I was pleased to team with my husband Michael a few days ago for a joint appearance, at Seattle’s Town Hall, moderated by National Review’s Jay Nordlinger and sponsored by the Discovery Institute.
Billed as a wide-ranging exploration centered around each of our new books, we weren’t sure where the moderator’s questions would take us. Michael’s The American Miracle: Divine Providence in the Rise of the Republic includes twelve episodes crucial to the forming of our nation– so bizarre they were immediately hailed as the expression of a Higher Power. My book, on the other hand, reveals the forces pushing even happily married couples toward divorce, dismantles the arguments exiting spouses offer, and empowers spouses to reclaim and revitalize their relationships.
The only part of the program we could control was the five minutes each of us were given to describe our books.
Michael headed off the evening dissecting the only three explanations possible for the mind-boggling events that allowed our nation to form and thrive: 1) that Americans cruelly wrested the country from its inhabitants, and exploited slave labor to claw its way to existence (then why weren’t societies that were even more cut-throat anywhere near as successful?), 2) that luck and coincidence conspired to work in our nation’s favor (but a pattern of happy accidents is still a pattern!) and 3) Someone has a plan and a purpose for which America is, as the founders all agreed, an instrument. The logical conclusion is that we are blessed to be part of such a worthwhile and lofty project.
It’s always tough to follow Michael Medved, whose perfect prose, on radio and especially while mesmerizing a live audience, build to a perfect crescendo.
So I started with a question: “Who here knows somebody who’s been divorced?”
The audience chuckles as everyone raises his hand.
And that’s my point–that divorce is so ubiquitous and has scarred so many that preventing it, and gaining the skills to weather inevitable challenges and assaults to relationships will change the essence of our lives, our communities and our entire culture.
Instead of seeing marriage as the beginning of adulthood, now a generation that suffered through their parents’ divorces feels they’ve got to get their own lives in order–with grad school, job experience and living on their own–before the serious commitment of marriage.
And even then, many young people don’t trust their marriages will endure. I’ve heard wedding vows where the couple pledges to stay “as long as our love shall last.” I’ve heard fiancees confide that while they hope their marriages will be permanent, they’re well aware they “can always get a divorce.” This is the legacy of no-fault divorce and a generation normalizing split-ups. This is a me-first culture (got an iPhone?) that rationalizes putting their own temporal feelings above their children’s futures, mouthing the falsehood “children are resilient.”
The moderator, National Review Senior Editor Jay Nordlinger, asked each of us a handful of questions plucked from assertions in Michael’s and my books, and then the audience let loose with their objections, queries and observations. In all, a lively, uplifting and intellectually challenging occasion.
So–what is the commonality between our nation’s founding and our marriages? It could be that in successful marriages, just as in the ongoing flourishing of our country (despite the peculiarities of current events) God’s Hand is evident. Nearly every couple sees coincidences in their coupling, just as our national leaders could discern times and events where a special force carried them through. It is a sensitivity to this larger plan and the many privileges and blessings we enjoy that enriches our daily experience and allows gratitude to over-ride the difficulties of life.