March 18, 2008

Around the World in 80 Words #17

SAUDI ARABIA: Both marriages and divorces decreased last year in the kingdom. What's to blame? "High marriage expenses, and the irrational and irresponsible behavior of the young."

AUSTRALIA: Research now shows that educated women are more likely to stay married, a reversal from the previous generation. These women were also more likely to seek balance between family and work.

INDIA: In the world of short-lived celebrity marriages, Bollywood producer/director Chandrashekhar and wife Pushpa Devi just celebrated their 72nd marriage anniversary.

March 17, 2008

Girls on the Prowl

(Photo by Simon Smetryns)

About a year ago, FamilyLife President Dennis Rainey released his new book, Interviewing Your Daughter's Date, a guide to help fathers to protect their daughters by meeting and talking to each young man who wants to take them out. Before you continue reading we would like you to know that a Third Global Symposium on Health Systems Research is going to be held in Africa.

As he started getting reader comments on the book, he began to see a trend. Lots of parents appreciated the help in protecting their daughters, but just as many were wanting someone to guide them in protecting the innocence of their sons. If you are part of the health community then you must be updated on the primary health care conference 2014.

The feedback was so great, that Dennis has committed three days on the FamilyLife Today radio broadcast later this month to the topic of protecting sons from aggressive girls in this "Sex in the City" culture. A transcripted excerpt of that broadcast appears in this month's online magazine, The Family Room, and from the reader comments so far, the phenomenon of girls aggressively pursuing boys is making a bigger impact on more homes than even we realized.

Check out what some of these parents (and educators) are going through. This is just a sampling of the dozens and dozens of comments we received.

I am a mom of a 12-teen year old. Last week, I picked up my son early from school, and there was a bunch of girls standing there, as we passed them, one of the girls yelled, "Nathaniel, will you go out with me?", I was floored, my son said, mom don't turn around, keep walking! Again, the girl yelled out the same sentence. I was speechless, we got in the car and drove off.

As a former middle school principal I was appalled and grief stricken over the behavior of girls. Our 6th-8th girls were relentless in their pursuit of the boys. The notes they would write, their dress and behavior made it obvious as to their intent.

Thank you for addressing this issue about our young men. I have a good looking son that girls pursue constantly. With a bit of help from the HS, I found a note in his pants one night while doing laundry and it was a big eye opener. I spoke to his older sister who confirmed that girls are very forward today and will literally throw themselves at him.

My 14 year old son was sent a picture on his cell phone from a very aggressive 14 year old girl exposing her breasts just one month ago. He took the phone to school and showed and few "buddies" One of the "buddies" downloaded the picture and sent it on its way to all his "buddies" In a matter of minutes it was sent through the whole school community. The two boys were suspended for days, and the girl went without any school discipline. The letter sent out by the principal lead you to believe the girl was innocent.(!!!!)

And the problem seems to be growing, even among young children.

My son is in 2nd grade and is already being actively pursued by the "cool" girls in his class. It is very scary and many of the moms and I have discussed this but don't know what to say to our sons at such a young age. The girls are constantly asking the boys to "go out" with them and some of them even have cuddle buddies at recess.

Continue reading "Girls on the Prowl" »

March 15, 2008

World Peace

“Go home and love your family.”

–Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa when asked, “What can we do to promote world peace?”

March 14, 2008

The "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" in Marriage

by Dave Boehi

In recent weeks in my Marriage Memo column, I've been talking about why marriage is important in an age when an increasing number of couples are choosing to live together but not get married. I continue to receive some perceptive e-mails on the subject, and one theme keeps coming up: A recognition that we need to do a better job of showing couples how to deal with the difficult part of marriage-what one reader calls the "good, the bad, and the ugly."

"Marriage has become a negative term in this culture and society," wrote Elisha McGonagle. "We no longer look at marriage with anticipation, but with fear. Fear drives so many people in this country. People are scared that if they get married then there is the possibility of getting divorced.

