McManus, Michael J. 1941-
McMANUS, Michael J. 1941-
PERSONAL: Born June 11, 1941, in Springfield, OH; son of John (a company executive vice president) and Ruth McManus; married Harriet Ecker, October 16, 1965; children: Adam, John, Timothy. Education: Duke University, A.B., 1963. Politics: Independent Religion: Presbyterian Hobbies and other interests: Golfing with sons.
ADDRESSES: Home—9311 Harrington Dr., Potomac, MD 20854. Offıce—Marriage Savers, Inc., 9311 Harrington Dr., Potomac, MD 20854. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Writer. Time magazine, Latin American correspondent, 1963-64, Washington, DC correspondent, 1964-68; syndicated columnist, 1977—; cofounder of Marriage Savers, Inc., Potomac MD, 1996—; guest on network and cable television programs.
MEMBER: Religion Newswriters Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Emmy award, for Town Meetings series; Wilbur award, Religious Public Relations Council, 1985, 1989; "Amy" award, third place, 1986, 1987, 2001; Media Awareness Award, Religious Alliance Against Pornography, 2001.
How to Save Urban America: Key Issues ConfrontingCities and Suburbs, New American Library (New York, NY), 1973.
Fifty Practical Ways to Take Our Kids Back from theWorld, Tyndale House Publishers (Wheaton, IL), 1993.
Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and FamilyStay Married, foreword by George Gallup, Jr., Zondervan Publishing House (Grand Rapids, MI), 1993, revised edition published as Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce, 1995.
Insuring Marriage: Twenty-five Proven Ways toPrevent Divorce (based on Marriage Savers), Life-Way (Nashville, TN), 1994.
Manual to Create a Marriage Savers Congregation, Marriage Savers (Potomac, MD), 1999, revised edition, 2003.
Author of introduction to Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, Rutledge Hill Press (Nashville, TN), 1986; author of syndicated newspaper columns "The Northern Perspective," 1977-92, and "Ethics and Religion," 1981—; author of manuals, articles and videos available from Marriage Savers, Inc.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A book on cohabitation; a book on how to create a Community Marriage Policy; handbooks, as part of a video series, on how to train mentor couples.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael J. McManus is currently best-known for Marriage Savers, his community-based ministry. Marriage Savers has trained 3,000 mentor couples in scores of cities to help couples prepare, enrich, and restore their marriages and avoid divorce. McManus was a newspaper reporter for three small newspapers before joining Time magazine in 1963 as its youngest correspondent. After one year in Latin America, he was relocated to Time's Washington, DC bureau, where he covered the "Great Society," President Lyndon B. Johnson's major expansion of the federal government into education, healthcare, and urban affairs and one of the most interesting and volatile periods in American history. Hoping to make a difference to the people and problems of the cities, he organized his televised Town Meetings, for which he engaged eighteen New York-area television stations and twenty-eight daily newspapers over five weekends in 1973. In 1973, he published How to Save Urban America: Key Issues Confronting Cities and Suburbs. The project relied on citizen response, sent in by ballot, to the questions of how best to solve problems of housing, the environment, and transportation. More than 100,000 ballots were returned, and the project won an Emmy Award.
In the late seventies, as unemployment rose to ten percent in the Northeast and nine percent in the Midwest, McManus wrote his first syndicated column, "The Northern Perspective," in which he addressed ways of improving the economy in the industrial states from Maine to Minnesota. At its peak, the column was published in seventy papers.
He began his second column, "Ethics and Religion," in 1981, inspired by a sermon by McManus's pastor. He also wrote the introduction for Rutledge's Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, which was conducted by then Attorney General Edwin Meese. The original 1986 report was huge, cumbersome, and unreadable, and upon its release, it generated a great many media reports from both sides. James Magee noted in Constitutional Commentary that the Meese Commission "documented a significant link between violent pornography and aggression against women. This conclusion, however, received little publicity and was largely submerged in a torrent of predictable reactions from, on one side, libertarian critics who dismissed the Final Report as a silly, tendentious enterprise conducted for political purposes, and, on the other side, equally dogmatic conservatives who indiscriminately supported censorship."
