American common law definitions of marriage were historically shaped by the influence of Christianity. In God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition, John Witte Jr. does an excellent job of explaining the formation of marriage law, writing that what defined marriage for centuries in the West was its emphasis on procreation and fidelity, and the institution’s sanctity, civil use in curbing vices and establishing the foundation for education, and usefulness in maturing a couple’s Christian faith. This understanding no longer exists in our culture, and some argue that when Americans began divorcing in high numbers, redefined marital sexuality via contraception use, and reduced marriage to mere commitment, it set the stage for our current same-sex marriage debate.

Because church-going evangelicals divorce at high rates, this community of believers has lost its moral authority to defend the indissolvable nature of marriage. For example, I recently gave a lecture at New York University advocating the traditional view of marriage and was asked: “Then why is the divorce rate among conservative Christians so high?” It was a great question. I wish the divorce rate for believers was 0 percent. I couldn’t say much in defense. It seems that many Christians have forgotten that the Lord hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

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