Previous installments in this series:
Defaulting to a Conservative Position
Short of choosing to follow Christ, we make no more important decision than that of whom we will marry. If we are conservatives, then we should approach any radical restructuring of the mate selection process very cautiously.
If the essential tenet of liberalism is the perfectibility of man, then the corollary for conservatives is the Depravity of Man. Because of man’s wickedness, his natural state is one of death and destruction. Thus, any good in this world is not only the gift of God but also against the very grain of human nature and society.
At the peak of Christian influence, God’s Providence had provided those of us in the Western world and especially in America with a remarkable wealth of things that were truly good, like functioning families, plentiful food, and individual rights against the state. Things were not perfect, but our civilization had reached a height previously unachieved in post-Fall history.
Because of our forebears, we still enjoy material prosperity and a decent remnant of individual rights, though we are surely spendthrifts drawing quickly on our ancestors’ accumulated moral capital. Nevertheless, the good we enjoy is not the norm in our world today nor is it the norm historically.
Conservatism simply acknowledges that change must move slowly, as the natural estate of man is death and decay, and the good must be preserved as something rather fragile. It is not a blind rejection of all change, but instead represents a shifting of the burden of proof against change for change’s sake.
From a historical, conservative Christian perspective, the prospect of even inter-national marriages, much less interracial marriage, is radical. We must, absent substantial proof to the contrary, endorse the Biblical and historical norm of people marrying within their own nation, especially when we consider the circumstances under which this norm came to be challenged.
Unfortunately, the ascent of humanism and its unifying myth of the Brotherhood of Man occurred so quickly on a historical scale that we went in one generation from a society in which interracial marriage was unthinkable to a society where it is positively endorsed by almost unanimous public consensus. Let us examine the track record of humanism in its effect on American marriages. The following graphic from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the divorce rate in the United States increased by 400% between 1921-3 and 1981-3:
Obviously it would be ridiculous to suggest that interracial marriages, being such a small portion of the overall population, caused the increase in divorce rates. However, if we can establish that humanist attitudes are at the root of both phenomena, then we can reasonably reject the other as insufficiently proven against the conservative position of preserving the good against capricious and radical change. Notice in particular the acceleration in the divorce rate starting at right about 1965, the year in which humanist attitudes of equality reached enormous consensus in the passage of federal laws forbidding liberty of conscience and association in hiring and housing.
The transition from a rural, Christian society where interracial marriage was literally impossible for most people to one where its endorsement is publicly coerced occurred so quickly that no actual debate over the practice ever took place. It went from an example of abomination to affirmation in less than one generation.
This is why reviewing literature of the past on interracial marriage can seem disconcerting and unpalatable to the modern sensibility. In an era of universal agreement that such a practice was undesirable, intelligent writers often made broad sweeping statements that can seem offensive or insensitive in a context where interracial marriage is tolerated and encouraged. Unfortunately, the rapid transition afforded its opponents little opportunity to craft arguments to defend the wisdom of the past.
It is thus left to us to feel our way into the future, dealing with the prejudice of both the past and present to chart a wise and fruitful course.
Given the importance of marriage and its qualitative decline over the same period, we must be extremely cautious in any accepting any marriage practice endorsed by the same modern spirit that has yielded so much rotten fruit in our families, churches and nation.
Divorce and Interracial Marriage
The data available indicate that interracial marriages present an increased risk of divorce.
The most definitive data comes from a 2002 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This report revealed that the ten-year probability of divorce in a first marriage for individuals of the same race is 31%, while the risk for those of different races is 41%. Thus, interracial marriage introduces a 32% increased risk of divorce.
The following table presents the risk of divorce based on various risk factors defined by the study:
||1o-Year Divorce Rate
||Divorce Rate Absent This Risk Factor
||% Increased Risk
|Cohabitation Before Marriage
|History of Anxiety Disorder
|High School Dropout
Parents advising children contemplating marriage have always played an important role in ensuring that objective measures of marriage success (employment, religious background, etc.) are considered by cooler heads than those involved in a passionate emotional relationship.
Many parents are mindful of such factors on a preventative basis, for example when selecting a college with an appropriate moral and culture environment for a daughter. Most Christian parents also communicate explicitly with their children about the risks of certain behaviors relative to marital success, such as warning against cohabitation and stressing the importance of the religious devotion of potential mates. Fathers of daughters are rightly concerned about any young man’s career prospects and his ability to support a wife and children. Since the data show that race is at least as important a factor in marital success as any of these other unquestionably legitimate factors, this would seem to definitely settle the question that parents may instruct their children in the wisdom of selecting a mate of their own race, nation and culture.
