Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Letter #4: Marriage

In March 2007 the Beacon published a pair of op-ed pieces about the legal recognition of homosexual marriages -- one op-ed was in favor, the other against. I wrote a response, which was published the next week.

Here are links to the originals:

* Original Article: p. 25 of
* My Response: p. 27 of

Below is my letter.


To Destroy With Faint Praise

What people do is less interesting to me than why they do it.

For example, the notion of allowing for a new kind of civil marriage between non-traditional partners is one reason why marriage is less and less talked about in respectable circles. The chief difficulty, I think, is that those who would defend marriage – and by “marriage” I mean the glorious institution that historically formed the bedrock of Christian civilization – are themselves compromised; they have gotten into the habit of merely enjoying the secondary, pleasurable elements and neglecting or even omitting the primary, necessary ones. It’s something akin to chewing up food for the flavor and then spitting it out. In a sane world that would be rightly viewed as an eating disorder, but when everyone is anorexic, even a lean marathon runner comes to be viewed as plump.

Michael Dvorscak wrote, “Marriage is an institution…defined as a union between a man and a woman.” Marriage deserves better than that. The same could be said of a business venture, a civic club, or a picnic. A definition that is unspecific is not only anemic as a definition, it has the effect of undermining through weak praise what must be vigorously protected.

Here are the missing elements of what has traditionally been included in our civilization’s definition of marriage:

  • Marriage is the exclusive and permanent union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. After the couple is truly married, the marriage bond endures for life – thus the traditional pronouncement, “’Til death do us part.”
  • Its primary end is the procreation and raising of children, whom the parents will feed, clothe, shelter, and educate. Infertility and sterility are not obstacles (there are precedents of surprises in that domain), but a couple that cannot physically procreate cannot marry.
  • Its secondary end is for the good of the couple – to form between the man and woman an intimate life of affection and love. This is a necessary support for helping the couple accomplish the primary purpose of marriage; it also makes more likely the marriage’s endurance.

One reason that marriage is permanent is that newborn children are terribly frail and utterly dependent. A society that permits dissoluble or merely civil marriages sentences the most innocent and helpless of its members to a life of chaos and dread.

That, in a nutshell, is marriage as it created, nourished, and benefited Western civilization. Anything that dilutes or weakens the institution or definition of marriage undermines society and condemns its people.

Marriage is the quintessential building block of a society. As the family goes, so goes the nation.

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