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MARRIAGE UNDER FIREWHY WE MUST WIN THIS WAR
By JAMES DOBSON
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 James Dobson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE STATE OF OUR UNIONS
Behold, the institution of marriage! It is one of the Creator's most marvelous and enduring gifts to humankind. This divine plan was revealed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and then described succinctly in Genesis 2:24, where we read, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (KJV). With those twenty-two words, God announced the ordination of the family, long before He established the two other great human institutions, the church and the government.
Five thousand years of recorded history have come and gone, yet every civilization in the history of the world has been built upon it. Despite today's skeptics, who claim that marriage is an outmoded and narrow-minded Christian concoction, the desire of men and women to "leave" and "cleave" has survived and thrived through times of prosperity, peace, famine, wars, epidemics, and every other possible circumstance and condition. It has been the bedrock of culture in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia, and even Antarctica. Given this unbroken continuity, one might begin to suspect that something mystical within human nature must be drawing the sexes together-not just for purposes of reproduction as with animals, but to satisfy an irrepressible longing for companionship, intimacy, and spiritual bonding. Indeed, how can it be doubted? Passion finds its fulfillment in the institution of marriage.
Admittedly, there have been periods in history when homosexuality has flourished, as in the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in ancient Greece, and in the Roman Empire. None of these civilizations survived. Furthermore, even where sexual perversion was tolerated, marriage continued to be honored in law and custom.
Only in the last few years have two countries, the Netherlands and Belgium, actually legalized what is called "gay marriage" and given it equal status with traditional male-female unions. The impact of that vast sociological experiment is no longer speculative. We can see where it leads by observing the Scandinavian nations of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, whose leaders embraced de facto marriages between homosexuals in the nineties. The consequences for traditional families have been devastating. The institution of marriage in those countries is rapidly dying, with most young couples cohabiting or choosing to remain single. In some areas of Norway, 80 percent of firstborn children are conceived out of wedlock, as are 60 percent of subsequent births. It appears that tampering with the ancient plan for males and females spells doom for the family and for everything related to it. We will consider why this is true in a subsequent chapter.
To put it succinctly, the institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor, and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability. When it is weakened or undermined, the entire superstructure begins to wobble. That is exactly what has happened during the last thirty-five years, as radical feminists, liberal lawmakers, and profiteers in the entertainment industry have taken their toll on the stability of marriage. Many of our pressing social problems can be traced to this origin.
MADE FOR EACH OTHER
One reason the preservation of the family is critical to the health of nations is the enormous influence the sexes have on each other. They are specifically designed to "fit" together, both physically and emotionally, and neither is entirely comfortable without the other. There are exceptions, of course, but this is the norm. George Gilder, the brilliant sociologist and author of the book Men and Marriage, states that women hold the key to the stability and productivity of men. When a wife believes in her husband and deeply respects him, he gains the confidence necessary to compete successfully and live responsibly. She gives him a reason to harness his masculine energy-to build a home, obtain and keep a job, help her raise their children, remain sober, live within the law, spend money wisely, etc. Without positive feminine influence, his tendency is to release the power of testosterone in a way that is destructive to himself and to society at large. We see Gilder's insight played out in the inner city. Our welfare system, in the aftermath of the Great Society programs, rendered millions of men superfluous. Indeed, government assistance to women and children was reduced or denied when a father was present in the home. Food stamps put groceries in the pantry. The Department of Housing and Urban Development sent repairmen to fix maintenance problems. When children were in trouble, social workers stepped in to help. Thus men became unnecessary beyond the act of impregnation. Who needed 'em? Gilder contends that this disengagement with women and their children explains why drug abuse, alcoholism, crime, and absentee fathers have been rampant in inner-city settings. Men were separated from their historic role as providers and protectors, which stripped them of masculine dignity and robbed them of meaning and purpose. Thus, as Gilder said, their energy became a destructive force instead of powering growth and personal development.
Stated positively, a man is dependent for stability and direction on what he derives from a woman, which is why the bonding that occurs between the sexes is so important to society at large. Successful marriages serve to "civilize" and domesticate masculinity, which is not only in the best interests of women, but is vital for the protection and welfare of the next generation.
Conversely, a woman typically has deep longings that can only be satisfied through a romantic, long-term relationship with a man. Her self-esteem, contentment, and fulfillment are typically derived from intimacy, heart-to-heart, in marriage. Unfortunately, most young husbands find these emotional needs in their wives to be not only confusing, but downright baffling at times. That was certainly true of my early relationship with my wife, Shirley. It took me several years of marriage to "get it," and we experienced some bumps in the road while I was sorting things out.
The most eye-opening encounter between us occurred on our first Valentine's Day together, six months after we were married. It was something of a disaster. I had gone to the USC library that morning and spent eight or ten hours poring over dusty books and journals. I had forgotten that it was February 14.
What was worse, I was oblivious to the preparations that were going on at home. Shirley had cooked a wonderful dinner, baked a pink heart-shaped cake with "Happy Valentine's Day" written on the top, placed several red candles on the table, wrapped a small gift she had bought for me, and written a little love note on a greeting card. The stage was set. She would meet me at the front door with a kiss and a hug. But there I sat on the other side of Los Angeles, blissfully unaware of the storm gathering overhead.
