What Good Is Marriage?

The Deliberate Demise of Augustine-Christian Marriage
by Allan C. Carlson

It is surely unhealthy to become depressed over statistics. As the modern proverb has it, there are lies, damn lies, and then come statistics. Still, I went into a funk six months ago after reading the results of a survey on parenting by the reliable Pew Research Center. The researchers asked two thousand active parents if it was important to them whether their children did certain things once they became adults. A stunning 88 percent said it was extremely or very important that they “be financially independent” and “have jobs or careers they enjoy.” In contrast, only 21 percent said it was extremely/very important that their grown children marry, and a mere 20 percent that they have children of their own.

One response is that perhaps the parents being queried will come to appreciate the merits of grandchildren a little later on (for as another modern proverb puts it, the only reason to endure parenthood is to gain grandkids). Or, on a perhaps more troubling note, we see here clear evidence of the triumph of capitalism over familism, of mammon over posterity. However, I prefer to see such numbers as signs of the repudiation of good St. Augustine.


Allan C. Carlson is the John Howard Distinguished Senior Fellow at the International Organization for the Family. His most recent book is Family Cycles: Strength, Decline & Renewal in American Domestic Life, 1630-2000 (Transaction, 2016). He and his wife have four grown children and nine grandchildren. A "cradle Lutheran," he worships in a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. He is a senior editor for Touchstone.

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