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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Family Matters

Changing times may make traditional households a minority


By Christina Quick
Dec. 22, 2013

In 1960, television’s Leave It to Beaver — featuring Ward Cleaver, his wife, June, and their two sons — represented the quintessential American household. Most adults of that generation married and settled into traditional family roles. Only about five percent of all births in 1960 were to unmarried women, according to government statistics.

Today, families such as the Cleavers can seem as quaint as black-and-white reruns. The U.S. marriage rate is at its lowest point in more than a century as many couples forgo the altar in favor of living together outside of marriage.

Those who do tie the knot increasingly put off nuptials until after kids come along. The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia reports an astonishing 48 percent of first births are now out of wedlock.

“Marriage is no longer compulsory,” says Susan Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “It’s just one of an array of options. Increasingly, many couples choose to cohabit.”

By age 25, more than half of women have cohabited with a male partner, according to a recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics. Nearly 20 percent of women experienced a pregnancy in the first year of their first premarital cohabitation.

“Cohabitation is a common part of family formation in the United States, and serves both as a step toward marriage and as an alternative to marriage,” the report concludes. “Childbearing outside of marriage continues to increase, and about one-half of nonmarital births occur to cohabiting women.”

Larry Hazelbaker, dean of the College of Behavior and Social Sciences at Southeastern University (Assemblies of God) in Lakeland, Fla., says the foundations of the traditional family have been eroding for decades.

“I can remember 25 years ago one of my college professors predicted the concept of family would expand to include all kinds of other arrangements until family would no longer be defined by traditional marriage,” Hazelbaker says. “We see that happening as marriage declines and alternate family styles gain acceptance.”

Even as many heterosexual couples eschew matrimony, homosexual activists push for the legalization of same-sex marriage across the nation. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, federal legislation passed in 1996 that defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The ruling cleared the way for homosexual spouses to receive federal benefits formerly reserved for traditional families.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in California earlier this year after a trial court struck down that state’s voter-backed referendum against same-sex marriage. The inaction essentially made California the 13th state to permit homosexual marriage.

“The gay and lesbian issue has been successful in redefining marriage as we know it,” Hazelbaker says. “We’re uncertain right now what the next 10 or 20 years will hold, or what other family models will emerge from all of this. So much rope has been let out, the church is not going to be able to pull it in very quickly.”

Public perceptions of these shifting family dynamics are a nearly even mix of positive, negative and neutral responses. In a 2010 survey by Pew Research, about a third of respondents said the growing variety of family arrangements is beneficial. Another third called it a bad development, and a similar percentage had no strong opinion.

Six in 10 people said a child needs both a mother and father. Yet fewer than half thought the trends toward cohabitation without marriage or more homosexual couples raising children are detrimental to society. Eighty percent said an unmarried couple with children constitutes a family, while 63 percent considered two homosexuals with children a family.

Several states now allow homosexual couples to adopt children, and most states permit adoption by gay and lesbian singles.

“We have a lot of same-sex couples raising children in our area, and many of them have started attending our church,” says Mike Robertson, lead pastor of Visalia (Calif.) First Assembly, 230 miles southeast of San Francisco.

Robertson says some gay attendees have confronted church leaders and pressured them to change their stance on homosexuality.

“I’m not a gay basher, but I’m not bending on what the Bible says,” Robertson says. “The society we live in today pushes a new kind of tolerance. They’re asking me not only to accept homosexuality as a lifestyle but to do everything I can to make the homosexual community feel good about that lifestyle. If I refuse to compromise my beliefs, I’m labeled a hater. That’s not tolerance.”

Robertson says cohabitation is also common in his community, and he addresses that in an uncompromising manner as well. He recently canceled a baby dedication service because all the couples seeking recognition were living together outside of marriage. The pastor used the awkward situation as an opportunity to counsel the couples about God’s plan for families and parenthood. He says most of them agreed to take steps toward matrimony.

“The breakdown of morality that we see today is directly related to the breakdown of the family,” Robertson says. “The best place to restore family is around the cross of Jesus Christ.”

Brenda Spina, a family therapist and licensed Assemblies of God minister, says the family structure established in Scripture is that of a husband and wife living under God’s authority and teaching His commands to the next generation.

“The family started breaking down when Adam and Eve abandoned their responsibilities to each other and God,” says Spina, owner and director of the Center for Family Healing in Appleton, Wis. “Families have been struggling ever since, but in recent times the family unit has been coming apart like never before. Yet with God all things are possible. He is always able to turn things around for His glory.”

CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer and former Pentecostal Evangel staff writer. She and her husband, Wade, have two children, just as Ward and June Cleaver did.



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