CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Where is Marriage Headed?

May 2, 2004

The war against marriage is at a crucial stage right now. Yet too many people think that things will quiet down if we gave in and allow same-sex marriage. Many people believe that if we just give them what they want, things will be OK and we can get on with our lives. What’s the big deal? many are asking.

This line of thought of course is appeasement, and wishful thinking. If we lose on same-sex marriage, the demands for other more exotic types of marriage and sexual unions will be next.

Some say this will not happen. Indeed, when I debate homosexuals on this issue, and suggest that the same arguments used for gay marriage can be used for group marriage or incest, they mock me and say this is just scare-mongering. But not so. There are many groups already demanding these very things.

If marriage is no longer one man and one woman for life, then any number of alternatives are possible. If homosexuals can argue that a loving committed relationship should qualify one for the institution of marriage, then other equally binding and loving unions should be recognised. What about a bisexual who really does love both a man and a woman, simultaneously? Can this threesome qualify?

Indeed, polyamory (group marriage) has become a new cause, championed by both grassroots groups and academic supporters. A quick search of the Web will reveal just how popular the idea of polyamory is becoming. Family law reformers for example are increasingly promoting this new sexual cause in their attempt to redefine the family out of existence.

The truth is, all boundaries are smashed when we redefine marriage. There are even groups arguing for the right to marry one’s pet. Called petrosexuality, this new sexuality insists that a person’s love for his or her pet, including sexual relations, should be made official. Thus one Dutch web site encourages people to marry their pets.

Such proposals are not just being made by the lunatic fringe. Consider the Futurist, produced by the World Futurist Society based in Maryland. This is not some whacko mag. A host of scholars and academics have graced its pages over the years. In the current issue of the Futurist a cultural historian wrote an article entitled “The Transformation of Marriage”. Stephen Bertman, professor emeritus of languages, literatures, and cultures at Canada’s University of Windsor, argued that marriage may be “a semantic artifact of a lost world”. He argued that it is not just the transience of marriage that is at issue now. “It is the very definition of the term that futurists must now address. A radical redefinition of marriage is now under way that promises to transform its meaning for all future time.”

He gave as his first example, of course, same-sex marriage. He did not stop there however. He then went on to speak of other types of marriage. Seemingly with a straight face, he raised the prospect of “interspecies marriage”. This is the “potential for the sexual union of human beings and aliens”. From there he mentioned the option of marriages to pets. Why couldn’t an “individual choose to affirm the emotional attachment he or she feels for a pet with the formality of a documented ceremony in which the human partner promises to love and honor the animal companion?”

And finally, presumably still with the utmost seriousness, he speaks of the “theoretical possibility” of “the marriage of human beings to inanimate objects”. He speaks of how many men love their cars, or how many people have formed an intimate relationship with their computer. “Why should not this bond of tactile intimacy be validated by more than an owner’s manual?” he asks, seemingly with complete sincerity.

As William Bennett has put it, “Once marriage has been detached from the natural, complementary teleology of the sexes, it becomes nothing more than what each of us makes of it”.

Indeed, one of the most recent and compelling arguments for same-sex marriage has come from Washington journalist Jonathan Rauch. Even he admits that when we tinker with tradition, we never know what might happen. “A catastrophe cannot be ruled out” he concedes. Indeed it might.

The fact that we now take seriously a proposition that would have been laughed out of court just a few short decades ago indicates something. For those seeking to redefine marriage, it is an indication of progress. But for those of us who think otherwise, it is a sure sign of regression.

George Orwell once said, “At a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act..” If we do not stand up for the truth of marriage and family at this critical time, we have in effect sided with the enemy, and have given up the fight. I hope that is not true of any of you.

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2 Responses to Where is Marriage Headed?

  • I don’t believe in a “natural, complementary teleology of the sexes”. To be in a heterosexual relationship would be highly unnatural for me.

    Here’s why the “gay marriage will lead to polygamy” argument is flawed:

    Marriage requires partners who are intimately attached. It’s not just a way of saying, “I love you”, for in that case, a man could marry his daughter. Marriage is the celebration of a certain type of love, and is a way of bonding those individuals. A gay couple perfectly reflects the sort of love that exists between a husband and wife. But I would question whether a group relationship could have that sort of intimacy – it would be divided love, rather than a devotion to one person.

    And, in all of this, we are forgetting another thing. Heterosexuals themselves have changed marriage. Once upon a time, marriage was a financial transaction whereby a wife became her husband’s property. And interracial marriage was illegal. Can we argue that since marriage changed then, that it was the spark that led to its destruction? I think not.

    Marriage has a lot of life in it, but only if it stays relevant to the times.

    John Kloprogge, North Croydon

  • Yes, John, marriage was changed and I think you’d agree it was a disaster. Marriage did not begin as a transaction, it began as a union of a man a woman dedicated to each other. Changing it to a transaction was a hideous mutation and changing it to include any mix of male and female would be likewise.

    And what do you mean it will only have life in it if it remains relevant to the times? Do you think people will stop getting married if gay people aren’t allowed to? Evidence suggests otherwise. Do you believe that homosexuality is some new trend? It’s been around almost as long as marriage, and marriage is still here thank you very much.

    As for your argument against the polygamy statement, once you change something in the legal definition of marriage, it will leave the door open for anyone to challenge the definition. Not everyone shares your view of marriage, yours is lovely but you are not in control of the law. If denying homosexuals the right to marry is discrimination then so is denying polygamists and incestuous couples.

    Sharny Annison, Leongatha

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