"No, marriage does not guarantee a lifelong relationship, but neither does any relationship =2E.. Marriage was designed to be a lifelong relationship. The only reason it is not is because we have made it that way. We too often look for any easy way out. If we feel unhappy, then just leave. If you feel unfulfilled, then leave. If your husband makes you mad, you can just leave."

Elisha knows first-hand the dangers of weak commitment in marriage. After she and her husband were married nearly four years, they were considering divorce. They talked with their pastor, and he said they needed to throw out the words "separate" and "divorce." "If you don't have those things as an option then you are forced to work things out. What an extraordinary thought ... we actually have to work through our issues."

She goes on:

Continue reading "The "Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" in Marriage" »

March 13, 2008

Dads Matter

Swedish research holds that children raised in a home that includes a "father figure" are more likely to do well than those who are not, and that the effect could last. A good relationship, researchers found, could benefit children for two decades.

Children behave better, learn more and are better adjusted if their father is involved in their lives, a major study shows.

In low-income homes, regular contact was also seen to lead to less juvenile crime.

Behavioural problems in boys, and psychological problems in girls, were also less frequent. Intelligence, reasoning and language were more advanced in children who had good contact with both parents.

The researchers didn't look specifically at whether children raised by biological fathers fare better than those raised by another "father figure." Nor could they deduce whether the children's benefit was from the father's involvement or more time devoted by the mother because she had someone to share the workload.

March 12, 2008

STDs and Sexless Dating

All of a sudden, chastity (or the lack of it) is atop the news.

First came the story that "Dancing With the Stars" star Julianne Hough told CosmoGirl magazine that she intends to remain a virgin until marriage. Second, the Today Show featured Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On, discussing the novel idea of sexless dating. Finally, the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday broke the news that one in four teen girls has a sexually transmitted disease.

This is from the New York Times article:

Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the findings underscore the need for strengthening screening, vaccination and other prevention measures for S.T.D.'s, which are among the country's highest public health priorities.

Dawn Eden and Julianne Hough probably immediately thought of some ideas to go in the CDC's amorphous "other preventative measures" category. Rather than managing risky lifestyles, why not focus plan on healthy ones? Here's what the article said about Hough:

In a recent interview, the 19-year-old spoke of her trouble fitting in with the Hollywood crowd, due to the presence of the drugs, sex and alcohol she refrains from.

Hough says she wants "to be with that special person ... and [waiting to have sex] will strengthen that relationship. I'm not trying to preach consequences here, but I think when you say no, down the line it will be a better decision."

"My dad, whom I'm very close with, will text me, 'Are you doing the right things, in the right place, at the right time?' And it's usually when I'm someplace I shouldn't be. So I'll call him and say, 'Thanks, I needed to hear that.'"

And Eden, writing on MSNBC's Relationship channel points out the obvious:

Chastity is, in the words of Dr. Mark Lowery, associate professor of theology at the University of Dallas, "that virtue by which we are in control of our sexual appetite rather than it being in control of us."

More than mere abstinence, which is purely physical, chastity flowers from within. While part of it does mean having sex only within marriage, it is not just about sex, but love. It is a lifelong journey of learning to love every individual in the fullest possible way - whether a friend, a relative, a spouse, or a stranger.

She adds that virginity is now the counterculture in America. If there was any doubt of that, consider that The Today Show felt it necessary to debate Eden's premise that foregoing sexual desires can actually benefit your relationship. When you watch the video, it's fascinating to watch Eden battle (and she does a good job) the predominant cultural belief that sex before marriage is not only acceptable, but even healthy.

March 11, 2008

Around the World in 80 Words #16

SOUTH KOREA: One in seven marriages here is to a foreigner. In rural areas, nearly half the men take a wife from abroad. A new government law will regulate dubious matchmaking organizations that take advantage of this trend.

INDIA: Women here are offering their wombs to foreign couples unable to bear their own children. The payments amount to several years wages.

IRELAND: The Supreme Court refused to overturn the results of a referendum to end the country's ban on divorce.

