Does marriage matter?

THAT, in a nutshell, is the question posed by a recent five-part series of Monitor articles entitled ``Marriage in America.'' It's the question that arises wherever a man and a woman seek to build a sound and lasting relationship. And, sadly, it's the question that nags at the wedded couple whose marriage seems to be coming unglued. The Bible has a reply: a resonant, ringing ``Yes.'' From the Ten Commandments (one of which prohibits adultery) to the image of the bride in Revelation, from Christ Jesus' first public demonstration of divine power at a wedding feast to Paul's many comments about wedlock, the teachings of the Scriptures hold marriage to be deeply significant. In the last 30 years, however, the in stitution of marriage has been jarred in unprecedented ways. In nation after nation, marriage rates are declining, divorces are increasing, illegitimate childbearing is on the rise, and unmarried cohabitation is gaining ground. Fueled by changes in the economy, and sometimes fanned by media sensationalism, the situation is variously described as ``a crisis,'' ``an epidemic,'' and ``a contagion.'' Is humanity helpless in the face of such ``contagious'' social forces? Christian Science, in harmony with the Bible, answers ``No.'' It shows us that there is, in fact, a divine Principle upon which every aspect of life can safely be founded, a Principle not buffeted by the latest fashionable trends. This Principle is God Himself, divine Love. Turning in prayer to God, realizing His wise, loving government of all that He has created, brings profound changes-- not just in some far-off afterworld, nor in a merely theoretical way, but right in the daily flux and flow of human life. Yet when a sound marriage seems hopelessly out of sight, can prayer really help? When the right partner just doesn't turn up, or when an established partnership seems to be heading for the shoals of divorce, how do you pray? A powerful form of prayer is a deep realization of the perfect reality that God has established, the spiritual truth that can correct discord. We might, then, affirm in prayer that God's law is a universal rule of good, and that it, not circumstance, governs man; that God is Love, and that Love is unmixed with hatred and discord. There aren't any dark corners where Love has forgotten to shine. There can't be any inevitable smashups that Love has failed to forestall. And what about man? According to the Bible, man is God's image, and this is who each of us really is. Man isn't, in truth, a frustrated mortal, wound up tight by an indifferent deity and turned loose to try to find love wherever he can. Man is God's spiritual offspring. He is forever blessed by Love. Everything contrary to that blessing--loneliness, animosity, guilt--is illegitimate and can be effectively dealt with in prayer through that understanding. Such elements cannot destroy our innate ability to express God's love deeply, immediately, and warmly, and to feel it. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, devotes an entire chapter to marriage in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. ``Marriage,'' she writes, ``is the legal and moral provision for generation among human kind. Until the spiritual creation is discerned intact, is apprehended and understood, and His kingdom is come as in the vision of the Apocalypse,--where the corporeal sense of creation was cast out, and its spiritual se nse was revealed from heaven,--marriage will continue, subject to such moral regulations as will secure increasing virtue.'' 1 Mrs. Eddy saw the need for a purification of marriage, a destruction of the errors that would undermine its foundation. And she foresaw the turbulence --her word is ``fermentation''--that will ensue as marriage becomes purer. There is plenty of evidence of that turbulence. But there are also signs of reform. Social historians observe, for example, that what they call ``romantic love'' has, in the last several centuries, become a central part of marriage. Such Love-inspired qualities as affection, tenderness, and gentleness are being increasingly sought after in marriage. And, like any valuable currency, they are being increasingly counterfeited. Our role? It's certainly not to rush toward divorce at every sign of marital discord or hide out, in unmarried cohabitation, from fear that we can't handle the demands of married love. Our role is to pray--for our own marriage (if we're now, or may someday be, married) and for the ``moral regulations'' that will bolster the world's sense of marriage. Then we'll stand securely in a turbulent time. We'll see our own sense of marriage deepen and blossom, whether or not we're married. 1 Science and Health, p. 56.

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