Picture This: A Broken Culture 

By Brad Keena
CNSNews.com Commentary from the Free Congress Foundation

The central place of marriage in our family system is eroding." That's the assessment of Johns Hopkins University sociology professor Andrew J. Cherlin, following the release of a census report this week on how Americans live.

Numbers from the 2000 census count point to the redefinition of the American household in recent decades and the shrinking dominance of married-with-children families.

The new figures show the continuation of a disturbing national trend away from the traditional family model of married couples with children. In fact, among the fastest-growing groups were unmarried partners. Live-in couples, as a group, saw a 72 percent increase over the last ten years.

Fifty years ago, the cohabitation of an unmarried couple was a social scandal in the United States. Today, it is a cultural trend endorsed in the popular culture. Couples want their cake and eat it too, and no one is ashamed. Consider a May 16 Washington Post article mentioning a high-ranking Republican official who, "enlisted his White House friends to help him surprise his live-in girlfriend" with a marriage proposal while touring the Rose Garden. No one bats an eye at the phrase, "live-in." That's our culture.

Except the problem is, studies also show a greater proportion of live-in couples break up. And why not? Without the added commitment and responsibility that marriage brings to a relationship, who's going to stay together when the going gets tough? Plus, according to other surveys, at least a third of those live-in couples have children living with them. What kind of message are live-in parents sending them about commitment and responsibility, and what happens to these kids when the parents split?

As the Post article suggests, even conservatives are caught up in this popular trend, many of whom regularly attend churches in which they never hear a word about the moral questions associated with sex before marriage.

All of this makes it more difficult for cultural conservatives wishing to publicly criticize the homosexual lifestyle. After all, what can you say if your own heterosexual house is not in order?

Still, these new statistics are important if only because they help paint a broader picture of what our society is becoming: a nation of individuals who insist on their rights, take pride in breaking rules, and hate having to wait for anything - and that goes for our interpersonal relationships.

This week the White House unveiled a comprehensive national plan to solve the energy crisis. They're also working on a plan to save Social Security, and another to improve military readiness. They now have a plan to pay down the public debt. But there is no comprehensive national plan to address the culture.

The reality is that our culture is broken, but no amount of government expense or federal attention can fix it. That's because the problem is a matter of the heart. It's a problem that describes the woeful spiritual condition of many Americans today. God and His precepts haven't changed, we have.

(Brad Keena is editor of the Cultural Dissident )


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