A Marriage Proposal

First, I would like to thank Meredithancret for a cordial and spirited debate. We obviously disagree, but she has been respectful and has engaged in dialogue on the subject of gay marriage—a subject most consider too controversial to discuss.  I appreciate the fact that there has been actual dialogue, even if there is disagreement.  Thanks, Meredith. You can check out her blog here.

Second, I hope to address some of the concerns which have been voiced.  In fact, Meredith asked a very direct question which is at the heart of the debate concerning marriage.  It is too bad that others aren’t asking the same question.  She asked, “What is marriage?”

Historically, there have been 3 different answers posited in reply to this question.  The answers are as follows: Biological union, legal contract recognition, or beneficial economic arrangement.  Of these 3 options, I would say that I have been arguing for the first, while Meredith has been arguing for the second.  Why do I argue for marriage as a biological union? On the basis of reality.  I assert that the reality of humanity argues unambiguously for heterosexual marriage.

By this statement, I mean to say that heterosexual marriage is built into creation.  You may prefer to think of creation as the 19th Century followers of the Enlightenment did—as Nature (with a capital N).  Or, in your current progressive milieu, you may prefer nature (without the capital N).  Or you may have progressed already so far that you prefer to refer to reality in the laughable (yet often accepted) language of mother nature.  In former days, some would have used the terms, common sense.

Whatever you call it, it argues for heterosexual marriage. I mean to argue for heterosexual marriage from the perspective of easily recognizable reality.  When a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to a wife, the two become a new family unit.  The very natural outcome of the new couple’s coitus is, of course, children.  Hence, humanity progresses through the process of a man and woman leaving two families to start another family.  Nothing is more natural.  Humanity itself is furthered by this conjugal union, a fact which ought to please the evolutionists among us.

In this sense, then, cultures and societies are built upon the biological, conjugal relations of a man and a woman forming a family unit.  Contrary to what has been asserted, this notion is not the recent invention of the modern church.  It has been around since the original couple, Adam and Eve (thus the Matthew 19 reference).

Now, before anyone gets his hackles out of whack, allow me to say that I do believe in Adam and Eve as the original parents.  Evolutionists may or may not have a name for the original progenitors of humanity—I don’t know.  Regardless, there was an original male and female joined together to continue the human race.  Historically—even without reference to Adam and Eve—cultures and societies have been built around the conjugal union of a man and his wife.

We have records from the earliest civilization on record—ancient Sumer—which demonstrate that marriage was indeed between a man and a woman.  The custom was very much like that of Israel in the Old Testament.  The husband offered a bridal price for the woman he desired to marry.  After paying the bridal price to her father, the groom was able to take his bride out of her family home and into his home, where the two became a new family unit, recognized by their government as a new family unit.

No one here is asserting that the norm has been perfect, ubiquitous, or without anomalies and exceptions.  History includes polygamy and homosexuality.  Nevertheless, the enduring reality of heterosexual marriage as a foundational institution endures today as a vital aspect of humanity.  It is reality—even after New York.  It is such an obvious, foundational element of humanity that heterosexual marriage will endure beyond the most recent assaults against it.  Just as marriage endured as a lasting human institution through the political attempts of the 19th Century polygamists, so, too, will heterosexual marriage persevere through the 21st Century assaults of the same-sex marriage proponents.  And the reason heterosexual marriage will endure is that it is a fundamental reality of humankind rooted in biological union.

Against this plain reality, an alternate definition is being proposed by Meredith, namely, that marriage does not mean anything except what society decides for itself that marriage means.  Any attempt to establish marriage as inherently meaningful is so unreasonable that it could only come from religion.  If it comes from religion, then it must be dismissed because there can be no religious influence in matters of state control.  [I might be misunderstanding Meredith’s argument here, but this is the way I read it].  Therefore, marriage can only be given the definition of a social construct: Whatever society decides is right.

Against this, I would say that the ancient Sumerians weren’t “religious” if by religious we mean from a Judeo-Christian worldview.  Nevertheless, they recognized the value for society of the marriage between a man and a woman.  The Sumerians did not invent or define marriage, they recognized it as an inherent, biologically-based reality of the human condition.  To make it something less is to make marriage meaningless.  The notion that marriage is nothing more than what society decides is not pragmatically workable.

