Tag Archives: marriage

Why are Christians not winning the culture war on marriage?

We respond to polished presentations like this:

With this:

I support traditional marriage but if I had to make a decision based solely on the testimonies above I’d have to side with the person who made an articulate case based on freedom.

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Could marriage be undermined by language?

A friend of mine recently pointed me to this page where in the author crafts an argument against the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman. His argument is based largely on biological anomalies which give rise to odd situations where if we consider the person to be male or female depending on what aspects of the male or female biological makeup we choose to measure by (ie. testosterone, estrogen, physical features) we might end up “mandating and legally sanctifying exactly the sort of same-sex marriages they’re intending to ban”.

First off, it needs to be pointed out that no one is required to marry or procreate. They may have the freedom to or not depending on their physical characteristics, but they are by no means forced to marry anyone.

Additionally, since genetic abnormalities are quite common (ie. cancer) I fail to see why offering medical treatment to resolve these conditions would be less preferential than redefining the institution of marriage.

As to government’s involvement. I would agree with government’s non-intervention and I would argue that any attempt at redefining commonly used words would constitute a major intervention. If you want to strengthen contract law to rectify situations like visiting a loved one in the hospital or prison then I would be all for that. But you don’t need to redefine a word in order to accomplish that end. Likewise it makes no sense to say that a group of people are deprived of a right because the definition of words functions in an exclusionary sense in order to convey meaning. In order words, if we, as a society, start monkeying around with our language such that marriage is no longer biologically bound, then what we would have accomplished is the destruction of language and constructive discourse.

We would not, however, have done anything to increase freedom or equality.

Something to keep in mind in the wake of the royal wedding

From this article on the UK Telegraph:

“We are living at a time where some people, as my daughter used to say, they want to test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow,” he said. “For some people that’s where their journeys are.

Why should we condone this “Try before you buy” mentality? I, for one, will vociferously fight this trend among my own children if nothing else than on the personal experience of what it almost did to my own marriage.

The only thing that saved us is something I desperately hope happens for the Royal newlyweds. A radical change in heart towards the creator under whose eyes their respective vows were undertaken.

Without that, they are in serious danger of walking down the same road as Prince William’s father and late biological mother.

What about civil unions?

A friend on Facebook pointed out the following in a disussion on a recent post of mine:

You point out that there is nothing to stop homosexuals from “drawing up contracts” and calling that a marriage; but their legal position on many issues would be quite different from actually legally married couples – eg inheritance rights, being forced to testify against eachother, tax issues etc.

Here’s my response:

I would be all for discussing legislation that discusses specific changes like those. In fact, I think a big help in regards to taxes would be the adoption of a flat tax system (paper here).

I’d be all for allowing the creation of contracts wherein both parties voluntarily agree to enter into agreements which provide things like testimonial coverage, (tax free) inheritance guarantees, and guaranteed access to one another in crisis situations (ie hospitalization). However none of that necessitates that we redefine the fundamental institution of marriage nor that we create a rival institution like “civil unions”. All of that can and should be accomplished through strengthening existing private party agreements.

Do you hear that? I think I just heard the minds’ of my liberal friends being blown.

Same sex marriage and incest, why neither should be legitimized

A friend of a friend posted the following picture on Facebook recently and it elicited a rather rich and lively discussion.

Graphic: States That Allow Same-Sex Marriage Vs. States That Allow Marriage Between First Cousins

The graphic and related articles attempt to convey the absurdity and hypocrisy of states which allow marriage between close cousins (like gypsies) which poses a host of health risks, but disallow same sex marriage which they assume is sterile and safe.

Well here’s my take.

The definition of marriage is predicated on a biological reality. It predates government and as such any law designed to arbitrarily redefine it based on subjective premises (ie. what is being referred to as “love”) are about like passing a measure to redefine words we simply don’t like.

There is a reason blood tests were required for obtaining a marriage certificate and why first cousins are barred from marrying in certain states. That is the biological possibility of children, the only public reason for marriage existing as a separate institution and not simply another contract between private parties.

Same sex “marriage” should be opposed for the same reason that we should oppose marriage between close relatives and multiple partners (bigamy). It is self-destructive for the consenting adults involved and it is harmful to any offspring that may result or be obtained (in the case of SSM).

The essential public purpose of marriage is to bind parents to children and through that to preemptively protect their rights. Specifically, their right to enjoy the company of both of their biological parents.

At this point many same sex marriage proponents like to argue that the institution of marriage is in a dismal state of repair as it is. That most marriages today don’t last.