McManus was the only reporter covering the commission's meetings other than one from Playboy, and he went to major New York publishers suggesting that he write an introduction that would summarize its conclusions and the commissioners' near inability to come to conclusions. All turned him down. McManus finally found a publisher in small, Tennessee-based Rutledge Hill Press. Tom Minnery, writing in Christianity Today, reviewed McManus' introduction and called it "an essential guide to the most significant sections of the document and is a fascinating tour through the politics of the commission."
McManus penned both of his columns for eleven years, then ended the first when he began writing Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid Divorce. This book was revised and published with a slightly different title, and he also offered a condensed version titled Insuring Marriage: Twenty-five Proven Ways to Prevent Divorce.
Since 1986, McManus had been active in communities where he has suggested to local pastors how the divorce rate could be cut in half. The final chapter of Marriage Savers documents how the city of Modesto, California, the first to adopt McManus's "Community Marriage Policy," dramatically cut its divorce rate, and Modesto's success was followed by other cities, including El Paso, Texas, Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Kansas. Each of those cities has slashed its divorce rate in half, according to an independent study by the Institute for Research and Evaluation. The program that began in Modesto spread to nearly 200 cities. McManus and his wife, Harriet, officially founded Marriage Savers, Inc. in 1996. Visitors to their Web site will find articles, books, and videos that complement the work of their ministry. McManus makes frequent appearances on nationally televised programs and is consulted by the print media.
McManus's ministry is based on a number of different models. It is primarily inspired by a "marriage ministry" created by an Episcopal priest and by the Canadian Retrouvaille model that was established in Quebec in the 1960s. This peer-counseling ministry operates on the principle that those who have recovered from adultery, alcoholism, or abuse can inspire those mired in similar crises, like recovering alcoholics can teach the addicted how to become sober.
In Marriage Savers, McManus advises pastors that with regard to sexual behavior, they must teach biblical ethics. He describes programs churches can adapt in working with teens, premarital couples, married couples, and couples with troubled marriages. He advocates mentoring by couples who are in a position to understand many of the problems of the couples needing counseling, as he and his wife have done over the years. McManus also proposes that the clergy of each city adopt Community Marriage Policies that establish requirements for couples that come to them to be married, including a four-month waiting period, premarital counseling, and working with a mentor couple. McManus is an advocate for the reform of no-fault divorce laws and of federal funding for marriage saving.
Hanna Rosin wrote of McManus's work in an article for the New Republic, calling him the "Johnny Apple-seed of this pro-marriage movement. The concept of no-fault offends him, he says, because it promotes the kind of starry-eyed romantic expectations no marriage can fulfill and prompts couples to give up too quickly. 'Abraham did not get along with Sarah,' he says. 'No marriage is perfect.'"
Charles Colson reviewed Marriage Savers in Christianity Today, writing that it "offers an overwhelmingly positive contribution to the church. Family breakup is a major crisis in American life, and who is doing anything about it? The government isn't. The media won't. The schools aren't. It is up to you and me, as the church. This is front-line Christian work, and McManus gives the church the tools it needs to do the job."
McManus told CA: "I have learned that I can do more as an activist than I can as a writer. But writing is a key part of my activism. People can be persuaded in person to take steps to serve others far more easily than they can be persuaded by a column or a book. But the writing whets their appetite to know more. After Marriage Savers was published, I was asked to scores of communities to help start Community Marriage Policies."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christianity Today, January 16, 1987, Tom Minnery, review of Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, p. 62; February 7, 1994, Charles Colson, review of Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Stay Married, p. 58.
Constitutional Commentary, summer, 1989, James Magee, review of Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, pp. 507-522.
New Republic, May 6, 1996, Hanna Rosin, "Separation Anxiety: The Movement to Save Marriage," p. 14.
Michael J. McManus Home Page,http://www.marriagesavers.org (January 5, 2004).