Bill Muehlenberg

The forces arrayed against the family comprise a moral tidal wave

by James Dobson

(Multnomah Publishers, 2004, 123pp, $22.00. Available from AD Books)

Dr James Dobson is head of the Christian-based Focus on the Family in the US. It is probably the largest and most influential pro-family organisation in the world. He has fought for faith and family for many decades, and is the author of many best-selling books on family life.

Marriage Under Fire may be his most important book. The forces arrayed against the family in general, and the homosexual assault on marriage in particular, comprise a moral tidal wave overwhelming our societies. "Western civilisation itself," says Dobson, "appears to hang in the balance," and we dare not lay down our arms at this vital juncture in history.

Burke's admonition comes to mind: "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Christians can stand up and be counted, or retreat into quietude and indifference. If they rouse themselves to the challenge, they can be victorious, as was recently the case here in Australia.

Sexual revolution

In the US the fight continues, and Dobson urges the faithful to stand up and be counted. He begins his volume by retracing how America came to be in the mess in which it now finds itself. He points out that the rot set in during the late 1960s. California became the first state in the world to introduce no-fault divorce laws in 1969, and soon the rest of the West followed suit.

This was part of the 1960s sexual revolution, which also saw the growth and development of cohabitation. Thus the foundations of marriage and family have been softened up for some three decades now. The next crucial blow to marriage came on 26 June 2003, when the US Supreme Court declared that there is a constitutional right to sodomy. In November of that year, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court proclaimed the right to same-sex "marriage" and on 17 May 2004 that state began issuing licences to homosexuals.

Thus a handful of judicial activists have overturned the morals and norms of a nation. The implications of this are certainly worrying.

Dobson outlines eleven reasons why this battle must be won. The first is the protection of marriage and family: once a nation forgets the reason why these are important, it will soon recognise and bless all manner of sexual relationships, regardless of how harmful they may be to individuals, to children, and society.

Dobson quotes leftist columnist Michael Kinsley in this regard. He had written an op-ed piece for the Washington Post in July 2003, arguing that we should "abolish marriage" and "get the government out of our bedrooms". Said Kinsley, the "solution is to end the institution of marriage". If three people want to get married, "let 'em" opined Kinsley. He continued, "If marriage were an entirely private affair, all the disputes over gay marriage would become irrelevant".

But that is just the point. Marriage is not merely a private affair. It is a social institution with very real social ends. That is why societies and governments should be concerned about it and supportive of it.

Another reason why we must win this battle, argues Dobson, is because children will suffer if we do not prevail. He reminds us that there are now over 10,000 studies that show overwhelmingly and conclusively that children do best when raised by a biological mother and father cemented by marriage. If this is the case, we dare not settle for second best.

If we allow same-sex "marriage" and adoption rights to be legalised, a host of related legislation will be passed, making it very difficult for anyone, especially religious people, from expressing any moral or social concerns about homosexuality. As a case in point, Canada recently passed Bill C-250, which effectively makes it illegal for anyone to criticise homosexuality.

Dobson concludes by arguing for the passage in the US of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would preclude same-sex "marriage". This will be a difficult battle, but the recent win in Australia will bolster the American troops.

A helpful appendix with answers to common questions about same-sex "marriage" rounds off this relatively brief volume, which is written for a general audience. It is a clarion call for those concerned about faith and family to get involved in what may be the most important battle of this century. Dobson is to be applauded for writing this timely and important book.

Bill Muehlenberg is the National Vice-President of the Australian Family Association and is a Baptist.

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