Yes, it is true that the state of marriage today isn’t very strong, but this should be a reason to seek to strengthen marriage, not weaken it further.

Laws serve to both punish undesirable behavior as well as promote desirable behavior. Yes, we were sold no-fault divorce for the same reason you mentioned with the additional guarantee that it would have no further ill effects on marriage in general. It didn’t. What it did do is lead to an unprecedented rise in divorce rates overall and a further expansion of government into private lives through the family court system .

Same sex marriage has been shown in countries where it is legal to also expand government intrusion into private lives. The main goal of legalization of SSM is to make the public affirm homosexuality. We have good evidence for this from two primary sources. From countries where it is legal and only ~2% of the homosexual population (which, itself, is only about 3-4% of any given population) decide to get married. And from the writings of GLBT leaders themselves.

Same sex marriage has also been shown to make an already unhealthy lifestyle even more unhealthy. Statistics show that the majority of homosexuals who do decide to get married don’t use protection since they figure they are in the clear with regard to diseases like AIDS, but they end up putting themselves at greater risk for the more “common” health problems. Additionally, since promiscuity is a prominent part of the homosexual lifestyle (again, taken from their leaders’ words), it would be wrong for us to think that same sex marriage resembles natural marriage in anything other than a superficial and fleeting feeling of love.

We should also point out that homosexuals are not prevented from forming unions and calling them marriages today. They can have civil ceremonies, draw up contracts, live together, etc. What they cannot do right now, without redefining marriage, is force others to affirm their union as normative or prevent people like myself from speaking out against it.

Redefining marriage would be a violation of the public trust.

The benefits of marriage are granted by the public in order to encourage stable marriage relationships. When we treat marriage as if it were merely a registry of friends with benefits it both weakens marriage and encourages abuse of it at the same time. It’s weakened by people not taking it seriously and it is abused by people enjoying the benefits afforded to marriage relationships with no intention of providing the taxpayers (society in general) any return on their investment. Sure, there are free riders in any system but it is generally a bad economic policy to encourage and expand free riders.

So among other things I would say that SSM should be opposed simply because it is a poor public investment. It offers no returns and costs the money and freedom of other 97% of the country.

Many proponents of redefining marriage seem to assume this is merely a religious argument. I’m not sure why that is since the data available to us holds no religious convictions of its own.

Both the data of what most marriages enjoy (higher levels of self-reported happiness and satisfaction, not to mention financial stability, etc.), as well as what the ideal public purpose of marriage is (afterall, laws shape what society values and doesn’t value). Not to mention the plethora of studies that are coming out about the benefits children have by enjoying the company of both their biological parents.

In the end, there is simply no good reason, and a host of bad ones, to redefine marriage just to make a small group of people feel better about their chosen lifestyles.

EDIT:
What I find disheartening is that liberals almost unilaterally fail to deal with any of the available evidence on this subject and, instead, stick to faulty arguments and rhetoric. It seems the only strategy a liberal has is to characterize their opponent as bigoted, hateful, etc. as if someone couldn’t possibly have a principled objection to a demonstrably unhealthy lifestyle like homosexuality. In order to make any progress on this issue we, as a nation, need to seriously consider stopping the hate, on both sides, and start the debate.

Why doesn’t the state just get out of the marriage business altogether?

Marriage against the State: Toward a New View of Civil Marriage, Cato Policy Analysis No. 671

In his report, Marriage against the State: Toward a New View of Civil Marriage, Jason writes,

Although privatizing all aspects of marriage may well be appealing, such an approach would result, at both state and federal levels, in much greater government interference in family life, higher taxes for married couples, invasions of privacy, difficulties related to child custody, and other negative consequences. In some areas, marriage is a defense against state power, and such a defense should not be lightly discarded. However, marriage should be decoupled from the tax code by adopting a flat tax; the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed; and Congress should adopt language making it clear that civil and religious marriage are not the same institution, and that the existence of marriage as a legal category is neutral with respect to religion. Wherever possible, marriage penalties and bonuses in the tax code and welfare system should be eliminated.

While it is certainly true that marriage cannot be completely privatized, Jason fails to really address why that is. It is because marriage alone is capable of producing the new citizens necessary to replenish the national supply. Instead, marriage is seen as merely another contractual situation.

Because of this popular, though not well thought out stance, all objections to public contracts between same sex partners1 are seen as objections from “the religious aspect of marriage”.

