Tags: marriage

Prescription for a Stronger Economy: Marriage


I spoke at the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation dinner last week.  Nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wrote this column about my remarks:

At a dinner sponsored by the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation last Thursday (I am an unpaid national advisory board member), there was a debate about wealth redistribution. A team of Canadian students who think government should “spread the wealth around” faced off against a team of American students who think government has no business doing any such thing.

The theme continued when former Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, debated Chrystia Freeland, a member of the Canadian Parliament. While all of this was informative, civil, interesting and at times entertaining, the final speaker, CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow, may have uttered the most profound thought of the evening.

While Mr. Kudlow takes the traditional conservative position when it comes to economics, he said what would help individuals as well as the nation the most is for people to “get married.” He said it loudly, and the super-sophisticated New Yorkers in the room fell momentarily silent. When the shock wore off, many heads began to nod. 

Mr. Kudlow’s point was that marriage gives people a reason to work, a home one hopes is stable, and children for whom two parents feel responsible.

Sociologists have reached the same conclusion over many years. In her book “One Marriage Under God: The Campaign To Promote Marriage in America,” sociologist Melanie Heath writes, “Married people” — for whatever reason — “are happier, healthier, and better off financially.”

The point I took from the speakers at the Coolidge dinner was that the real power to influence a life does not lie in or emanate from Washington, D.C., whichever party is in power. Instead, it comes from the millions of personal decisions each person makes for his or her own life.

How many politicians today would dare to admonish people who are living together to get married? Yet for not just economic reasons, doesn’t it seem the wisest course for most to take when one considers the benefits? Cohabiters may look at their divorced parents as an excuse not to marry, but that is an excuse, not a sufficient reason. One might better consider successful marriages, instead of failed ones, and emulate what made the good ones work.

At the Coolidge dinner, the organization’s chairman, Amity Shlaes, passed out buttons that said “Coolidge in ‘16.” Although the 30th president died in 1933, his ideas and philosophy of life are being given new life by events like these. If his ideas worked — and Coolidge’s did because they were born from a Puritan ethic that founded and sustained America well into the 20th century, making the 1920s roar economically — why not reconsider those ideas, updating them as necessary and applying them to solve today’s problems, rather than skipping from one failed policy to another?

Back to marriage. The Coolidges had an unusual relationship, but it worked for them. Grace was vivacious and outgoing; her husband quite the opposite. And yet there was genuine love.

Few men have ever uttered more noble words about their wives than what Coolidge said of his: “She has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.”

Mr. Kudlow seemed to be suggesting — and I would agree with him — that you don’t get that kind of affirmation outside of a committed marital relationship, which also makes for stronger families, economies and nations.

– Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist. His latest book is What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America (Zondervan, 2014).

Tags: marriage

Truth and Pseudogamy


I learned about a remarkable book by a certain Anthony Esolen from Matthew J. Franck in this well-titled post at Public Discourse:  The Beauty of the Country of Marriage.

The whole book (“Defending Marriage: 12 Arguments for Sanity”) can be seen as a powerful amplification, rife with literary examples (Shakespeare, Spencer, and much more), of the central argument that Maggie Gallagher makes in her published debate with John Corvino (“Debating Same-Sex Marriage”): 

Social institutions affect behavior by creating habitual patterns that govern the way people think, that is, the way they perceive reality. When norms become “optional” for marriage in the public mind—then practically speaking, they cease to be norms… Cultural power is the power to name reality… But a sexual union of two males, endorsed by law and society as a marriage under a new governing norm of “marriage equality,” will change the public perception of the relationship between marriage and procreation both in itself and by making this older understanding virtually unsayable.

(And Corvino in fact makes Gallagher’s case for her by avowing that, not only homophobia, but “heteronormativity” will have to go in order to satisfy the cause of “gay rights.”)

There are many things wrong with “pseudogamy” (Esolen’s apt term), but the main thing, the basic wrong, is just that it is a lie, as it was a lie for Smith (in Orwell’s 1984) to say that O’Brien was holding up three fingers and not the two he was in fact holding up. 

What the State essentially does, when it requires us to be parties to the lie that a man can marry a man, is to deny the anterior reality of marriage itself. It says, “Marriage is what we say it shall be,” and that implies, “Families are what we say they are,” and that implies, “There are no zones of natural authority outside the supervision and regulation and management of the State.”

