Thursday, June 17, 2010

Marriage As Therapy or Covenant?

By Chuck Colson:

What's marriage all about, anyway? Well, like almost everything else, that depends on your worldview.

Last week, another prominent couple made headlines by announcing the end of their marriage. It was former vice president Al Gore and his wife. I know both of them and always thought they were a perfect couple.

I am disappointed for them and saddened. Indeed, that seems to be the overwhelming reaction from the public and the media. Many, who saw the Gores as an ideal, loving couple who enjoyed and endured the ups and downs of public life together, wondered aloud if the Gore’s couldn’t keep going after 40 years, who can?

Well, that depends, as does so much, on your worldview.

And a perfect case in point is an article from last Friday’s New York Times entitled, “What Brain Scans Tell Us About Marriage.”

Author Tara Parker-Pope reported on recent research into the neuroscience of happy marriages. She cites one study in which 17 madly-in-love couples underwent a brain scan. When an individual was shown a picture of his or her spouse—ta-da!—the scan showed activity in that part of the brain associated with romance. In older couples, Parker-Pope writes, “researchers spotted something extra: parts of the brain associated with deep attachment were also activated.”

The researcher, Dr. Bianca Acevedo explained, “They have the feelings of euphoria, but also the feelings of calm and security that we feel when we’re attached to somebody.”
Dr Acevedo added, “I think it’s wonderful news.”

And I do, too. Parker-Pope, after highlighting the key to a happy marriage, asks two questions that highlighted for me exactly why marriages today are crumbling. One, “how much does your partner provide a source of exciting experiences?” And two, “how much has knowing your partner made you a better person?”

What do these two questions have in common? They are the epitome of the postmodern, therapeutic worldview—the worldview that asks one and only one question: What’s In It For Me?

Thus Parker-Pope can end her article on a happy postmodern note, quoting a Wharton School Economist: The Gores “had 40 years of marriage . . . The fact that they both can look forward and see a promising future by not being married [is] a celebration about how much optimism they have for the rest of their lives.”

Well, I cannot put such a happy face on divorce, nor do I mean to single out the Gores for criticism. Far from it, because I know all too well the pain divorce creates.

But I can’t stop from noticing how far our culture has drifted from the faith that founded it. Even 40 years ago, marriage was seen as a covenant, a sacrament in some traditions—a promise before God between a man and a woman to be faithful to one another until death did them part. Not seeking the good for one’s self, but the good of the other.

But in our therapeutic culture, as Parker-Pope’s questions illuminate so brilliantly, this has been turned 180 degrees. Marriage is now just another path, or obstacle, to self-fulfillment.

Please don’t tell me worldviews don’t matter. Or that they can’t shape a culture. We’ve gone in 40 years from the Christian belief in a lifelong commitment to seeing divorce as the start of a promising future. Please.


Amanda Borenstadt said...

Good article. Good point- It is so much about world view. If your world view is about "How can I please myself," your marriage will not be a happy one.

The Seaman's said...


Not long ago the world view was my point of view. We fell for it and we almost lost each other. Thankfully, the Lord saved our marriage and our view of marriage has changed. We pray and hope that couples give each other. Is never greener on the other side. In fact, it is about the same or worse.

God Bless.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Ooo, yes. It was this way with me too. I had my first child out of wedlock AND at the time I thought that was a good thing. Very quickly I learned that was not healthy and not happy.

On so many topics I learned the hard way that God's way is THE way for a very good reason. From my observations, his rules are not arbitrary, though I thought so when I was young.

The Seaman's said...

When we are young, we think we "got it" but in reality we do not. Looking back, I was so lost, thankfully, He found me!