Learning from China's Marriage Crisis


Crime doesn’t pay. That used to be the cliché moral of black-and-white detective stories during the Golden Age of television. Today, a sad variation has emerged. Marriage doesn’t pay.

A Voice for Men published a provocative list last month of “8 reasons straight men don’t want to get married.” A thoughtful consideration may leave married men with the distinct impression that they have been suckered. Less respect, less sex, fewer friends, less space, less freedom, and the threat of losing half your stuff all tilt the scales against tying the knot. Discounting any emotional or spiritual value to matrimony, the practical value seems to have diminished.

While fewer men seek marriage in the United States, more men are likely to end marriages in China after the advent of a new law which may leave their ex-wives homeless. The Telegraph reports:

According to the new law, residential property is no longer to be regarded as jointly owned and divided equally in the event of a divorce.

Instead, whoever paid for the apartment or house is the legal owner and gets to keep it in its entirety.

For a variety of cultural reasons, the legal owner tends to be the man. Chinese marriages typically occur only after the man has secured a home for the new couple. Wives labor under the cultural expectation that they care for both children and elder parents, which mostly precludes any direct financial contribution to the home. For wives, this means that their husbands now have less incentive to remain faithful, because the threat of divorce has lost most of its financial teeth.

Looking at the Chinese marriage crisis, we see yet another example of how the institution has been steadily redefined over decades from a sacred bond fulfilling a spiritual purpose to a legal arrangement teetering on the precipice of personal convenience.


As previously discussed in light of the increasingly successful movement to recognize same-sex unions as marriage, defenders of tradition find themselves on shaky ground while trying to preserve marriage as defined in scripture, because scripture has long been abandoned as the basis for marriage. Birth control, the legalization of abortion, the degradation of gender roles — all have removed many of the practical incentives for a lifelong commitment to monogamy. Absent those practical supports, all that is left to bolster traditional marriage is scripture. And who takes that seriously anymore?

Well, we ought to. Advocates of tradition have little else to fall back upon, and perhaps that reveals God’s purpose in the marriage debate. After all the dueling studies and legal arguments, marriage continues to slip away both in definition and participation, leaving us with nothing but the authority of God to rest upon as our first and final argument. Like a rich man made poor, we can no longer rely upon ourselves and must turn to Him for salvation.

Certainly, we could make the case for marriage as an ideal. We could ask men to consider how they would want their mothers, sisters, and daughters to be treated and then convince them to model that behavior with their partners. But that style of argument rarely compels action. After all, ideals are inherently unachievable and therefore prove of little practical benefit.

A scriptural view offers something more. By regarding marriage the way Christ regards it, as a model of his reconciliation with the church, we begin to see it not as an ideal but as a picture of the peace we know in Him. Transcending the Golden Rule, we no longer just do unto our wives as we would have other men do to our mothers, sisters, and daughters. We do unto them as Christ has done with us, modeling his love and forgiveness to bring Him honor and glory. Such a view of marriage has certainly fallen out of fashion, yet continues to convey a beauty which transient civil unions never can.