On a monthly basis, lifeseek.org will be featuring a thought-provoking essay that is designed to stimulate healthy dialogue and a collective resolve to seek the face of God for answers of some of the most pressing issues of our age. Your participation and feedback is very important to us and we encourage you to leave your comments, facebook or tweet this post after reading.
In today’s society, we find a myriad of complicated issues steaming from race, health, sex and gender. These issues seem to be at the epicenter of our cultural norms. Most of the widespread issues in post- modern America stem from interpersonal relationships between people groups in our nation, and how people are adjusting to the changes that are taking place. One of the issues that is under public scrutiny in this society is marriage. Marriage affects the very fabric of society from the structure of family to its cultural norms. By exploring the rapidly changing laws around the subject of marriage, we can observe the demographics of the “institution of marriage” and how that institution has potentially changed to grow in post modern America.
A modern day definition of “marriage” gives us clues on how people associate commitment and a life-long relationship with their partner. Marriage is defined as (paraphrased):
– the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law
– the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage, the mutual relation of married persons, (wedlock) the
institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
– an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities (1)
The current “legal” definition of marriage is a contracted collaboration of two people who have agreed to commit themselves to one another for the rest of their lives until one of them dies, or one of the couple decides to terminate the agreement. The word “united” in the definition of marriage is too broad of a term considering that marriages are traditionally consummated by sexual intercourse between a male and female. This traditional definition of marriage involves more than just sex but also the potential of raising a family.
The most historical sanctions of marriage can be found in almost every religion in the world. It has become so ingrained into our society so that the religious rite itself has secular benefits which have become regulated, and defined, by the government and its individual states in America. Some religious traditions make marriage, and “holy matrimony,” to be the exclusive union between a single man and a single woman. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all follow the “same-styled” practices of marriages in America.
There are some lawful interests in which the government governs marriages that are religious and non-religious. Marriages seen outside of religious practice are deemed as a “civil marriage.” A civil marriage has the same fundamental interests such as child support, family, and paternity. These are a few examples that show the legal structure of marriage as seen by law. In America, when someone religiously marries they also are civilly married by the state. This legal structure is made to protect all parties in the marriage including the siblings that were born inside that marriage.
Over the last three decades, the “cultural” definition of married has changed and grown in America to include “same-sex marriage.” Same-sex marriage has produced much controversy as to what marriage is, including the issue of whether same-sex marriage (homosexual marriage) should be given the same rights as traditional marriage. Support for same-sex marriage is usually based on two factors, “universal human rights” (which is steeped in the philosophy of distinguishing “natural rights” from “legal rights”), and allowing the “homosexually married” to be viewed just as “equal before the law” as the traditional marriages are viewed today. Arguments opposing homosexual marriage are usually centered around religion and parenting.
One of the goals of homosexual(s) in America is not to try to change the religious and sanctimonious definition of marriage but to legislate civil marriage to include and accept same-sex marriages. People who oppose these factions usually do so on the grounds of religion and “social morality” (e.g. social ethics). Religious people fear that “gay marriage” might weaken the institution of marriage itself; adding to the current problems and divorce rate that exist in America today. The social ethics of “what tomorrow’s communities will look like” seems to be a “passive-concern” among traditionalists in this country especially in religious communities.
If civil marriage can be amended to include same-sex marriages, can it also be amended to include more than one spouse in a marriage? There’s currently a general consensus, in America, that polygamy will be the next “civil rights” battle. There’s a fine line between homosexual and heterosexual, but is there fine line between monogamy and polygamy?
Almost always, when the legalization of polygamy is brought up, it’s used to make a case against gay marriage. Most notably, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania told the Associated Press in 2003 that legalizing gay sex would pave the way for legalized bigamy, polygamy and incest. (2)
Polygamy is rising in this country to become a social/culture norm. When our federal courts permit same-sex marriage in the country people suspect that polygamist groups will also begin to legislate their rights to have more than one spouse.
The role of the state in a marriage ceremony (currently) is to witness and confirm that two people are becoming “lawfully wedded”. This means that any parties that participate in such a ceremony are legally recognized as “married” by the state. This idea of marriage would drastically change if our federal courts were to license polygamy marriages as a “legal and lawful union.”
Most people would agree that marriage is more than a legal contract — there are emotional, and traditional observations that are ingrained into our culture concerning the structure and definition of marriage. No matter how the definition of marriage is changing, the most important aspect of marriage, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual, is that each person has decided to commit to a “promise.” This promise has to be to themselves, to honor someone greater than themselves and to other individual(s) in that institution – whether it be a person, child, or second wife. The structure of marriage can evolve or change, but a foundational principle that is overlooked is the commitment of individuals not just to an institution- or a definition- but to a Person bigger than themselves. Similar and the overall commitment to God. Promises can’t be legislated by law and its governing body – nor should it be; but it can be witnessed by the state through a license that’s lawfully binding. Marriage may look different from an outward perspective but the principle of commitment bound together by a “promise” will always be the very fabric of that marriage institution.
1. Why is homosexuality a “TABOO” subject in the black communities, but not a “TABOO” subject in the white communities?
2. Should Civil Right Laws issues apply to the homosexual communities?
3. Are the issues of homosexuality, in America, considered an issue of Human Right or Civil Rights?
4. How can the church serve homosexuals?
5. Have you, individually, educated yourself on the issues of alternative lifestyles, and homosexual communities?
6. How would you project the future of the American FAMILY?
 Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. [Online] April 28, 2010. [Cited: April 28, 2010.] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/marriage
 NewsWeek. Polygamists, Unite! Newsweek.com. [Online] March March, 2006. [Cited: April 28, 2010.] http://www.newsweek.com/id/47068.
Dwayne Ghant is a Sr. Software developer at Temple University, who has been doing software development for the past 12 years. My career has very little to do with who I am internally; that’s the part of me that always evolving. And yes, I’m a Christian who fervently loves our Father through Jesus Christ. I am also the co-founder of lifeseek.org. As our culture continues to evolve, ever so rapidly, there has to be a united expression or an organization that is willing to capture the essence of post-modern Christendom – and write about it! It is our intention to write about a myriad of issues pertaining to ethics, culture, society, and religion. We won’t always focus on “Christianity”; instead we will focus on how to observe things through the wisdom of God! Enough about me. We really hope you enjoy our blogs.