In a recent report in World Magazine, my friend Marvin Olasky reprinted, in part, an exchange I had with students at The King’s College in New York City a month or so ago.
Although the story touches on an array of subjects – Focus on the Family’s nationwide orphan-care effort, how intact families help women and children stay out of poverty, even the positive example President Obama sets for the country as a committed family man – the left-leaning blogosphere has zeroed in on one slice of one answer to one question about same-sex marriage. When asked about cultural trends on the subject, particularly polling among the millennial generation, I acknowledged that recent data suggests this very important and key group is polling behind the rest of the country on marriage. To me, it was a simple statement of demographic and statistical fact, but to those who advocate for same-sex marriage, it is being presented as a concession speech regarding our efforts to protect one-man, one-woman marriage.
So, let me be clear: I am not waving a white flag. I’m not even contemplating picking one up. There is still much work to be done by those of us in the faith community to advocate for marriage as it has been defined, and practiced, by every civilized society for millennia.
My comments to World are no more or no less than a continuation of something I’ve been saying for years: That we cannot expect the culture to be the church. As Christians, we are called to speak the truth in love, and advance it in public policy, regardless of opinion polls or shifting political winds. But our responsibility doesn’t end at the bully pulpit or the ballot box. We also must model the beauty and permanence of traditional marriage to society. And, to be frank, we have not done a very good job in that regard.
I told a story to The King’s College students, repeated in part in the World article, about having coffee with a gay activist who said to me, “You guys haven’t done so well with marriage. Why are you upset about us having a try?” That is a fair criticism. We have to look at our own house, make sure that our marriages are healthy, so that we’re being a good witness to the world. By strengthening our own marriages, and those in our faith communities, we offer strength to the culture.
Imagine if, as the result of such efforts, the Christian divorce rate goes from 40 percent to 10 percent or 5 percent, and the world’s goes from 50 percent to 80 percent. How can the culture not look at us then and think, “We want more of what they’ve got,” because we’re proving in front of the eyes of the world that marriage in a Christian context works?
Helping couples build those kind of divorce-proof marriages is the main reason Focus on the Family exists – along with giving husbands and wives the tools they need to be the best parents possible. And, yes, another priority of ours – and our sister organization, CitizenLink -- is transforming culture through promoting biblical citizenship. It is in that context that we will continue to advance marriage-protection amendments and legislation, encouraged by the fact that voters in 31 states have defended marriage at the ballot box (a point I made in my hour-long conversation with the students at The King’s College but which World chose not to include in the edited version of the interview).
Maybe it’s because of those election results that liberals and progressives – engaging in a little wishful thinking -- have been so quick to assume my interview comments represent an ideological or strategic shift, when, in fact, what I am saying is, let’s look past whatever writing may be on the cultural wall and joyfully embody kingdom principles to the world.
Millions desperately need not only to hear those principles articulated, but to see them lived out.
Jim Daly | May 25, 2011 11:06 AM