July 2021 – Family. It is the foremost societal construct God put in motion for humankind. And at the center of family is marriage.
Marriage. By design, it is one man …one woman … for life. God created it, and God defined it.
Above all other human relationships, marriage is worthy of resolute commitment and joyful celebration. Its purpose and beauty cast the very image of Christ and His beloved bride – the church.
The prince of darkness is vehemently attacking this holy union – discrediting, distorting, with an ultimate goal of destroying it. Some might surmise a significant degree of success has been reached.
According to Pew Research Center analyses published in November 2019, a narrow majority (53%) of the general public still sees societal benefits of marriage. However, 16% believe it is acceptable for couples planning to marry to live together first, and 69% see cohabitation as acceptable when marriage isn’t being considered at all. Only 14% think cohabitation is never acceptable.
Though marriage is still appreciated by many, it has become a beneficial add-on – after having lived and experimented with others along the path.
Religious affiliation is somewhat of a determining factor. Predictably, a full 90% of religiously unaffiliated U.S. adults say cohabitation is always acceptable. Ironically, ample numbers of those who self-identify as religiously affiliated are in agreement: 74% of Catholics, 56% of White Protestants, and 47% of Black Protestants.
The church has clearly been molded by the culture. Too often, Christians enjoy the societal and financial benefits of marriage – the same advantages those in the LGBTQ lifestyle have fought to secure – without honoring it as the sacred institution God designed it to be.
AFA recognizes the intense spiritual warfare at play and is clearing a path with a national initiative reiterating the God-ordained beauty and purpose of marriage and family. AFA Journal sat down with Abraham Hamilton, AFA general counsel and host of The Hamilton Corner, to discuss the movement aptly named “By Design.”
AFA Journal: What is the goal of the By Design initiative?
Abraham Hamilton: Marriage is not a feature of Western civilization. Marriage was authored long before there was any such thing as the West. And so the goal of the By Design initiative is to introduce American society en masse, and in particular younger Americans, to enable them to understand why marriage as God defined it is good; to answer the questions: “Why is it beautiful?” and “Why is the exclusive lifelong union of one man and one woman the optimum and objective union and institution for human flourishing?”
We want to present those answers to a wider American society.
AFAJ: Why is this necessary?
AH: One of the things that has happened in our society is that many have lost an understanding of the value, the richness, and the beauty of marriage as God has designed it. There is only one definition of marriage; that is marriage defined by God Himself who is the author of marriage.
I object to the reference of God’s design for marriage as “traditional marriage,” because human traditions are transitive. If we allow God’s design for marriage to be described as a mere product of human tradition, it can be changed. If I have a tradition of eating red beans and rice on Mondays, but I decide I want to eat garbanzo beans, well, I can just change that.
AFAJ: The 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case set precedent for people of the same sex to legally “marry.” Has the resulting societal shift inspired this new initiative?
AH: What many have recognized is that cultural changes in America actually led to the Obergefell decision. Consequences that have followed include societal normalization of same-sex marriage and transgenderism, further normalization of sexual relationships outside the marital covenant in a heterosexual context, and a stronger push now for things like polyamory and polygamy.
The goal here is not to waive the wagging finger of condemnation against same-sex marriage. The goal is simply to point people to the beauty and benefit of embracing and celebrating God’s design for marriage and family.
When was the last time you saw a positive reflection in popular culture of a man who has committed himself to a woman and a woman who has committed herself to this man for life – to see their union and commitment to each other portrayed as something exciting and worth celebrating, a wonderful monogamous lifelong commitment?
AFAJ: Do you hope to see this initiative serve as a tool to overturn the Obergefell decision?
AH: Constitutionally, the decision was rendered unlawfully, and it would be better for our country if it were overturned. We would celebrate, but that is not the express objective of By Design. Our goal is primarily to shape the hearts and minds of people in our culture concerning the issue of marriage.
The Supreme Court has given its opinion concerning same-sex marriage, but its opinion is not the truth. The unfortunate reality is that there are many professing Christians who have allowed the Supreme Court announcement in the Obergefell case to silence them concerning marriage or to go even further and adopt the rationale from Obergefell in their own ecclesiastical circles.
Through By Design, we are saying, “Supreme Court, you are wrong – just as you were wrong when you supported legally imposed segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, just as you were wrong when you denied Dred Scott his right to protect himself and his family, just as you were wrong in Roe v. Wade.”
AFAJ: What do you hope to see in 5 to 15 years as a result of By Design?
AH: We hope to see Christians fortified in their commitment to stand firmly and steadfastly on what God has said, presenting a loving, compelling, attractive message anchored in the gospel – inviting the world to join us in our journey of sanctification, embracing eternal life and God’s design for marriage.
We also hope to see wider swaths of the American public, especially younger Americans, who can readily answer questions about marriage – not merely from an intellectual standpoint, but from a life-affirming standpoint that says, “This is why I believe this and why I am conducting my life in such a way to reflect that belief.”
Third, our prayer is that in the U.S., marital rates between one man and one woman will increase. There is a phenomenon in America where people are not getting married, and if they are, they’re delaying marriage for a significant amount of time. And that’s not the best outlook for a stable civil society.
One of the primary institutions God created for multi-generational discipleship is the family unit. If we experience consistent and irreversible family breakdown, it is going to contribute to ecclesiastical breakdown in our country.
Too often Christians are known for what we oppose. But we want to make this initiative an example to a watching world, showing what we affirmatively support – marriage and family as God designed it, the fundamental building block for all of human flourishing.
What it looks like
The By Design initiative is being launched during AFA’s Marriage Family Life Conference June 24-26. The rollout includes:
▶ Billboards across the country
▶ A new website, afa.net/bydesign containing:
• Relevant articles and videos
• Insightful statistics
• Valuable resources to help families flourish
• Regular podcasts hosted by a variety of AFA voices