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Tom Freier, Published August 26 2013

Letter: Writer flips marriage’s cause-and-effect factors

In an Aug. 18 column, Amanda Hess would have us believe marriage is an inaccessible option for working-class Americans, requiring high incomes to throw money at their intimate relationships to keep them stable. Hess’ anecdotal stories are far and away the exceptions rather than the rule.

Unfortunately, Hess has reversed her assessment of the cause and effect. Overwhelming research documents that healthy marriages result in average or above-average family incomes. The stability of these homes results in a high percentage of their children being well-educated, getting good jobs and eventually marrying. The stability of the intact family anchored by traditional marriage perpetuates itself. This is a good thing. Society in general, but specifically American society, has benefited from the common good of traditional marriage for years.

Society benefits

By every measurement, on the macro, society has benefited from the stability of the institution of marriage. Intact families include children who do better in school, are less prone to use drugs, require less discipline, achieve technical training skills or a college degree and secure good-paying jobs. The intact family provides the safest environment for women, where there is less abuse, the greatest opportunities for achievement and fulfillment and by far the lowest levels of poverty. Married men perform better at their work, to a great degree in response to their sense of financial responsibility to their family. And by the way, happily married men live longer.


Conversely, for those not part of an intact family, on average, children do not perform as well in school, women are at greater risk for abuse, abandonment and poverty, and men’s work performance is at a lower level. So if Hess’ goal is that the middle class should live the American dream and sustain a financially stable lifestyle, she should be extolling traditional marriage. Marriage is the foundational basis, the cause that leads to the effect or outcome she is seeking.

Ness references traditional American marriage as “obligatory,” rooted in “male authority,” backed by “both religious and legal mandates.” This is in no way an accurate assessment of Scripturally based Christian teachings on marriage. Genesis speaks to this new union “and they shall be one flesh,” clearly denoting the two shall become one in marriage. Ephesians 5 tell us “husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it,” instructing men as to the ultimate degree of commitment to their wife. What greater love and compassion can there be?

Not about money

Ness fails to understand the common good of traditional marriage recognized throughout the centuries as the cultural foundation of society. She trivializes the institution of marriage, and it is indeed an institution, by flippantly opining that the “the working class has been priced out of the institution,” insinuating that only the rich can have a successful marriage. My parents were anything but rich and were happily married for 53 years. Millions of those of meager means have had the very strongest of marriages.

Most certainly the institution of marriage has suffered setbacks over the past 50 years, being affected by cohabitation, no-fault divorce, non-marital childbearing and the same-sex marriage debate. In the midst of these setbacks, there is no greater cause for the American people than to restore and preserve the institution of marriage that it might provide for the common good of society, but most of all, for the well-being of children and the children to come.

Freier is executive director of the North Dakota Family Alliance.