CultureWatch

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

Marriage and History

Oct 7, 2017

The current marriage wars are so very odd for so many reasons. Until just recently the ideological left was vigorously insisting that marriage is just a piece of paper; that marriage is an oppressive and outdated institution; and that marriage is artificial – a relatively recent social construct.

Today however the left in general and the homosexual activists in particular are demanding the right to marriage, claiming it is the most important thing there is. So which is it? Is it just a waste of time or is it a necessity? Of course we know the answer to this already.

Marriage has never really been wanted by most homosexuals, and it is only the symbolic effect – plus the power and control that goes with it – that they seek through the redefinition – and thus destruction – of marriage. But all that I have documented in great detail elsewhere.

But let me look more closely at just one of the charges thrown around by the marriage attackers – at least up until recently. The claim that marriage and family are relatively recent inventions – often claimed to have originated in the US in the 1950s! – deserves a response.

The simple answer is this: heterosexual marriage – the union of one man and one woman – is a historic and universal institution. The evidence for this is overwhelming. So all that I can do here is cite a number of experts who have done very thorough studies of such matters.

With so much material to choose from here, I have to be rather selective. But all the full quotes and references for this – and much more – are found in my book Dangerous Relations. Let me begin with family law expert Lynne Marie Kohn who stated, “Marriage was not invented, codified, or planned by human government. Rather, human government gave the stamp of approval to a design already manifested, honored, maintained, and flourishing.”

American professor of law William Duncan puts it this way:

Marriage preexisted the state and is recognized (not created) by the state because of its intrinsic value. This is not a theological point. Whether one understands that marriage preexisted state recognition as a matter of religious belief or whether one believes that marriage has developed from the machinations of a ‘selfish gene,’ one thing is clear – marriage did not come into being by statute… It is not, therefore, wholly malleable.

Or as family researcher Jennifer Roback Morse puts it,

Marriage is an organic, pre-political institution that emerges spontaneously from society… Government does not create marriage any more than government creates jobs. Just as people have a natural ‘propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another,’ in Adam Smith’s famous words from the second chapter of The Wealth of Nations, we likewise have a natural propensity to couple, procreate, and rear children. People instinctively create marriage, both as couples and as a culture, without any support from the government whatsoever.

Even the evolutionary biologists, like C. Owen Lovejoy have acknowledged that the paleo-anthropological evidence makes clear that male-female bonding in lasting pairs was the critical step in human evolution. And other evolutionists acknowledge that this long-term male-female bonding is not some social construct, but is built into us by nature itself:

There is one big difference between human beings and chimpanzees and that is the institution we call marriage. In virtually all human cultures, including hunter-gatherer societies, males monopolise their mates, and vice versa. Even if he ends up with more than one wife … each man enters a long-term relationship with each woman who bears his children… Long-term pair bonds are not a cultural construct of our particular society; they are a habit universal to our species.

Families have always been defined by the male/female relationship, and children have almost always been raised within that unit. Few exceptions can be found. As Bronislaw Malinowski put it,

I know of no single instance in anthropological literature of a community where illegitimate children, that is children of unmarried girls, would enjoy the same social treatment and have the same social status as legitimate ones. The universal postulate of legitimacy has a great sociological significance … It means that in all human societies moral tradition and the law decree that the group consisting of a woman and her offspring is not a socially complete unit. The ruling of culture runs here … it declares that the human family must consist of a male as well as a female.

The raising of children has in most cultures taken place within that male/female relationship. This was one of the discoveries made by Margaret Mead: “When we survey all known societies, we find everywhere some form of the family, some set of permanent arrangements by which males assist females in caring for children while they are young.”

Not only is marriage and family defined by the male/female relationship, but by a life-long commitment as well. Says Mead: “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.”

Marriage is important for a variety of reasons, but one main reason historically has been the need to bind fathers to the mother-child relationship. Marriage, simply put, helps to civilise young men and refocus their energies into productive and committed relationships.

This is a common understanding in the findings of anthropology. As Margaret Mead once said, “The central problem of every society is to define appropriate roles for the men.” Or as George Gilder more crudely puts it, marriage is all about “taming the barbarians.”

