Back in October I explained why I think it is that same-sex “marriage” (SSM) makes so much sense to so many people. It’s because so many—not just SSM advocates—have bought into a distorted definition of marriage that goes something like this:
Marriage is the legally-recognized faithful, uniquely committed, loving, social, economic, and sexual union of two non-blood-related consenting adults of opposite sex….Marriage carries with it certain legal, economic, and social benefits, not least of which is the social approval accorded to the partners’ sexual relationship.
Does that sound about right to you? I’ve done informal surveys among Christians, and I’ve found that even many SSM opponents see marriage that way. They had better look out. It’s a view that’s centered entirely in the couple: their feelings, their benefits, their satisfaction. It’s all about the romantically loving pair.
Given that view of marriage, I can’t find much to criticize about SSM advocacy, because if two men think they’re experiencing romantic love, it’s hard to think of any principled reason why they shouldn’t be “married,” based on that above-stated view of marriage. If that were the way I viewed marriage, I would even find it hard to criticize something as extreme as Ed Coffin’s Huffington Post suggestion that we abandon marriage altogether.
This dilemma applies not only to gay people but to all people. Why do two people need to align themselves with a traditionally religious but now civil commitment in order to be taken seriously? Can we not be committed and moral without the label of “marriage”?
I have no earthly idea what he means by “moral” in that context, but I’ll set that aside for now. What I want you to notice in that article is how exclusively he keeps his focus centered upon the couple:
It’s perfectly reasonable for two people to want to commit themselves to each other, one can only wonder why two people would make such a decision….
Why is it that we need to make an official and permanent public commitment (unless, of course, we later decide to divorce, which many married couples ultimate [sic] do)? …
Is it possible that we are enforcing an ideology that assumes that two people must be “married” in order for their commitment to be official? …
I’m 100-percent supportive of the idea that marriage should afford same-sex couples the same rights in the eyes of the government that it affords opposite-sex couples, but I think we –not just gay people but straight people, as well — need to rethink the entire idea of “marriage.” What’s the point? Are two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other without making it “official” by calling it “marriage” any less committed than anyone else? I think divorce statistics might suggest otherwise. Why do we keep enforcing this idea that we must be “married” in order for our commitment to each other to be taken seriously?
Not very many years ago, everybody would have regarded this not just as weird, immoral, or strange, but literally impossible. That’s because not long ago marriage meant the founding of a family. Marriage was about two people loving each other enough to commit to that lifelong relational project together, with children in mind from the beginning. Marriage was never only about the couple. It was about the couple and the life that would naturally flow out of their love. Marriage was never self-contained, it was generative. It was future-oriented.
Today, however, “it’s all about the two of us” has become not only a frequent view but a dominant one. And to the extent marriage is only about the couple, to a proportional extent same-sex “marriage” actually makes sense. Why should loving, committed relationships be limited to opposite-sex pairs?
What I’m saying is that the pressure against marriage we’re seeing today is nothing new. It started decades ago, with heterosexual couples taking the self-oriented position that it’s about “our feelings,” “our commitment,” “our need to be together,” rather than “our commitment to unite together in all ways and to raise a family.”
Let’s take this another step deeper. The only reason anyone would mount an attack on marriage is because they see marriage as an enemy in some way. Homosexual advocates are clamoring to revise marriage because (as Coffin’s article so clearly demonstrates) they hate it.
Or maybe not.
Maybe what they hate is the late-20th century counterfeit they grew up with. Marriage for the couple’s satisfaction. Temporary marriage. Marriage to be discarded when the couple’s self-fulfillment was placed at risk. Marriage in which the children were discardable by at least one of the parents, too. Marriage as it was never intended to be.
I grew up with parents who loved each other until the day my mom died; my dad still loves her in her absence. I know I’m in the minority. The kind of marriage I’m defending might just be one that SSM supporters can’t even imagine.
I know I’m painting with a broad brush, and that this does not count as a rule for who supports or opposes SSM. We all make our decisions based on multiple factors. Still I think that if heterosexual marriage hadn’t lost its family-centered purpose and then fallen apart over the past fifty years, same-sex “marriage” would be as literally unthinkable as it was in 1950.