Making The Case For Marriage Vows -- By: Steve Henderson
Making The Case For Marriage Vows
Author David Blankenhorn Urges Return To Biblically Based Traditions
Most of us as adults these days have to face the fact that to some extent, we were all influenced by our friends, the flower children. The social upheaval of the sixties, with the exaltation of the individual, the pursuit of license, and the trashing of tradition, has left a deep imprint on our national psyche. One of the little noticed ways in which this occurred is the relative disappearance of traditional wedding vows, and the gradual appearance of non-traditional, creative alternatives to the vows. Often well intentioned, this practice nonetheless has altered the modern ceremony to a point where we no longer expect the tradtional vows when we attend a wedding; we are not reminded of past weddings we have witnessed, nor are we reminded of the content of our own solemn vows, so that we might personally reflect on and possibly renew them.
David Blankenhorn brought this problem into clear focus in his article, “I Do,” in the November 1997 issue of First Things (pp. 14–15), from which excerpts appear below. Blankenhorn is President of the Institute for American Values in New York, author of Fatherhood in America (Basic Books, 1995), and also coeditor of Promises to Keep: Decline and Renewal of Marriage in America (Rowman & Littlefield, 1996).
“In recent years, two basic innovations have transformed the marriage vow in the United States. Both innovations are particularly widespread in both mainline and evangelical Protestant churches, in which about half of all U.S. marriages occur.
First, as Barbara Dafoe Whitehead points out in The Divorce Culture, marriage vows today commonly downplay or avoid altogether any pledge of marital permanence. The old vow was “till death us do part” or “so long as we both shall live.” Most new vows simply leave the question of marital duration unasked and unanswered, as if the issue were either irrelevant or beyond knowing.…To pledge marital permanence would be to make a false guarantee. We are in love today, but the future is something that should not or cannot be promised.
The second change is more subtle, but far more profound. Today, growing numbers of couples—perhaps most couples—compose their own vows. My wife and I did in 1986; most couples we know did.…It would be hard to exaggerate the symbolic importance of this shift toward self-composed vows. The old vows were created by society and presented to the couple, signifying the goal of conforming the couple to marriage. The new vows are created by the couple and presented to society, signifying the goal of confo...
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