The problem with this notion, however, is that no religion to my knowledge, and that includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, understand the public purpose of marriage anything other than what our law currently supports. Additionally, Jason is simply wrong when he asserts that faith communities “do not
always agree about the proper conditions of entry or exit, the proper norms of continuance of a marriage, or what constitutes an ‘ideal’ marriage at all”.

Jason goes on to note that marriage is a pre-political arrangement, he writes

A good way to think of the relationship between marriage and the state is that marriage is ontologically prior to the state. Although all existing marriages are chronologically younger than the U.S. government, they are not dependent upon it for their survival. If the government were to dissolve, probably no one would imagine that their marriages and families had also been dissolved. On the contrary, in such alarming circumstances, perhaps our first thoughts would be for the protection and maintenance of our families. Even in the resulting disorder, churches, families, and couples would very likely continue to practice marriage. And if they wanted to preserve their freedoms, one of these would surely be the freedom to marry. As the Court wrote in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia (1967),

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. . . . To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

Or, as the Court wrote in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965),

We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights—older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.

Marrying and forming a family, the court has repeatedly said, are fundamentally personal acts. As such, they are acts that governments should not be allowed to interfere with for anything less than compelling reasons. Yet there are clearly at least some ways that state or federal governments can interfere unacceptably with marriage, as with most other individual rights. Such actions are forbidden to the U.S. federal government, because to marry, to have children, and to raise and educate them according to the dictates of one’s own conscience are all a part of what it means to have a free society. By the same token, the government of a free society must respect those instances when this liberty has been exercised—and therefore perhaps must formally recognize them. In other words, perhaps the government should recognize marriages only so it can more effectively leave them alone.

Jason goes on to “examine a different facet of federal marriage law and ask whether it can be justified as part of a framework of negative rights.”

The Income Tax Trilemma

The first thing Jason hits is the wildly unpopular “marriage penalty”. This penalty exists because of competing goals with regard to marriage.

In practice, the pre-2003 tax code tended to penalize dual-earner marital units, because on marriage, the partners were treated as though they held one—albeit higher—household income. This placed them in a higher marginal tax bracket, and they paid more tax than they would if they had remained unmarried, much like couple B after their taxes are raised to the level of couple A’s. As dual-earner marriages came to make up a greater and greater proportion of married households, the marriage penalty was felt more widely, and more couples found that divorce was, perversely, a way to save money on taxes.

While it sounds like the abatements made in 2003, which will also likely be made permanent under Obama, are a good thing. I would like to point out that if we step back and look at the public purpose of the underlying marriage and re-frame the question with regard to that, we will see that the pre 2003 tax code should be preferred. Actually, the most ideal situation would be to abolish income taxes altogether, as Jason also notes, but next to that I would argue our society has a vested interest in encouraging couples to have and raise children and not to shuffle those children off to daycare.

There is a reason we incentivised one family structure over all others in the pre-2003 tax code structure.

Now I agree that it was and is a mess, and I would be remiss to pretend the tax situation wasn’t fraught with holes in the pre-2003 system. But since public policy has the effect of encouraging and discouraging behavior, I figure its worth mentioning that what we consider the goal of marriage has an impact even on the tax policies we choose to enact.

Jason goes on to indicate that stay-at-home parents (usually moms) are a luxery item and that so-called provider/dependant marriage arrangements hurt the poor. I disagree with that notion on historical grounds.

Nevertheless, I agree with Jason’s conclusion in this section that

Taxation, then, should be made marriage-neutral, perhaps by enacting a flat tax, which would have just that effect.

This is one area where the federal government most certainly should withdraw from marriage.

Immigration

Jason notes that the ability of citizens to marry foreigners and bring them back as recognized citizens is a big advantage of marriage. He also notes that

Marriage is older than, and superior to, the law of nations. It would be a strangely limited U.S. citizenship, more of a curse than a privilege, if it entailed never marrying the one you loved.

While this is an excellent observation, Jason goes on to explore the implications of this policy with respect to our policy of not recognizing same sex relationships as marriages.

It is not easy to estimate the number of visas that might be granted for same-sex partners under a regime of immigration equality. Some same-sex couples may be opting to keep a low profile to avoid detection and deportation of one of the partners. Others may have obtained other types of visas through more circuitous or risky routes. Still other couples have simply broken up.

There are a number of assumptions here. One is that we understand a marriage to be a lasting condition and not as transitory as the data shows vast majority of same sex relationships to be. Another is the assumption that marriage is exclusive to two parties and not fluid as the data also shows same sex relationships to be.

