The Marital Matrix

  The moment she was engaged, Michelle Meako told her intended, "I want a big wedding," and that's what they had. The couple wrote their own vows, picked out a cake, and planned a Canadian honeymoon after a lavish reception. The couple only omitted one detail: a marriage license. They couldn't get one because Michelle and her "spouse" are both women. Is it unjust for government to refuse to authorize same-sex "marriages"? A growing number of secular commentators think so. How do we respond? First, we have to explain the meaning and purpose of marriage. In his book, The Clash of Orthodoxies, Princeton philosopher Robert George writes that the matrimonial law reflects a moral judgment. That judgment is that marriage is inherently heterosexual, monogamous, and permanent -- a union of one man and one woman. This judgment is based on both the biblical and natural law understandings that marriage is a two-in-one-flesh communion of persons. This communion is consummated and actualized sexually -- that is, by acts that are reproductive, whether or not they result in children. They unite the spouses as a single procreative unit -- an organic unity achieved even by infertile couples. