What is marriage? Why do two people tie a knot between them forever? Why only two people? Why not groupings of three, four or more?
Why do men marry women, and women marry men? Why can’t men marry men and women marry women?
These questions – unspoken and unthought-of by most people in previous generations – are the stuff of headlines, court challenges and tumultuous social upheaval right now.
There are other questions.
Why does the marital union have to be permanent? Why not just until both parties want to terminate the contract, or even one party?
What does marriage have to do with God? Why is it considered a “divine” institution? What does that really mean?
The first answer to these questions that comes to mind, of course, is children, without which the human race would shortly die out. A man and a woman are necessary to have children, and a stable, long-term, harmonious relationship between them is necessary for those children to have a decent start in life.
Yet, advanced medical technology allows today’s same-sex couples to “have their own children” – for instance, lesbian couples using sperm donors. No doubt, before long, the Frankenstein-like sex-change procedures now proliferating (surgical switching of sex organs, and even the removal of healthy breasts to help “transgendered” women feel more like men) will lead to the surgical implantation of a human embryo into a man, so he can “give birth” while being attended to by his loving “husband.” And, of course, homosexual adoption has become increasingly accepted.
Therefore, considering the current juggernaut to radically redefine marriage – a movement so audaciously challenging our core beliefs – let’s clear our minds and objectively, courageously revisit the whole question of marriage and family.
Traditionalists claim the stable, loving, monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, along with the children that issue from their union, constitute the very basis for an enlightened civilization. They insist redefining marriage to accommodate same-sex and non-monogamous partnerships will herald the demise of Western Civilization. Are they right?
Religion and sex
That bubble of freedom and abundance and blessings we call Western Civilization – and especially America – is a direct outcropping of the Jewish and Christian religions. Despite obvious differences between Judaism and Christianity, the moral laws that guide followers of both are virtually identical, springing from Mosaic Law in the Old Testament.
In his award-winning analysis “Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization,” columnist and radio talk-host Dennis Prager takes readers on a jaw-dropping journey into the past, showing how and why Judaism and, later, Christianity, confined sex to lifelong, heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman:
When Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world.
It is not overstated to say that the Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex made the creation of Western Civilization possible. Societies that did not place boundaries around sexuality were stymied in their development. The subsequent dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism, and later carried forward by Christianity.
The revolution consisted of forcing the sexual genie into the marital bottle. It ensured that sex no longer dominated society, heightened male-female love and sexuality (and thereby almost alone created the possibility of love and eroticism within marriage), and began the arduous task of elevating the status of women.
By contrast, throughout the ancient world, and up to the recent past in many parts of the world, sexuality infused virtually all of society.
Human sexuality, especially male sexuality, is utterly wild. Men have had sex with women and with men; with little girls and young boys; with a single partner and in large groups; with total strangers and immediate family members; and with a variety of domesticated animals. There is little, animate or inanimate, that has not excited some men sexually.
Among the consequences of the unchanneled sex drive is the sexualization of everything – including religion. Unless the sex drive is appropriately harnessed (not squelched – which leads to its own destructive consequences), higher religion could not have developed.
Thus, the first thing Judaism did was to de-sexualize God – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” by his will, not through any sexual behavior. This broke with all other religions, and it alone changed human history.
Prager goes on to catalog the various gods of the ancient world, showing that virtually all of them were depicted as engaging in sexual relations. Thus, “given the sexual activity of the gods, it is not surprising that the religions themselves were replete with all forms of sexual activity,” he explains, citing numerous examples of ancient and even more recent religious traditions that included “sacred” ceremonial sex of various sorts and ritual prostitution within religious sanctuaries, such as sex between Hindu monks and nuns, and even sex with children.
Judaism placed controls on sexual activity. It could no longer dominate religion and social life. It was to be sanctified – which in Hebrew means “separated” – from the world and placed in the home, in the bed of husband and wife. Judaism’s restricting of sexual behavior was one of the essential elements that enabled society to progress.
Along with ethical monotheism, the revolution begun by the Torah when it declared war on the sexual practices of the world wrought the most far-reaching changes in history.
And what about homosexuality?
“Judaism alone declared homosexuality wrong,” says Prager, with Christianity later adopting the same moral values. “And it said so in the most powerful and unambiguous language it could: ‘Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.’ (Leviticus 18:22) ‘And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed an abomination.’ (Leviticus 20:13)”
Again citing biblical authority, Prager affirms the oft-repeated quip about God not having started off the human race with Adam and Steve.