To be sure,  pseudogamy movement has not by itself destroyed the institution of marriage.  It aims rather to seal the deal that has been in the works for decades.  But this is by no means a reason to acquiesce to the claim that O’Brien is holding up 3 fingers.

There are some ideas that are so absurd, so divorced from reality, that only an intellectual can think himself into the pretzel requisite for justifying them. … They [homosexuals] may do what they will in their homes. But that is no reason to flaunt it in the streets. That flaunting is a demand for social approval which, for all the reasons I’ve offered, we should not give, no more than we should give social approval to men and women who shack up, to divorcees, to pornographers, to porn users, to prostitutes, to adulterers, or to anybody else who violates the goodness of being male or being female.

We cannot have things both ways. All marriages, in effect, will be regarded as pseudogamous, pretend-affairs that are valid so long as the feelings that prompted them persist, or so long as the partners (notice the disembodied language deriving from the business world) agree, but involving no reality outside their wills.

The go-ahead for casual adultery cannot reasonably be limited to the male homosexuals.

What we need, then, is an index of social dissolution. How many sexual relationships of any duration—say, one year—dissolve? How many of these failed relationships have produced children? We should not “protect” the numbers by ruling out of bounds all the other “divorces,” some of them more socially disruptive than divorce proper. If we look at the whole picture, it resembles a bombed-out city, with here and there a house that has managed to survive intact

Some readers are no doubt asking themselves, “Why is Hancock talking about this?  This battle is clearly lost.”

Well, I’ll tell you why.  This is not a battle, this is the war.  If the defense of marriage is lost, we are lost, and our children will live in a much worse world than the one we grew up in (especially those of us who have seen a few decades go by).  It is important to call a disaster what it is.

So we may have lost, for now — but, as I’m told Horace wrote, even if you throw out nature with a pitchfork, it will blow back in.

And while we await nature’s running its course, or the return of Kipling’s “Gods of the Copybook Headings,” I still say: O’Brien is only holding up 2 fingers.



Tags: Anthony Esolen , marriage , Pseudogamy

New Reality Show Proves that Marriage Means Nothing


In a relatively little-known (read: terrible) movie called What Happens in Vegas, two strangers, played by Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, get married after a boozy night in Sin City. During their hearing to get the marriage annulled, the judge declares, “Gay people aren’t ruining the sanctity of marriage, you people are,” and orders the couple to stay married for a set amount of time. Now the FYI television network has taken this thin premise and turned it into the reality show Married at First Sight.

The show, which marries three couples without their ever having met each other, is just as boring as What Happens in Vegas, and the people are less attractive than Diaz and Kutcher. However, the first episode justifies at least the latter part of the movie judge’s statement: People like this are ruining marriage.#ad#

The couples are paired based on the opinions of four “experts:” the Sociologist, the Sexologist, the Clinical Psychologist, and the Spiritual Advisor. The experts spend the first ten minutes of the show repeating how this is not a reality show, but a “radical new social experiment.” The couples will be legally married and, after four weeks, will have the option to stay married until the cameras turn off or jump ship while the cameras are still on.

It took me longer than four weeks to decide if I wanted to buy a WiiU.

The show’s social experiment is “radical” in one sense, though it’s not exactly “new.” Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dennis Rodman, Britney Spears, Dennis Hopper and Eddie Murphy all had marriages that didn’t make it to the 28-day mark. In 2012 a man in Dubai reportedly divorced his wife mere “seconds” after the wedding. But the four-week premise does argue that marriage means absolutely nothing in today’s society. It’s disposed of quicker than most people get rid of a broken sofa.

Is even that true, however? Most couples already undergo a limited-duration test of compatibility. It’s called “dating.” The fact that many of the rules of courtship have faded — most notably the expectation that unmarried couples would put off sexual intercourse — makes it even less vital to conduct elaborate experiments to find out if people are right for each other.

The next forty minutes of Married at First Sight consist of the singles assuring the camera that this “social experiment” is indeed crazy, emphasizing how crazy they must be to become a part of this crazy show. The singles, who are all living in New York City, also repeat how tough dating is and how this is the right decision for them.

The show demonstrates how serious the experiment is by showing its experts flipping through books and highlighting things while they analyze the singles’ personality tests. The experts also say the word “scientific” a lot. While discussing the “sophisticated instruments” used to evaluate the participants (actually they just use a questionnaire), the Clinical Psychologist asserts that these same methods are used by the “CIA and FBI.” According to documents made public by Edward Snowden, the Central Intelligence Agency’s 2013 budget was $14.7 billion, but that figure does not seem to include any line items related to a top-secret matchmaking program. (Maybe that’s part of the $2.6 billion Langley spent on covert operations.)

