Framed almost exclusively as a “human rights” issue and no longer considered a fringe movement, the push for gay “marriage” is sweeping across the globe, taking millions of good-hearted and well-intentioned people along with it.
The arguments are persuasive. The demands seem reasonable. But in order to truly make an informed decision, it is necessary to take a few steps back and look at the larger picture. While (seemingly) millions of voices are clamoring for “equality” and “dignity” and “respect,” the question nobody seems willing to ask is the obvious one: what is the point of marriage?
If the answer were simply “happiness,” then denying a self-identifying 3 to 4 percent of the population this opportunity for fulfillment and lasting joy seems cruel indeed. But what if that isn’t the point of marriage, at all. What if, instead, our modern concept of the institution of marriage, as recognized and revered for thousands of years, is dead wrong?
Here’s the truth: it is.
Happiness is not the point of marriage. It’s not always even a fringe benefit. Just ask someone whose husband has been killed in action while serving in the military, or whose wife is battling schizophrenia or some other debilitating mental illness in an institution, physically and emotionally cut off from her family. While marriage is filled with tremendous opportunities for happiness, it does not exist specifically to deliver mutual feelings of goodwill to the spouses.
What is the point of marriage, then?
The good of the other(s).
The primary “other” being the spouse, and the subsequent “others” being children who issue forth from that union. Is this a profoundly counter-cultural view of marriage? Yes it is. Does this make it inaccurate? Not in the least. Because marriage, unlike a cultural trend or technological advance, isn’t subject to innovation or alteration as the tides of change sweep through a culture. It is older than us, it is bigger than us. And at the end of the day, it isn’t actually all about “us,” anyway; it’s about the other.
And what is good for the other, what is best for the other … can never be contrary to human nature. Can never be contrary to the way we have been created, body and soul. Can never be fruitless and incapable of bringing forth life. Human beings are, in their deepest identity, capable of – and indeed are compelled to – generate new life. And marriage exists at least partially for the protection of that new life.
Stay with me, because this is not a popular concept. But that does not make it untrue.
Children are the natural fruit of marriage. Oftentimes biological, and sometimes adopted. Sometimes only in a spiritual sense. Whichever way they come, marriage alone is uniquely capable of ensuring their autonomy and dignity are protected.
In a culture which has effectively divorced marriage from procreation, via contraception, the notion of marriage existing “for” children seems bizarre and even offensive. And to couples whose unions can never result in children no matter how desperately they desire for them to, perhaps this concept is particularly painful.
But it is true. Marriage exists for the mutual good of the spouses, and for the creation, protection, and ultimate good of the children.
And that is why marriage can never be “gay.” Because homosexual “marriage” cannot, by its very nature, exist. Two same-natured persons cannot enter into a “marriage” at all. They can have a relationship. They can even make that relationship legally binding, should they desire. But they cannot magically transform something that will never be marriage simply by force of will or manipulation of law.
Laws protecting marriage exist to protect marriage; they don’t define it, and they did not create it. The most fundamental mistake in arguing against the redefinition of marriage is perhaps to enter into the argument at all: it’s pointless. Marriage is not a human invention or a cultural construct, but rather, the revealed truth of something written into our very beings. Men and women were designed physically, biologically, psychologically, spiritually, to be “one” with the other. Our nature is written into our very bodies, and into the potential within for creating new life.
We can choose to mutilate, suppress, or destroy the creative capacity of our bodies, but that doesn’t redefine who or what we are as male and female persons. A man with a vasectomy is still a man, created with a uniquely masculine mind and soul. And a woman having “sex” with another woman is still female, is still unalterably designed to be united with a man’s body, and to cooperate with a man (and with a man alone) in bringing forth new life.
Marriage is not, in the end, about mutual admiration or the promise of a lifetime filled with happiness. Both are hoped for, sought after, and deeply desired. But they are superficial details at most. Marriage isn’t simply another vehicle in modern society’s endless fleet of self-actualizing machines. It isn’t a way to “publicly celebrate your commitment.” It isn’t a chance to register for amazing flatware. It’s all these things, at moments, but none of them are sufficient to encapsulate its deepest meaning.
Marriage is, at its core, a vocation, a call to unite one man and one woman in the untiring pursuit of the good of the other, for the love and service of the children it produces.
In the end, marriage isn’t about “my” happiness or “my” wedding dress or even, ultimately, “my” will: it’s a total gift of self.
Plenty of people might be willing to settle for less, or even to expect less. And that’s fine.
But it isn’t marriage.