Is Traditional Marriage Under Attack?

“Marriage must be defended; I think it’s under attack” stated 2012 Presidential candidate and GOP primary front-runner Mitt Romney (Fox News Sunday). Other candidates like Rep. Michelle Bachmann have gone even further, signing a pledge to protect traditional family values (Somashekhar). Since traditional marriage is under attack, it must be defended. At some point traditional marriage must be defined in American society. How can traditional marriage be defended if it is not defined in society? Once it is established what these values are, then the question of whether these values are under any danger can be addressed.

Some people would argue that there is no such thing as traditional marriage. Every society has its own cultural and social structures in place, which can change over time. In Debunking Myths about Marriages and Families the authors explain that there are many different family models and that these models are products of their historical context (Schwartz and Scott 281). It is argued, for example, that the Industrial Revolution brought about changes in the roles between man and women where the man is the primary provider and the woman is the primary caregiver for the children. Because social structures between man and woman change through time, and because there are different forms of marriage/family social structure, it is argued that the concept of traditional marriage is a myth.

Traditional family values are not a myth. Tradition is the historically accepted practices of a particular culture or society. In American society it is fairly clear that Christianity has had an enormous impact on citizens. It would even be fair to say that throughout its history America has predominately been a Christian nation, at least in culture and social structures. A person can go to almost any village or town in America and see that there are plenty of churches. In the author’s hometown, a village with a population of about seven hundred people, there are at least four different churches. In larger towns and cities many mega-churches have formed. Pastors such as Joel Osteen have gained a huge number of followers. Because Christianity has had such a huge influence on morality in American society, the Bible has influenced morality in marital standards significantly.

Throughout United States history morality has been predominately influenced by the reading of the Bible. In a free society there will be room for disagreement, no matter what a person’s cultural upbringing or moral convictions are. Because there are different views as to what traditional marriage is does not mean that the concept is a myth, but it does mean that American society may find it very difficult to agree on what those concepts are. The tradition is not in is any particular Biblical doctrine however, it is in American citizens looking to the Bible for moral guidance. Traditional marriage in this country is best defined as looking for to the Bible for Bible for moral guidance in relation to marriage. Due to a perceived deterioration of morality in society traditional marriage has been considered under attack. Since traditional marriage is properly defined it becomes imperative to find agreement on areas where immorality cause an actual threat to traditional marriage get-marriage. Unfortunately, the varying denominations are unable to agree on what is right or wrong. Some denominations forbid homosexuality while others condone it, for example. If agreement on these issues can be found then it would be easier to find solutions that may help. The specific reasons for why marriage is considered under attack are inconsequential at this point, since people cannot agree what form of morality is under attack. With that said, there have been reasons given for why marriage is under attack. One of the most common reasons that marriage is considered under attack is because of homosexual marriage. Politicians such as Michele Bachmann have made very strong statements in opposition of homosexual marriage. For example, in relation to the gay community, she once stated “This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children” and that “This is probably the biggest issue that will impact our state and our nation in the last, at least, thirty years. I am not understating that” (Prophetic Views Behind The News). There are many Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong certainly, but there is no agreement among the get-marriage Christian denominations. Some support gay marriage and allow gay priests while others strictly forbid it. Because there is no agreement on what morality is, the danger to it cannot be properly defined. If people do not know what they are trying to protect, how can the danger be identified?

Even if there is agreement on what is right and what is wrong does this mean that Christians have the right to impose that morality on other individuals? Does any human have the authority or capability to control another person’s morality? The one human that any credible argument can be made for the authority to control morality would be Jesus Christ. Jesus is God in the flesh so it is fair to say that he has the authority to control morality. Even though he may have had the power to control morality he did not use his power (John 8:15-16). Christ did not restrain wickedness, sin, or immorality. Instead, he brought salvation to those that knew they were immoral, yet wanted to be righteous. He did not condemn people, since he felt that God (the Father) was the judge of everyone. If God has not viewed them as righteous, then they were already condemned (King James Bible, John 3:17-21). If the Messiah did not condemn anyone for their morality then people who want to act like Christ should promote laws that do not condemn others for their morality.

