FAMILY WHAT YOU NEED TO GET PREPARED FOR IT

Saturday, August 30, 2008



THE STORM OF HAVING A FAMILY, IS IT SIMPLE?
"AND they lived happily ever after." That fairy tale ending applies to fewer and fewer marriages nowadays. The wedding promise to love each other 'for better or for worse as long as both shall live' is all too often just rhetoric. The possibility of having a happy family seems to be a gamble with the odds against it.

Between 1960 and 1990, divorce rates more than doubled in most Western industrialized countries. In some lands they increased fourfold. For example, every year about 35,000 marriages are contracted in Sweden, and about half of them will break up, involving over 45,000 children. Couples cohabiting without marriage split up at an even greater rate, affecting further tens of thousands of children. A similar trend is emerging in countries all over the world, as can be seen from the box.

True, broken families and dissolution of marriages are not new in history. The Code of Hammurabi of the 18th century B.C.E. included laws that allowed divorce in Babylonia. Even the Mosaic Law, instituted in the 16th century B.C.E., permitted divorce in Israel. (Deuteronomy 24:1) However, family bonds have never been weaker than in this 20th century. More than a decade ago, a newspaper columnist wrote: "Fifty years from now, we may not even have any families in the traditional sense. They may have been replaced by collectives of different types." And the trend since then seems to confirm his idea. The family institution has deteriorated so rapidly that the question, "Will it survive?" is becoming increasingly relevant.

Why is it so hard for so many couples to stick to each other and maintain a united family? What is the secret of those who have stuck together during a long life, happily celebrating their silver and golden wedding anniversaries? Incidentally, in 1983 it was reported that a man and a woman in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan celebrated their 100th wedding anniversary—at the age of 126 and 116 respectively.

Smashed wedding picture
What Is the Threat?

In many countries some of the grounds for legal divorce are adultery, mental or physical cruelty, desertion, alcoholism, impotence, insanity, bigamy, and drug addiction. However, a more general cause is that the fundamental attitude toward marriage and traditional family life has changed radically, especially during recent decades. Respect for an institution long held sacred has eroded. Greedy producers of music, motion pictures, TV soap operas, and popular literature have glorified so-called sexual freedom, immorality, loose conduct, and a self-centered life-style. They have promoted a culture that has polluted the minds and hearts of young and old alike.

A 1996 poll showed that 22 percent of Americans say that an extramarital affair can sometimes be good for a marriage. A special issue of one of Sweden's biggest newspapers, Aftonbladet, urged women to get a divorce because "it can only be better." Some pop psychologists and anthropologists have even speculated that man is "programmed" by evolution to switch mates every few years. In other words, they are suggesting that extramarital affairs and divorces are natural. Some even argue that a parental divorce may be good for the children, preparing them to cope with their own divorce some day!

Many youths no longer desire to live a traditional family life, with father, mother, and children. "I cannot imagine living all my life with the same partner," is a popular view. "Marriage is like Christmas, just a fairy tale. I just don't believe in it," said an 18-year-old Danish lad. "The feeling is, why bother to live with [men] and wash their socks," Noreen Byrne of the National Women's Council in Ireland declared. "Just go out and play with them . . . A lot of women are deciding they don't need men in order to survive."
One-Parent Households on the Increase

All over Europe this attitude has led to a rapid increase in single motherhood. Some of these single parents are teenagers who feel that an unplanned pregnancy is not a mistake. A few are women who want to raise their child alone. Most are mothers who cohabit with the father for some time, without any plans to marry him. Newsweek magazine ran a cover story last year on the question "The Death of Marriage?" It stated that the percentage of live births outside marriage is increasing rapidly in Europe and that no one seems to care. Sweden may top the list, with half of all babies there born outside marriage. In Denmark and Norway it is close to half, and in France and England, about 1 in 3.

In the United States, two-parent families have declined dramatically in the last few decades. One report says: "In 1960, . . . 9 percent of all children lived in single-parent homes. By 1990, that number had soared to 25 percent. Today, 27.1 percent of all American children are born into single-parent homes, a number that is on the rise. . . . Since 1970, the number of one-parent families has more than doubled. The traditional family is so threatened today that it could be on the verge of extinction, say some researchers."

In countries where the Roman Catholic Church has lost much of its moral authority, single-parent families are on the increase. Fewer than half of Italian households consist of mother, father, and children, and the traditional family is being replaced with childless couples and single-parent households.

The welfare system in some countries actually encourages people not to marry. Single mothers who receive public assistance would lose it if they married. Single mothers in Denmark get additional child-care subsidies, and in some communities, underage mothers get extra cash and have their rent paid for them. Thus, money is involved. Alf B. Svensson claims that a divorce in Sweden costs the taxpayers between 250 thousand and 375 thousand dollars in subsidies, housing allowances, and social assistance.

Churches of Christendom seem to do little or nothing to try to reverse this devastating trend among families. Many pastors and clergymen are wrestling with their own family crises, thus feeling incapable of assisting others. Some even seem to advocate divorce. Aftonbladet of April 15, 1996, reported that pastor Steven Allen from Bradford, England, composed a special divorce ceremony, which he suggests should serve as an official act in all British churches. "It is a service of healing to help someone come to terms with what has happened to them. It helps them realise that God still loves them and releases them from the hurt."

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