On the differences between Christian marriages and secular marriages…
In my Facebook feed, I saw linked an article that aimed to discuss why same-sex marriage is not the same thing as Christian marriage. As I read through it (mainly because I wanted to understand how others think…I know that many people did not find the Supreme Court decision to be a joyous occasion, but I wanted to understand better why), I think that I got something of what he was trying to say, and I actually found it — if I might say so — beautiful. Just a few parts from the post (I have removed the formatting from the original so that the text won’t take as much space):
There exists a dichotomy between what Christians and society understand marriage to be. But this dichotomy isn’t new; the rift wasn’t just created by SCOTUS yesterday. Christians have always had a distinct and special understanding of what marriage is; and it differs wildly from society at large.
So, what is Christian Marriage?
It’s not a tax benefit. It’s not hospital visitation rights. It’s not insurance benefits. It’s not a legal arrangement provided by the government.
It’s not even the consensual, legal partnership of two adults who love each other and want to spend their lives together.
These things seem to be what people think marriage is. And for the American Government, it now seems that that is exactly what it is. But Christian marriage is, and always has been, something different.
Christian Marriage is the holy, sacramental giving of one man, and one woman, fully to each other. With the purpose of being fruitful, creating new life together, and nurturing that life within the complimentary presence of both a mother and a father. Christian Marriage is meant to reflect Christ’s self giving relationship with the Church and it is a microcosm of God’s covenant with his people. Christian Marriage is an echo of triune love; as God created out of an overflow of just that. And so God has granted humanity, the ability to create life out of human relationship. In this way, marriage is a holy and creative reflection of the divine life.
That is Christian Marriage.
I can respect traditional, orthodox Christians for their views on marriage (or other things) because of the extent that these folks are living a vision presented through their religion and worldview. To be fair, I dislike and fear some of the positions pursued through this vision. But even though I think that rejecting contraception, divorce, and so forth are extreme and not workable models for everyone in society, I think that from within the worldview espoused from the post I quoted, these things make sense as a reflection thereof.
That being said, I still recognize the problems in this model (and perhaps the problems in any one-size-fit-all model). The beauty of this uncompromising vision is a great yet terrible beauty. It’s not something I want for myself.
So, I want to move in this post by commenting on the inspiration I got from a Facebook quote from a friend:
Could we please balance all this lovey dovey spiritual mojo talk about marriage with the civil privileges marriage affords- that part that can be upheld by courts- access to spouses insurance, property laws, hospital visitation, marriage tax laws, etc. Marriage doesn’t breed love, fidelity, loyalty, comradely, truth- people do. But Marriage does give civil privileges that can be upheld by court of law.
By quoting this Facebook status in its entirety, I do not mean to express any sense of flippancy (although I can see how talking about “lovey dovey spiritual mojo talk” might seem a bit flippant.) The particular words used by this author are this author’s.
No, what inspired me was this reframing back onto the practical effects of marriage in our society. It’s true that there are a lot of less tangible (but still valuable and beautiful) aspects of marriage or any other social institution. It’s true that there are conceptual frameworks that we can put marriage into, as the Christian blogger paints.
…But marriage as being about tangibles still matters. Marriage as being about hospital visitation rights still matters. Marriage as being about legal protection still matters. These tangible rights and benefits that the government certainly is involved with do matter for many — including many, if not most Christians, as is exemplified by the fact that Christians also seek official government recognition for their marriages instead of making it solely a religious undertaking.
I said before that I found the Christian image above to be beautiful, but in a terrible sort of way. But another thing that I personally have found beautiful as well — beautiful, but also with elements of terror certainly — are the struggles I’ve read of those who have sacrificed for partners suffering from AIDS. The image of the man who has cared for his ailing companion for years, knowing that death can be delayed, but never escaped.
…When I read stories about the sacrifices made surrounding those who suffered from AIDS in the early years when little information was known, years of paranoia and fear for many…I see images of beauty worthy of being recognized by society. Hearing the sacrificed many made with no support from larger society is inspiring in a beautiful, terrible way.
I have to admit that yes, it’s not really the “Christian” view in a number of ways. But it is still worthwhile.
I am fortunate to have grown up in an era with more information, with more understanding. I know that many still are afflicted; many still suffer. This is not the end-all, be-all for LGBT people. But I think even if some of us may be privileged enough to not be so…terrified…we still yearn to care for one another. We still yearn to love and be loved. We still yearn for this to be recognized by society, and to be protected by law.