Christian morality should not be imposed on the unwilling through civil law. To do so would amount to condemning people through law. This would be no different than the practice of the Pharisee’s. They also used the God’s morality laws to condemn people. The Pharisee’s even tried to condemn Jesus. In one example they tried to condemn him and his disciples for picking corn on the Sabbath. Christ replied that if the Pharisee’s had understood the meaning of the laws that they would not condemn others but would have instead had mercy on them (King James Bible, Matthew 12). In another passage, Jesus said that he did not judge after the flesh, (meaning he did not condemn others for their morality) unlike the Pharisee’s (King James Bible, John 8:15). If Christians should not impose morality on society through law, then why should any Christian support a law that forbids a marriage practice, despite its perceived immorality? If the only argument is that the institution of marriage is under attack because of an increase in the perceived immoralities of society then it seems suggestible that there is no need for the protection of marriage through the passage of laws, since it seems that the morality of society is not dependent on the law. There are those that would try to marginalize immorality through demonization but calling people names does not solve the problem. Gay people will have gay sex no matter what the laws say, so trying to control morality in this way only causes more hostility. It simply does not solve the problem. Christianity has had an enormous impact on American society. At the same time, the United States Constitution also protects the right to individual liberty and the freedom of religion. This means that American citizens have the right to make their own morality in society as long as this does not interfere with the individual liberty of another. Another way to say this is that it is not the role of the government to control morality in society, unless that morality interferes with individual liberty. Since the relationship between spouses or other family structures is primarily an issue of morality it becomes a question of whether or not Christian morality in relation to marriage should be imposed on society. It seems that the Biblical argument and the Constitutional argument is that it should not be. At the very least, Jesus changed the morality of society. After all, it is two thousand years after his crucifixion, yet look at how many followers he has. So it seems that the best way to improve morality is to do the things that Christ did. Instead of sitting around condemning people, Christians need to have mercy on the “sinners of the world” (King James Bible, Mat. 9:11-13). They need to be able to accept others and at the same time teach what God’s standards of morality are to anyone who is willing to listen.

Do the perceived immoralities of society pose a significant danger to the institution of marriage? Do immoralities such as cheating on a spouse pose a danger to those who chose to remain faithful to their spouse? Everyone should be accountable for their own actions and their own morality instead of being threatened by the morality of others. If a person believes that certain actions are immoral, then they should not do them regardless of what the law permits. If homosexual marriage was made legal in all fifty states tomorrow how many Christians would turn gay? How many atheists? It seems likely that no one would change their morality based on the law, since the morality of society is not dependent on the law. If the morality of society is not dependent on the law changes in the law will not solve the problem. It might make the problem even worse. In order to improve morality in society, for example, alcohol became illegal in the United States during the 1920’s. The exact opposite happened. Morality did not improve, it deteriorated significantly. More people started drinking, and violence increased significantly. Because the Christian denominations cannot agree on what Christian marital standards are, Christian marital standards should not be imposed through law. Moral marital laws will only cause more hostility between those who agree with the law and those who disagree. Perhaps the greatest reason why Christian morality should not be imposed through law is because it goes against the actions of Jesus Christ.

Additionally, it goes against the very concepts of freedom that were set forth in the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. As United States citizens, Americans have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Imposing Christian morality (or any other form of morality) goes against all three of those rights. Everyone has the right to do whatever they want to their own body. This applies to marriage just as it applies in every other area of life. When consenting adults choose to do things to their bodies that the Bible considers immoral, it is their choice. If there is truly a desire to reduce marital immorality it seems that the best approach would be the ability to love others. This does not mean that marital immorality will go away. The simple fact is that immorality is not going to go away until Jesus Christ returns. There will still be infidelity, or homosexual marriage, but no civil law is going to change that. On the other hand, Christian morality is able to thrive in almost any society. Immorality in marriage does not pose any danger to Christian morality. Even in times past, when there has been a danger to Christian morality, Christianity thrived. A good example of this is the Roman persecution of the Christians. Despite the fact that Christians suffered extreme persecution for their standards of morality more people became Christians (Hunt 199-200). People have every right to destroy their bodies, but what they cannot do is save their bodies. Since people are unable to bring their own salvation there is no need for the protection of Christian morality. Humanity is not able to protect morality, since humanity is not a moral species. God is the only one who is considered morally perfect, only he can protect morality. The only protection that the institution of marriage needs is the desire and willpower to honor God.

Works Cited

Hunt, Lynn, Thomas Martin, Barbara Rosenwein, R. Po-Chia Hsia, and Bonnie Smith. The Making of the West Peoples and Cultures: A Concise History. Boston: Bedford Martin. 2007. Print.

Fox News Sunday. Chris Wallace, Host. Fox News Channel 7 Mar. 2008. Television “Prophetic Views Behind The News” Host. Jan Markell, KKMS 980-AM, March 20, 20

Schwartz, Mary Ann and Barbara Scott. Debunking Myths about Marriage and Families. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. Tenth ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008. Print.

Somashekhar, Sandhya. “Bachmann Signs Socially Conservative Pledge On Homosexuality, Marriage” Washington Post. The Washington Post 8 July. 2011. Web. 27 July. 2011.

The Holy Bible (Authorized King James Version). Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2003. Print

 

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