God’s first declaration about man (the human being generally, and the male specifically) is, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Now, presumably, in order to solve the problem of man’s aloneness, God could have made another man, or even a community of men.
But instead God solved man’s aloneness by creating one other person, a woman – not a man, not a few women, not a community of men and women. Man’s solitude was not a function of his not being with other people; it was a function of his being without a woman.
Judaism, explains Prager, “is worried about what happens to men and to society when men do not channel their drives into marriage.”
“In this regard,” he adds, “the Torah and Judaism were highly prescient: The overwhelming majority of violent crimes are committed by unmarried men. Thus, male celibacy, a sacred state in many religions, is a sin in Judaism. In order to become fully human, male and female must join. In the words of Genesis, “God created the human … male and female He created them.”
Sociology and statistics
For those not persuaded by religion’s guidance on important topics like marriage, there’s always social science, which can claim a more tangible and terrestrial source of authority: research studies. And yet, the best-selling book, “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially” – steeped in scientific research – almost never saw the light of day a couple of years ago.
Harvard University Press had contracted with University of Chicago sociologist and professor Linda Waite, a self-described “liberal Democrat,” along with co-author Maggie Gallagher, to write a book based on Waite’s studies about marriage.
Apparently, the Harvard-based publishing house expected the book to do the politically correct thing and “dis” marriage. But, as the Harvard scholars reviewing the manuscript discovered, it revealed married men and women live happier, healthier, more financially secure lives, and even have “more and better sex” – all based on scientific studies. So, the university’s publication board members decided at the last minute not to publish the book they themselves had commissioned. One Harvard Press reviewer said she didn’t like the book’s “tone.” That’s about as close to an answer as the public ever got since the Press did not return several calls from WorldNetDaily.
By way of “tonal” comparison, check out another Harvard Press author, feminist Catharine MacKinnon who in her recent book compares male sexual desire to rape – whether women consent to sex or not. Expressing what one reviewer called “a whole-hog hatred of men,” MacKinnon explains: “What in the liberal view looks like love and romance looks a lot like hatred and torture to the feminist.”
Although Harvard turned down “The Case for Marriage” at the 11th hour, it was ultimately published by Doubleday and received wide readership and critical acclaim.
Yet, the mindset that is somehow mysteriously offended by marital bliss is nothing new on university campuses and throughout the radical feminist movement. Consider what other feminist standard-bearers have said about marriage:
“Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession … the choice to serve and be protected and plan toward being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn’t be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that.” – Vivian Gornick, feminist author, University of Illinois, The Daily Illini, April 25, 1981
“The idea that someone should be supported within marriage can never find acceptance in a socialist society. For this reason, marriage, as an institution where one non-working partner is supported, must be abolished, the children should be supported by the state and cared for and/or raised collectively and every adult be self-sufficient.” – Radical Swedish feminist Barbro Backberger
“In order to raise children with equality, we must take them away from families, and communally raise them.” – Dr. Mary Jo Bane, feminist and assistant professor of education at Wellesley College and associate director of the school’s Center for Research on Women
“Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.” – Radical feminist leader Sheila Cronan
Ooooooo-kay. But remember, while such rage-filled feminists have beaten the anti-marriage drum for a long time, their savage denunciations of patriarchy have always come from the very margins of public debate and public policy. Today, calls for what amounts to the destruction of marriage – through Orwellian redefinition to accommodate same-sex “unions” – dominate the news media, policy debate and courtrooms.
Let’s sum up where we are so far: Children, greater happiness, financial well-being, social cohesiveness, sex, diminished crime rates among married men, and so on – these are widely reported as some of the more tangible fruits of good marriages.
And yet, that is about as far as the three-dimensional world of conventional journalism is likely to be able to take its analysis of the marital union.
Everything else having to do with marriage – the deepest reasons for it, the personal blessings available through a committed union, the reasons most men and women need marriage to become truly whole, the reasons God forbids homosexual and other non-marital sex, the real reasons marriage has been attacked throughout this generation – are all spiritual.
As any soul who is sensitive to truth will readily recognize, a lot of what really goes on between women and men, looked at from the deepest level, is not only beyond journalism, it’s almost beyond religion, beyond words themselves.
But let me try, however vaguely and imperfectly, to point to a few things.
Knights and ladies
“Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” “The shortest books ever written are ‘What Men Know About Women’ and ‘What Women Know About Men.’” “Sign above a saloon: ‘Men are fools, and women are devils in disguise.”
Men and women, it seems, are inscrutable to each other.
