CultureWatch

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

Mutilating Marriage

Sep 21, 2007

I guess it had to come to this. We live in such a moonbat age that what comes out of the lips of some politicians becomes more bizarre with each passing month. Consider the recent proposal by a German politician that marriage be restricted to just seven years.

Gabriele Pauli has argued that anyone wanting to stay married beyond seven years should have to apply for an extension. The partnership would otherwise be automatically dissolved. She said, “I firmly believe marriages of the future should be locked in to a time period. The basic approach is wrong … many marriages last just because people believe they are safe. My suggestion is that marriages expire after seven years. I know that after this period many marriages reach a crisis point. It is false to go around with a notion that marriages are always super and intact.”

A number of issues arise here. Marriage throughout human history has always tended to include the element of permanency. We speak of “till death do us part” in our marriage vows. The idea is that the exclusive union of one man and one woman is to be a lifelong relationship. That has been the basic understanding of marriage through the ages.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead put it this way: “No matter how free divorce, how frequently marriages break up, in most societies there is the assumption of permanent mating, of the idea that the marriage should last as long as both live. . . . No known society has ever invented a form of marriage strong enough to stick that did not contain the ’till death us do part’ assumption.”

Or as J.D. Unwin of Cambridge University argued, marriage is seen as the crucial element in the development and maintenance of healthy societies: “Marriage as a life-long association has been an attendant circumstance of all human achievement, and its adoption has preceded all manifestations of social energy. . . . Indissoluble monogamy must be regarded as the mainspring of all social activity, a necessary condition of human development.”

But we of course live in a throw-away age. Unhappy with your old 17 inch monitor? Throw it out and get a new 22 inch flat screen. Tired of your 2005 Ford? Chuck it and get a 2007 BMW. Tired of your three-month-old job? Get a new one. Tired of your wife of two years? Divorce and move on.

That is the sort of world we live in. We demand instant satisfaction and gratification, and anything less is simply jettisoned. We no longer see the value of commitment, of working things out, of making sacrifices for those things which are important.

But the truth is, anything of value and importance in life needs to be worked at. If you want a great garden you have to work at it. If you want to be in top physical condition, you have to be willing to sweat a lot. “No pain, no gain” is the motto for those involved in athletics, sport and other demanding work.

Yet when it comes to relationships in general and marriage in particular, the motto seems to be, “no pain, no pain”. We simply do not want to put the hard yards into making relationships work. Selfishness demands that we take the easy way out. Commitment demands that we make the sacrifices and hard choices to make a marriage work.

We see this in other areas as well. The rise in de facto relationships indicates an unwillingness to make binding commitments. This fear of commitment and long-term obligation can even be seen in the trend toward pre-nuptial agreements. While they are designed to mitigate legal and personal hassles in divorce, they are really a statement about fear of obligation. It is really putting up the white flag of surrender before a marriage even begins. It is an opt-out clause for those who seem to have trouble opting in and staying in.

Other questions arise here. Why a seven year period? Why not five or 15? Seven years is a terribly arbitrary figure. Indeed, why not make it seven months or seven weeks? Why trap all those poor people in a marriage for seven years? That must be a violation of their human rights!

And what about the politician who has made this outrageous proposal? It should come as no surprise to learn that she is twice divorced. That explains a lot.

Indeed, have you ever noticed that those proposing radical policies often have some personal reasons for doing so? Many of the radical feminists came from broken and dysfunctional families. Many of those in favour of drug legalisation are of course happy to partake of the stuff themselves. Most of those who argue for all restrictions on pornography to be removed are likely to be avid porn users.

Dysfunctional private lives can lead to dysfunctional public policies, in other words. Thus character counts, and people with major character faults will tend to want to replicate their experiences on a wider scale. But in spite of the German politician’s wishes, most people know that marriage is – or should be – about permanence, about commitment, about trust and about faithfulness.

But in an age of progressive thinking and radical politics, the majority will have to fight for such values. As George Santayana once quipped, “the chief aim of liberalism seems to be to liberate men from their marriage vows”. Indeed. Our modern enlightened elites may think their ways are a sign of progress. Many others might argue that they in fact are an indication of regress.