In the end, I agree with Jason’s overall assessment on this point as well. The state should step in and grant citizenship to married partners for the purpose of maximizing liberty.

The Presumption of Legitimacy

Marriage creates a set of default rules for child custody and for presumed relations of guardianship. These rules are sensible, well understood, and best left in place. Privatizing marriage—getting the state out of the marriage business—would leave all children in great uncertainty, because legal custody would not be guaranteed for any children, in any life situation, whether their parents were (privately) married or not. Privatizing marriage sounds reasonable until we realize that it entails privatizing child custody, alimony, and child support, providing some private mechanism of assurance and trust for them, and then providing a private enforcement mechanism as well.

I think Jason is spot-on here so I’ll just quote a bit more

The presumption of legitimacy does much of the practical work that social conservatives rightly praise marriage for doing. It ties sex and reproduction to childrearing and support, ideally in the context of a stable biological family. It allows the family to get on with the business of raising their children, free from most forms of inquiry about their origins, and certainly from any routine ones.

All is smooth sailing, and then we hit an iceberg
The presumption of legitimacy may even discreetly paper over a sexual transgression, allowing the marriage, and the family, a second chance if the parties want it.

In this Jason is talking about cases where (the woman mostly) has had an affair and has borne another man’s child. According to the presumption of legitimacy legal doctrine we simply assume this child to be the legitimate offspring of the marriage into which he is borne. But does papering over the fact that this is not the biological offspring of the parents really solve anything? I don’t think it does. If the marriage survives such a transgression it will only be due to the combined commitment of both marriage parties with respect to any of the other children they have or may have and not with respect to the child who is, in fact, the offspring of an illegitimate union. And even if the marriage continues to function, the legal problems and pitfalls are still sitting there like a landmine waiting to explode at any point down the line. So while I agree that genetic testing shouldn’t be a rule, we shouldn’t pretend that genetics plays no part in the marriage relationship.

Marriage, Divorce, and Disposition of Property

On separation, matters grow still more complicated—and expensive. Married couples who divorce may make use of the gift tax exemption to divide up their property as they see fit, but cohabiting couples or those in civil unions or domestic partnerships don’t have that option. Such couples are liable for federal taxes on transfer of property—rendering the federal government effectively a third partner in their dissolving relationship. Once again, getting the state “out” of marriage only means more state intrusion. Wood writes, “If you look at a many-year relationship with significant assets, the taxes at stake can be enormous. In fact, the tax bill can be so big that in some cases, unmarried couples trying to untangle joint assets might consider getting married just so they can then qualify for the benefits of a tax-free divorce!” At least one heterosexual couple Wood knows has done so, he reports.

I don’t see how Jason’s case for the legalization of same sex marriage to prevent the state’s intrusion into the dissolution of a relationship makes much sense. In a heterosexual marriage prenuptial agreements are quite common and it seems that an equivalent arrangement is readily attainable by anyone seeking to form a private and legally binding agreement. What will cause the government involvement to increase is if we change the definition of marriage to accommodate the >10% of the 1.7% of homosexuals in America.

The Scope of Marriage: Who Can Marry

In this section Jason first takes on the question of rights. I would maintain that rights are conferred from a transcendent source and not derived from any subjective source like a social contract.

Jason then argues,

Besides its coherence, there is also room to question the relative strength of the taxpayers’ objection to same-sex marriage. Considered as just one competing among many, it is surely no stronger, and arguably a great deal weaker, than the objection raised by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) that their tax money goes to pay for war, an activity which they likewise find abhorrent. And the sum of tax money that pays for warmaking is orders of magnitude greater than that which would subsidize same-sex marriage.

I must also point out here that the moral question here appears to be too lightly brushed aside as if there were no objective moral standards or ways of knowing those standards with any degree of certainty. In other words, I would argue the Quakers are wrong in their assertion of a seamless garmet of non-violence.

Jason then raises the issue of whether legalizing same sex marriage would save taxpayers money. I would argue it doesn’t compared to the damage it would do. And that is the answer to the quote above. It is not just that taxpayers would be forced to fund something they have a moral objection to, it is that they would be forced to affirm that which they object to and, moreover, they would be forced to sacrafice their own institution since, as we have seen elsewhere in the world, redefining marriage does not have a neutral effect on the institution of natural marriage.

Conclusion

In the end I wholly agree with Jason that the state’s involvement in marriage is not a viable option. But the reason I think this is so is because of the possibility of children. Without that biological factor it seems that marriage would otherwise be no different than any other contractual agreement between private parties.

