demand!  It's so impossible it could keep us changing our partners on a regular basis.

Thomas suggests the concept of a romantic love, the chief aim of which is my personal happiness, is a ruse.  "Romantic love has no elasticity to it.  It can never be stretched; it simply shatters.  Mature love, the kind demanded of a good marriage must stretch...."

The mature love to be seen in a deep commitment to our spouse calls us to squarely face the relationship immaturity and deficit in our personal lives.  The better option and choice of marriage is a counter-cultural one.  It goes against the grain of the current census.  The call of marriage is "change my life, O God" for the sake and the service of my spouse.  Marriage is meant to be the safe place within God has the space to transform our lives to seek and pursue the highest gifts and blessings of life for our spouse.

What will Census 2015 reveal about the gains and losses of marriage in our country?  I've no prediction.  I do have a prayer.  "God, in your grace, let the number of holy partners in marriage go up and the number of philosophers go down."