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Why Marriage Is At Risk In America Today

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse has forged a remarkable academic career from a combination of two fields of study – economics and marriage – whose intricate relationship is rarely addressed. She is founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which "promotes life-long married love to college students by creating an intellectual and social climate favorable to marriage." She is also Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester.

Dr. Morse has authored two books: Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World and Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work. Her articles have appeared in Forbes, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, and at National Review Online. She and her husband live in San Diego, and are the parents of both an adopted and a birth child, and former foster parents to eight children.

How did you go from being an economist to an expert and outspoken advocate of marriage?

The whole subject of marriage is just endlessly fascinating. It’s the core way that people organize themselves into societies. It’s our most natural social urge. The sexual urge is basically a social urge … to connect with another person, to reproduce and bring a new person into being. As an economist, I realized that marriage and the culture of marriage are really a significant part of the social infrastructure that makes a free society possible. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.

"There have been a lot of proposals to replace marriage with something else."

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

What are some of the ways our culture is trying to substitute other relationships or family units for the traditional family? Why don’t those substitutions work?

There have been a lot of proposals to replace marriage with something else. One substitute is never-married parents – women having children without ever being married, without having any intention of being married. Another is cohabitation. People live together and maybe have kids together, but they never get married. The darkest substitute that I see is the whole phenomenon of artificial reproduction, not simply for desperate infertile married couples but for anyone to do anything they want.

That possibility – that I could have a baby by myself when I’m 40 – means that I’m thinking about marriage and courtship decisions differently. It represents a complete retreat from the most basic social human relationship. Rather than children coming into being from an act of love, they are coming into being from a series of commercial and legal transactions where their mother and father never even see each other. Something completely unnatural, never heard of before in human history … and our government is making this possible and thinking it’s a good thing. The same-sex "marriage" issue relates to all of this – it’s having the impact of saying that artificial reproduction is an entitlement.

How is the church in America today responding to these attacks on marriage?

You have some pastors who are really out front and center and making a great contribution in this area. And you have other churches who just wish the whole thing would go away. There are a number of issues that relate to marriage besides same-sex "marriage" that the churches have neglected … and if you’ve neglected the issue of divorce, of cohabitation, of responsible procreation – if you haven’t really addressed those issues thoroughly – it’s a lot harder to just jump up all of a sudden and say, "Oh my gosh, gays and lesbians are trying to get married. We’d better do something about it!" You’re not credible, and your heart’s not in it in the same way.

Are we winning the war for marriage in America today?

If you look at elections, we’re winning the war on marriage. No doubt about it. We’re winning the war at the ballot box. Anytime marriage goes up on a straight up-or-down vote, it wins.

Where we keep losing is in the courts, and the reason has to do with the way the elites of our society view marriage. The people who go to the top law schools, who teach at the top universities, the advertising departments of many of the major corporations – those people have already decided that marriage has nothing particularly to do with children and is really just about how adults feel with one another … and if that’s all that marriage is, well, then, of course two same-sex people should be allowed to get married.

"If you look at elections, we’re winning the war on marriage. Anytime marriage goes up on a straight up-or-down vote, it wins."

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
So, we have to articulate for the elites of our culture a coherent and attractive view of marriage as an organic institution that does include children and that is a social institution – not just a glorified private institution. That’s what we’re about at the Ruth Institute, and that’s what the Alliance Defense Fund is involved in. We’re all trying to create that coherent vision that is appealing that people can embrace, rather than this kind of consumerist view, which is "Marriage is about me and how I feel and what I want, and when I’m done with the person I can just throw them away." Because that’s what’s behind the whole decay of the marriage culture.

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