Andrew J. Cherlin is a sociologist and the author of ‘The Marriage-Go Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today.’ He’s apparently studied marriage for three decades, which is sad because he doesn’t seem to have learned very much over the years.
Amazon.com’s plug for the new book reads:
Andrew J. Cherlin’s three decades of study have shown him that marriage in America is a social and political battlefield in a way that it isn’t in other developed countries. Americans marry and divorce more often and have more live-in partners than Europeans, and gay Americans have more interest in legalizing same-sex marriage. The difference comes from Americans’ embrace of two contradictory cultural ideals: marriage, a formal commitment to share one’s life with another; and individualism, which emphasizes personal choice and self-development. Religion and law in America reinforce both of these behavioral poles, fueling turmoil in our family life and heated debate in our public life.
Wrong. Marriage and individualism are only “contradictory cultural ideals” in the world of clueless sociologist clowns writing pseudo-intellectual psycho-babble in the Opinion section of the New York Times.
Here’s an excerpt from Cherlin’s NYT’s piece, which oddly enough never mentions the words ‘God’ or ‘love’ once:
IT’S surprising how many people still marry. As everyone knows, it’s a risky proposition; the divorce rate, though down from its peak of one in two marriages in the early 1980s, remains substantial. Besides, you can have a perfectly respectable life these days without marrying. …
Marriage has become a status symbol — a highly regarded marker of a successful personal life. This transformed meaning is evident in the Obama administration’s briefs in the two same-sex marriage cases now in front of the Supreme Court. Those documents reflect, in part, the assumption that marriage represents not only a bundle of rights but also a privileged position. …
In the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Justice Department wrote that marriage “confers a special validation of the relationship between two individuals and conveys a message to society that domestic partnerships or civil unions cannot match.” …
Today, marriage is more discretionary than ever, and also more distinctive. It is something young adults do after they and their live-in partners have good jobs and a nice apartment. It has become the capstone experience of personal life — the last brick put in place after everything else is set. People marry to show their family and friends how well their lives are going, even if deep down they are unsure whether their partnership will last a lifetime.
How is it possible to write an entire op-ed on marriage and not mention the words ‘love’ or ‘God’ once? As of 2010, roughly 75 million Catholics live in the United States, and yet no mention of God, Mr. Cherlin? Gallup found that as of 2012, 77% of Americans identify with a Christian religion, and yet no mention of God, Mr. Cherlin? I suppose it’s much easier to redefine marriage when one takes any mention of God out of the equation and replaces religious elements with words like “status symbol” and “capstone,” but one would think that academics with an agenda would hide their tracks a little easier. The smart kid who cheats on his spelling test always gets a few wrong on purpose because a 100% by a kid who has never shown he was capable of delivering such a score is mighty fishy. In short, Mr. Cherlin is probably not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.
But I digress. Back to the issue at hand, which is that marriage and individualism are not contradictory in the least. The astute reader will realize that there is another word missing from Cherlin’s opinion piece: ‘compromise.’
It is entirely possible for two people to embrace individualism while also being 100% dedicated to another person. The two are not mutually exclusive, and anyone who understands the nature of compromise knows the two can coexist.
Since Mr. Cherlin is afraid to touch the Bible, I will. Mark 10:6 – 10:9 reads:
“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together let no man separate.”
Again, perhaps I’m just a rube, but if tens of millions of Americans draw some sort of basic understanding about the nature of marriage from the Bible, it might be worth maybe-sorta-kinda looking into it. Just a thought.
Regardless, my point stands: On the most important level, I do not view myself as a separate entity from my wife because we are spiritually tied together. We are spiritually one. And so, it would make no sense for me to not try and aid her in reaching her full potential, just as I’m sure she feels the same way about me and my long-term goals.
If I were to lash out and hurt my wife, I would be hurting myself. If I was to cause her unnecessary emotional distress, it would ultimately be my own spirit that was damaged. There is no reason for me to work at odds with my wife because it would be similar to me picking up something with my left hand and then slapping it out with my right. It would make no sense.
Mr. Cherlin’s refusal to try and understand what individualism is to a man and a woman who see themselves as spiritually one unit hurts him. It’s a very complex subject, which is another reason why I suspect he avoided it all together.
With that said, I might still buy ‘The Marriage-Go Round: The State of Marriage and the Family in America Today,’ if for no other reason than to make me laugh.
And since this blog is supposed to mix politics with pop culture, here’s another analogy for marriage: the “mind meld” from Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. For sociologists who are too scared to study the Bible, it’s a dumbed-down version of two essentially becoming one.