Posts tagged ‘Millenials’

Marriage, Thriving, and Character

Wedding SeatsThis past week, Trish Regan, writing for USA Today, sounded the alarm over what has become an infamous decline in U.S. marriage rates:

According to the Pew Research Center, the American marriage rate hit a rock bottom of 50.3% in 2013, down from 50.5% the previous year. Compare that to 1960, when 72.2% of Americans married. Meanwhile, a new finding by the forecasting firm Demographic Intelligence, suggests marriage rates will continue falling into next year as Millennials choose to opt out of traditional relationships.

Marriage is going out of style and that’s a problem. An economic one.[1]

Regan is concerned about declining marriage rates. Why? Because declining marriage rates lead to increasing economic volatility:

Historically, a rising household formation rate has contributed to America’s financial success. People meet, they marry, they buy a home, they have children and they buy more things. One new household adds an estimated $145,000 to the U.S. economy thanks to the ripple effect of construction spending, home improvements and repairs …

According to an American Enterprise Institute study by economists Robert Lerman and Brad Wilcox, young married men, ages 28-30 make, on average, $15,900 more than their single peers, while married men ages 33-46 make $18,800 more than unmarried men.

Marriage, it turns out, is not only good for love, it’s also good for your pocketbook. Therefore, Regan argues, we need more of it.

But at the same time marriage may be good for your financial situation, Sarah Knapton, science editor for The Telegraph, points out that marriage may not be so good for a woman’s health – at least not as good as we once thought:

Marriage has long been cited as a health booster, with couples living in wedded bliss more likely to live longer and have fewer emotional problems.

Yet a new study suggests that women hardly benefit from tying the knot.

Landmark research by University College London, the London School of Economics and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that single women do not suffer the same negative health effects as unmarried men.

In fact, middle aged women who had never married had virtually the same chance of developing metabolic syndrome – a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity – as married women.

And although they showed slightly higher levels of a biomarker which signifies an increased risk of breathing problems, it was far lower than the risk of illness for unmarried men. The same was true of a biomarker for heart problems which was raised 14 per cent in men but was barely noticeable in women.[2]

To marry or not to marry? It turns out that for a woman, it doesn’t really matter all that much.

Many of the arguments I have read in support of marriage at a time when marriage rates are on a precipitous decline are rooted in how this staid institution leads to human thriving. Marriage, it is argued, leads to greater economic stability. Marriage, at least for men, and in some studies even for women, does have certain health benefits. These arguments for marriage are well and good. But if the benefits of marriage are attenuated to only those things which lead to human thriving, when a person feels as though they are no longer thriving in a marriage, they may be tempted to check out and give up. Or, if marriage doesn’t have certain demonstrable and quantifiable benefits, as is the case with the health benefits study from the University College London, it can be all too easy just to opt out of getting married in the first place.

As Christians, we must never forget that as important as human thriving may be, human character is even more critical. And marriage most definitely shapes a person’s character. Over my nine years of marriage, I have learned invaluable lessons about selflessness, commitment, love, advocacy, confidentiality, service, compassion, kindness, and a whole host of other important character traits.

In a marriage, human thriving may help us do well for ourselves.   Human character, however, even when such character is forged through difficult and daunting marital circumstances, compels us to do good for our world. And good is something our broken world needs.

Which is just another reason to get – and to stay – married.

___________________________________

[1] Trish Regan, “Regan: Marriage is going out of style, and that could hurt,” USA Today (6.1.2015).

[2] Sarah Knapton, “Marriage is more beneficial for men than women, study shows,” The Telegraph (6.11.2015).

June 15, 2015 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Millennial Morality: Thoughts On A Generation’s Thoughts On Christianity

Source: urbanfaith.com

Credit: urbanfaith.com

Last weekend, popular blogger Rachel Held Evans, writing for CNN, offered an account of why she thinks those in the millennial generation are leaving the Church.  Her comments are worth quoting at length:

Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.

I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.[1]

Rachel Held Evans certainly has her finger on the pulse of contemporary culture.  Research does indeed show that millennials describe Christianity as “too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”  In other words, many millennials view traditional Christian teachings as repressive and regressive.  What Rachel fails to ask, however, is, “Does this popularly held perception of Christianity match its reality?”

There’s a whole army of research out there about how people feel about Christianity.  But what about the research that reveals what is actually being preached and taught from Christian pulpits?  How many sermons on politics are actually preached week in and week out?  How about sermons on sex?  How about sermons that are openly hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people?  Here, the research becomes much more scant.  And, I suspect, the sermons themselves might just be much more scant as well.

Now, I know it’s not hard to skew popular perceptions of what the Christian Church is all about.  After all, it’s usually not the sermon on John 3 and God loving the world that makes the rounds on YouTube; it’s the sermon on Leviticus 20 with the sweaty pastor yelling about the abominations of sodomy that gets 500,000 views.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if the objections that many millennials have to some of the teachings of Christianity aren’t so much objections as they are excuses.  In other words, the reason many millennials object to particular Christian tenets is not because they are “too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people”; it is because they simply don’t like parts of what Christianity teaches.  So they accuse Christians of absolutism so they can live in libertinism.  Nathan Hitchen explains it like this:  “When people don’t want to believe something, they ask themselves, ‘Must I believe this?’ and then search for contrary evidence until they find a single reason to doubt the claim and dismiss it.”[2]  In other words, they find that YouTube video with the sweaty, yelling pastor and say, “No way.”

From a theological perspective, C.S. Lewis offers keen insight into the objectionable character of Christian morality:

Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality … Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities:  it is quacks and cranks who do that.  As Dr. Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”  The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see; like bringing a horse back to the fence it has refused to jump or bringing a child back to the bit in its lesson that it wants to shirk.[3]

C.S. Lewis minces no words about how tough the task of teaching Christian morality really is.  It’s tough because the “old simple principles” of morality are ones “which we are all so anxious not to see.”  Yet, Jesus, as a teacher of morality, among other things, preached these “old simple principles.”  Of course, such preaching didn’t make Him popular or unobjectionable.  It got Him killed.

So perhaps popularity is not in the cards for Christianity.  This should not come as a surprise.  It wasn’t in the cards for Jesus.  And yet, as Rachel Held Evans finally notes in her CNN article, “Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”  Maybe that’s because, deep down, even if our depravity rebels against it, something keeps telling us Jesus is right.  And if Jesus is right, that means He can make us right with God.

That’s our message as Christians.  And I, for one, intend to keep sharing it.


[1] Rachel Held Evans, “Why millennials are leaving the church,” cnn.com (7.27.2013).

[2] Nathan Hitchen, “Marriage Counter-Messaging: An Action Plan” (The John Jay Institute: 2013), 4.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York:  Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 64.

August 5, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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