There Are Two Marriages – Conclusion and Video Chat

There Are Two Marriages – Conclusion and Video Chat September 14, 2011

This brings me to the end of my series, “There Are Two Marriages.”  Before my concluding thoughts, I want to thank so many of you for contributing to the conversation in the comments (and some of you on your own blogs).  I’d also like to invite you to join me for a video chat discussion on Google+ at 10am CDT on Thursday, September 15 (tomorrow). If you go to my profile on Google+ at that time, you can join my hangout, and we can talk about these marriage posts.

This is a tricky issue, to be sure.  And I’m not sure that I’ve worked through it perfectly.

I am well aware that, in the past, the US government did have an interest in what happens in the bedroom.  We learn that in 10th grade when we read The Scarlet Letter.  (Yeah, yeah, I know that’s set in colonial America, but it’s a commentary. Get it?)  The proliferation of early 20th century American laws against sodomy, adultery, and the like shows that the state did at one time think it could legislate and litigate what citizens did in private.

But we don’t think that anymore.  Those laws have been struck down, vacated, or ignored for years.  Now the state pretty much stays out of the bedroom.

The result is that pretty much anyone can get legally married, as long as they are of opposite genders.  The state doesn’t care if they have intercourse or not, and the state neither asks nor investigates whether they do.  As seen in many comments on previous posts, adults get legally married for all sorts of reasons.  And other couples, who would seem primed to get married, don’t — again, for various reasons.

Legal marriage has become a way that two adults can legally bind themselves to one another.  Some of those couple have sex, and a lot of couple who are not legally married have loads of sex.  QED, legal marriage has nothing to do with sex!

So, as Christians, let’s at least be realistic about that part.  If we’re going to allow adults to form legal partnerships, and if we think that’s better for society, then let’s open that ability to same-gendered couples as well.

And, finally, let’s leave it to churches to marry whom they want to, but let’s make it clear that those marriages are sacramental, not legal.

See all the posts in this series hereAnd get my $.99 ebook on marriage here.

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  • CJ

    Okay, here’s something that’s been sticking with me over the course of this conversation. Let me start by saying I agree a billion percent with your thoughts on this. But here’s what I’m wondering. By not getting a legal marriage as well as a sacramental marriage, do straight couples unintentionally prove the point that the benefits of a legal marriage are not all that important?

    I know that your elemental point here is that the church needs to extract itself from the world of legal marriages and the state needs to extract itself from sacramental marriages. But I wonder if a full separation sends the wrong signal that one matters more than the other. It seems to me that both are important, although for very different reasons. Sacramental marriage is heart and soul of a marriage. It’s the part that most of us are actually looking for in a marriage–the love, the commitment, the intimacy. But the legal marriage, to me, is not optional–that’s why this conversation is a big deal. A sacramental marriage won’t help when one spouse up and leaves the other to raise their 5 kids alone. It won’t help when the breadwinner dies or a couple wants to adopt or one of them needs to make medical decisions for the other.

    If the legal protections offered by a state-sanctioned marriage are worth fighting for–and I think they are–then what good is gained from couples forgoing those protections to make a point? It seems to me that doing so only adds fuel to the idea that these protections and benefits are somehow optional and that homosexual couples should just zip it and quit asking for the same protections and benefits as heterosexual couples. In other words, if hetero couples are willing to go without them, why should homosexual couples make such a big stink about them?

    I get that it’s a powerful symbolic act not to take advantage of a privilege that’s wrongly denied to another group of people, but real change doesn’t come from symbolic acts. The civil rights movement wasn’t advanced by white people refusing to use the white’s only bathrooms or agreeing to sit in the back of the bus with the black people. It was advanced by white and black people advocating and calling out discrimination when they see it and fighting for equal protection under the law. Deciding not to take advantage of that protection gives the impression that it’s not something worth fighting for.

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  • Katie

    completely 100% agree with CJ. Tony, re-think this thing… Your point is working against itself. I had the same thought as CJ when you were writing your series.

  • Brian G Hutchins

    This is a thoughtful response to what Tony is thinking, preaching and doing. However, I do think it has the effect of favoring legal marriage over sacramental marriage. You say: “A sacramental marriage won’t help when one spouse up and leaves the other to raise their 5 kids alone. ” This is true. Why? Because most christian communities do not (can not?) provide the necessary help. Mormons do appear to manage this very well, but it seems they get left out of discussions of Christian communities. The thing is, if the argument is that sacramental marriage is the greater, the necessary thing, because it derives from the action and grace of Christians in community then it should follow that the support and embrace of the members throughout that marriage (even if it fails) would be of primary importance to a faith community’s members. You rightly point out that this is not the case. The result is, that legal marriage gains far greater importance, overshadows, and replaces sacramental marriage.

    In this light, Tony’s actions are more than a symbolic act – but a real reliance on grace, before they are a political act.

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