The definition of marriage

“A marriage is an interpersonal relationship with governmental, social, or religious recognition, usually intimate and sexual, and often created as a contract.” – Wikipedia

I think about marriage quite a bit. I’m surrounded by people that take it and the privileges that it affords for granted. As a person on the outside looking in, the apparent lack of respect that many people have for it is saddening and astonishing. I long to partake of something that they seem to have little or no reverence for.

ssmMany opponents of same-sex marriage rely on the argument that God created the institution and designed it to be between one man and one woman. While this may work well for mobilizing the conservative base, it’s more reflective of a personal aversion to gay marriage than biblical truth.

Marriage, as we know it, seems to be a relatively modern concept. Two people meet, fall in love, and decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together. They normally have a public ceremony, frequently in a church, where they are surrounded by friends and family who act as witnesses to their vows of faithfulness and dedication. This is often a far cry from the versions presented in scripture.

Historically and biblically, marriage took a variety of forms – sometimes monogamous, oftentimes polygamous. People were joined in matrimony for many different reasons including improving their social status, forming alliances between political parties, or through arrangements made without their knowledge or involvement. Romance didn’t seem to play a significant part in these unions.

Using religion of any sort as a barrier to uniting homosexuals is faulty. Marriage may be associated with religion, but it is definitely no longer only a religious institution in this country. Athiests and Wiccans can marry without restriction, yet neither of them ask for the blessing of a church or holy text. The Christian community still considers their marriages valid and bestowed with all the blessings normally associated with matrimony.

Some supporters of libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul argue that marriage shouldn’t even be recognized by the government, since marriage usually has a religious connotation. They believe that straight and gay couples should be able to enter into civil unions and be provided the same rights afforded to married couples. This facilitates keeping religion and government separate, while providing personal rights to persons who don’t have them under current law.

I find their stance interesting, but must admit that I want marriage and all the rights and responsiblities that come with it. “Marriage” has a more personal ring to it than “civil union”, at least for me. If and when I’m able to experience the tradition, I want people to understand that it isn’t only a legal contract, but a personal and spiritual one as well.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

How much opposition to gay marriage is based on fear of the unknown? Many conservatives feel that homosexual unions will actually threaten their own marriage in some way, but it seems that only the two people involved in a relationship can affect its outcome. There is also no credible evidence that it would have a detrimental effect on society, so most of the bias remains completely unfounded.

The American Anthropological Association released the following statement in 2004:

“The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.”

I have no doubt that one day I will be able to legally join with the one that I love. My ceremony may be termed a civil union, but I pray that God will place His blessing upon it and help us make it a true marriage.

Author: Brian

Blogger. Bookworm. Michael Jackson fanatic. Lives in Kentucky with partner of 11 years and three fabulous felines.

12 thoughts on “The definition of marriage”

  1. I think you might be exaggerating a bit if you think that Wiccans are getting the blessings of the Christian community. :)

    I’m a Ron Paul supporter – one of the supporters who think that marriage shouldn’t even be recognized by the government. I don’t want any “rights” to come along with marriage. Rights should belong to individuals, not individuals who conform some archaic notions of conformity.

    Same with responsibilities. The government doesn’t need to be involved, and we shouldn’t be begging to seek approval from the elite who choose to rule us.

  2. AngelaTC,

    “I think you might be exaggerating a bit if you think that Wiccans are getting the blessings of the Christian community.”

    I said their marriage was considered valid and bestowed with all the blessings that come with it. ;) I know the Christian community doesn’t support Wiccans.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Brian,

    Well said. Thank you for your thought-provoking insights and honesty.

    I hurt for you when you write, “As a person on the outside looking in, the apparent lack of respect that many people have for it is saddening and astonishing.” I share your frustration/anger over the lack of respect and taking for granted of the privilege of marriage by so many in our society.

    I think many couples getting married have no clue what they are really getting into. You have an understanding and appreciation for the importance of marriage that many young heterosexual couples do not.

    I do want to weigh in on a couple of things with which you may not agree:

    You wrote:
    “Many opponents to same-sex marriage rely on the argument that God created the institution and designed it to be between one man and one woman. While this may work well for mobilizing the conservative base, it’s more reflective of a personal aversion to gay marriage than biblical truth.”

    Marriage is ancient, going back to the very beginning in the Book of Genesis when God said to Adam and Eve, “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” So, biblically, I can see how people understand that it is an institution created by God and designed for one man and one woman. Some would arge that that was the ideal, before “the fall”, and not the reality we are dealing with now.
    I think conservatives are not just trying to mobilize a political base, but many (maybe not most) are just basing their beliefs on a straightforward reading of scripture.

    You wrote:
    “How much opposition to gay marriage is based on fear of the unknown? Many conservatives feel that homosexual unions will actually threaten their own marriage in some way, ”

    I don’t think conservatives feel that gay marriages will threaten their own heterosexual marriage, just the institution of marriage in general. But I may be wrong, fear is often irrational and much of the opposition is based on fear, not reason. I think the real fear for religious conservatives that I talk to is that our nation will allow something that they feel God opposes and we as a nation will incur God’s wrath for the decision.

