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When somebody asks you whether you support social justice, just say, "Sure I do--I believe in marriage!"
These days, marriage is under attack, with government and pop culture redefining it and increasing numbers of young people ignoring it. Interestingly, many of them are deriding what they call America's failures in "social justice." Could there be a connection? Our friend Glenn Stanton certainly thinks so.
Stanton, who is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of eight books, has penned a great piece in The Federalist titled "The Research Proves the No. 1 Social Justice Imperative Is Marriage."
Stanton writes, "Working for healthy, well-formed, enduring marriages is one of the most effective ways we can do the work of social justice. That the effort is not hip and trendy has no bearing on its ability to change lives for the better."
Indeed. Stanton quotes Jonathan Rauch, a liberal writer for the National Journal, who notes that "marriage is displacing both income and race as the great class divide of the new century." Research by the Brookings and the American Enterprise institutes backs that up.
According to Bill Galston, domestic policy advisor for President Clinton, Brookings demonstrated way back in the early nineties that Americans only need to do three things to avoid living in poverty: graduate from high school, marry before having a child, and have that child after age 20.
Sociologists today say that this "success sequence" still works. One study of millennials found that 97 percent of those who earn at least a high-school diploma, work, and get marred before having kids will not be poor as they enter their 30s.
And avoiding poverty is far from the only social justice marker improved by marriage. Glenn notes that "marriage strongly boosts every important measure of well-being for children, women, and men. Pick any measure you can imagine: overall physical and mental health. . . employment . . .general life contentment . . ., sexual satisfaction, even recovery from serious disease. . ."
And this holds true in every racial demographic. Marriage fuels upward mobility. Its absence stifles it. "Thus, the growing class divide," Stanton concludes. "Any smart and compassionate effort to alleviate poverty and increase the well-being of our communities and its citizens cannot ignore this fact."
Frankly, this should come as no surprise to those of us who hold a Christian worldview. God created marriage--the lifetime commitment of a man and a woman under Him--to maximize human flourishing. And the statistics, as Stanton details so well, bear this out.
The family is one of the foundational building blocks of any society. It is where children are born and raised, men and women encourage and bring out each other's best, traditions are made and passed on, and where the knowledge of God is first transmitted and lived out.
None of this is to say that if you don't get married poverty will be knocking at your door, or that somehow you're missing God's plan for your life. As Christians, we know and need to do a better job appreciating the fact that God calls some to marriage and some to the celibate single life. Which is why I've recommended Gina Dalfonzo's excellent book "One by One: Welcoming Singles into Your Church."
Yet the question remains: Are we doing all we can to promote stable, healthy marriages in our congregations? Yes, the relationship between husband and wife is the most intensely personal relationship imaginable. But as Stanton writes, "Each family is as much a public institution as it is private, if not more so. Its strength and weaknesses are felt throughout each community in countless ways."
So, maybe it's time your church joined the crusade to fight inequality and promote social justice. Promote marriage, for the good of individuals, the Church, and all of society.