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10 Responses to Mutilating Marriage

  • Wouldn’t getting people to apply for an extension for their marriage be a revenue raising idea? Sounds like a government wanting to make money. It is a really bad idea.
    Matthew Mulvaney

  • Why not extend this time limit to all promises, international treaties and legal documents, starting with those made towards her?
    David Skinner, UK

  • Good one David.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • A clear case for more Christians, [a majority of] in politics and at the decision making levels of society.

    A restatement of Bill’s last line might read: ‘progressive’ politics is societally and morally degenerative.

    Ray Robinson, Wollongong

  • Bill, I would llike to offer an interesting insight from another angle.

    Readers of the late Isaac Asimov’s science fiction will be aware that he was a thorough-going atheist and evolutionist.

    Despite this, his short stories regularly featured a theme of small pieces being gathered up into the larger whole until “Let there be light!” He couldn’t escape the Augustinian problem 🙂

    His Robot tales (recently revived in film form as I, Robot) as well as being ripping good adventure yarns, explored social structures – sometimes quite consciously.

    One of his early robot series explored longevity, health and personal interactions and as author he concluded that there is something about the average 70-years of a human life which drives mankind:
    a) to explore and take adventurous leaps into the unknown (hence the galactic setting for his sci-fi novels) and
    b) to strive and build for something that will outlast an individual lifespan.

    So I would suggest that this German politician is trying to swim against the tide of human yearning – even before considering the Biblical witness.

    Sadly for Asimov, he couldn’t escape the need for a “god” of some kind and his mammoth Foundation series eventually merged with his Robot series so that his robot hero R. Daneel Olivaw became the repository of all historical knowledge, and the all-wise guardian of humanity.

    John Angelico

  • Our covenant spoken vows are till death do us part.

    Do we speak them and mean them? Are we willing to work at them, no matter what?

    Marriage is not a a contract, but a covenant where two people (man and woman) speak their vows made to each other and God.

    Judith Bond

  • Congratulations, Bill, on another excellent article. You are truly God’s gift to the body of Christ in Australia and beyond.

    I have been a youth and family counsellor for 30 years this year and am currently a family relationships’ counselling manager. My estimate is that 2/3 of my counselling case work would be eliminated if three major areas were successfully addressed by families:

    (1) the elimination of divorce. Then add a strong commitment to faithfulness in marriage;

    (2) Elimination of support for defacto relationships. They are notoriously low on long-term commitment.

    (3) Parents who take parenting seriously.

    Last week I overheard a tradesman working on a building site who was telling another fellow that he was in his second marriage and would not recommend divorce to anybody because of the havoc it has wreaked in his own life.

    Sincerely, Spencer Gear, Queensland

  • Yet another incursion of Gramscian infiltration and incursions into the pillars of our society. And why doesn’t it surprise me that it has taken place in Western Europe? (Although Schwartzenegger is doing his bit to destroy marriage in the state of California as well).
    Dee Graf

  • There is a good reason why 7 years into a marriage there is often crisis in a marriage – it represents the time when the two people have come to know each other well and must come to terms with their own failings as well as that of their spouse, and learn to love them still.

    See the ‘Marriage Map’ http://www.marriagemissions.com/marriage_matters/marriage_map.php for a great summary on the stages of marriage by Michele Weiner-Davis

    It does not surprise me that a non-Christian would suggest a timespan for marriage, just as de facto relationships are considered the norm nowadays. We humans like to do it our way, to go with our feelings, to let our emotions lead us. This mentality is defended as “being true to your yourself” and “following your heart”.

    What does surprise me is the amount that this is allowed and supported within the church, indeed even encouraged, particularly for women.

    Praise God that we have pollies in Australia that stand up for marriage.

    Garth Penglase

  • This is one of those articles that is simply unforgettable. When I read about this proposal for a seven year marriage restriction, I was absolutely stunned and thought about my own marriage and how I would have felt about parting after only 7 years. I must say that it was a relief to later read that this German politician had at least suggested that you could apply for an extension!

    Annette Nestor, Perth

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