March 10, 2008

Shift and Denial

A generation ago, family scholars argued whether changes in marriage within the culture were necessarily bad for children. Does divorce really hurt children? Does growing up without a father in the home really make that much difference?

Now, it's not a matter of whether there is an ill effect from the changes, but how serious it has been.

In a just-released study, "The Shift and The Denial", scholars Norval Glenn and Thomas Sylvester evaluated 25 years of research articles from the Journal of Marriage and Family to find that the balance of scholarly opinion has definitely shifted. The "pro-family diversity" scholars-those who believe that the impact of divorce and non-marital childbearing has been exaggerated-have lost membership to the "pro marriage" camp, whose members have contended that the decline in marriage has definitely hurt families and children.

What Glenn and Sylvester noticed was that the more research that was done on the impact of marriage decline, the harder it was to ignore the detrimental effects on families and children.

Overall, we found strong evidence that scholars have become more concerned about the effects of family change on children … Among quantitative family researchers, disagreements about family structure effects on children now seem to be almost entirely about their magnitude and importance rather than about whether or not such effects exist.

Some scholars still cling to the idea that the problems caused by marital breakdown are overstated. They have had to retreat, though, to arguments that either mischaracterize the opposing arguments or shift the focus away from marriage as the main issue. For example, the "pro-family diversity" proponents makes such statements as:

  • "Children are not impacted by divorce but by family conflict." Actually it's hard to have the former without the latter.
  • "The problems related to growing up in a single parent family are not necessarily because of family structure." Actually, they very likely are.
  • "Parent-child relationships and family income affect children more than family structure." That ignores the fact that the two are usually interrelated.
  • "Raising questions about the value of new family structures can have detrimental effects on those who are in them." So can ignoring the weaknesses of new family structures.

Glenn and Sylvester recognize that there is always some degree of ambiguity surrounding social research, and they admit that scholars will continue to argue about the amount of impact the deterioration in the marriage institution has on society. But they say that the body of research over the past quarter century makes it harder to ignore that the devaluing of marriage has had a very negative impact on families and children.

March 08, 2008


“Every word and deed of a parent is a fiber woven into the character of a child that ultimately determines how that child fits into the fabric of society.”

– David Wilkerson

March 07, 2008

Men Doing More Housework, and Wives Appreciating It

Men continue to do more work around the house according to new research, and their wives are showing their appreciation.

Joshua Coleman, a San Francisco-area psychologist and author of "The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework," said equitable sharing of housework can lead to a happier marriage and more frequent sex.

"If a guy does housework, it looks to the woman like he really cares about her - he's not treating her like a servant," said Coleman, who is affiliated with the Council on Contemporary Families. "And if a woman feels stressed out because the house is a mess and the guy's sitting on the couch while she's vacuuming, that's not going to put her in the mood."

The study, released by the Council for Contemporary Families, found that men's contributions in the home had increased two or three fold in the last four decades.

Since the 1960s, there has been a continuing trend among men to contribute more to the daily home tasks. Research from the University of California, Riverside and Ben Gurion University found that husbands in the 1960s did about 15 percent of the domestic chores. That has since tripled. That has freed wives up to spend more quality time with the children, increasing the bond of family. The researchers anticipate that men's greater role in the home may encourage more women to spend more time working outside the home, though.

Back to the benefits of shared housework in a marriage: Marriage counselor Dr. Kevin Leman has been making this point since the 1992 release of his book, Sex Begins in the Kitchen, and it has a prominent teaching of FamilyLife's for three decades. Check out this article from ("Stressed, Exhausted, and Not in the Mood"), and watch the video clip ("Time and Sex") delivered by speakers Tim and Darcy Kimmel at a Weekend to Remember marriage conference.

Interested in attending a Weekend to Remember? Click here for more details and to find a location near you.

March 06, 2008

The Latest Marriage and Divorce Statistics

The National Center for Health Statistics has just released its 2007 mid-year figures on marriage and divorce in the United States, and there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that the country's divorce rate fell again last year, marking the tenth straight year without an increase in the last decade.

The bad news is that the marriage rate also fell for the eighth straight year. So while fewer people are getting divorce, fewer are getting married, too.

