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Oprah on Marriage

I am currently attempting to finish notes for my upcoming class that I will be teaching at Southwestern Seminary. The class is entitled "The Christian Home" and the catalog description states that it is a "study of the biblical and theological foundations of the Christian home. Students will be equipped to apply sound moral standards in their relationships at home and to build strong families." As a result my life for the last few weeks has been consumed by all things family. Everything I have read deals with the family. All my thoughts have considered family. Even my Sunday School class has been dealing with marriage and family issues. Typically, I keep my resources on marriage and family pretty reliable; however, I found a new one today—Oprah.com. Go ahead, insert snide remark here!

Actually, while perusing CNN.com, I found an article entitled, "Questions to ask before you get married." While linked to CNN, it was attributed to Oprah.com (the author is Susan Piver, not Oprah). Reading the article caused my mind to return to the premarital counseling that my wife and I had with our pastor prior to our wedding (by the way, he required it in order to perform the wedding ceremony). Even though I would not recommend Oprah or her website as a legitimate source for marital counseling, I am encouraged by many of the questions posed in the article. Here is a sample…

Question 1: What percentage of our income are we prepared to spend to purchase and maintain our home on a monthly or annual basis?
Question 2: Who is responsible for keeping our house and yard cared for and organized? Are we different in our needs for cleanliness and organization?
Question 3: How much money do we earn together? Now? In one year? In five years? Ten? Who is responsible for which portion? Now? In one year? Five? Ten?
Question 4: What is our ultimate financial goal regarding annual income, and when do we anticipate achieving it? By what means and through what efforts?
Question 5: What are our categories of expense (rent, clothing, insurance, travel)? How much do we spend monthly, annually, in each category? How much do we want to be able to spend?
Question 6: How much time will each of us spend at work, and during what hours? Do we begin work early? Will we prefer to work into the evening?
Question 7: If one of us doesn't want to work, under what circumstances, if any, would that be okay?
Question 13: What place does the other's family play in our family life? How often do we visit or socialize together? If we have out-of-town relatives, will we ask them to visit us for extended periods? How often?
Question 14: If we have children, what kind of relationship do we hope our parents will have with their grandchildren? How much time will they spend together?
Question 15: Will we have children? If so, when? How many? How important is having children to each of us?
Question 16: How will having a child change the way we live now? Will we want to take time off from work, or work a reduced schedule? For how long? Will we need to rethink who is responsible for housekeeping?
Question 19: Do we share a religion? Do we belong to a church, synagogue, mosque or temple? More than one? If not, would our relationship benefit from such an affiliation?
Question 20: Does one of us have an individual spiritual practice? Is the practice and the time devoted to it acceptable to the other? Does each partner understand and respect the other's choices?

Now I admit that the spiritual questions toward the end get a little hokey, but at least they are being asked. Here are some questions from our premarital counseling with Pastor Bill Bowyer…

1. Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you are certain that if you were to die today, you would go to heaven?

2. How long have you known your fiancée? On a scale of 1–20, how well would you say you know your future mate?

3. Have you been married before?

4. Why do you want to marry?

5. What do your parents feel about your relationship and this potential marriage?

6. How would you define marital love?

7. What is your opinion on divorce?

8. Are you financially prepared for the financial costs of marriage?

9. What does the statement, "Lordship of Christ" mean? How should this concept affect a marriage?

10. Are you currently building a pure relationship? (i.e., Are you living together? etc.)

11. Can you honestly say that you want God’s perfect will for your life and that this marriage fits in that will?

Those questions came during the first session as well as the following points of a premarital and marital covenant that included…

1. I will remain celibate (sexually pure) until our wedding day and from that day forward give myself only to my spouse.

2. I will never divorce my spouse.

3. I will never physically or emotionally abuse my spouse.

4. I will, unless providentially hindered, be in church worshipping with my family on the Lord’s Day.

5. I will raise any children that God gives us to love the Lord Jesus Christ and His church.

6. I will, in the event that my spouse and I have problems or disagreements that we cannot seem to resolve, seek with my spouse Bible-based Christian counseling to help us resolve our problems.

7. I will attend premarital counseling sessions with a pastor.

I believe we had a total of five sessions (I could be mistaken) with our pastor, and once those were concluded, he approved of performing our wedding ceremony. Other sessions included questions and discussions on character traits that we appreciated about each other, the biblical concept of marriage presented in Gen 2:18–25 and Eph 5:22–33, communication, financial goals and expectations, and other items related to the first few years of marriage.

The reasons that premarital counseling, and even the questions that Oprah raises, are important are abundantly obvious in our culture. Just look at the prevalence of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, adultery, etc. It is out of control, and not just in "secular" society—it is out of control in the church. Here are some statistics that I gathered for my class:

· In 2006, 9.8% of American adults were currently divorced (and not remarried) and 2.1% were separated. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2005, 5% of all American households were composed of unmarried couples of the opposite sex. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2001, 21% of all adult American men and 23.1% of all adult American women had been divorced. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2005 there were 3.6 divorces per 1,000 people in the US. Given that there were 7.5 marriages per 1,000 people, the divorce is around 48%. (US Census Bureau)

· In 2001, 13% of Protestant pastors had been divorced at least once. (The Barna Group)

· In 2001, 25% of self-identified born-again individuals had co-habited. (The Barna Group)

· In 2004, 35% of self-identified born-again individuals had been divorced, which is incidence among non-born-again individuals. (The Barna Group)

· As of 2004, 23% of married born-again individuals get divorced two or more times. (The Barna Group)

· In 2004, only one out of every seven adults (15%) strongly agreed with the statement "when a couple gets divorced without one of them having committed adultery, they are committing a sin." A similar percentage (16%) moderately agreed with the statement. The vast majority (66%) disagreed with the statement, most of them strongly dismissing the notion. (The Barna Group)

· In 2003, compared to married couples who did not cohabit before marriage, couples who cohabited before marriage were 65% more likely to separate and only one-third as likely to reconcile following a separation. (Heritage Foundation)

The statistics are sad and show that even many Christians do not take marriage and family issues seriously. We need to change our perspective and get serious about recovering the priority of marriage and family.