If this were the case, then marriage might just as well mean that 2 sisters living in an apartment together could call themselves married and, thus, enjoy the societal benefits of being married.  Why not?  What could possibly prevent these 2 consenting adults from being married?  Why should society discriminate against them just because they never found a man or another woman outside of their own family?  Why are these 2 sisters an acceptable target for the narrow-minded bigotry of restricting marriage to hetero/homosexual marriage?

Just as easily as society deems two men to be legally, contractually married, so, too, could society deem three men to be so or four men and two women.  Why not allow families to define themselves instead of having government define families?  Thus, the Manson Family would be every bit as legitimate as my family according to this definition.  Or else, on what basis would society exclude [discriminate against?] these adults wanting to enjoy the benefits of marriage?  On what basis would you exclude an adult daughter from marrying her father, especially after her mother passed away?  Could a woman enjoy the benefits of being married to her dog?  On what basis would that be excluded?  If marriage is self-defined, then its definition would have a limitless range.  In short, if marriage has no inherent meaning, then it has no meaning at all.

Viewing marriage as a mere social construct is untenable.  I suspect that Meredith and others would not care if the definitions changed and morphed into any number of carnal contortions.  Yet, that fact does not mean they don’t care about the definition of marriage.   In fact, if marriage were a mere social construct, then there would be no effort from gay activists to redefine it.

Consider it this way:  To all who would like to argue for the right of the state to define marriage anyway the state (or the majority of society) wishes it to be, I have this simple question for you to answer.  Why are you unwilling to accept the definition the states (majority of society) have already embraced?  About 60 % of the United States have constitutional amendments defining marriage exclusively between a man and a woman.  The question is already settled.  The states have defined marriage in the exact way they want it defined.  Why seek to overturn this definition?  On what grounds? You cannot answer that question without recourse to higher reality.  You believe in the inherent value of things apart from social constructs, you just don’t want to admit it.

A Little Monday Controversy

I know I shouldn’t wade into the New York controversy on a Monday morning, but I do think it is worth considering the question, “What is marriage?”  The successful effort of late in New York has redefined marriage to mean something that it has not meant before.  The state has changed the reality of what we know as marriage.

Obviously, I would object to a redefinition on “religious” grounds (see Romans 1:18ff).  But this issue is not necessarily a “religious” issue.  It is a “reality” issue.  George Weigel has a thoughtful explanation of what the decision in New York means in terms of the power of the state to impose its own reality on the citizenry.  Please give his column a thoughtful read without the emotional, knee-jerk thoughtlessness of many comments I have read lately by gay rights advocates who believe gay marriage is a civil rights issue. The issue is not a civil rights issue (for reasons Weigel explains).  The issue is one of dismantling reality into an alternate image desired by political power.

The issue is an attempt to redefine reality.  Such a redefinition does not enlarge us, it diminishes us by disconnecting us from the rails of reality.  A train does not become more free by jumping off its tracks–even if the field it enters promises to be vast and expansive and full of riches.  Marriage has been defined and is defined a certain way.  Pretending it can be another might make some feel better about themselves for a short season, but it will do nothing to protect and preserve humanity.

Reality is what it is, and no state–not even New York–has the authority to alter it.  Sadly, what I believe will follow in New York is a whole new set of freedoms lost in an attempt to maintain this new unreality.  Religious freedom will be the first freedom to go.  Freedom of speech will be second.  The state will have to control its newfangled reality by force because it will not be able to rely on what is self-evidently obvious any longer.  So, the state will have to force religious charities to act according to its legalized unreality.  Then, the state will force its citizenry not to speak against its brave new order of legislated reality. That is what I think this decision means from a political perspective.  That is why, sociologically speaking, I oppose New York’s new law.

Read Weigel’s piece. I think he explains it well from a non-sectarian perspective.

Surprising Development

New York surprises again.  This time, the Democrat majority in the state senate failed to pass a measure supporting gay marriage in the Empire State.  Baptist Press has this story which tells of the tears and theology behind the political intrigue.  I personally am surprised by this move because I was one of those who assumed the worst concerning the redefinition of marriage in America.

This failure to redefine marriage is a good thing not because “our side” won a victory.  Such pettiness would miss the point altogether.  Marriage is such a valuable institution for a stable society.  Similar battles were waged (ironically enough) in the 19th Century by Mormons and others who sought to redefine marriage, but we had the wisdom to withstand such devastating temptations.  I am glad that the New York Senate had the same wisdom today.  All the nation (and especially New York) will benefit from this decision.