A Whirlwind of Great Lakes Hope
Imagine an America known for its courageous people—people who commit themselves to making the world better by the way they live their lives and honor their responsibilities and promises to others. Imagine MARRIAGE MOTOWN 2020 sparking a movement that realizes this vision of greatness in Michigan and from sea to shining sea.
More than a mere feeling, love would encompass making habits that equip each of us to notice and serve one another, especially those nearest in space and time as well as heart, mind, and spirit. Love would mean committing ourselves, embracing our gifts, fulfilling personal responsibilities, and making meaningful sacrifices to grow in joy and truth. In this America, children and seniors will be highly loved co-builders in a multi-generational web of love that unites mother and father in marriage to form families with sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors, and far more.
Imagine a Great Lakes nuptial storm, a spiritual headwind in which habits of love harness the raging passions of disorder, frustration, anger, and suffering now plaguing Michigan communities to inspire and transform them into workable households that mushroom into neighborhoods, communities, towns and cities from the River Front and Hart Plaza downtown to River City and Escanaba in the moon light. Imagine how healthy households would coalesce into a thriving Great Lakes economy. Imagine Metro Detroit launching a movement in which congregations across faith traditions collaborate to create a mission field for marriage mobilizing volunteer married couples to mentor other couples in the ways of married love all along the life cycle of marriage and family life.
Imagine that love written upon the human heart could inspire a movement that sweeps America’s poorest, most violent large city and spreads sea to shining sea. Imagine if a nation like the United States of America could witness for the world the blessings of a civilization of love, one that nurtures, encourages, and supports its people in the fundamental natural human commitment to unite individual lives male and female, husband and wife, brother and sister, that love may flourish for children and for the entire community: to have and to hold, in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health all the days of their lives to love and honor one another.
In this moment of 2016, the whole world has come to recognize that America is a nation that rejects marriage as the union of man and woman with the blessings of babies and children born of their marital promises. From sea to shining sea, more than half of America’s minor children in 2016 reach age seventeen in households without the united love of mother and father. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Navy man, lawyer, Fulbright scholar at the London School of Economics, and then Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy Planning and Research, warned in a landmark government paper, in March 1965 now known as the MOYNIHAN REPORT, that the growing trend of unwed birthing, 25% in 1965 and still proliferating in the African American community, would have devastating consequences for the nation if not urgently remedied. Later in September 1965, Moynihan would crystallize his observations writing in a follow-up article in America Magazine:
“There is one unmistakable lesson in American history; a community that allows a large number of men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder, most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure —that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.”
Today in Michigan, 45% of babies begin life without a mom and a dad who vowed “I do” in marriage. For most of these children, mom and dad’s relationship will last very little beyond conceiving a child. South of Detroit’s northern border at 8 mile Road, 95% of first-born babies begin life in an unwed household. Almost all will complete childhood without ever knowing the united love of mother and father. Most will never experience the joy of vowing “I do” to a spousal partner for life. Each year, Michigan’s ratio of annual divorces to annual marriages exceeds sixty percent, highest in the mid-West, and a de facto institutional declaration of civil war in the Michigan household that effectively abuses and neglects God’s little ones and youths as a matter of course. Few see how these little ones represent hope for a bright, and prosperous future for tomorrow’s Metro Detroit, Michigan, and these United States. Imagine an America in which men and women vow “I do” and live that promise each and every day for a lifetime witness of true love.
Imagine MARRIAGE MOTOWN 2020 and believe it has already begun. On March 30, 2009, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, newly appointed Metropolitan bishop for the Province of Detroit, which is all Michigan, addressed these words to a huge audience of clergy, public officials, and other community leaders representing the faith traditions of our Great Lakes State at the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the U.S.:
“A commitment to the common good, that we teach in our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples [is] that God has called each of us to do more than advance one’s own personal good, but that we are entrusted by God with the task of making a better nation, a better city, indeed a better world… Understanding as we do that God made this whole beautiful world to be the dwelling place for the greatest of his earthly creation, the human person, we then can speak confidently and say the economy exists for the dignity of men and women. Men and women do not exist for the economy. And the measure for a healthy economy is one in which people can live in their families together with dignity. I believe that, in this time of economic uncertainty, that is a most important witness that we in our temporal synagogues mosques and churches can make before the world…We can understand that this moment in the history of His world, God is perhaps giving us a very special task…here in southeastern Michigan. Clergy, priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, other faith leaders—to show that it is possible to advance this dialogue without in any way betraying the truths we all hold so dear and for which we would, with God’s strength, be willing to lay down our lives, but this is a privileged moment for us, I believe, to show to the world that for the glory of God and the good of His human family, such a dialogue and such cooperation is possible. We are our brother’s keepers.
On April 7, 2014, Metro Detroit Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others gathered together at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, second largest mosque in the United States, to listen to knowledgeable speakers about how our community could unite to heal our troubled families, show mercy and love to our little ones and young people, and restore marriage, God’s first institution, as the center of human life in our region. Clergy and other leaders attending that meeting then gathered around tables and created a five-year plan to restore Michigan, our Great Lakes State.
Uniting with fellow bishops of Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses just before Thanksgiving of 2014, Archbishop Vigneron declared 2015 The YEAR OF MARRIAGE throughout our Great Lakes State. Several months later, the Archbishop, chief shepherd for nearly two million Catholics, Michigan’s largest faith community, announced the 11TH GENERAL SYNOD OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF DETROIT to convene November 18-20, 2016 — the first major gathering of clergy, faith leaders, and lay Catholics in forty-seven years. A key focus will be how church members witness the joy of covenant belief by the way they live their lives in marriage, family life, and service to the larger community.
Imagine how you may contribute to the nuptial headwind that sweeps the suffering disorder of today and ushers in faith, hope and love to become MARRIAGE MOTOWN 2020. How may your unique gifts united with those of others—family, spouse, future bride or husband, interested friends or colleagues—make Michigan a great destination for love to prosper and grow? Will you invest a mustard seed of faith to pray that God will bless your prayer and help inspire others to join you in united prayer to restore marriage and family life in our Great Lakes household? Will you pray for a nuptial storm across the Great Lakes that the sails of life in America will billow with the nuptial winds of love and make America a great nation to call home once more sea-to-shining sea.
 Daniel P. Moynihan, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, Washington, D.C., Office of Policy Planning and Research, U.S. Department of Labor, 1965 http://www.blackpast.org/primary/moynihan-report-1965