Saturday, August 16, 2008

Marriage


My little sister got married last week. That's the happy newlyweds in the picture--ready to start their new life. But this post isn't really about their wedding.
I spent two hours this morning "walking the precinct" as a volunteer for ProtectMarriage.com, a coalition that supports California's Proposition 8. The proposition is very straightforward; it would put the following phrase in the California Constitution: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California."
The fact that such a proposition is necessary sheds a revealing light on our society. It shows a great deal of confusion about what marriage is. Here is a current definition from Wikipedia (as good a source as any) "Marriage is an institution in which interpersonal relationships (usually intimate and sexual) are acknowledged by the state or by religious authority." What is interesting to me is how very far this definition is from my concept of what marriage is! Marriage is an acknowledgement of a relationship? I can't help thinking that here lies an expression of the dangerous path we are treading.
Marriage is the most fundamental institution of any society. As part of my anthropology degree I spent many hours learning about the different ways societies organize themselves. And in every society, marriages were at the core of social organization. This is because marriage is NOT an acknowledgement of a relationship between individuals. Marriage is the bond that organizes families, and it is families that build societies. This is why we have rules governing marriage--who may mary whom, what the obligations of the various parties involved are, under what circumstances and with what consequences the marriage bond may be dissolved. The entire future of a society depends upon its families.
There are so many thoughts in my heart, and I am not sure how to put them into words. The words of Malachi, fourth chapter and sixth verse, have been on my mind all day: "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." I am concerned to look out a society that is choosing to ignore, in so many ways, both the wisdom of our fathers and the desperate needs of our children. We need to build up, support, and encourage the families of our nation--the mothers and fathers who are bringing into the world a new generation. We cannot do this if we turn the fundamental institution of marriage into nothing more than an acknowledgment of a relationship between adults. That definition is the premise upon which many base their support for a broader definition of marriage--after all, if a relationship exists between two men, two women, or any number or combination of people, to acknowledge it is only to acknowledge the truth! But to call such a thing by the name of "marriage" is to make the name itself meaningless, for these relationships are not and can not be the foundation of any society that is to last beyond a single generation.
We need to see marriage for what it is, should be and can be--the joining of two lives, two families, two futures, into a new family unit, a place where children can be born, reared, and prepared to move forward and begin the cycle again. A place where a man and a woman bring their unique and complementary strengths and ability, becoming one in the way God intended when he created the first man and the first woman and told them to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Let us remember that marriage is about bearing fruit--the fruit of new lives, the fruit of a stable and orderly society--not about acknowledging what someone wants acknowledged!

3 comments:

Kelley said...

Excellent post. I hope that proposition passes. It needs to if we hope to keep marriage what it should be.

I've seen so many people in relationships that do everything together (live together, have kids, buy homes), but refuse to commit their lives to each other. I find it so, so sad that they won't take that last step to make their relationships lasting and legitimate.

I can't imagine how uncertain and flimsy my life would be if I had spent the last 10 years merely living with Jon rather than married and creating a life together. There were a few times when it would have been easier to walk away than stay and make it work, but I am eternally grateful that we are bound together for this life and eternity, and have made this relationship into a delightful, fulfilling, deeply loving marriage.

Chino Blanco said...

I realize this is a contentious issue and don't mean to cause offense, but I agree with the folks below who aren't in the middle of pushing a bunch of election-year hype:

Senator Barry Goldwater:

The founder of the conservative wing of the Republican Party and nominee for President in 1964 was very outspoken on civil rights. He stated, “To see the party that fought communism and big government now fighting the gays, well, that’s just plain dumb.”

Conservative activist Ward Connerly:

"For anyone to say that this is an issue for people who are gay and that this isn't about civil rights is sadly mistaken. If you really believe in freedom and limited government, to be intellectually consistent and honest you have to oppose efforts of the majority to impose their will on people."

Oregon Republican (and Mormon) Sen. Gordon Smith:

“Part of what I fear, as you start defining marriage — we have a long history of doing that in this country, and my Mormon pioneer ancestors were the victims of that. They were literally driven from the United States in the dead of winter for following their religious beliefs. I don’t want that coming back, but there are some on the front pages of your newspapers who are trying to now.”

Prop 8 is all about denying the equal right to marry to gay Americans. It has nothing to do with straight Americans.

Jessica said...

gays are not being denied any rights. they have just as much right to marry a woman as any other man in the country.

What they DON'T have the right to do is REDEFINE marriage for the whole society.