Meanwhile, the Sociologist visits each of the singles at home and draws connections between couples who will be paired up. Girl A performs in a burlesque show and wears costumes. Boy A is a professional wrestler and wear costumes. They both wear costumes! It’s a match made in heaven! Huzzah! According to First Sight, these details are the makings of a successful marriage.

The first episode concludes with one of the brides, Jamie, struggling to say yes to her partner, Doug, because she doesn’t find him attractive. She says to her bridesmaids, “I need to have something to work with.” Don’t worry, Jamie. Judging by the previews, you’ll say yes to a marriage with a total stranger with more ease than I will say yes to watching the second episode of this show.

— Christine Sisto is an editorial associate at National Review Online.

Tags: marriage

‘Social Justice’ Begins at Home


My husband David French has an excellent article, which begins with a proposition:

Dear Christian parents,

I’ve got a deal for you. It’s simple: If you sign up for my program, there’s a roughly 80 percent chance that the man’s happiness will increase substantially. And women, there’s about a 50 percent chance you’ll be happier as well. Sounds good, right? After all, happiness can be tough to come by. How about a few less sleepless nights? A few more smiles? And what about some joy? I bet you could really go for some joy.

The cost? Oh yes, the cost. Nothing’s free, after all. Here’s the thing. If you join my program, your kids will likely become more depressed and anxious. They’ll have a much greater chance of being abused, living in poverty, and becoming addicts. That’s the cost. In short, I’m asking you to purchase your own happiness at the cost of your children’s happiness, not to mention their safety and mental health.


Almost any self-respecting Christian parent would throw me out of their house. Could there be anything more obviously selfish? Can you imagine something that more perfectly contradicts Christ’s call to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him?

Yet that’s the deal millions of Christian parents willingly choose every year and then defend zealously. That deal is called divorce.

He goes on to explain how divorce affects children and society. Could it be that this oft-discussed “social justice” idea could actually be solved by the kind of values for which Murphy Brown mocked Dan Quayle?



David continues:

Throughout my Christian life, I’ve heard much talk of “social justice,” often defined as the desire to create a society that is more compassionate, helps the hurting, and lifts up the impoverished…. I find it interesting that in most discussions of poverty and cultural decay, one rarely hears of the simplest and most obvious solution: marriage.

Read David’s take on how marriage can actually solve many of our cultural problems.

Tags: social justice , sex , marriage , values

He Said He Was leaving. She Ignored Him.


I found this 2009 article, which first appeared in the New York Times, particularly touching:

Let’s say you have what you believe to be a healthy marriage. You’re still friends and lovers after spending more than half of your lives together. The dreams you set out to achieve in your 20s — gazing into each other’s eyes in candlelit city bistros, when you were single and skinny — have for the most part come true.
Two decades later you have the 20 acres of land, the farmhouse, the children, the dogs and horses. You’re the parents you said you would be, full of love and guidance. You’ve done it all: Disneyland, camping, Hawaii, Mexico, city living, stargazing. Sure, you have your marital issues, but on the whole you feel so self-satisfied about how things have worked out that you would never, in your wildest nightmares, think you would hear these words from your husband one fine summer day: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”
But wait.

Keep reading this post . . .

Tags: marriage , Laura Munson

Five Marriage Tips from Jeff Bridges


It’s a feat when a couple’s been married thirty-five years. But in Hollywood? Well, let’s just say it’s really notable.

Tom Rapsas recently wrote about the long relationship between actor Jeff Bridges his wife Susan by summing up Bridges’s five stages to a successful marriage. The third one — called “In time, you see the depth and beauty of married life” — held much wisdom: 

Once you get past the first few shaky years, you find your relationship growing stronger, the roots growing deeper. You have a perception shift where you no longer see what you’re missing, but see the beauty in all that you have. (This was especially true in my case when our first child came along.) You close one door, the door to all other women, but you open a door that leads to a long hallway lined with doors. Incredible doors like children, grandchildren, deeper intimacy with the woman you love, and so many other things that would not be available to you without marriage, without the water under the bridge . . . thank God I went for it.

Tags: marriage

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