The State of Marriage

I posted a while back about gay marriage, and tried to present a non-religious argument against it, focusing on the disconnection between marriage and childrearing that gay marriage causes, and why that’s a bad thing from a society’s perspective. It is very much in the society’s interest that the great majority of children are raised with one mother and father, which is why the state subsidizes marriage. The state does not subsidize the love between two individuals, but rather the institution of marriage, so that it is within the bonds of marriage that most childrearing takes place. Gay marriage completes the destruction of that understanding. And so, as many have said, it’s not so much that gays want to be married (Joe at EO has a great summary here of homosexuals’ understanding of monogamy) as they want to end the privileged status that married people have. They want to destroy the institution.

Some of those who criticized my earlier post did so on the grounds of the sorry state of marriage in America already. The statistics are all bad; although the 50% divorce rate may be misleading, we all know the situation is a whole lot worse than it was 40 years ago. There is no longer a consensus in America that sex should only occur in marriage or that having children out of wedlock is an unambiguously bad thing. A large portion of our children are now raised outside of the normal two biological parent household, and the effects of this are well known. Juvenile crime, illiteracy, poverty, and a host of other social ills can be traced to illegitimacy. All of this happened long before gay marriage was even contemplated, it is argued, so why posit the possibility of something happening as a result of a given cause, when the effect has already occurred absent the cause?

And they’re right. The fact is, there is virtually no societal or legal structure that is doing much these days to hold marriages together and encourage childrearing in those marriages. Gay marriage will simply continue a process that began a long time ago, and the church is fighting a rearguard action, insofar as we are fighting at all. The institution of marriage was dealt its body blow quite a while ago and the church just stood by, and even actively helped in some cases. We did not speak out like we should have against no-fault divorce, abortion, welfare and the like, and now we are stuck.

At this stage, it seems to me that the church will now have to provide for itself many things that previously were done by the church, state and society working in concert. The church, by itself, will have to encourage good marriages, discourage promiscuity, and promote Christian values. I don’t believe we will be able to look to the state or culture to help us. That may not be such a bad thing. The church may have to be serious about its calling in a way that it hasn’t for a while.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m coming to realize that gay marriage is not the fundamental issue. Gay marriage is just the inevitable symptom of the church’s failure to maintain its core teachings on the subject of marriage, family and childrearing. We’ll have to fall back now and address the core issues, and start rebuilding an understanding of God’s intention for men, women and the family. We’ll have to do this on our own, without the help (and frequently against the opposition) of most other elements of the society. But the church has been in that position before and has always triumphed.

The philosophies of the world are ultimately self-defeating. A culture that destroys its ability to replicate itself through widespread abortion and destructive sexual practices is not a culture that will be around long. If the church is faithful to its mission, then we will be the ones left when the rest of it collapses.

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