Men, until they mature, have a fantasy of how they think women are, or how they should be, or how they would like them to be. Namely, they think women were born to love and support insecure, egotistical males – mentally, emotionally and sexually – and help them feel good about themselves, thus making them “whole.” It’s the subject of all popular songs from the beginning of time: “Baby I need you, I can’t live without you. You make me feel like a king.” But that – I hate to break it to you, guys – is not how women really are, or even are supposed to be. In fact, being pressured to play that ego-supporting role turns them into liars and airheads, full of inner conflict. And when those male needs extend to no-limit sexual demands, they turn women into prostitutes.
Women, if they’re still fairly innocent and uncorrupted, also have a notion of how men are, or at least how they are supposed to be, that’s actually about right: Men are supposed to be knights in shining armor. Problem is, men somehow have lost sight of this higher calling. And, of course, when she sees her intended knight fail her in so many ways – and he truly cannot help it, at least in the beginning – she develops contempt and resentment toward him, which profoundly shapes both of their lives for the worse. Corrupted women – who one way or another have been betrayed or seduced from their original innocence – unconsciously look either for a dominator, someone to control them, or a wimp, someone they can control.
So, if you’re looking for “blame,” there’s plenty to go around, probably in equal proportions for both women and men. But blame is not the point; most of us, especially today, are just plain asleep to what marriage is really all about – the development of Godly character.
Think back. Can you remember a time in your life when you used to think men should grow up to be knights in shining armor?
I have a 12-year-old son named Joshua. What does he like to watch on TV? Robin Hood, Zorro, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger – knights in shining armor all. (Joshua’s homeschooled.)
Movies? “Ben Hur,” “Cromwell,” “The Ten Commandments” “High Noon,” “El Cid,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and even the Jedi knights of “Star Wars” – these are all stories of brave knights.
And by knights, I don’t mean just fighters, but fighters for what’s right, possessing great character and nobility – confident, unselfish, mature, wise – faithful in word and deed to the last detail of life.
That’s my son’s programming, his ideal. That’s your son’s programming, too. I’m not saying my son acts that way; I’m saying he is powerfully attracted to that way. And I didn’t put this attraction in him, nor did it come from television. It came from God.
It’s normal. Those classic shows he watches just nourish the inborn ideal that has fascinated generation upon generation of little boys.
The problem is, my son also has another side to him. Christianity calls it “original sin,” an inborn nature that tends toward pride, selfishness, laziness, denial, self-gratification and anger. So, how does he – and how do all little boys – grow from the immature mix of latent nobility and compulsive selfishness into a true man? For most men, the answer is: marriage.
Marriage comes complete with all the trials, tribulations, obstacle courses, tests, rewards and consequences necessary to complete your Jedi training – or to kill you.
Love and lust
Who remembers when little girls dreamed of falling in love with and marrying a knight in shining armor?
“Oh get real,” you may be thinking, “there’s no one like that – except in the movies.”
Let’s adjust the zoom of our lens and take a closer look at marriage. Not the storybook, Hollywood fantasy version – but the real thing. Marriage is full of difficulty. And not just because any two people living and working together are going to have their differences and conflicts that need to be resolved. Uh-uh. Difficulty because, when you put a man and a woman together, that relationship can lead either to tremendous spiritual growth and fulfillment of their inborn potential, or it can lead to such conflict and hatred between them that they would rather die than be compelled to spend the rest of their lives with each other.
Truly, when they get married, most newlyweds have no idea what they’re getting into.
At first, they think their infatuation is love; it’s not. They think their physical and emotional need for each other is love; it’s not. He thinks her enthusiasm to have sex is love: it’s not. She thinks his giving in to her on every issue is love; it’s not.
Fast-forward a few years. Most often children have come along – which logically should help cement the father and mother’s relationship. Instead, in half of American marriages, what started as wedded bliss has turned inexorably into the nightmare of hatred and divorce. And of course, for every marriage that actually falls into the abyss, others are teetering on the brink.
So what happens in those few years? What turns heaven into hell? Can’t men and women, dads and moms get along any more? What is so bad, so intolerable, that they have to detonate the relationship, break their solemn vow to God, to man, and to each other, and devastate their children?
If you can answer that question, albeit in the negative, you also will have answered the corollary positive question of what sort of personal, spiritual growth we are really meant to experience in marriage.
To put it perhaps too plainly, there is something about a woman’s makeup that is capable of drawing all of the worst out of men. And there is something in a man’s makeup that is capable of drawing all of the worst out of women. This is a spiritual inheritance we all share, having roots deep and profound.
