Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

Marriage: Why Hi-Jack a Christian Institution?

John Mark Reynolds

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Marriage is a Jewish and Christian institution as it exists in much of the world.

We built it. We lavished care on it. We wrote great poetry about it.

Growth in marriage was a good sign of civilization. Breakdown in the monotheistic idea of marriage was a good sign of coming decadence and social decay.


Married love is difficult. One reason it is difficult is that it is between a man and a woman. Men and women are not the same and the differences are not just a matter of the plumbing. Whatever friendship or love is between people of the same gender, the dynamics are different when it happens between a man and a woman.

Nobody has to make a man or woman in love want to pledge “until death do us part,” but sustaining that ideal is very hard. Many people do not make it, but when they do, it has been the bedrock of great civilizations.

It is a weird sort of sexism to proclaim that either the man or the woman can be replaced in this dynamic and the institution be the same.

Whatever “gay marriage” is, it is not marriage between a man and a woman. Now that religious Jews and Christians have lost the word, they will have to start over with a new word to describe what men and women are doing.

They are expressing a sacrament of two equally important “others” coming together. This coming together is naturally fecund, biologically, spiritually, and culturally, in ways the coming together of two “sames” can never be. Leaving aside any questions of morality, traditional marriage is not “two people loving each other in a committed relationship.”

It is a man and woman, two distinct and deeply “other” beings, coming together.

Because of the social and civil importance of this coming together, Jewish and Christian civilization hedged this relationship with special rights and advantages. In California, as of this week, all those advantages have been lost.

Soon foolish people will look at the calendar and point out that after a few years “nothing bad has happened” as a result. It is foolish because large cultural institutions can take many blows before they fail. Perhaps this blow will not harm Jewish and Christian marriage enough to kill it in the United States.

Many of our religious people will ignore this change and go on behaving traditionally.

Meanwhile, whatever is going on in California, it is not marriage. Two men or two women can no more be married, than a man can be wife or woman a husband. Even if one believes (as I do not) that what is happening between two men or two women is a good thing, it is not the same thing.

My wife and I are not “married” as the Courts of California recently defined it. We are “married” in the sense that Jewish and Christian civilization defined it (and California voters defined it) until this week.

Why was our institution hi-jacked?

The answer is the lack of intellectual fecundity of the left. The left is able to ape or appropriate traditional culture, but not create it. Like the Soviet Union, where the joke became that all the beautiful buildings were Tsarist era, the secular left in America can only appropriate and hope that their sack of our institution will work out.

Meanwhile, we shall simply find a new word for what men and women do who commit to finding God in the sacrament of marriage . . . who accept the White Martyrdom of loving the Other until death parts them. They can take the word and politically pillage our institution, but nobody can change the idea of marriage.

It came from God to man . . . and is the ultimate icon of that relationship when the Totally Other loves us.

Read the entire article on the Scriptorium website (new window will open).

Posted: 25-Jun-08

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