According to the statistics, for the first half of 2007, there were 7.3 marriages and 3.4 divorces for every 1,000 persons. Compare this to 10 years earlier when there were 9.0 marriages and 4.3 divorces per 1,000 population.

The ratio of divorces to marriages are what most people use to substantiate the idea that close to half of all marriages fail. The problem is that it's not an accurate number, since the people getting divorced in a given year are not the same ones who got married (well, there may be a few poor souls).

Still, comparing these numbers over time does give some sense of the trend in divorces. That being the case, there is some encouraging news. While the marriage rate fell at about the same level it has over the past few years, the divorce rate saw its biggest percentage decline in nearly a decade.

March 05, 2008

Learning (Not) to Lie

by Scott Williams

(Photo by Victoria Lostaunau)

There have always been two schools of thought about the relationship between children and wrongdoing:

  • The "blank slate" argument holds that children are amoral at birth, and are wholly shaped by their environment and by significant people in their lives
  • The "inherent sin" argument holds that children are born sinful and don't need any corrupting influences to do wrong, just the opportunity.

I have always held to the latter argument (especially now that I have watched our seven children grow up). But in a recent article in New York magazine titled "Learning to Lie," author Po Bronson has made me do some thinking. My position hasn't changed, mind you, just become better informed. So my new position:

We're all born liars, and the more practice we have, the better we are at it.

Looking at studies from Penn State University, McGill University, State University of New York and the University of California at Santa Barbara, Bronson reported these observations

  • Despite what many popular books advise, children don't grow out of lying, they grow into it.
  • Lying is related to intelligence: Smarter kids make better liars.
  • Ninety-eight percent of teens believe lying is wrong, but the same percent admit lying to their parents.
  • When teens argue with parents about their wishes, it's often a positive alternative (relatively speaking) to the frequent first choice just going behind their parents' backs.
  • Knowing that there are consequences motivates children not to lie less, but to not get caught.
  • An appeal to honesty is far more effective than the threat of punishment in getting children not to lie.

The whole article is fascinating. To me, the most eye-opening part of the story involved a study where subjects were asked to admit the biggest lie they ever told.

UCSB Researcher Bella DePaulo:

"I was fully expecting serious lies," DePaulo remarks. "Stories of affairs kept from spouses, stories of squandering money, or being a salesperson and screwing money out of car buyers."

Continue reading "Learning (Not) to Lie" »

March 04, 2008

Around the World in 80 Words #15

SOUTH AFRICA: Divorce would be faster and easier under a proposed bill. Currently, divorces are only heard in high court and decrees take up to two years to be finalized.

ISRAEL: The country's legislature rejected a bill that would permit civil marriage. Currently the nation only recognizes marriages performed by a rabbi.

UNITED KINGDOM: A new study indicates that people are more likely to get a divorce than to switch bank accounts, even though 60% are dissatisfied with their current bank.

March 03, 2008

Home Cooking

I'm sure I disagree with the views of Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen much more than I agree with her, but I always enjoy her writing. It is sharp, creative, and sensitive. And sometimes she comes up with a column like last week's "Home Cooking." It's one of the best things I've seen written on the empty nest.

First they are in your arms constantly, so that your joints go stiff and your back aches. Then they hold your hand, then tolerate an arm around the shoulder, then shrug and pull away. And finally there's that hug that always seems to vibrate with the adrenaline of near-escape. They recede into the distance, leaving vapor trails of memory and dinner for two, a culinary trick I cannot master.

I can certainly relate, with one daughter married and another finishing her third year of college. My wife, Merry and I have slowly built a new life together rather than allow ourselves to sit around depressed, trying to catch those "vapor trails of memory."

March 01, 2008

Slowest of Growths

“Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” – Mark Twain

February 29, 2008

Why is Marriage Important?

