The Words of the Schanker Family
Statistics show that married people in America in general are happier, healthier, live longer, make more money and have better sex than those who remain single (The Case for Marriage, Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, 2001). When marriage works, it really works! But the challenge and fear that has led many young Americans to avoid this age-old institution is, "how do you make marriage work?"
The western tradition of romantic love has proven to be the least successful basis for marriage in history. A 2002 Census Bureau report shows that the U.S. divorce rate remains near 50%, while fewer young adults are getting married. Yet the desire for lasting love remains high. A Harris Interactive survey of college seniors found that 81% planned to marry, while another 12% already had. 91% hope to have children, and on average, they'd like to have three. The trend toward free sex hasn't helped. A 2002 Rutgers University survey found that the number one reason that young men don't want to marry is that they can get sex without making that commitment.
Popular films like "Serendipity" and "Garden State," while entertaining, tell us that fate will bring us a relationship that was "meant to be" and if we meet the right person, fall into the right relationship, we'll live "happily ever after." But a growing number of young Americans are questioning whether true love is even possible.
Marriages arranged under parental authority have been far more prevalent historically. While romantic love and sexual freedom have shifted the focus of relationships toward personal fulfillment, arranged marriages maintain the connection between marriage and the extended family, and have proved more effective in promoting marital stability But traditionally arranged marriages are also associated with unhappy, loveless relationships; male dominance and double-standards; secret abuses and more. Traditional parent-made matchings were too often driven by desires for position, status, money, personal advantage or other selfish interests.
The Unification Church's tradition of Blessed Marriage, commonly called the "Blessing," introduces a new and profound perspective on the ideal of lasting love, and a clear framework for realizing it substantially. At its heart is the conviction that the reason we exist as human beings is to realize God's ideal of love. Our consciousness, our reason, our morality all the things that make us uniquely human, function in support of our capacity to love, and to reflect God. But God's image is male and female, says Genesis, and Jesus noted in Matthew 19 that the very reason God made us male and female was "that the two become one flesh. And what God has joined together, let not man take apart."
Two becoming one? A relationship that lasts? Isn't that what most every marriage tradition believes in? What makes the Blessing different?
First, it's about the maturity of the two people involved. Unificationism emphasizes that before God told Adam and Eve what not to do (Don't eat the fruit), our Heavenly Parent told them what they were supposed to do: be fruitful, multiply and have loving dominion over all things. In other words, grow to personal maturity, invest in a loving relationship and build a family, and fulfill their creative potential and stewardship over the natural world. Personal maturity, responsibility, integrity, identity and self-worth; these are the basis for healthy relationships, and should precede romantic, exclusive commitments.
Studies report that marriages fail because of financial pressure, infidelity, domestic violence, substance abuse, etc. But more than 25 years as a pastoral counselor has shown me that these problems either result from, or overwhelm marriages because of: insecurity, dishonesty, lack of communication and trust, selfishness, immature and unrealistic expectations.
An important difference in the Blessing tradition is the strength and motivation that can be derived from our unique faith perspective. Nowhere have I found a deeper or clearer grasp of the purpose of marriage than in Unificationism, where it is integral to the very purpose of life. God's image is male and female (Genesis 1:27). As all things exist, through harmonious relationships between complementary opposites, when a man and woman become one, they reflect God's image. As they bear and raise children, they come to know God's heart. Alone I cannot fully develop my capacity of heart, or understand the fullness of God's love experienced as a committed spouse and loving parent. When life brings challenges or crises to a marriage, this clear, God-centered perspective and motivation can empower us through the tough times.