Thus, without also a shared love of truth, to lead them both into the nobler realm of life, theirs will never be a “marriage made in heaven.” And that, again, is the ultimate purpose of marriage – to lead us to a closer relationship with our Creator by developing within us the character traits fitting for God’s children.
For those sincere enough to embrace this challenge, marriage is the arena of life. The willingness to face one’s own weaknesses and failings honestly, to suffer gracefully without becoming angry and resentful, to bear with patience the slings and arrows coming from the crazy side of your spouse – that’s love, real love. And out of that slow growth of virtue comes, invisibly (no one else can see where your happiness comes from), the good life you’ve always wanted. Then come the green pastures, the still waters of marriage, the ever-deepening affection and concern for the other, the comfort of true companionship, the deep reservoir of strength sufficient to deal with any and all adversity – all of the transcendent joys of a long and fruitful life together.
Dream or reality?
But why does this ideal seem so foreign, so unreal?
Why do moral confusion, “me-me-me” instant gratification, cynicism and doubt about anything truly noble seem “real,” while selflessness, true moral strength, real masculinity and real femininity seem to be unreal and old-fashioned?
Doesn’t this “old-fashioned ideal” of noble knights and noble ladies have the aroma of a vivid dream you once had, when you were young – as though maybe things actually were like this once upon a time, long, long ago? Then again, maybe it’s not a chronological gulf between then and now. Perhaps instead it’s another dimension called heaven on earth we vaguely “remember,” the ever-present inner standard we’ve lost sight of, the higher calling that’s gotten drowned out in the din of life.
Maybe what many of us think of as reality – you know, the pop boy-girl thing that ends in disgust, disillusion and divorce – is just a “matrix,” like in the hit films of that name. And maybe, as in the movies, we need to pull the plug on the comforting but anesthetizing “matrix” and face reality – even if it’s unpleasant to begin with.
Until death do us part
Marriage is indeed a divine institution – something created by and provided for by God. Not only for the propagation of the species, but so that men and women could discover what real love is – not just the love that brings children into the world, but the love that enables us to experience betrayal and yet not hate, the love that learns to forgive, that learns to be strong and to stand up for what’s right, that learns to delay gratification – in other words, the love that makes us fully human.
Therefore, without the matrimonial promise made before God and man to stay together forever – without a lifelong commitment inoculating them against hard times – the trials, difficulties and pain of marriage and raising a family would be too much for many people to handle.
So now, considering this man and woman coming to a committed marriage with different backgrounds, baggage and problems, and with their imperfect, incomplete natures crying out for all the wrong kind of love from each other: What enables them ultimately to triumph – to have a truly happy long-term marriage and family? One thing only. Both of their lives must revolve around a love of truth. If they have that, they both have the same spiritual father, they’re members of the same spiritual family.
They have a shared standard by which to resolve differences. All disagreements ultimately find resolution – not because one knuckles under to the other, the submissive to the dominant, but because they both have placed God’s will at the center of their lives, the center of their family. The wife is not threatened by her husband’s being the ultimate and natural authority in the family, because she trusts him and his judgment. Nor, however, is the husband threatened by submitting to his wife when he sees she is clearly right.
I’m talking about a shared, deep understanding of life, obtained by honestly confronting our imperfections, standing up to our own lower nature (instead of running away into denial and distraction), facing up to each painful reality as it presents itself in marriage and in life. This is reality – full-bore and in Technicolor. This is not a matter of rigid dogma, but rather the moment-to-moment presence of the Living God shining into your life and your relationships. Any less than that, folks, and we’re failing. This is why God ordained marriage – so we could find Him.
And this is why homosexual marriage can never work. For instead of finding God, all its participants will find is comfort, reassurance and validation for what, in reality, is a miserable, frightening, unnatural and debilitating lifestyle. And the corruption of the children selfishly thrown into such same-sex “unions” is unspeakable, but that’s another story. God forbid that we enshrine “gay” marriage.
In truth, the movement to redefine marriage is not primarily about homosexuals wanting to marry. It is about homosexuals, radical feminists and others who are engaged in an internal war with reality and nature. And their inner war against eternal standards requires that they also wage an outer war on the one institution – marriage – that preserves, protects and defends men and women, fosters their spiritual growth, and allows for a new generation of beautiful children to populate the earth.
As long as they are living apart from God’s laws, people will always feel threatened by, and try to extinguish, everything that reminds them of their sins. And there is no more spiritual, wholesome and ennobling – and therefore threatening – institution on the face of the earth than marriage.