Gilder makes the case in startling terms:

Biology, anthropology, and history all tell the same story. Every society, each generation, faces an invasion by barbarians… These barbarians are young men and boys, in their teens and early twenties. If the truth be known, all too many of them are entirely unsuited for civilized life. Every society must figure out ways to bring them into the disciplines and duties of citizenship.

Gilder is right in this regard: men simply need extra incentives to get married and stay married. As Sociologist David Popenoe explains, “biology was never enough to hold a father to the mother-child bond. That’s why every society has set up the institution of marriage – virtually every society – and they did it for this purpose of holding the father to the mother-child bond. They realized that the outcome for the children would be better.”

Keeping husbands to their wives, and fathers to their children, is crucial here. Popenoe further explains:

In recognition of the fatherhood problem, human cultures have used sanctions to bind men to their children, and of course the institution of marriage has been culture’s chief vehicle. Marriage is society’s way of signaling that the community approves and encourages sexual intercourse and the birth of children, and that the long-term relationship of the parents is socially important. Margaret Mead once said, with the fatherhood problem very much in mind, that there is no society in the world where men will stay married for very long unless culturally required to do so.

The overwhelming importance of marriage for the wellbeing of children has to be argued for elsewhere, which I have done. Suffice it to say that the wellbeing of children has always been a central component of the institution of marriage, and that has been the case throughout history and across cultures.

As David Blankenhorn puts it, “In the study of kinship, a central finding of anthropology is that in the crucial area of filiation – defined as who the child affiliates with, emotionally, morally, practically, and legally – the overwhelming majority of human societies are bilateral. Almost all human societies strongly seek for the child to affiliate with both its mother and its father.”

At this point some might argue that polygamy in its various forms has been a notable feature of many cultures throughout history. The short answer to this objection is both yes and no. Polygamy has certainly existed, but it appears to be the exception, not the rule.

Philosopher Stephen Post puts it this way: “Historically, men have a reasonably strong record of monogamy. When polygamy has existed, it has been almost entirely the result of the sheer power of despots over men and women.” Or as Matt Ridley notes in his book on sex and the evolution of human nature, “even in openly polygamous societies, most men have had only one wife and virtually all women have only one husband.”

Another philosopher, Michael Levin unites these various truths in this way: “Some societies have favored polygamy, a few polyandry; in some societies a number of married couples live together under a communal roof, while in others each of the basic units live separately. But no society has tolerated reproductive units with more than one member of both sexes, a temporary bond, or sex outside the reproductive unit.”

Science writer Matt Ridley likewise offers this summarising perspective:

The harems of ancient despots … cannot have been typical of the human condition for most of its history… In many ways modern people probably live in social systems that are much closer to those of their hunter-gatherer ancestors… No hunter-gatherer society supports more than occasional polygamy; and the institution of marriage is virtually universal. People live in larger bands than they used to, but within those bands the kernel of human life is the nuclear family: a man, his wife and children. Marriage is a child-rearing institution: wherever it occurs the father takes at least some part in rearing the child even if only by provision of food. In most societies, men strive to be polygamists; but few succeed. Even in the polygamous societies of pastoralists, the great majority of marriages are monogamous ones. It is our usual monogamy, not our occasional polygamy, that sets us apart from other animals, including apes.

In sum, marriage and the nuclear or extended family, appear to be the norm throughout human history. And children have almost always been raised by their biological parents. The novel idea that marriage can now be declared to be whatever we want it to be, and children can do just peachy in any type of family structure, is clearly at odds with the historical record.

[1740 words]

9 Responses to Marriage and History

  • And despite the fact that we have ample evidence for this and ample evidence that the breakdown of family has huge impact on children and the next generation and ample evidence that there are human instincts that have huge effects, especially on children, we now see that over half of children in European countries are now being born outside of stable relationships as the perverse, hedonistic, stupid, deliberately ignorant, factually deficient juggernaut keeps forging on.

