Thursday, May 17, 2012

Marriage Wars...A Legacy of the Protestant Reformation?

Perhaps there is a case to be made that the current "political" debate in this country regarding marriage, as to whether the state should only recognize "male-female" unions or extend that definition to persons of the same sex, whether male or female, is a natural and logical outcome from the Protestant Reformation.  At least, such is the contention of this article.

One thing that the article dances around but doesn't really go into is how the Protestants largely rejected the Sacramental nature of the Church.  Sacraments were either discarded entirely, or some were retained (usually just baptism and the Eucharist), or all were retained with some having a "lesser" status than others (i.e. the Anglican nomenclature of listing ordination, marriage, etc. as "sacramentals").   Marriage may not have always been defined strictly as a sacrament in the early church or even in the church of the first millenium, but it does have more of an ancient pedigree than what the Protestants supposed when they threw them out.

I'm not saying that Protestants don't have legitimate marriages or that they are not blessed by God, but when it is spoken of in terms that are more contractual, i.e. a listing of responsibilities and duties and such, then its inherent sacramental nature is mere afterthought.

As the Eucharist fosters direct communion with God, so marriage fosters direct communion with God.  Each spouse dies to himself for the sake of the other.  It is a martyrdom. That is why hymns to the martyrs are sung at Orthodox weddings with Sts. Procopius and Stephen invoked particularly.  The Eucharist is a sacrifice. Marriage is a sacrifice.  By joining together in a communion (especially in sex for the procreation of children) and giving of ourselves totally to one another we then commune with God.  Again, unions in Protestant churches are no less marriages and no less blessed by God, but when you remove the sacramental nature of it and make it a civil ceremony, is it any wonder that Protestant churches are the ones leading the charge to redefine marriage to include the union of same sex couples?

The irony in all of this is that the Protestants are fighting one another, within the respective denominations .  You have Presbyterians vs. Presbyterians, Methodist vs. Methodist, Episcopal vs. Episcopal, Lutheran vs. Lutheran.  Each side appeals to the Scriptures. Each side appeals to its tradition and roots.  But how can they both be right?  They can't.  The Protestant Reformation was about jettisoning the church to make man supreme.  Henry VIII wanted to be in charge of the church so that he could get his annulments for every time he grew tired of one of his wives.  Luther couldn't make peace with his own sinfulness so he invented justification by faith alone.  Protestantism is rooted in one's own interpretation.  The Church and her sacraments are relegated to a secondary place.  This is the logical outcome of the Protestant Reformation.


  1. Two questions please: 1) Why do we have civil marriage in the first place? Would you entertain the libertarian proposal to solve the marriage debate by abolishing civil marriage?

    2) Can you outline in a nutshell what Orthodoxy teaches about homosexuality? Are there gay Orthodox Christians? What is the nature of the vocation of someone with same-sex attraction in Eastern Churches, since they can't (or likely shouldn't) get married?

    Thanks :)

  2. Trish,

    1) Civil marriage exists, because it is in the best interests of the states, to encourage and even promote marriage for procreating future citizens. Without citizens, the state cannot survive. In this case, I would be considered a traitor to classic libertarianism, though I consider myself more of a classical liberal than a libertarian. The state does have a compelling interest in this case. That said, this promotion and encouragement does absolutely NOTHING from people of the same sex who are attracted to each other and want to be together from being together--NOTHING! If you're worried about things like hospital visitation or inheritance, talk to me about reforming things like power of attorney which set up too many unnecessary roadblocks for partners of same sex couples.

    2) Orthodoxy teaches that homosexuality action and not inclination is sinful. Just as it teaches that heterosexual fornication is sinful which can bring down excommunication (for a brief period of time) requiring repentance, so it is with homosexual inclination. I'm sure there are gay Orthodox Christians. A person whom I met at a monastery once was there because he was a repentant homosexual. He was roommates with a man who was a repentant adulterer and fornicator. Both men were living lives of repentance. As far as the vocation goes, there is debate whether the only two options are a) get married b) if not possible, join a monastery. And what if both options aren't available? That's a good question and it was one I was wrestling with for awhile. But we know how that ended up.

  3. One more thing, Trish. One of the things that I fear is that despite the so-called "separation" of church and state, it seems that whenever any kind of leap is made forward as far as civil liberties is concerned, the church is expected to follow suit and people in states where gay marriage is permitted have sued religious institutions and people whose consciences dictate otherwise because of "discrimination." And before you say that such is out of the ordinary, a random google or lexus nexus search (far more accurate) would yield any number of incidents in the past few years where gay couples have brought litigation against businesses, churches, church halls because they do not support gay marriage.

    Perhaps it would be best if the state got out of the marriage business entirely and let marriage be handled as any other contractual arrangement. That would safeguard the religious institutions who would not marry same sex couples.

    However, as I stated above, the state, I believe, has a compelling interest in preserving, maintaining and promoting as marriage between man and woman as it would be for the procreation of future citizens. This does not purport to be an endorsement or even establishment of religion (most people in the gay activist movement really have no idea what those terms mean), but an endorsement of biology!

  4. 1) RE: civil marriage exists for the sake of future or potential citizens. The problem with your premise is that marriage statute as it is doesn't actually reflect that goal. I think you allude to this when you speak of civil marriage's divorce (so to speak) from sacramental marriage. We know that divorce is traumatic to children, yet we have no-fault divorce, even quickie no-fault divorce. I can tell you from my discussions with friends who were in family law, children are often the least concern.