About 8 P.M., I got hungry and ordered a hamburger at the University Grill. After eating, I moseyed out to where my Volkswagen was parked and headed toward home. Then I made a terrible mistake that I would regret for many moons: I stopped by to see my parents, who lived near the freeway. Mom greeted me warmly and served up a great slice of apple pie. That sealed my doom.
When I finally put my key in the lock at 10:00, I knew instantly that something was horribly wrong. (I'm very perceptive about subtleties like that.) The apartment was dark and all was deathly quiet. There on the table was a coagulated dinner still sitting in our best dishes and bowls. Half-burned candles stood cold and dark in their silver-plated holders. It appeared that I had forgotten something important. But what? Then I noticed the red and white decorations on the table. Oh no! I thought.
So there I stood in the semidarkness of our little living room, feeling like a creep. I didn't even have a Valentine's Day card, much less a thoughtful gift, for Shirley. No romantic thoughts had crossed my mind all day. I couldn't even pretend to want the dried-up food that sat before me. After a brief flurry of words and a few tears, Shirley went to bed and pulled the covers up around her ears. I would have given a thousand dollars for a true, plausible explanation for my thoughtlessness. But there just wasn't one. It didn't help to tell her, "I stopped by my mom's house for a piece of great apple pie. It was wonderful. You should've been there."
Fortunately, Shirley is not only a romantic lady, but she is a forgiving one, too. We talked about my insensitivity later that night and came to an understanding. I learned a big lesson that Valentine's Day and determined never to forget it. I'll bet, however, that I'm not the only brute who has underestimated the importance of February 14. There must be several million guys who can identify with my failures as a husband.
Once I understood how my wife differed from me-especially regarding romantic things-I began to get with the program. One day I came home from work and asked Shirley to join me for a date that I called "Old Haunts." I took her to many of the places we had visited when we were going together in college. We went to the Pasadena Playhouse, where we had seen a theater performance on our second date. We walked through the Farmers Market and then ate pizza at Micelle's Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. We strolled along hand in hand, reminiscing about times gone by. Then we ended the day at our favorite restaurant in Pasadena, which was famous for their cherry pie and coffee. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening together, and I assure you, Shirley loved it.
What I was beginning to understand in those early days were the ways my wife was uniquely crafted, and how I alone could meet her most important emotional needs. Shirley was also learning some new things about me. She observed that I needed her to respect me, to believe in me, and to listen to my hopes and dreams. Shirley said all the right things, not because she was trying to manipulate me, but because she clearly believed them. She would often tell me, "I am proud of you, and I'm glad to be part of your team. It is going to be exciting to see what God will do with us in the days ahead." The way she looked up to me gave me confidence-I was a student who had never really accomplished anything up to that point-and empowered me to take risks professionally and to reach for the sky. She was meeting a critical need for me, precisely in the way George Gilder described. I was then motivated to give Shirley what she needed from me.
We have now been married for more than forty years, and it has been a great ride. I can't imagine life without her, and she professes to feel the same about me. I know marriage doesn't always work that successfully, but that is the way it was intended to be. When the predominate needs of one sex go unmet or ignored by the other, something akin to "soul hunger" occurs. It cannot be explained by cultural influences that are learned in childhood, as some would have us believe. It is deeply rooted in the human personality. That observation was confirmed for me time and again in my professional work as a psychologist, where those same patterns were evident in couples with whom I was working. Though I would not have described it in these terms at the time, there was clearly a divine plan in human nature that suited men and women for one another.
HURTLING TOWARD GOMORRAH
In short, marriage, when it functions as intended, is good for everyone-for men, for women, for children, for the community, for the nation, and for the world. Marriage is the means by which the human race is propagated, and the means by which spiritual teaching is passed down through the generations. Research consistently shows that heterosexual married adults do better in virtually every measure of emotional and physical health than people who are divorced or never married. They live longer and have happier lives. They recover from illness more quickly, earn and save more money, are more reliable employees, suffer less stress, and are less likely to become victims of any kind of violence. They find the job of parenting more enjoyable, and they have more satisfying and fulfilling sex lives. These and countless other benefits of marriage serve to validate (although no validation is necessary) the wisdom of the Creator, who told us what was best for mankind. He said in the book of Genesis, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (2:18). So he made Adam a helpmate, a partner, a lover-and then commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply" (9:7, NASB).
What a great plan. We depart from it at our peril.
A life in keeping with God's design and instruction brings the greatest possible fulfillment, while any deviation from His design invites disaster. This is why the Bible warns against all harmful forms of sexual behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, prostitution, incest, bestiality, and pedophilia. Homosexuality is only one of the several ways we can wound ourselves and devastate those around us. Ironically, homosexual activists strive with all their energies to achieve "freedom" from the shackles of moral law and traditional institutions. But the Scripture teaches that true freedom and genuine fulfillment can be found only when we live in harmony with our design.
The traditional family and marriage as defined from the dawn of time are among the few institutions that have, in fact, stood the test of time. If we now choose to stand idly by while these institutions are overthrown, the family as it has been known for millennia will be gone. And with its demise will come chaos such as the world has never seen before.
This is why I am profoundly concerned today about the effort to tamper with this time-honored institution. For nearly sixty years, the homosexual activist movement and related entities have been working to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family. Now the final battle is at hand: The institution of marriage and the Christian church are all that stand in the way of the movement's achievement of every coveted aspiration.
Excerpted from MARRIAGE UNDER FIRE by JAMES DOBSON Copyright © 2004 by James Dobson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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