    On one side we see the idea that a person’s sex is irrelevant and that women and men are exactly the same and on the other side we see that a person’s sex is so important that we need government sanctioned and funded sexual mutilation to cater for people’s mental problems with their sex. On one side we see marriage being portrayed as an anachronism from a paternalistic past with little relevance today and on the other side we see it being portrayed as so important that if people don’t have their relationship sanctioned with the name “marriage” they will kill themselves (a very obviously false claim.) We have “progressed” well past the age of reason and are now well into the age of false imagination where facts no longer matter and things that a child could plainly see are not equal must be treated as though they are equal, even if the function they serve is the complete opposite of the function that the thing was meant to serve.

  • “…..The novel idea that marriage can now be declared to be whatever we want it to be, and children can do just peachy in any type of family structure, is clearly at odd with the historical record….”

    Yep.

    “…..The word ‘normal‘ derives from the Latin normalis meaning ‘standing at a right angle.’ Its origins can be traced in English usage to 1650 when, according to the Macquarie dictionary, it meant ‘made according to a carpenter’s square’. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines normal as ‘perpendicular to a tangent’. Together, these definitions might be taken to imply that normal people are upright, square-shooters, whereas deviants are liable to fly off at a tangent.
    Nobody should have any problem understanding what normal is. If they still teach synonyms at school, any kid could find an alternative that left no doubt about the orientation of the majority of the population:
    Average, common, commonplace, conventional, customary, established, everyday, familiar, general, habitual, natural, ordinary, orthodox, predictable, , regular, routine, standard, typical, universal, unsurprising, usual. And in a special sub-category: balanced, healthy, rational, reasonable, sane, stable, well-adjusted, free from mental or emotional disorder.

    ‘natural’ stands out, all boys and girls start of natural…..” —– Quadrant

    Disordering a child is ‘the new normal’ in the LGBTPEDO community.

    Thanks again for all your hard work Bill, God Bless.

  • Even in the animal kingdom there are certain species who link up and stay together (male and female) to raise young for life. Parrots are one that I can think of and there is also a species of fish, that will join up for as long as each of them live to produce and raise their young. Only when one of that partnership dies, will the female or male go in search of a new mate. This, I believe, tells us something of God’s work in nature and how it also applies to humans as well. But even if you don’t think along religious grounds in terms of marriage, biology is the one great common denominator here and yes, that comes from God as well. I think in the end, nature, biology – God – will win out, but sadly at the terrible expense of children exposed to this insanity.

  • Thanks Bill for another great post.

    As you say, “Marriage has never really been wanted by most homosexuals.”

    Historically the homosexual “movement” was male dominated until AIDS wiped out too many sexually active males.
    Those homosexuals who were left were un-promiscuous, conservative, and mostly women.

    So the more militant arm of the women’s movement took up the homosexual mantel to pressure for the things that interested them as women. Hence “marriage”.
    And being militant – “power and control”.

    Male homosexuals simply weren’t interested in conforming and saw themselves apart from most heterosexual traditions.

    Wanting to be part of marriage, which has been no business of homosexuals, is actually homophobic.

    And if it wasn’t for the AIDS virus we might not be wanting marriage today.

  • Same-sex marriage in terms of cats and dogs. (Names changed to protect the idiots…sorry, innocent.)

    Suppose the government, in the interests of pet equality, passes a law that says that, from now on, all cats are to be dogs. We now have two types of dogs, which, for the purposes of this article, we will call feline dogs and canine dogs. Of course, no such distinction was permitted by the law. It’s dogs only now.

    Nothing will change, said Attorney General Gregorian Brainless. Sure you will now have to say ‘good puppy’ when your feline dog fetches a stick for you. Most (sensible) people of course realised this would never happen so supported the change and thought it irrelevant.

    Then the slippery slope began. The Consumer Commission told pet shops and supermarkets and pet food manufacturers they could no longer advertise cat food. All cans and shop isles had to be labelled ‘Dog’. Still no alarm bells rang; it’s all just meat so what’s the problem.

    Then the Veterinary Association declared that vets must now treat all dogs equally, resulting in some ‘unintended and un-foreseen consequences’ for some feline dogs. ‘That’s tragic of course’, said Greens Senator Clara Hyphen-Idiot, looking up from watching the latest re-run of Sea Patrol, ‘but bad things happen’.

