In Defense of Marriage - Part III

Michael Craven | Center for Christ & Culture | Monday, July 21, 2008

In Defense of Marriage - Part III

Thus far we have established that monogamy is central to the health and prosperity of a given civilization, and that marriage has proven the only effective means for regulating monogamy. Additionally, we countered the charge that homosexual monogamy would prove equally beneficial by demonstrating that procreative acts are essential to defining marriage and that it is only marriage defined by such essentials that proves efficacious to society.

Now let’s examine the historical findings relative to those cultures that once held to a strong sexual ethic—in which monogamy is strictly reinforced through marriage—but later compromised that ethic, as we are now doing. According to Unwin’s thorough survey of history, any and every culture that embraces a philosophy of sexual freedom for a period of at least three generations will inevitably experience cultural decline (Unwin, Sexual Regulations and Cultural Behavior, 1935).

There is not one single example in all of human history where this cultural pattern appears and there does not follow cultural demise consistent with Unwin’s conclusions. (I would estimate that we are in the latter stages of the second generation.)

History is replete with examples that testify to this fact. The Greek, Roman, Babylonian, and Sumerian empires are just a few examples of cultures that began with a strong marriage-centered monogamy and later degenerated into liberal sexual practices (including homosexuality), which, according to the sociological and anthropological evidence, was central to their downfall. Of course, our own culture has suffered enormously in the wake of the American sexual revolution; the societal costs of paternal absence, divorce, and out-of-wedlock births have been staggering.

Pitirim A. Sorokin, the renowned Russian-born sociologist who founded the sociology department at Harvard, describes the basis for this degenerative pattern:

If more and more individuals are brought up in this sex-saturated atmosphere, then without deep interiorization of religious, moral, and legal norms of behavior, they will become rudderless boats controlled only by the winds of their environment. (Sorokin, The American Sex Revolution, Boston, MA: Porter Sargent, 1956, p. 55.)

Sorokin conducted his own study of history and likewise stressed that marriage is “the most decisive factor in the survival and well-being” of society (Sorokin, p. 6). Based on his sociological study of historical civilizations, Dr. Sorokin warned that “any change in marriage behavior, any increase in sexual promiscuity, and illicit sexual relations is pregnant with momentous consequences,” adding that a “sex revolution drastically affects the lives of millions, deeply disturbs the community and decisively influences the future of society” (p.7). We have already seen changes in marriage behavior with the extension of sexual opportunities outside marriage beginning in the 1960s. Predictably promiscuity increased exponentially within the subsequent generation, as manifested in today’s “hook-up” culture; now a revolution of unprecedented proportions threatens in the form of legalizing same-sex marriage (SSM), a first in human history.

It is the height of arrogance, ignorance, or both that argues against the unique nature of marriage and its necessity to social stability and well-being. However, with more than four decades following the American sexual revolution, this should not be surprising because, as Sorokin pointed out, “in the conditions of spiritual, moral, and mental anarchy … it is difficult to maintain sexual sanity” (Sorokin, p. 55).

The imposition of sexual morality and the restraint of that morality to marriage between one man and one woman serves to mature men and women into adulthood, which properly understood occurs when their narcissism is subdued. Marriage, unlike any other relationship, serves this purpose. As I said earlier, it is the one relationship that properly prepares and conditions us for living in community with others. Conversely, a sexually hedonistic society grows increasingly selfish and narcissistic. Sorokin makes the point that “illicit sexual relations rarely go beyond a shortlived ‘copulational’ union. Each partner remains a mere sex apparatus for the satisfaction of lust of the other. The partners remain largely unknown to each other; their egos are not merged into one ‘we’ nor is their selfishness tempered by mutual devotion and love” (p. 6). Sorokin concludes, “In the long run, such a society would be increasingly composed of self-centered egoists incapable of acting altruistically and of being true good neighbors” (p. 12).

This might help explain the motivation of SSM advocates, so driven to redefine marriage to suit their own selfish interests regardless of the larger effects upon the family, children, and society. They only care about what they want—and what they want is not marriage but social affirmation of a perverse and illicit lifestyle. They hope that calling it marriage will both legitimize their conduct and assuage their sense of degradation and shame.

Civilization and social order are directly related to the ideal of marriage as perceived by a given society. When society allows the extension of sexual opportunity outside the exclusive relationship of marriage, or in our present case redefines what is essential to marriage, the value and necessity of marriage is diminished. Once sex is separated from marriage, society’s expectations of procreative couples decrease. With a decreased expectation upon potential parents, the family is gradually redefined to accommodate different structures as being equal. These alternative family structures are devoid of the same societal expectations of traditional marriage, i.e., commitment, fidelity, and selflessness. Once the social reinforcement to lifelong marriage and parenting are removed, history demonstrates that family dissolution and infertility rates increase, thus producing the inevitable negative impact on civilization and social order.

The proposal of redefining marriage to accommodate persons of the same sex is an unprecedented social experiment that all available evidence demonstrates will only further erode, if not destroy, an already weakened institution that is vital to our very survival.

© 2008 by S. Michael Craven

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S. Michael Craven is the founder and President of the Center for Christ & Culture. Michael is the author of the groundbreaking book, Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity, published by Navpress and scheduled for release January 2009. Michael's ministry is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, the teaching ministry of S. Michael Craven, visit:

Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.

In Defense of Marriage - Part III