    And often, children are of no concern. Civil marriages can be perpetually childless; heck, they need not even be consummated. This just p---es me off. What right do they have to their house full of stuff but NO children, while I can't make a home with the woman I love? Show me you can do something I can't do: fill your house with children! THAT I could get behind.

    I'm not so much pro-same-sex marriage as I am pro-marriage. To tell you the truth, I'm pretty ambivalent about same-sex marriage if it's going to be fraught with the same failures as heterosexual marriage. However, from the perspective of gay people, they have everything to gain, since it's something they've never had. I don't think it's so much about the enumerated benefits as it is about the social currency marriage has in our society. They seek validation, and they want to enshrine fidelity, commitment, and selflessness in a subculture where the course of true love never did run smooth, as the Bard says. They don't understand why their relationships should be condemned, and I can't say that I blame them.

    I wonder if there is a compelling state interest in establishing this sort of union for them, or if the pursuit of happiness isn't enough.

  5. 2) So, what you're saying is fornication is fornication, idolatry is idolatry, and lust is lust. From knowing the men at the monastery, was there any essential difference between what the homosexual was repenting and what the fornicator was? They both suffered concupiscence. They both objectified other human beings and used them for their own gratification. Am I with you?

    It seems then that there is a lot about our biology that God (and perhaps the state) ought not to endorse (and I assure you biology is very much involved in same-sex attraction). It isn't biology that guarantees the children will thrive; it's HUSBANDRY. I guarantee that in a Hobbesian state of nature, you'd be as unapologetically promiscuous as all the other primates. It's a brutal existence, particularly for offspring. There's much of nature and nothing of Christ.

    OK, what is a Christian who is a sexual being to do? Well, I think the consensus view in philosophy and psychology is that we sublimate the erotic in favor of a higher calling. We practice self-discipline, called chastity. This may be the root of all civilization, including religion. Is it any wonder that the central metaphor of Christianity is the conjugal union of Christ and His Church?

    The problem for gay people is this: from a very young age (possibly in utero), their bodies follow a different path, and without the proper guidance from parents and ministers, they do what feels most natural to them, for which they are cast out of decent society. The people who ought to show them the greatest compassion and charity reject them and call them perverts (disregarding their own fallen nature). Some try to derive self-esteem from the gay pride movement and can become quite hard-hearted. Others attempt to repress - and this is absolutely soul-crushing - and descend into depression and addiction.

    I think the misguided attempts at conversion therapy show that there's a lot straight people, particularly Christians, don't understand. People don't even know what chastity means. The thing is, sexuality is much more than sex. It is there for a reason and should be expressed in order for a person to be a whole, healthy adult.

    With regards to the Church (Catholic or Orthodox), we need to find paths of virtue for homosexual people to take that affirm them as well as their situation. I think the Church has always had a great talent for making room for the misfits of the world. They are some of my favorite saints. :) Gay people may not be able to get married and have children, but they may be just the right people at the right time to serve some momentary exigency, especially in times like ours.

    Consider one gay man who I consider a saint: Fr. Mychal Judge, a Franciscan priest and the first recorded death at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He sublimated himself to the celibate life, serving as a chaplain for the men (and women) of the FDNY. He also ministered to AIDS patients, giving a healing touch to those considered by many to be untouchable. Before the South Tower collapsed on 9/11, he was last seen administering last rites to the crushed human remains of those who had fallen to their deaths, those others could not bear to see. I'm not saying a straight man couldn't have done what he did, but when I read about him, I recognize that irascibility.

    Phew, that was longer than I anticipated. Apologies. ;)

  6. *I meant tenacity, not irascibility - or maybe I didn't. LOL

    1. Trish,

      This will be may LAST comment on this subject matter.

      1) You say that my argument of marriage's existence is not congruous with the statute. Maybe not in terms of the written law, but certainly in the spirit. Childless marriage is of no benefit to the state and is no benefit even to the church. With regards to the state, what is family but a microcosm of the state? And, if we follow Plato, the microcosm is the macrocosm. If people want to get married and want not to have kids, then it shouldn't be called a marriage.

      If you want to be pro- marriage, that cannot include being pro-gay marriage. Again, I don't care what two gay men or women want to do with each other. I've got enough to do. And I do not believe that the weight of the state should be brought on them for not reproducing (and that goes for hetero couples who do not have children either). Marriage is singly defined (and ALWAYS has been) as a covenant (whether sacred or secular) between man and woman. To be pro-gay marriage is not to be pro-marriage since you've changed the definition.

      2) With regards to concupiscence, you're correct. A gay men and fornicating heterosexual were both leading lives of repentance. I must admit that I'm sickened by those who spend so many waking hours campaigning against homosexuals because it's a sin and then spend their free time fornicating like teenagers! Sin is sin, regardless.

      As far as the term "sexual being", I must admit I hate that term. We are not sexual beings. We have sex, but to say that we are sexual beings implies that sex is the end all, be all of our existence. OUr bodies were made for the Lord, says St. Paul, not for sex. Unless, of course, you want to debate St. Paul.

      With regards to sexual reorientation therarpy, I don't know enough about it to make a comment, but if it works for some people and that's what they WANT to do, let them. Again, I'm tired by people on the left (like you) who claim that you defend choice but then want to take it away from things you deem politically incorrect.

      OK, we're done with this.