Two weeks ago I wrote in my weekly Marriage Memo about couples who live together but choose not to marry. I highlighted a provocative article in Newsweek by Bonnie Eslinger, who said she was committed to her life partner, Jeff, but did not want to marry him. "I do not need a piece of paper from the state to strengthen my commitment to Jeff," she wrote. "I do not believe in a religion that says romantic, committed love is moral only if couples pledge joint allegiance to God."

At the end of my column I asked for your thoughts. Why is marriage important to you and to our country? Why do you think we need to continue encouraging couples to get married?

I was very pleased by your response-in fact, I think many of your comments were much more perceptive than my own!

A number of readers felt that people like Eslinger don't have a full picture of marriage.

"A 'piece of paper' does not define a marriage," wrote Lisa Best. What does define it is "your commitment before God that you will love each other with the love that Paul describes [in 1 Corinthians 13]."

Christi Rudolph wrote,

"A wedding is a 'piece of paper' but a marriage is no such thing. A marriage is the commitment that two people enter into that state they will honor, protect, love, sacrifice all they have to the other person."

Bridget Groothuis wondered what makes people fearful of marriage.

"Marriage is meant to be a very freeing experience, a very rich experience, a place of safety, a place of reality, a place of commitment that builds the other up," she wrote. "It's a fortress you build together to keep out anything/anyone that seeks to destroy what you share, but it's also an oasis where two can find renewal and refreshment without fear."

Danni Sutana of New Mexico wrote that she could relate to what Eslinger wrote in Newsweek, but she said God changed her attitude:

For a long time I believed that I did not want to change me or dilute the illusion of me. Marriage would have done that-so I believed. I often thought I did not want to lose myself in my marriage. I often thought if I lost myself in marriage, I would become unhappy. I think I misunderstood the true concept of marriage.

I understand now that my relationships did not work out in the past because I was self centered. The world revolved around me and my identity. When I was able to identify with God, my life became God-centered …

After almost 3.5 years of living in sin with a man I love, God met me at a crossroads. My relationship was not working out no matter how much I claimed to love Art … Living together isn't good enough for me nor was it good enough for Art. Our marriage is a smooth sail compared to the turbulence we experienced. All we had to do was correct our ways and start living God's way.

Some of you told of the blessings you've experienced through marriage. Leané du Toit wrote,

"Me and my husband live in South Africa and have been married for a mere (WONDERFUL) two years. In my limited experience of married life, I can't begin to explain the passion I feel towards marriage and unity within a marriage! Few things make me prouder than to present myself as Mrs. Du Toit. I'm proud of my husband, and I'm proud of being his wife … Calling him my boyfriend, life partner or whatever other name than MY HUSBAND just wouldn't stick! I love committing to him and never a single day felt insecure about his commitment to me and our marriage! There's a certain kind of trust and security that can only be found within a marriage."

There is one other theme that appeared in many of the responses I received: Dealing with (in the words of one writer), "the good, the bad, and the ugly" in marriage. But I'm running out of space, so I'll save that topic for next week. In the meantime, click here to read through the full responses from many of the readers who wrote to talk about the importance of marriage.

Let me close by quoting from an e-mail by Greg Paintner, who said he "tried to think of an eloquent response to your questions but the best I could come up with is a list of things about marriage that I have enjoyed since being married." Here is his list:

  • Someone to bring me closer to God
  • Daily acceptance
  • Support through the toughest struggles
  • Love so great it can't be understood outside of marriage
  • The ability to create life with our love
  • Someone to share my life and love with forever
  • Someone to keep me humble
  • Another family to be part of
  • A sense of true selflessness
  • The excitement of getting closer to someone than ever imaginable

I couldn't have said it better myself.

February 28, 2008

The Pressure to Work After Childbirth

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Census, women are working longer in their pregnancy and returning to work after childbirth much sooner than in the past.

In the early 1960s less than half of women giving birth to their first child worked during their pregnancy. In the first half of the present decade, it was two-thirds. And nearly two-thirds returned to work within a year of giving birth, compared to 17 percent in the early 1960s.

Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, says the given the choice, most women would rather take more time off.

