Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Is Marriage?

If you had told me twenty or even ten years ago that the most controversial issue in America in 2014 would concern the nature of marriage, I'm not sure that I would have believed you.  However, I recently found out how controversial this is when a local TV station asked for comments concerned a proposed amendment to the Indiana constitution which would define marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.  I noticed that almost all the comments were against the proposed amendment and for "same-sex marriage."  Holding a different view and wanting to express it in a factual manner, I simply commented by giving three reasons that I believe in holding to the traditional view of marriage.  To my surprise, I was repeatedly attacked as some kind of miscreant by those on the other side.  The kindest thing that was said about me was that I was ignorant.   One person wished that I would never be able to procreate!  So much for tolerance.

This highlights the fact that almost all the information that the average person gets through the media on the issue of "same-sex marriage" is totally one-sided.  Once President Obama finally "evolved" in his views in 2012 (in an election year-imagine that!) to embrace "same-sex marriage", politicians in his party have almost exclusively lined up with him.  Increasingly, even many conservatives and Republicans have embraced this new definition of marriage.  And when the Supreme Court last year struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the momentum for "marriage equality" picked up even more steam. In 2013 alone, seven states saw fit to recognize "same-sex marriage", making the total number of states recognizing these unions as of this moment to seventeen.  Each one of these steps is covered glowingly by most mainstream media sources, and "marriage equality", as proponents cast the issue, is the civil rights issue of our time.  Or so we are told.  Militant opponents of traditional marriage would like to see those who oppose "same-sex marriage" as stigmatized as those who oppose racial equality.  Increasingly, traditional marriage advocates such as myself are being lumped together with the KKK and the southern segregationists of the past.

However, whether you believe in traditional marriage or the new revisionist view, the basic question that we have to answer is, "What is marriage?"  In their book "What Is Marriage?  Man and Woman: A Defense." Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, grapple with this issue.  They contend that with all the noise surrounding the "same-sex marriage" debate, we have lost sight of what marriage actually is.

While I plan to get into the details of Girgis, Anderson, and Georges views later on, I'd like to give here an overview of their premise.  They describe the traditional view of marriage as the conjugal view, writing:

...Marriage is, of its essence, a comprehensive union: a union of will (by consent) and body (by sexual union); inherently ordered to procreation and thus the broad sharing of family life; and calling for permanent and exclusive commitment, whatever the spouses’ preferences.
 The more modern view of marriage they call the revisionist view:

A second, revisionist view has informed the marriage policy reforms of the last several decades. It is a vision of marriage as, in essence, a loving emotional bond, one distinguished by its which fidelity is ultimately subject to one’s own desires. In marriage, so understood, partners seek emotional fulfillment, and remain as long as they find it.
They describe the revisionist view of marriage as something like a super-friendship with a sexual component. In this view, fidelity and permanence are optional. To me, this gets to the heart of the reason we're even having this debate. If traditional marriage was today what is was forty or fifty years ago, this debate would certainly not be possible. Since the advent of no-fault divorce laws, the permanence of marriages have been sorely tried. If divorce was as rare today as it was fifty years ago, I don't think gays and lesbians would have any interest in getting married, since (with exceptions) permanence in same-sex
relationships is almost non-existent. Also, in the revisionist view of marriage, there is no real reason for exclusivity of partners. Girgis, et al. share a quote concerning this:
 The New York Times... recently reported on a study finding that exclusivity was not the norm among gay partners: “ ‘With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,’ said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, ‘but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.’ ”  

In my view, as well as the writers of this book, the revisionist view of marriage will significantly harm all marriages, because it seeks to redefine marriage as something it has never been.  Permanence and exclusivity within all types of marriages will further erode as we lose sight of what real marriage is.  In my view, there is really no such thing as "same-sex marriage", no matter what the law permits.  Marriage has always been and can only be an exclusive and permanent relationship between a man and a woman, primarily ordered for the purpose of raising the next generation of men and women and for giving stability to the fabric of our society.

In "What Is Marriage?...", the authors give detailed reason why they believe the traditional or conjugal view of marriage is the right view of marriage for our society or for any society, yet they don't use any kind of religious arguments to further their points.  As I Christian, I know that the Bible supports my view of marriage.  In the next few posts, I'll be summarizing the points made in "What Is Marriage?..." plus adding a few of my own, both biblical and extra-biblical.

I welcome any respectful comments from anyone on either side of this issue.  My email address is

For a summary of Girgis, Anderson, and George's points, see this Wall Street Journal column they wrote in 2012. 
Here's a link to an article I wrote about marriage last year:

Reflections On 30 Years Of Marriage-Part 1

For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here:

Check Out My New Facebook Page - Flyover Country!