Ethics & Religion
July 14, 2016
My Goal In Writing This Column
By Mike McManus
With this column, I complete 35 years of writing Ethics & Religion. This anniversary might a time to outline to readers what I am trying to do each week, and some of the results of the column.
My pledge to editors is that I would address America’s toughest moral problems - but would always suggest an answer. The subliminal message: hope!
For example, in recent months I have offered answers to alcoholism, abortion, drunk driving, the federal deficit, pornography and ISIS persecution of Christians.
In 1990 I wrote a column about a question Rev. Richard McGinnis asked his church:
“Are there any couples here whose marriages were once on the rocks, but who have come off of them and restored their marriage? If so, meet with me after the service.” Out of 180 people in church, 10 couples met with him.
He told them he was overwhelmed trying to save marriages in crisis. Then he thought about how Alcoholics Anonymous got started, with “Bill” and “Dr. Bob,” working together to keep each other sober. They developed the “12 Steps of AA” that have helped millions to stay sober.
Father Dick asserted, “I want to meet with you to see if there is anything of a common nature you had to do for your marriage to be restored.” Seven couples agreed to tell their stories.
At first, their stories seemed wildly dissimilar. One woman had been in adultery for eight years. A husband was an alcoholic who was out of work for two years. There was a workaholic dentist and a bisexual who had homosexual affairs.
Yet the couples were able to agree on 17 “Action Statements” like the 12 Steps of AA. One was, “Through other Christian testimony and personal example, we found hope for our marriage.” Each couple decided “to follow Jesus as my Savior and Lord.” Each husband and wife also “realized the problem was with myself, and began to change with the Lord’s help.”
The result was a “Marriage Ministry” in which those seven couples met with 40 couples in crisis over five years, saving 38 of them!
I provided Pastor McGinnis’ address, sparking 1,500 letters! No column had such an impact. But in calling back a sample of those who wrote in, not one created a “Marriage Ministry.” My column appeared to be a failure.
However, in researching my column, I have found other strategies to better prepare couples for a lifelong marriage, to enrich existing ones and save those in crisis. For example, 4 million couples have taken PREPARE-ENRICH, a premarital inventory which asks couples to respond to 150 statements:
· I go out of my way to avoid conflict with my partner.
· Sometimes I wish my partner were more careful about spending money.
My wife and I trained couples in our home church to administer the inventory and talk
through the issues it surfaced. Of 288 couples prepared for marriage in the 1990s, 58 decided not to marry. But of the 230 who did marry, we know of only 18 divorces in two decades!
Thirty years ago, I suggested that the pastors of Modesto, California consider requiring every couple marrying in the city to take the inventory in a “Community Marriage Policy.” Some 86 pastors signed on. The result? Modesto’s divorce rate plunged in half!
My wife and I have now helped the pastors of 230 cities create Community Marriage Policies which included the Marriage Ministry described here, plus three other interventions:
“10 Great Dates” is designed to enrich existing marriages. Couples come to church on 10 Friday nights, watch a brief DVD on a topic such as “Resolving Honest Conflict” and then go on a date to discuss it. It’s a fun way to reinvigorate marriages.
What if one spouse in a crisis marriage refuses to seek help? The committed spouse can take “Marriage 911,” a 12-week workbook course with a friend of the same gender, designed to help him or her grow so much they win back their errant mate. It usually works.
Seventy percent of couples with stepchildren divorce. But if a church creates a Stepfamily Support Group, it can save 80% of stepfamilies.
An independent study of Community Marriage Policies reported they cut divorce rates by an average of 17.5% in seven years, saving 100,000 marriages, reduced cohabitation by a third and raised some marriage rates.
Thus, writing this column led to a national ministry that is saving marriages.
Would you like to create a CMP in your city? Call me 301 978-7105.
Copyright © 2016 Michael J. McManus is President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For earlier columns go to www.ethicsandreligion.com and hit Search for any topic.
Mike McManus is President of Marriage Savers
and a syndicated columnist, writing Ethics & Religion weekly
9311 Harrington Dr.
Potomac, MD 20854