Monday, November 17, 2008

A Discussion on Marriage

The other night on Facebook, I came across a note one of my friends had written (not written to me specifically, but to the general public). This old friend, Richard, entitled his note, "A Mormon's Defense of Marriage between a Man and a Woman." The note was a well written, well thought out view of his and his church's (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) position on Proposition 8. He also addressed the attacks that have been made against LDS' buildings and member's property.

Since Richard posted his note, several of his friends have engaged the topic by leaving a variety of comments. I find myself going back to that post each morning to read where the conversation is going and the different view points. Reading the comments from both sides of the argument has piqued my interest to do some research on the subject.

I want to share with you all (atleast those of you interested enough to read this post) the research I've done, comments from Richard's post and subsequent comments from his friends regarding that post. Though, before I trudge through this heavy and murky topic I'd like to air out my own opinion, for I definitely want to leave no doubts regarding my own beliefs.

Without doubt, I believe the institution of marriage should be reserved for the uniting of one man and one woman. This is a moral belief that I hold, and not a bias based on ignorance or hatred. I choose to show love and respect to others, even if we're not in agreement on this issue, and my prayer is that you find this evident in my writing.

As I've been thinking this issue through, I've come to the conclusion that it has gone beyond just moral beliefs to the basic question, "Is marriage an institution of the church or the state?" In helping to examine that question let me digress just briefly.

I would say that a "marriage" today has a threefold obligation (again this is my viewpoint - you might disagree). First obligation is to the spouse in the vows made to one another as part of a marriage ceremony. Secondly (though as important as the first if not more), is our obligation to God in keeping our vows to our spouse. If we see our spouse as a gift from God that she/he is, we will honor His word in how we are to love and respect the gift He's given us. Lastly is our obligation to the state in form of marriage certificates, etc. I believe this last obligation holds the least consequence in regards to a marriage. It's more of a formality, such as birth certificates for babies are a formality to having a family.

So, is marriage an insituation of the church or the state? Being that our greater obligations are to God and our spouse, you understand why I would say that marriage is an institution of the Church. Now even taking a different approach and reviewing the history of marriage we still find the church as the main source of involvement in even it's earliest years. In fact, I would concur with Richard when he states biblically:

Marriage is an institution that was begun at the creation of the earth. When God created Adam and Eve, he basically married them together. “God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply.” (Gen 1:28) “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone…[and] made he a woman…And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh…therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:18, 22-24) Marriage was set up before and government or any rule of law was ever in place, before there was such a thing as taxation, or visitation right; marriage came along, hand in hand with religion

In fact in my research I did not find evidence that the state required certain expectations of marriage until 1563:

There appeared to be many marriages taking place without witness or ceremony in the 1500's. The Council of Trent was so disturbed by this, that they decreed in 1563 that marriages should be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses.

I'll even admit that the previous example is weak considering the Council of Trent was a religious institution, though in an era and place of church and state, so I'll let it pass as a state required expectation.

I can understand why an individual might want the priviledge to enter into a covenant marriage, especially with the rights the state does afford to married individuals. Those same individuals need to understand that "the church" is trying to protect what marriage has always meant to us from the earliest form.

As one of Richard's friends wrote:

We think that extending the meaning of the word to include other "nontraditional" relationships does affect us. When I say that my brother is getting married in December, that means something very specific. Had Prop 8 failed, I would perhaps need to qualify that statement and specify what kind of marriage he's entering into. So how does same sex marriage affect me? It changes the definition of the word--a word that has a special (sacred) meaning to me. Hence the phrase "Protecting marriage."

I don't have an eloquent, well thought out, answer to the issue. I can only take the time to write my thoughts, and in this reiterate the thoughts of others. I appreciate that we are able to have an honest and respectful dialogue on the issue. What does bother me is the hate and violent acts that sometimes characterize these issues. Richard drew attention to some of these acts against his own church.

As myself a Mennonite and Richard a Latter-day Saint we won't always agree, but I appreciate that we could both have a respectful dialogue and remain friends. I believe we move forward in friendship despite our differences, and the same thing could be said in the other case. It just takes a good foundation void of violence and hatred to be built upon.

Well, enough of me. What are your thoughts?

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