Saturday, June 08, 2013

On the Subject of Marriage

I'm from what is commonly termed a "broken home", though at the time I wouldn't have known what you were talking about if you used the phrase. My father was abusive and my mother left him, with us, when I was six years old. She re-married a couple of years later. The ceremony was performed by a Justice of the Peace on a Christmas Eve. Neither I nor my brothers were there, but we woke up Christmas morning to a new father and a new home. Now, my mother re-married because she believed that we needed a father. She married this particular man because he agreed with her on a great many things regarding family, religion, and politics. They respected each other and found each other reasonably attractive. My stepfather had been likewise married before, and thus was "once bitten, twice shy". Knowing much more about marriage than they did before, they were very careful about the arrangement. They were introduced by the man who had been our neighbor, who told my mother that his cousin was "a good man... he'll treat you well."

I think you might have noticed that 'Love' wasn't way up on that list of reasons. Rather, they focused on those things that enable a partnership to work independently of emotion, and trusted that God would provide them with Love... which He did. When they entered into a marriage contract, they each decided to turn over their lives to the task of providing for the happiness of the other. What is Love if not caring for someone else more than you care for yourself? In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that Love is a thing you may choose.

I think that's one of the more important lessons that I've ever learned. Love isn't some magical, mystical force that drives people together and causes them to cleave (that's "cleave" in both senses... Love is commonly credited with bringing families together and tearing them apart). Now, our ancestors knew this, and they knew that the hormonal infatuation that children label "love" causes those children to disregard pretty much all of those things that must be considered to make a marriage work, in favor of the one thing that they would have had anyway. I think it can be rightly argued that infatuation -- pop-culture-love -- makes you temporarily insane. So our ancestors deemed it a very good idea to arrange those marriages on behalf of their children. It was very smart, and it worked very well... still does, as a matter of fact. Did you know that while the divorce rate in the US is almost 53%, the worldwide divorce rate for arranged marriages is only 6%?

Obviously, on the average, we're not doing it right.

I bring this up because most of those arranged marriages are not Christian, and yet they last and are productive and successful. My parents' re-marriage was very much an arranged thing. Though they did the arranging themselves, they did it with a very strong "business sense". As I said, it was a civil ceremony, and there was no mention of God among any of the formalities and legalities required by the State. They simply signed a contract and filed it with the Clerk of Court. But God was there in that He was present in them. And in their last years, when my stepfather was infirm and diabetic; and my mother had contracted lymphoma; she prayed daily that she would out-live him so that he wouldn't have to suffer without her to care for him. He died first, and within months of his death she followed him. In the end, the Love they chose for themselves was stronger than any human bond I have ever witnessed. I would readily say that though they did not have a Christian ceremony, my parents assuredly had a Christian marriage. Based on the stats, many people who have Christian ceremonies do not have Christian marriages. The Christian sacrament of marriage and the civil contract of marriage are two completely different things.

Though I came from a broken home, I didn't grow up in one.

Now, I've said all of this to make my conclusions clear: I'm against any legislation of marriage whatsoever. A State marriage has nothing to do with any religion; it is merely a contract. It is YOU who chooses to bring God into your marriage (or not). Furthermore, non-Christians are no less successful at marriage than Christians. In the absence of religious bigotry, there is no legal or Constitutional principle by which it is even remotely possible to successfully argue in favor of imposing Christian ideals on the civil state of matrimony. Rather, Christians are free to marry in the body of Christ of their own accord, just as Atheists are free to simply love without acknowledging Christ. The State is not allowed to distinguish between them.

In addition, it's none of our business who someone chooses to love. I love a great many people, both women and men, and I wouldn't marry most of them. While arranged marriages work, I think they work because the people who submit to them are raised in a culture where they're taught what the marriage is about. They don't have false expectations. This is a very practical education, as opposed to our idealized "happily-ever-after" fantasies against which reality always falls short. People in arranged marriages choose to follow a system that works, and I will not say that they either can't or must follow a different one.

Furthermore, many marriages are barren. Many couples are incapable of having children at all. Though I have two brothers, one sister, two step-brothers, and two step-sisters. But my mother and step-father never had children together. They united not for the purpose of procreation -- that was over and done with -- but mutual support. It isn't remotely possible to argue on natural grounds that a marriage must be contingent on the potential for procreation.

And frankly, I don't want the State to have any say in the religious sacrament of marriage, so I refuse to give them permission to violate the First Amendment, even a little bit.

For all of these reasons, I would repeal the "Defense of Marriage Act". I find it un-Constitutional, as it establishes a particular religious position within legislation, precisely where Congress is clearly required to "make no law".

Am I in favor of gay marriage? No, not at all... I demonstrated that by not marrying a guy. But homosexuals exist, and nobody appointed me to be the bully in charge of making them miserable. Am I in favor of Christian marriage? Well, yeah, I'm a Christian, so I obviously think the benefits of bringing Christian Love into your marriage cannot be understated. But that doesn't give me the right to force you to act like a Christian even when you're not. It does not give me the right to fantasize that a civil contract requiring only signature and a filing fee is the same as a "Christian sacrament". That both cheapens the sacrament and lies about the civil contract. And I recognize that marriage is strengthened by merely agreeing on religion no matter what that religion actually is.

Bottom Line: It's none of my business who someone else chooses as a partner, or why, and it's none of your business either. Rather than spinning in a control-freak frenzy over whether someone else might be happy doing something you didn't personally pre-authorize, spend your time working on your own happiness. Instead of worrying that someone else's marriage might demean yours, work on the meaning of yours. Elevate what you have; don't denigrate what they have.  And get over it. 

link to Some Political Opinions

Postscript: Many people are in favor of "civil unions", touting them as a marriage in everything but name, and thus seek to "preserve the sanctity" of male-female marriages. With all due respect... bollocks.  It's not up to you to label someone else's relationship. If they say they're married, then they're married. You can, however, exercise that control for yourself. Instead of saying that what they have isn't "marriage" (even though you've already allowed that it is for atheists), say that yours is a consecrated marriage. There. Problem solved.

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