"Women wish they didn't need to work as much. They feel the need to work longer in pregnancy and sooner after childbirth because of needing to continue contributing to the household income. Many of them are the primary breadwinner in the home."

It's not only first-time moms of newborns that would prefer more time at home. According to a 2007 survey by, close to half of women and about 4 in 10 men would cut back on their work schedules to spend more time with the children. About one third of working moms spent less than three hours a day with their kids, and about one fourth of working fathers spent less than an hour.


February 27, 2008

Ignoring Church Teaching on Marriage

Just doing a quick recheck on current trends.

Institutionalism: Out
Individualism: In
Religion: In transition

It seems to be true across the board these days. So it's no surprise then that a study shows young Catholics are rejecting the church's teaching on marriage in favor of their own ideas. It's a mixture of both good news and bad, with plenty of contradiction stirred in for flavor. Consider this from a recent Georgetown University study of adults born in the 1980s:

  • 82 percent believe marriage is a lifelong commitment
  • The vast majority think their spouse must be their "soul mate" and that falling out of love is reason enough for divorce
  • 84 percent think couples don't take marriage serious enough when divorce is an easy option
  • 69 percent believe "marriage is whatever two people want it to be"
  • Less than 25 percent say their views on marriage are significantly formed by their faith

This newest crop of marriageable adults say that matrimony is a lifelong commitment, but only as long as the love is there. And they claim that people in general don't respect the institution of marriage, but they expect the right to define it to fit their individual ideas.

Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame [says,] "Most younger Catholics have defined their inner self as the authority, and many freely distance themselves from church practices they don't believe in."

So, even though young Catholics have somewhat stronger feelings than their parents' generation that marriage is permanent and serious, their choice of personal fulfillment over church teachings stands in stark contrast to their elders. That seems to be true for the population as a whole, but it is more so among Catholics.

While research on other Christian denominations shows similar individualized attitudes about the role of faith in everyday life, the generational differences are more pronounced among Catholics. "Catholic teenagers are the most distanced from the church authorities," reports Mr. Smith, a fact he attributes to "largely ineffective" modern Catholic religious education.

I'm not so sure young adults today have the same appreciation for the church's care and direction for marriage as their parents. Because the Catholic Church has stood by some counter-cultural positions on contraception, homosexuality and sex outside of marriage, many young people are ignoring all the church's guidance on marriage and sexuality and creating their own definitions. That's dangerous ground, considering the church's teachings are fundamentally based on Scripture and the wisdom of centuries of church leaders, while personal beliefs are drawn mostly off feelings and fleeting cultural trends.

Continue reading "Ignoring Church Teaching on Marriage " »

February 26, 2008

Around the World in 80 Words #14

PHILIPPINES : Marriage annulments are surging here, probably because separation has become more culturally acceptable. The country does not allow divorce.

FRANCE : Muslim women are filing for divorce in France to counter their husbands filing in French-speaking North African countries, which make little or no financial provision for the wife in children after divorce.

UNITED KINGDOM : New research finds that 40% of women over 40 earn more than their husbands and that 80% insist on taking charge of household finances.

February 25, 2008

Wirelessly Devoted

U.S. Census in 2006 indicated that 3.8 million people live in commuter marriages (where a couple is separated more than three days a week and keeps separate residences. That's up 30 percent from 2000. But apparently in the digital age, distance isn't the problem that it used to be for relationships.

Witness the increasing number of technological products on the market for people who can't bear to be away from each other. A recent Forbes article discussed some recent tech toys that digitally reduce the distance.

The VIO: The "virtual intimate object" consists of only a single red dot connected to the user's computer. The dot glows whenever the loved one clicks his or her dot.

The Hug Shirt: Set to be sold in stores within the next few weeks, the tight-fitting shirt is lined with sensors that both send and receive physical hugs from the person wearing the corresponding shirt. Through Bluetooth connection, the received hug simulates the amount of pressure, location and length of the hug.

Three from MIT: 1) A flower emerges from a special pot whenever the loved one is online. 2) A pair of wirelessly connected cups allow one to glow when someone drinks from the other. 3) A device allows couples in separate beds to project their body images into the bed next to their loved one or to write messages on their beds or bodies.