But the third and perhaps most significant difference from traditional marriage is that the Blessing is a healing, restorative framework for the individual, the family, and the world. Whether one takes the Divine Principle's insights on the Human Fall as a literal story of our first ancestors, or an allegory that reveals the human condition, the lesson is the same. Selfish love, disconnected from Divine love, is the root of human suffering and evil. The Garden of Eden is more than a tale of individual disobedience and rebellion. It is a story of family dysfunction: alienation and guilt between man and God, distrust and accusation between husband and wife, jealousy and hatred between brothers. These selfish patterns, the Principle teaches, have expanded to pollute every society and culture, breeding a history of hatred, oppression and injustice.
The Blessing tradition is designed to recreate a framework for God-centered, rather than self-centered love. We grow to personal maturity and find an eternal partner through the guidance and support of loving parents, who are motivated to bring joy to God and their children. We connect our love to God's purpose, and transcend the self-centered, immature and often predatory love relationships that have wrought havoc and pain throughout history. Seeing the suffering caused by false love, many a romantic has questioned whether .true love really exists. The Blessing is the path to that true love, and marriage and family is the spiritual path of the Unification faith.
The restorative power of the Blessing comes not only from its values, but from the spiritual authority of the Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon and his wife Dr. Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, who established the original standard of true parents, qualified to give the Blessing. Where does that authority come from? When God first made a covenant with Israel, saying, "I will be your God, and you will be my people." He set forth commandments and laws to raise their standards and moral values, and create a people set apart from the rest of the world. Strong family bonds were the center of those values. They were initially guided not to intermarry with other cultures. But once a tradition was established where God was worshipped, the prophet Zechariah envisioned that people from every nation would inherit from Israel, and Isaiah proclaimed that the temple was to be a "house of prayer for all peoples."
Jesus was born to an Israel that was longing for the Messiah who would liberate them from their suffering, build God's kingdom in Israel, and open that kingdom to all humankind. The Principle clarifies that the Kingdom of Heaven begins not from the sky, nor from natural calamities or military conquest. It begins as it was meant to originally: mature men and women (be fruitful), building God-centered families (multiply) and fulfilling their unique creative potential and stewardship (have dominion). Had the people recognized who Jesus was, he would have modeled those Three Blessings as Adam was meant to do. He would have raised his followers to maturity Blessed them in marriage, and empowered them to fulfill their life's purpose.
Rejected by a people who never understood his true Adamic mission, Jesus took responsibility for their faithlessness and sacrificed his dream, his family and his physical life on the cross. This sacrificial love of God's true son was the greatest love ever manifested on earth. From it, Jesus had the spiritual power to resurrect, and the authority to offer rebirth to the faithful. On the foundation of Christianity's 2000 years of global development, Jesus called our Father, Reverend Moon, as a young man to complete the foundation for God's Kingdom on earth. The Blessing tradition is the essence of this mission, to recreate the ideal of the original Three Blessings.
It is our faith and witness that Father and Mother have lived their entire lives to establish an unchanging standard of True Parents, and the authority to bequeath the Blessing to others. Though the world may not yet recognize them as True Parents, it did not know Jesus either. Virtually every religious and ethical pioneer, from Moses and the prophets to Socrates, Gandhi and Jesus himself, was misunderstood and opposed by the world. But one thing is clear: True Parents are the first global religious leaders ever to stand as a couple in representing our Heavenly Parent and creating a new tradition.
The Blessing is an instrument of historical healing as well. When young people from different races, religions and cultural backgrounds become one in a Blessed marriage, overcoming their differences and creating a loving family, the wounds of their ancestors' divisions or enmity can be healed. Their inter-cultural, interracial children will physically embody the ideal of one human family, and naturally develop that heart and consciousness, transcending historical hatred. For this reason, True Parents have encouraged cross-cultural marriage as a practical instrument of peace-building.
Blessed Marriages provide a stable framework for renewing families, healing divisions, and nurturing children of character, conscience and peace. My own Blessed marriage of nearly 28 years, with 3 of my 4 children Blessed in marriage themselves, has been my personal path of spiritual growth and harvesting of heart, and a vehicle for bequeathing a tradition of lasting love to my children and future generations.