Now, some may object to parental objection on the basis of race as unfair because race is what we call an “immutable” characteristic of a person, something they cannot change. First, there is no Biblical basis for “fairness” to all potential mates.
Parents are to provide guidance in finding suitable mates, not ensure their daughter provides “equal opportunity” to all regardless of objective risks to the relationship. Second, on the rather limited timescale of romance, engagement and marriage, other supposedly “fair” characteristics are equally immutable. Let’s consider some of the other risk factors: income, religiosity and cohabitation.
In the course of a year or two, most suitors would be unable to significantly raise their income. Any newfound religious conviction coincident with an interest in one’s daughter should be regarded suspiciously, and cohabitation (and its corollary, pre-marital sexual relations) can’t be “undone”.
Each of these supposedly legitimate risk factors are often as immutable as race. I believe it more likely that guilt-inducing media propaganda on race explains any queasiness over its exclusion as a legitimately considered risk factor than any logical argument for ignoring it.
The data show that parental concern over interracial marriage has a legitimate basis. Those who argue for prescriptive condemnations of parental concern for interracial marriage are mistaken in their assumptions that all such sentiments are motivated by hate or racism.
Divorce is an epidemic in contemporary Western society, even among the churched. Arguably, divorce is the major foreseeable, preventable negative life event that responsible parenting can help mitigate with helpful, age-appropriate advice on mate selection.
As hard as it is to fathom, race is more important than religion among divorce risk factors. This speaks to either the weakness of our churches in teaching the necessity of obedience to God’s Law on marriage or the primacy of nationality and race in God’s created order, of its fundamental nature in determining the ability of two human beings to enter into a successful lasting marriage. I believe it speaks to both. We need to teach God’s Law and inform our children of those practices most likely to succeed.
An argument of difference and of a divine ordained order does not imply the noxious questions of superiority and inferiority. Theologian R.J. Rushdoony writes:
“Unequal yoking plainly means mixed marriages between believers and unbelievers is clearly forbidden. But Deuteronomy 22:10 not only forbids unequal yoking by inference, and as a case law, but also unequal yoking generally. This means that an unequal marriage between believers or between unbelievers is wrong. Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and woman is the reflected image of God in man, and from man (1 Cor. 11:1-12; Gen. 2:18, 21-23). ‘Helpmeet’ means a reflection or a mirror, an image of man, indicating that a woman must have something religiously and culturally in common with her husband. The burden of the law is thus against inter-religious, inter-racial, and inter-cultural marriages, in that they normally go against the very community which marriage is designed to establish.
“Unequal yoking means more than marriage. In society at large it means the enforced integration of various elements which are not congenial. Unequal yoking is in no realm productive of harmony; rather, it aggravates the differences and delays the growth of the different elements toward a Christian harmony and association… Cross-cultural marriages are thus normally a failure… A man can identify character within his culture, but he cannot do more than identify the general character of another culture.”
Continued in Part Four…
1. As a Calvinist, I believe God chose me, so this phrase is somewhat self-contradictory, though it may seem like a choice from a human perspective.
2. Many theologians refer to this as common grace, like the rain that falls on both the “just and unjust”.
3. The great English common law is simply an informal “natural law” system based on the Ten Commandments.
4. Fallen man is always chasing after some vain, new thing, whereas Scripture declares “there is nothing new under the sun.”
5. As covered earlier, the word “nation” in a Biblical sense does not mean those sharing a common government (as many moderns use the word), but rather a group of people of more-or-less common ancestry sharing a common culture and religion. In this sense, my nation is not the United States but rather my fellow Anglo-Celtic Christians and other kindred peoples permanently assimilated into this group.
6. Many segregationists held up interracial marriage as an example of the horrors that must necessarily follow integration (a horror shared by most of the public at the time), while their enemies vehemently denied such an outcome in public and secretly wished it in private. It turns out that intra-racial marriage norms were more robust than the segregationists feared, as interracial marriage rates among African Americans and Americans of European descent remain below 0.5% as of the 2000 census.
7. A 2007 Gallup poll revealed that 77% of Americans told a stranger taking a telephone survey that they approved of interracial marriage. The gap between expressions of approval of interracial marriage and its practice are a testament to the power of the modern spirit to enforce confession of its creeds.
8. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Document P23-180, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the 1990’s
9. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 23, Number 22: “Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the United States”. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_022.pdf
10. Those who rate religion as only “somewhat important” as opposed to “very important”.
11. Periods of time that seem like years to young couples in love actually only encompass a few months.
12. An obvious exception here would be young men about the graduate from college, but any wise father would wait for actual employment to materialize before giving final consent to the marriage.
13. Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 257
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