The Forbes article points out that even though these items are novelties now, the more we're connected through high-tech means, the more likely these kind of things we'll become commonplace in our relationships.

"Technology is already bringing people closer together," he says. "But we haven't figured out how to design these experiences so that they're something meaningful, with an intimate effect. That's where the next era of innovation will be."

February 23, 2008

Overstreet on the Oscars

On the most recent edition of Ear Reverent podcast, FamilyLife’s Bob Lepine interviews Christian movie critic Jeffrey Overstreet about the nominees for this year’s top Oscar awards. He also discusses how to make wise entertainment choices. To help with that, we’ve listed some movie review site links at the end of this post.

Here’s what Bob had to say.

Standards. What’s acceptable and what’s off limits? What am I watching because it actually provokes me to think more about God, and what am I watching because it panders to my own fleshly impulses? Titus 2 tells us that “the grace of God… has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness….” Do we even recognize what ungodliness looks like anymore?

I think we need to be wise, and discerning, tenderhearted and spiritually-minded as we make choices about the movies we would watch. And I think there’s nothing wrong with recalling the standard that many have used through the years: “Would you feel comfortable watching this movie if Jesus was sitting next to you in the theater, because, after all, He is.

When we make decisions to see movies, it’s good to investigate and to know beforehand what kind of elements or themes may be part of those movies. That should influence our decision-making, it seems to me. I know some will say that it would take almost all the movies that are being made today off the table. Others, like Jeffrey Overstreet would say that it means you have to be discerning but there still are redemptive themes in many of the Hollywood productions being released.

Here’s what Jeffrey Overstreet had to say on Ear Reverent about this year’s nominees for top picture.

It’s been a year that’s been full of very dark movies—not necessarily dark in a bad way, but reflecting the darkness that we see in the world around us. I don’t know, I think that a lot of people are so weary of the darkness in the world and on the news that they don’t want to pay 10 bucks to go see something that’s going to confirm that, yes, things are really messed up.”

On Friday night, people are tired at the end of the week. They want to go out and be entertained, they don’t necessarily want to go out and see something that’s going to be really challenging or to ask them to reconsider the meaning of their lives. That’s not to say that we can’t have a movie that is both. I think “Juno” this year is an example of both. It manages to have a foot in both camps as far as being both a great two hours of Friday night entertainment as well as something to think about.

JUNO.  It’s a movie that makes you think about the difference between what is easy and what is right. It’s a movie that challenges us to think about how even adults often have a lot of growing up to do. Every single character in Juno has a lot of growing up to do. But it’s funny and entertaining, and the characters are likable.

At Christianity today’s movie review site where I’m one of the critics (there’s a team of about 10-15 of us there), that was the film that we voted as our favorite for the year. (Check out the CT article “Pro-Life Cinema.”)

Continue reading "Overstreet on the Oscars" »

Success in Marriage

“Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.” – Rabbi Barnett Brickner

February 22, 2008

Cohabitation Statistics

Here are some recent select statistics on cohabitation in the United States.

  • In 2004 there were 5,080,000 unmarried couples in America.
  • Most younger Americans now spend some time living together outside of marriage
  • Over half of all first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared to virtually none 50 years ago. (Bumpass and Lu, 2000)
  • The number of unmarried couples living together increased 72% between 1990 and 2000. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000
  • Half of cohabiting relationships end within one year due to the couple either becoming married or separating (Seltzer 2000).
  • Within five years from the beginning of a cohabitation relationship more than half of these relationships will end even if the couple had married during that time (Seltzer 2000).
  • 57% of cohabiting couples dissolve within ten years when compared with  30% of all first marriages (VanGoethem 2005).
  • Cohabiting couples have a rate of separation that is five times that of married couples, and, in the event of separation, cohabitors have a rate of reconciliation that is only 33 percent as high as that of married couples (Binstock 2003).
  • The U.S. Justice Department found that women are 62 times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a husband (Colson 1995).
  • Cohabiting women have rates of depression 3 times higher than married women (National Institute for Mental Health).
  • 25% of Americans believe cohabitation is morally wrong (VanGoethem 2005).
  • 25% of additional Americans has some moral qualms about cohatitation (VanGoethem 2005).

