Gabe Lyons, author of The Next Christians, said the degrading health of traditional marriage, thanks to the hook-up culture and other maladies, was a far bigger problem for America than a possible proliferation of same-sex marriage legalization.
“Christians need to be having rigorous, civil dialogues about marriage and sexuality that go beyond the issues of same-sex relationships,” Lyons wrote in an article published in The Huffington Post Sunday, the day New York’s gay marriage law came into force.
The young evangelical leader pointed out that shame no longer kept divorce and infidelity from being “commonplace fixtures” in American culture. “This degradation of marriage is due, not to the 2.8 percent of those who identify as LGBT in our society, but to the heterosexuals with spoiled marriages and the increasingly popular hook-up culture in the younger generation.”
Lyons articulated what appeared to be the key point of his article by quoting Dr. Robert George of Princeton University: “The problem with marriage in our culture isn’t same-sex marriage. It lies in heterosexual sexual activity in and outside of marriage.”
Lyons, co-author of UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters, said there were many ways to influence and to engage American culture’s definitions of marriage and sexuality.
“Only a small portion of the American population, after all, identifies as gay or lesbian,” he said, adding that while a few states legally recognized same-sex unions, the majority of states had laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
While New York has become the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage, there are 29 other states that have constitutional bans on gay marriage and 12 more that have laws against it. Of the six states with same-sex marriage provisions, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were directed to allow gay marriage by court orders.
About the levels of acceptance of gay marriage among Americans, polls have not had consistent projections. However, a recent poll by the Calif.-based Alliance Defense Fund Christian legal group showed that 62 percent of Americans say marriage should be defined “only as a union between one man and one woman.”
Lyons said Christians had a great task ahead, and “fortunately for us, momentum plays in our favor.”
He cited the latest Census data pointing out that over 77 percent of couples married since 1990 made it to their tenth anniversary.
“That’s an increase from 74% in the 1980s, when divorce rates were at an all-time high,” he noted. “A stunning statistic, considering most divorces in first marriages happen within eight years, and many of us believe the well-publicized line that ‘over half of all marriages end in divorce.’”
With a sense of hope, the author said, Christians must be poised to lead a discussion not just about the biblical definition of marriage, “but also how to choose a spouse, how to maintain healthy marriages, and how to weather the storms of marriage that every couple must face.”
How can Christians who care deeply about traditional marriage move forward in this new era? “By focusing on what we can control – loving our spouses, serving our families, renewing our commitment to help others whose marriages are failing, and by engaging with the youngest generations on what it looks like for them to pursue healthy sexuality,” Lyons suggested.
Lyons comes across as an optimist in his writing, which is a contrast to many other evangelical leaders who paint a gloomy picture of America’s future. In his book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America, released in October 2010, he agrees that the current system of Christianity in America is dying, but he also shows that a new generation of Christians that is rising has a desire to restore the world as God intended. And that’s his hope.
The author is equally optimistic about the outcome of the New York gay marriage law.
“If the recent New York law becomes the impetus for Christians to stop reacting and start leading in these ways, it may be the best thing that’s happened to traditional marriage in more than a generation,” Lyons concludes, looking at the brighter side of what most evangelical Christians see as a tragic trend.