For Christians, marriage between a man and a woman is a reflection of God’s intimate relationship with His people. Our understanding of marriage is central to understanding our faith and vice versa. So it’s troubling that a new survey finds cohabitation acceptable to a significant sector of the American Church.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 74% of Catholics and 76% of white non-evangelical Protestants in the U.S. believe that it’s acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together, even if they never plan to marry.
The survey, released Wednesday (Nov. 6), also found that more than half of white non-evangelical Protestants (57%) and black Protestants (59%) believe cohabiting couples can raise children as well as married couples. Interestingly, 73% of Hispanic Catholics and 48% of white Catholics share the same view.
Among other key findings, the survey reported that married couples express higher levels of relationship satisfaction and trust compared to cohabitating couples. (It seems there is an application gap among the religiously affiliated.)
It’s interesting a majority of the respondents surveyed–including those Catholics and non-evangelical white Protestants affirming cohabitation–are married. For this research, Pew surveyed 9,834 U.S. adults, which included 5,579 married adults and 880 cohabitating adults. You can read more about the Pew survey here.
So what happens when Christians increasingly find cohabitation acceptable? There will inevitably be a breakdown in our reflection of God’s love for His people.
Susan Cyre, a Presbyterian scholar and author, explains that our human marriages are signposts proclaiming God’s unfailing love in her new book From Genesis to Revelation God Takes a Bride: The Divine Marriage of Which Human Marriage is an Image.
“The marriage covenant shows us the depth of God’s love for us, in that the holy God, Creator of all that exists, unites himself to us, a broken and sinful people,” she writes. “And it is only when we accept that God’s union with his people is actually a marriage that we can understand what the marriage of a man and a woman should be and do.”
The Church must lead the way, says Cyre.
When the Church fails to lead, the result is a revisionist marriage culture that normalizes not only cohabitation but of divorce, adultery, hook-ups, and same-sex unions. When the Church fails to champion marriage, we fail to point the lost towards the Almighty.