Marriage has been on my mind of late. Not so much because of the ongoing legal controversies (one involving a wedding photographer in New Mexico, another a florist in Washington State, and still another a baker in Colorado) but rather because my brother Mark was married Saturday, and I officiated the ceremony.
Though deeply moved by his desire for me to conduct the service, it also humbled me. I have a lofty view of marriage, perhaps too lofty for the Age in which I dwell. Marriage, for me, is a relationship that spans a lifetime — something not entered into (or departed from) without the more extenuating of circumstances. However, with each bend in the turn made by our culture (and every legal precedent) I find those of my perspective becoming “on the wrong side of history.”
A dear friend and colleague of mine named Robert often rails against what he terms as “a broadside against the sanctity of marriage” by gay marriage advocates. With his permission and blessing I mention that Robert has been thrice divorced and currently lives with his “common-law wife” but he has no plans to re-marry at any point in the future. What’s more, Robert is a professing Christian and a deacon in his church.
So what exactly is the sanctity of marriage?
I don’t bring this up to pick on my friend (or any others like him) but the question must be asked. From what position of moral authority do you or I or anyone claim to speak of the sanctity of marriage? Why should people of faith expect those hostile (or even indifferent) to marriage to treat like the sacrament it is?
Any idea of “sanctity” in marriage is based on one’s beliefs. Yes, this goes for you too atheists. We all believe in something, we all believe some things are right and some are not. (If someone ever tells they don’t, give ‘em a good smack upside their head. They’ll become downright “fervent” in an instant.) Marriage is sacred because it was instituted by our Creator, it is the basis for all civilization and the means by which the human race is run.
Even if you deny the supernatural/religious aspects of marriage, it still remains a “social contract” pledging loyalty and love. It is also an institution that (according to just about every published study on the matter) professing Christians have a notoriously bad record in maintaining.
In this — as in many things — our language betrays us.
“We fell out of love,” or “We just grew apart,” are common refrains, different verses of the same song. The arbitrary whims of subjective personal satisfaction dictate our ideology, and we expect society to accept (if not endorse) our immorality. How then is this different than how we characterize what gay rights advocates are doing? “They are redefining marriage!” Yeah? But so have we. We redefined it as something little more than dating with wedding rings, long after we’d re-defined “dating” as “shacking up” together.
The establishment of no-fault divorce was the legal recognition of this and redefined marriage in a far more fundamental way than any future applications or revisions of the law are likely to do. Thus, when Pat Robertson told people they could divorce their incapacitated and senile spouses, he was operating with a fundamentally redefined notion of marriage as unbiblical, if not blasphemous as anything you will ever hear from far left radicals.
Did we not make this marriage bed? Why then can we not sleep in it?
The church accepted, by and large, the logic of no fault divorce. At least, nobody seemed to think that it was quite the apocalyptic moment presented by gay marriage. The argument for gay marriage proceeds on the basis of a logic which society, and sadly many churches, accepted long ago. Do not lament the loss of the sanctity of marriage in our culture, we have christened that ship and it has already sailed. Do not fret about when marriage will be redefined. It was. Quite some time back.
A people who cannot defend the sanctity of marriage in their own households have no hope of doing so in the courtroom.