February 21, 2008

Kids of Divorce Ditch the Faith

Last week, the New York Times ran an article about the growing place that religious disputes are taking in divorce custody cases. When one parent is a Christian and the other is not, does the judge take this into consideration when trying to place the child in the best home? What about equally religiously devout homes, maybe one being Muslim and the other Christian? Mormon? Scientology?

Often a marriage breaks up when one or both of the spouses change their religious persuasion, or for instance, a husband or wife in an unbelieving marriage accepts Christ as Savior and Lord. Frequently, divisions emerge and, given time, turn into chasms nce that eventually lead to divorce.

Marriage researcher Elizabeth Marquardt responded to the NY Timesarticle in a letter to the editor that I actually found on the blog site. She points out that her research shows that the fallout from marriage disputes over religion often result in long-term damage to children. Her letter is worth running in full, and her informed opinion worth serious contemplation.

Letter to the Editor: "Religion and Divorce," NY Times, February 17, 2008:

To the Editor:

"Religion Joins Custody Cases, to Judges' Unease" ([NY Times] front page, Feb. 13) illustrates the tragic dimensions of divorce for millions of young people.

In a nationally representative survey of grown children of divorce that I conducted with Prof. Norval Glenn of the University of Texas-Austin, we found that children of divorce often feel torn between the dramatically different beliefs and value systems they find in each parent's home, with religion in particular being a flashpoint.

The grown children of divorce are more likely to say they distrust their father's or mother's religious beliefs. Of those who were active in a church at the time of their parents' divorce, two-thirds say that no one from the clergy or congregation reached out to them at that time.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when they grow up, the children of divorce are less religious over all than their peers who grew up with married parents. The data on their religious experience illustrate the deep inner struggles these young people face.

Parents considering divorce would be wise to take note.

Elizabeth Marquardt
Vice President for Family Studies, Institute for American Values
New York, Feb. 13, 2008

February 20, 2008

Juno: Insights on Modern Relationships

There's a fascinating and provocative column in Commonweal magazine by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. You may remember Whitehead as the journalist who took up for then Vice-President Dan Quayle after he criticized the morality of the TV character Murphy Brown, who had decided to have a child outside marriage.

Quayle-and Whitehead-argued that the media was giving a wink and nod to a culture that was devaluing marriage and sexuality, and argued that it was a slippery slope not worth scaling. Now, Whitehead is commenting again on another piece of media that is offering commentary on the culture of sex and relationships.

The new film "Juno" has won critical acclaim among a broad range of people. It's about a girl in high school who gets pregnant by a friend, and is forced to make decisions about an unintended pregnancy. While it shares a theme with scores of other movies, what makes "Juno" different is the questions it asks and the directions it takes. As Whitehead puts it:

[W]hat happens when a teenage girl comes of age in today's more sexually enlightened age? What if the pregnant teen is schooled in the management of sex but innocent of the mysteries of love? This is the premise for this year's captivating hit movie Juno.

Though innocent of love, Juno [the main character] is hip to the lessons taught in sex education class. She knows how to put a condom on a banana. Likewise, she has mastered the ways that a girl goes about managing a "problem pregnancy." She knows how to use a home pregnancy test kit; she knows where to shop for an abortion clinic; and, rejecting the abortion option, she knows where to find a "baby starved" yuppie couple to adopt her newborn.

But Juno's flippant attitude toward her pregnancy masks her real struggle. She is looking for love.

Juno's story begins with comradely sex and ends, like most romantic comedies, with a first kiss.

Some "enlightened" adults of this past generation have naïvely believed that teens must know the specifics of sex so they could learn to avoid its consequences. So now there's a generation of kids who get sex, but, as Tina Turner sang, can't grasp "What's Love Got to Do With It?"

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