  1. Simple civil contracts between consenting adults can legally be obtained today in all 50 states, which makes the argument from civil liberties on the matter quite absurd. []

Matt Chandler – Culture & Theology: God and Sex

[HT Matthew Rathbun]

One of the current cultural Pastors that I most admire and listen to is Matt Chandler out of Village Church in Texas.  He’s insight and delivery are outstanding.  In October he did a sermon on “God and Sex”.  I’m sharing this on this site, because I think it’s one of the most powerful discussions I’ve ever heard on the topic.  It’s also one of the most down-to-earth and frank conversations.  I would recommend that your children not be in the room when this is playing.  He addresses a lot about healthy relationships and hurt then takes text-messaged questions from his congregation.

You can download it by clicking the link right-clicking HERE and choosing “download this link” or you can listen to it from my site by clicking the play button below

This is indeed one of the very best sermons I’ve ever heard on sex.

It seems somewhat strange to me that Calvinists (Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, Voddie Baccham) have poor answers to the questions of evil but appear to have a solid grasp on sex and family. My guess is that is due to their overall emphasis on sovereignty, and that understanding is required for a family to function properly.

Sam Harris on the rape of religion

As a biological phenomenon, religion is the product of cognitive processes that have deep roots in our evolutionary past. Some researchers have speculated that religion itself may have played an important role in getting large groups of prehistoric humans to socially cohere. If this is true, we can say that religion has served an important purpose. This does not suggest, however, that it serves an important purpose  now. There is, after all, nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors. That religion may have served some necessary func­tion for us in the past does not preclude the possibility that it is now the greatest impedi­ment to our building a global civilization.

-Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

If religion is an evolutionary byproduct which is no longer useful, why should we suppose that Sam’s atheism is any different? Indeed, it seems that if evolution can take us from rape being beneficial to socially condemned, doesn’t it stand to reason that the practice could make a comeback at a future date if evolution (whatever that is) leads us in that direction?

I would be the first to admit that the prospects for eradicating religion in our time do not
seem good. Still, the same could have been said about efforts to abolish slavery at the end of
the eighteenth century. Anyone who spoke with confidence about eradicating slavery in the
United States in the year 1775 surely appeared to be wasting his time, and wasting it
dangerously.

Indeed, it seems that we have little reason to think that rapists today aren’t merely misunderstood revolutionaries who want to drive us back to a more traditional time where men apparently clubbed women over the heads whenever they felt the urge to mate.

After all, if evolutionists are right with regard to our origins, rape is apparently the original “traditional marriage”.

How does the younger generation view marriage? And what does that say about our society’s future?

At a wedding the other night I wittnessed an event that charactarized the state of marriage in America.

This event ocurred when it came time to throw the bouquet and fling the garder belt, a tradition which supposedly determines or indicates who is the next to be married.

First the women

When the bride went to throw her bouquet the single ladies dutifully lined up. Their attitude was less than enthusiastic. They reluctantly shuffled over to the area where the bride was to throw the bouquet. And when it came time, the bouquet was begrudgingly caught by the woman it hit.

Now for the men

Likewise, the men were not enthusiastic about catching the garter belt. However when it came time to catch the garter belt a strange thing happened. No one caught it. Not only were the men not enthusiastic about catching the garter belt, they were actively opposed to the very idea! After hitting one of the men in the chest with the garter belt, the groom walked over and shoved the garter belt into the hands of the man he had hit. None of the men wanted the garter belt!

And their attitude was not mere apathy. I can fully understand not being overly enthusiastic about something that takes a lot of hard work to produce so little personal pleasure. What struck me was how openly hostile the men were to the very notion of marriage.

Observations

Marriage is an unpopular endeavor to say the least. Having fun with a member of the opposite sex is desired, but making the tough decision to build a life with someone is not. Even after deciding to get married, the decision to have children is generally held off (if nature does not interrupt the couple’s plans that is) until the woman decides she wants to accept the role she was designed for.

Among young adults today, marriage and children are not seen as logical next-steps on the road to maturity. In fact, outside of attaining gainful employment (and for some even that is a stretch) there appears to be a great lack of ultimate goals being aimed at.

Perhaps that’s why one of the biggest problems we face today is a failure to launch. Why bother to launch when you haven’t yet decided on the destination?

Little platoons

One of the first symptoms they discover of a selfish and mischievous ambition, is a profligate disregard of a dignity which they partake with others. To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.

Edmund Burke (1729–1797). Reflections on the French Revolution. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The “little platoon” Burke was writing about is the family.

Families are important.