Mocking Marriage

It’s late, and my brain is fuzzy, and this may not come out as clearly as I’d like it to.  But I’m going to try anyways.

A little ditty out of Florida
, part of the continuing onslaught against the traditional definition of marriage.  And by traditional, I mean the definition of marriage held by literally every culture in every place throughout all of human history – a binding sexual (or at least potentially sexual)  relationship between a man and a woman. 

Two strangers wed in Florida to protest the fact that homosexuals cannot marry in that state.  The idea being that there is nothing that special about marriage in the first place – any man and woman can do it, even if they don’t know one another.  So why not allow homosexuals to marry as well? 

Why not, indeed?

Actually, I think this little stunt backfires.  The participants are trying to mock the fact that any person of the male gender can marry pretty much any person of the female gender.  Barring already being married to someone else, or not satisfying age or perhaps mental competency requirements, any man and any woman can get married.  Clearly, the participants here find such a situation laughable.  As the story says, they “protest the fact that, while two strangers can marry in Florida as long as they’re of the opposite sex, committed same-sex couples must be turned away.”

The implication is that somehow it’s the commitment factor that makes a couple worthy of being married, regardless of their gender or sexual persuasion.  As long as they’re committed, they ought to be allowed to get married.  But marriage is an institution concerned less about whether or not the people coming to it are interested or excited or commited to it, but whether or not they are capable of legally entering into the relationship.  In other words, is it a man and a woman who don’t have any compelling reasons to be denied a marriage relationship?

Tina Turner once sang:

What’s love got to do with it?
What’s love, but a second-hand emotion?

I think you could substitute the word commitment and the idea would hold here. 

The current notion seems to be that marriage in the civil sense (obviously in the theological sense there are a whole lot of other issues that come into play) ought to be about commitment, love, devotion, and any number of other love-song worthy sentiments.  Those things are certainly desirable.  But that’s not what marriage is about.  Not in the sense that marriage has been universally (until the last few decades) understood across culture, geography, time, etc.  Marriage has remained such a universally understood constant in terms of who can participate in it, because it has nothing to do with sentiment, and everything to do with gender.  Separate genders.  Male and female.  Because this is the combination necessary to produce children.

Some cultures recognize lots of different types of relationships.  Some of them sexual, and some of them homosexual.  But until recent history, no culture uniformly treated these other forms of sexual relationships as equivalent to marriage.  Marriage has always been different or unique.  This is not accidental.  Whatever we do to have fun or whatever you want to call it, marriage is intended to perform more serious and far-reaching purposes. 

From a civil, secular sense, the attempt to relate marriage to feelings and intentions is misguided and misdirected.  The institution of heterosexual marriage remains crucial whether these things are present or not.   Whether it’s a traditional Indian wedding that has been arranged since the bride and groom were children – where indeed the bride and groom may be complete strangers to each other – or whether it’s the Western idea of a romantic courtship that leads to marriage, people understand that marriage ought to be something unique, serious and lifelong. 

The fact that marriages in America fail at alarming rates does not discredit the fact that heterosexual marriage is a specific and unique legal and social relationship, and needs to remain as such.  The fact that total strangers can get married reinforces this function, rather than somehow discrediting it.  The fact that people recognize that the idea of total strangers showing up to get married is somehow bizarre or absurd demonstrates that the fact that it can happen does not invalidate the seriousness of the relationship that is created.

The two people involved in this stunt are married.  They may not remain married – though of course they could.  What they intended as a joke simply affirms the fundamental purpose and nature of civil marriage.  I guess it’s back to the drawing board in terms of effective protests.

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