    You are absolutely right about the variety of forms of marriage and the different reasons for marriage–most often having nothing to do with love, romance or fidelity.

    I like when you say, “If and when I’m able to experience the tradition, I want people to understand that it isn’t only a legal contract, but a personal and spiritual one as well.”

    One option is to go ahead and have the public ceremony and make to commitment to each other, and to God, whether the government recognizes it or not. I know that doesn’t grant the privileges and benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy, but maybe one day the government will catch up and recognize your union as legitimate.

    Thanks for letting me post my thoughts.

    Your on-line friend,

    JimT

  4. JimT,

    You raise some good points about scripture and where the biblical definition of marriages originates. Some could also argue that the Bible was presenting a story and using the most common scenario as an example, which is what I tend to think. God also told Adam & Eve to reproduce, which isn’t an option for some straight couples.

    There’s a pretty good breakdown of the Bible verses pertaining to this and homosexuality in my links. It’s entitled “The Bible & Homosexuality”. Pretty self-explanatory, eh? ;)

    “I think the real fear for religious conservatives that I talk to is that our nation will allow something that they feel God opposes and we as a nation will incur God’s wrath for the decision.”

    I agree with this statement, especially from some personal experiences that I’ve had with conservatives. However, one has to wonder why they aren’t fighting against other ills in our country that are considered sins in the Bible, such as poverty, gambling, adultery, and even collecting interest on loans? Surely those things affect families far more than monogamous homosexual relationships.

    Great thoughts from you… Keep ’em coming! :)

  5. “However, one has to wonder why they (conservatives) aren’t fighting against other ills in our country that are considered sins in the Bible, such as poverty, gambling, adultery, and even collecting interest on loans? Surely those things affect families far more than monogamous homosexual relationships.”

    Well said. Religious conservatives often rail against monogamous homosexual relationships but turn a blind eye to heterosexual promiscuity, oftentimes in their own families.

    JimT

  6. More fine thinking and writing, Brian! More invitation on your part to get us to see our blind spots and question assumptions. Keep it up!

    A couple thoughts:

    Anyone who hasn’t viewed the film, “Tying the Knot,” needs to hightail it to the nearest Blockbuster or Movie Gallery and check it out. It gives a fine history of marriage at the front end of the film and then goes on to highlight a number of many injustices experienced by long-committed gay and lesbian couples. If you aren’t wiping a tear away when the film is over, you need to have the cement chipped off your hardened heart.

    Switching gears: As a pastor, I have long resented the duty that attends every wedding I perform for heterosexual couples–that of servant to the state. I take great issue with my role as a certifier on wedding licenses. My role in every wedding is spiritual. I make myself available so that a couple can offer covenantal promises to one another and their God regarding their intent to live together in love. For this reason, I have no trouble whatsoever saying “yes” when committed, mature gay or lesbian couples ask for the same moment to pledge their love as is afforded to similarly-prepared straight couples.

    In Europe, a couple goes to the courthouse for a civil ceremony and then to a church for a religious one. I wish it were the same here. I am tired of playing an agent of the state when I have no desire to be one.

    Frankly, I have a hard time imagining Jesus taking issue with those who might wish to commit to one another in mature, healthy love. Conformity to social and religious norms seemed not to impair Jesus’ clear seeing and I wish the same were true for us.

  7. Karen,

    You are, without a doubt, one of the coolest pastors on the planet. I’m so thankful that I meandered into your world last year!

  8. Amen, Brian. I’m thankful I meandered into your “cyber world”.

    Karen, I have not seen that movie but will do so pronto. As a pastor, I share your resentment of being an agent of the state on such occasions. I like the idea of separate civil and religious ceremonies–makes a lot of sense.

    JimT

  9. You have some great insight on the gay marriage issue. You have inspired me to begin to look deeper at marriage in the Bible. I am a legally married ( we live in MA) gay man and I am also a Christian. We belong to the Unied Church of Christ. I’m happy that I came across your blog. Check out my musings on gay marriage if you get a chance.

    Jos76
    http://www.jos76.wordpress.com

  10. The bibles I’ve read are against homosexuals. Therefore, Christian marriage was intended for a man and a woman. The rest of the world can try to twist it every way they want.

    I used to be bisexual, turning lesbian, before I went on a complete binge. Most religious groups go nuts over this topic, but I just read as many bibles as I could. I found it in every one. Please don’t exaggerate as much as the religious groups I’ve seen. Either accept that you’re changing the basis of the religion or don’t do it.

    With love and no intended offense, just information,
    Jen

  11. @ Jen: You’ve simply interpreted them that way. After all, every Bible that we have available is nothing more than an interpretation of the original.

    Try reading “The Bible & Homosexuality” in my sidebar for a slightly different view from what you’re obviously used to.

  12. I note you appear to advocate for monogamous homosexual relationships. Do you support the same marriage rights for polygamous relationships whether heterosexual or homosexual?

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