By Scott Keith –
We all have that dance at one point we really enjoyed, but now just want to forget. For me, it was the Electric Slide. I was good at. It was fun while it lasted. I sometimes will still do it when nobody is looking, but no longer will I plan my Friday nights around it. The sad fact is that the Electric Slide is just passé. Yeah, occasionally you’ll find people that are still “in-to-it,” but being “in-to-it” is certainly not the norm anymore.
This week, The Telegraph, a newspaper in the UK, reported that by 2016 most children in the UK would be born out of wedlock. “The proportion of children born to unmarried mothers hit a record 47.5 percent last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. The figure has risen from 25 percent in 1988 and just 11 percent in 1979. If the trend continues at the current rate, the majority of children will be born to parents who are not married by 2016.”
The state of affairs is not much better here. U.S. marriage rates have attained new lows. In 1970 about 74 marriages occurred annually for every 1,000 unmarried women. By 2012, the marriage rate had declined by nearly 60%, dropping to 31 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women.
The descent in marriage rates for millennials is even more pronounced. In 1960, a little over two-thirds (68%) of all those in their twenties were married. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2008, just 26% were married. Today an unprecedented fraction of millennials will remain unmarried through age 40. An Urban Institute report predicted that the marriage rate might drop to 70%. This is a number, which is well below rates for Baby Boomers (91%), late Baby Boomers (87%), and even the Punk Rock Gen-Xers (82%).
The reality that fewer and fewer millennials choose to marry is also a reflection of modern social attitudes that reject the institution of marriage as antiquated and outdated, much like the Electric Slide. I have heard time and time again that it is time to embrace new ideas about romance and family—and to acknowledge the end of traditional marriage as society’s highest ideal.
The culture of narcissism in which we live has devalued togetherness and sacrifice and elevated an odd type of independence and selfishness. It’s not that the goal is to be “independent.” No, on the contrary, this is an independence, which desires dependence on parents, organizations, and structures, yet wishes to remain from being depended upon.
Liberty to pursue one’s own desires, free from the burden of another’s demands, opinions, or encumbrances seem to be the goal. But is this really true freedom or liberty? What does it mean to be free and how is that freedom provided? I’m sure there are many answers to these important questions, and I would not presume to say that I know what they all are. But, I can say that I don’t think the turn away from marriage is a choice made in freedom, but rather one made in fear.
Young adults today are afraid that they will never be truly happy. They are afraid that they will never find Mr. of Mrs. “right.” They are afraid that if they marry, their marriage will fail. They fear that the other person will get in the way of their life plans. They are afraid that they won’t have enough money to throw the giant ridiculous party that we call a wedding. Most are afraid that they are just not ready because they have not ticked as many items off of their bucket list as they would prefer.
And thus, restraint becomes the key to understanding the fear of marriage, I think. Restraint is the key because true freedom is lost. Fear is the norm because hope is nowhere to be found. Love is replaced with a false ideal of romance because true love requires sacrifice and the risk of love lost. When fear determines one’s every move, then fear grips the heart so that it cannot reach out to the other, nor does it desire to.
Our inclination is always to return to the law; it is in our nature. It is literally written on our hearts.
As Paul writes in Romans 2, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” The accusations of the law are paralyzing, that is literally the intent of the law to convict, restrain, and accuse.
Yet, because our culture seems so libertine we believe that the law does not bind it, but it does. It is not freedom that drives this disregard of morality, especially in sexual and relationship matters. Rather it is the lack of connection to the other that only comes when one is set free to truly love. But instead, we continually demand that the law, or at least our sense of it, free us.
If freedom is what is desired, and I think it is, it is only the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ that will produce this freedom. Christ lays waste to the slavery of the law. He literally breaks the chains that bind us. The Gospel bursts in and removes our selfish notions of love and replaces it with a love that is based on the fact that Christ first loved us. It is when Christ sets us free from the burden of the requirement to love and serve that we actually become free to do just that.
When joining together with another saved-sinner is seen from the perspective of freedom, it gains a sense of liberty that it could have never otherwise had. No longer will fear grip the perspective bride or groom, but freedom to love. The love of Christ is that thing which originally freed us, and it is that thing which in turn frees us to love. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Now let’s face it, the Electric Slide was a great dance! No one does it anymore because it has fallen into cultural disapproval, much like marriage. But if we all felt free from ridicule, contempt, and the accusation of our friends, we would do the Electric Slide at every party. If young adults felt free to love and serve because they knew that Christ has set them free and that He has got everything covered, they might decide to connect again in marriage. Therefore I propose that we bring back the Electric Slide and we bring back marriage. You are free to dance, and you are free to love and serve each other in the most intimate bond imaginable. For the freedom of Christ has set you free!