At the beginning of the year, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York apologised because of a Church of England document which said marriage is between one man and one woman.
There followed a strong backlash from the evangelical community. Given that the statement simply articulated the historic, orthodox, theological and Biblical position of the church on the question of God-honouring sex for the last 2,000 years, it did strike me as odd, if not downright absurd, that the Archbishops felt the need to say sorry.
Now, I’m not an Anglican and I’m very aware there are ongoing discussions within the Anglican Community with respect to human sexuality. But this habit of apologising for marriage is not unique to the Archbishops. It’s a problem inflicting many of our politicians as well.
Sadly, there’s been a complete failure within Westminster to join the dots when it comes to connecting family breakdown and societal problems. For example, family breakdown has been rising within the UK for some time. The cost is estimated to be £51billion. We also know from research a few years ago that family breakdown is one of the direct causes of poverty within the UK.
Good for all of society
Based on the abundance of evidence out there, it’s a simple enough conclusion to reach that marriage is good. It’s good for children and young people. It’s good for adults. It’s good for the whole of society. It is something we should unashamedly celebrate. And it’s also something our government should support through public policy.
For far too long our politicians have been afraid to champion this force for good. Afraid of being judgemental of single parents and others they have instead become judgemental of marriage itself. Speak too loudly, or too proudly, of marriage as having a social benefit and you’ll quickly be shot down.
This backward attitude towards the institution of marriage has reflected itself in public policy. Take the marriage tax break. Currently, it’s a mere 10% and it only reappeared in the UK tax system in 2015 after decades of absence. On the one hand, praise God it’s there at all. On the other, it’s too small to be meaningful and offers little by way of any real incentive. Despite ample evidence that increasing it would be, surprise, surprise, of huge benefit, the government continues to resist calls for a larger one. Research a few years ago also demonstrated that there is no lack of desire among the general population for marriage, but for too many it’s financially unobtainable.
Easier to divorce
Another prime example of how little the government thinks of marriage is the divorce law ‘reforms’, which will soon apply in England and Wales. These were rushed through Parliament, minimising the time for proper scrutiny. The reforms will make divorce easier and not provide adequate time for reflection, which is precisely the opposite of what we should be doing.
So, what’s to be done? A government Minister with responsibilities for families should be created. The marriage tax break should be expanded. And politicians should stop hiding behind ‘political correctness’ and start using the evidence to inform policies. Pro-marriage, pro-family policies will help strengthen social cohesion in our country.
This is no surprise. God invented marriage. Praise God for adoption, praise God for fostering, for brilliant single parents who work so hard in such difficult circumstances. And praise God for marriage, a glorious institution and one we should all celebrate, loudly and proudly.
James Mildred is Head of Communications for CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) www.care.org.uk (and was recently married)