All You Need is Love (and a Prenup)
The picture in the Washingtonian magazine perfectly symbolized
a nation with the highest divorce rate in the world. It featured
a wedding cake with a bride and groom on top. Lurking behind them
were two gloomy, dark-suited figures: two little lawyers, each
one holding a copy of the prenuptial agreement.
"Love is all you need—unless the
marriage ends in divorce," wrote Washingtonian editor
Kim Eisler. "Then a prenuptial agreement is the best defense."
He called the prenup "a divorce insurance policy." Well,
that's probably true—but wouldn't it be better for couples
to have a marriage insurance policy?
This is the goal of my friend Mike McManus,
founder of Marriage Savers. McManus points out that most marriages
take place in churches. This means Christians can become a force
for building stronger marriages, and thus help cut the divorce
rate. Many churches try to meet the challenge by requiring long
and demanding periods of prenuptial counseling. The problem is
that many couples will say, "No, thanks," and hold their
wedding at the church down the street where there are no requirements.
To solve this problem, McManus has instituted Community Marriage
Policies—uniform policies and rules that all the local churches
adopt together. Catholic and Protestant, liberal and conservative,
black and white clergy all band together to radically reduce the
community's divorce rate.
Typically, clergy agree to require engaged
couples to undergo four months of marriage preparation including
a premarital inventory to evaluate the maturity of the relationship.
Community Marriage Policies are now in place in more than 186
cities, and the results have been phenomenal.
Last year the Institute for Research and Evaluation
examined the impact of 114 Community Marriage Policies all of
which were signed by the year 2000. The Institute compared counties
that had these policies with similar counties in the same state
that did not have them, taking into account the fact that divorce
rates were generally declining. They found that divorce rates
in cities or counties without a marriage policy fell
by 9.4 percent over seven years. But divorce rates in cities or
counties that did have a Community Marriage Policy fell by 17.5
percent—nearly twice the rate of communities without them.
Dr. Stan Weed, president of the Institute, estimates that between
31,000 and 50,000 divorces were averted.
"Clearly," says McManus, "we
hold in our hands the answer to America's divorce rate."
And he's right.
The troubling question, however, is will
the Church accept the challenge? Brad Wilcox, a sociology professor
at the University of Virginia, writes that America's houses of
worship are "traditionally the most important custodians
of marriage in the nation." And yet, he concludes, they "have
been unable and unwilling to foster the beliefs and virtues that
make for a strong marriage culture."
What an indictment of the Church—one
that we must answer. A pastor who marries any couple that comes
knocking needs to recognize his complicity in America's divorce
epidemic and the perceived need for all those lawyers waving prenups
at the bride and groom.
I hope you'll read Mike McManus's book, Marriage
Savers, and learn more about how your church can help couples
build lasting marriages—and help heal America's divorce
More from Charles Colson on CBN.com
From BreakPoint, Copyright 2005 Prison Fellowship
with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry
of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of
Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."
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