Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ideal of Marriage

Every society has its ideals and ideologies, about marriage as much as about any other institution. And the fact that wedlock was once somewhat more about property and somewhat less about love than it is today doesn’t mean that our ancestors didn’t have their own theories of marriage, and their own arguments about what the institution meant and ought to mean.

Read the Greeks and Romans; read the New Testament; read Shakespeare and The Book of Common Prayer. There was never a time when human beings weren’t building ideologies of marriage, and there was never a culture where those ideologies didn’t have an impact on how people wed and parented and loved.

This means that if the ideology that justifies defining marriage as lifelong heterosexual monogamy gets swept into history’s dustbin, we won’t suddenly be flung into a landscape where the only real things are people and the people they love. We’ll just get a different ideology of marriage in its place, one that makes a different set of assumptions and generalizations and invests the institution with a different kind of purpose.
Ross Douthat punctures the ideal in the new ideology with "We're All Marriage Ideologues".   A sense of failure seems to have swept over many of those who hold a Christian view of marriage since this Proposition 8 hearing, though this ideal has been betrayed not only in the last forty years, but continuously in the history of our race.  Whatever the legal outcome, the vision we have and the faith we keep is the necessary witness to the origin of this union as recorded in Genesis (and immediately broken):  equal and complementary, fruitful and self-giving, and dependent on God's mercy.  Even those who have endured the awful rupture of divorce or raised children separate from biological parents or struggled with same-sex attraction can offer a testimony to the ideal, a sign that refers to the final and complete faithfulness that only Christ can offer to each one.

1 comment:

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

Written so well, Sharon. I don't get the fear. It was He who said "Be not afraid," which was echoed by JPII. As you reminded me, echoing the Holy Father, "the only thing we have to be worried about is to live faithfully."