Tuesday, January 03, 2012

defense of marriage

It's been said that what we value is seen less by our words and more by what we spend our time, energy and resources on. If that's the case, one might wonder how much we as Christians really value marriage.

Both divorce and common-law relationships are counter to the traditional Christian understanding of marriage, yet I do not see anyone engaging in protests or political action to have those revoked or cancelled. Yet when gay and lesbian people want to enter into committed marriage relationships with their partners, straight conservative Christians are expending enormous amounts of energy to stop them.

So do Christians value marriage? Really??

Perhaps some Christians just value heterosexuality and the privilege that comes with it, including the privilege of promoting marriage but having the option to get out of it. That's a convenience many do not want to give up, considering that divorce rates are generally as high among Christians as they are among those of other faiths.

Or perhaps, rather than being about valuing marriage or heterosexuality per se, this is about conformity and order and power, and thus some devalue and castigate those who are different from themselves – men and women who are equally loved by our heavenly Father and who have other beliefs, views, interests, attractions.

n.b. I am not a historian, and do not know how many objections Christians had to the legalization of divorce and the establishment of common law status and benefits, at the time that these were initially happening. I am commenting here on the current reality of what I see taking place in North America.


  1. Rob,

    While I think it is partially valid, I think the reason people focus on SSM at the moment is that is where the opportunity for change is (or was). Taking Steven Covey's (7 Habits) look at things... it is the sphere of influence - where there are openings for change, that is where the focus of people's efforts are.

    But, would also submit that with the increasing body of research regarding divorce, common-law relationships, and single parenting... and the initiatives fromt this research, that more is happening behind the scenes than what is seen. For instance the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative in the USA (http://fatherhood.hhs.gov/), increasing research out of the UK and the resulting PREP program to reduce marital breakup, the respected Norwegian relationship education program, and that common-law benefits are discussed politically... to name a few.

    I would be happy to send you some of the research and commentaries I have collected over the past year or so. Also there are numerous organizations that work with various groups and are 'pro-family' as opposed to 'anti-anything'.

    That being said, research that shows that married families have a significantly lower rate of splitting up compared to co-habiting parents might be considered 'anti-common-law parents' so perhaps being pro- something implies also being anti- something. For instance:
    'In a new analysis using census data, I found that 60 per cent of families remain intact until their children are 15. Of these, 97
    per cent are married.'

    Just my $0.02.


  2. To follow up on my recent comments, at a church I recently attended before moving overseas, there was a couple that was 'asked/requested/told' to not be in the youth group leadership after they moved in together before they were married. Others have been moved out of leadership positions due to divorce. I think that shows a stand.

    On the pro-family side, with the extensive support for marriage conferences, groups like Cursillo, and the support for couples going through hard times, I think that many Christians take a solid pro-family and pro-marriage view and spend much effort to develop strong families. I can't think of any non-Christian (or perhaps at least no not-religious) marriage conferences. Why not? Perhaps because Christians are more concerned about developing strong families??? I would submit that these all need to be considered when asking whether Christians are simply taking a 'priviledged' viewpoint.


  3. Thanks for your thoughts on this post, Alex, and for pointing out the many ways in which Chrisians are supporting marriage and families. That is helpful in the bigger context.

    What drove this cartoon is primarily the current state of what is happening in the U.S. Allowing same-sex marriages or not is a prominent issue in various states, and in the political campaigns which are currently underway, with many who affiliate with the Christian faith lobbying actively against same-sex marriage. I don't recall anywhere near the same level of action, lobbying, rhetoric, and hatred when divorce and common-law benefits and recognition.

    Glad it's got you thinking!

  4. I remember the debate in Canada. I was always interested to see letters to the newspaper. Some days there were 4-6 against SSM, and 1 for SSM... and the newspaper always highlighted the 1 for SSM. And the bigoted and angry comments came from both sides of the fence. I think for all people it is a difficult issue to be able to say 'this is what I think and why' - knowing that the other side isn't going to like the answer - and still do it in love. We don't have a recent tradition in Canada of civilized public debate, and without practice we don't know how to do it well.