    Next in the firing line were dog training clubs and businesses, which were told they could not discriminate between feline and canine dogs. They all had to receive the same training. Frustrated by the inability of a certain type of dog to ‘get it’ training-wise, many businesses closed their doors, as did many dog grooming businesses. There was much unemployment in the industry. No problems said the Green’s Ricktard di Nutterella. There will be plenty of jobs for them in the green renewables future.

    Following close behind were the security companies that provided guard dogs. You can no longer discriminate, ordered now-Prime Minister Dill Shortonbrains. ‘How can that thing guard my factory?’ asked a business owner, pointing to the overweight tabby in the corner. ‘It just curls up in the corner and goes to sleep.’ ‘Sorry’, said the security company manager, ‘I can no longer discriminate on the grounds of felinity or obesity. I have government contracts I can’t afford to lose’.

    Just when (sensible) people thought things couldn’t get any sillier, newly appointed Pets Rights Investigation Commissioner (PRIC) Lillian Trick (surname possibly misspelled. Ed) decided that there was still too much discrimination among private pet owners. Certain types of dogs were not being given the privilege of a daily walk with their owners. She wrote a voluminous report, after which the government passed amendments requiring that all dogs receive their due rights in all domestic situations, including camping and fishing trips. PRIC inspectors prowled the neighbourhoods and many dog owners received hefty fines.

    Finally one day, Dr John Doolittle, famous professor of animal linguistics, made a startling discovery in conversation with an animal who bravely still self-identified as a cat. Seems cats had long harboured deep resentment at being lowered to the status of dogs, those uncouth creatures who didn’t cover their poop, couldn’t bath themselves and humiliated themselves performing stupid demeaning tricks for their owners. ‘Can you help us?’ the sad creature begged. The good doctor bravely made his discovery public and received much hate mail in return.

    But it was too late; the concept of ‘cat’ had long since vanished from human consciousness. Public discussion had now turned to the inequality between canaries and gold fish…

  • @ David Williams
    Thanks for your great comment ❗ 😀 :mrgreen:

  • Hi Bill
    Just love the clarity of thought in your article.
    It caused me to take up a book by Vishal Mangalwadi, “The Book That Made Your World” (How the Bible created the soul of western civilization). Chapter 15, Family. Gives valuable info on many aspects.
    If you have time in your busy life go to P 238 To 297. I just wish our pollies could read it! Believe it!
    The whole book should be compulsory reading for all of the high school years and beyond!

  • Thanks Julyan. Yes it is a terrific book. I will have to grab it off my shelves and reread it. See me review here:
    billmuehlenberg.com/2011/09/28/5981/

  • Thank you Bill for all your truly enlightened comments.

    Some “gays” say that the “gay-lobby” knows quite well that the HIDDEN AGENDA is to elevate their lifestyle to the sacred (in demanding the public accept their lifestyle of sodomy – so that they can feel better about it) … and in so doing rendering ALL Marriage ALL to be meaningless; that in fact, this is their “Trojan Horse”strategy to DESTROY ALL MARRIAGE and reinvent society more to their own liking.

    DON’T BELIEVE IT? See the full ALARMING transcript of interview: www.lifesitenews.com/news/homosexual-activists-aim-to-destroy-the-family-impose-totalitarianism-gay-p . 27.2. 2014
    “Homosexual activists aim to ‘DESTROY THE FAMILY’ and IMPOSE ‘TOTALITARIANISM’ says gay pro-family activist” – the “SOLE PURPOSE” of the homosexualist “gay rights” movement is “DESTROYING THE FAMILY”-warns Jean-Pier-Delaume Myard (“ homosexual, but against ‘gay marriage”).
    Alarmingly, this is also very closely tied to Roz Ward’s “Safe-Schools” indoctrination (under the guise of “anti-bullying”) which is hijacking our children without parental consent and where parental objection is already not tolerated.

    Myard blasted the homosexualist movement for using children as ‘POLITICAL TOOLS’ of their ideological aims. Children are treated as ‘trophies’ in the effort to force states to go along with the ideology, with little or no regard for children’s real needs.

    The emphasis is on the [supposed] “right TO a child” rather than the “rights OF the child . “We must break the silence to say that we cannot reasonably accept depriving a child of his social references.” (NOTE that the “gay” lobby is also now DEMANDING “rights” to adoption, surrogate wombs, IVF)

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