We in the Anglican Church and throughout the Western world are not facing the marriage crisis. The destruction of marriage has gone far beyond cultural decline. It is today’s most urgent and far reaching crisis of church-state relations and the greatest test facing the church. Under “no-fault” divorce laws, the vows we take to one another before God and our congregations are worthless: The state can simply dissolve them. The state can tear up the contract and the covenant (and marriage is both, the one unable to survive without the other) at the mere request of one spouse without giving any reason and without any “fault” by the other spouse. Once they dissolve the marriage, state officials then seize control of the private lives—children, home, savings, wages, movements—of all family members, however innocent of any legal wrongdoing. In fact, the state typically rewards the guilty spouse and punishes the innocent one, who may be removed from the home, separated from the children, expropriated of all goods, and jailed without trial.
When the state then steps in and abolishes that marriage, without any objection or resistance from their church or fellow Christians, is it any wonder they see no purpose to the church or doubt the sincerity of our faith when it is put to the test? We rightly challenge government officials who permit the killing of the unborn or the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions. But we do not challenge the state when it abolishes marriages altogether—marriages we have witnessed and pledged to support. As long as we tolerate this, our strictures on marriage and our preaching (in the negative sense of “nagging”) about its sanctity will earn us nothing but contempt.
Christians can act to change this. Recognizing that the state has effectively abolished marriage, perhaps it is time to acknowledge that fact ourselves and in the process to demonstrate the value we place on marriage in a way that would cost us something. As a thought exercise, imagine what it would say to the world if the churches refused to consecrate marriages until the state stops tearing them up.
Protestants, given their history and experience with the oppression of the Catholic church, should have known better than to permit the state to horn in on the domain of the Church some 200 odd years ago. They surrendered any influence over marriage when they permitted the state dominion over marriage; it just took this long for the state and public mores to render the Church entirely impotent in the marriage issue.
If marriage is to be saved, it will be a political question. Political as in convincing the people to expel the state from the marriage business entirely, and the business of doling out goodies based on who one keeps house with. Only then will the Church have real influence in marriage once again. In the interim, the Church could do a lot to support marriage not by pitching a hissy about homogamy, but rather by attacking the scourge that is divorce in their own Church body.