In 1995, political scientist Robert Putnam warned his famous essay “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital” that Americans were becoming increasingly disconnected from one another and spending more time alone. Today, nearly two decades later, rapid changes in mobile technology have enabled Americans greater ease in communicating with one another, but the fundamental problems of loneliness, isolation and bad relationships still endure.
I had the opportunity to speak with Christian scholar Dr. Stephen Lowell Swisher for a faith perspective on modern relationships with America and he warns that divorce has become an “epidemic that is seriously impacting our culture.” Swisher, who is the author of “God’s Way to Good Health” and the senior pastor at Centerville United Methodist Church, has advised numerous prominent U.S. and worldwide personalities, including members of Congress, former and current heads-of-state, business leaders and entertainment celebrities.
Let’s talk about the topic of true love. No matter what decade or political paradigm people are living in, all throughout human history there’s always been a desire to be loved unconditionally and accepted for who one is. Attitudes about relationships may have changed, but the quest for true love remains the same. What would you say are the qualities that mark a real, authentic love between individuals?
Sixty percent of marriages in America today end in divorce within the first five years. This is an epidemic that is seriously impacting our culture. The bottom line of this upheaval is relationships seem to be a “me focused” meet my needs-or-else kind of mentality.
One of the most famous Bible passages that people use for love is 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, which [addresses] the concept of love being selfless, patient, kind and not demanding its own way. The bottom line for me seems to revolve around one word, and that’s loyalty. When people are involved in relationships, parent/child, husband/wife, brother/sister et cetera, loyalty is the key to long term commitment and happiness.
In America today many people are not getting married and choosing to stay single all their lives. What do you think is behind this trend?
Not everyone is meant to be married. There seems to be some pressure in society for people to be married or in some sort of long-term relationship, however some people are happier being single or not in a relationship. That is perfectly fine.
There is no cookie cutter or normal framework that people have to fit into. Even in the Bible some like the Apostle Paul chose not to be married. Our society should be a salad bowl, not a melting pot; a salad bowl of different colors, flavors, unique shapes and varying qualities that make a crescendo of delicious taste. America is not and should not be a one size-fits-all enterprise. We are a free nation where everyone should feel valued, appreciated and treasured.
Does prayer affect relationships? As a pastor, what role would you say prayer and faith has on relationships?
Prayer definitely has a tremendous positive effect on all aspects of life, including relationships, but this works only so far as the person involved in prayer is open to change, improvement and positive growth. God is always willing to help, heal, support and bless, but if we are not open to the adventure, then very little change can or will happen.
What’s your advice for young people reading this regarding relationships?
My advice to young people – and people of all ages – is don’t rush into a relationship because you feel you need one. Be patient, wise and circumspect. Think through what you are really looking for, what goals [you] want to accomplish in life, and what you’re willing to give and commit to another.
Also, don’t experiment with your own choices, hopping from person to person to try to fulfill a need in you. Look deep within, ask God to help you and then truly listen on how to proceed. Happiness takes on different forms for different people. And God does want you to be happy, healthy, strong and effective in life. Believe in yourself, believe in God and keep focused. When you do these things, you will find all you are searching for in life.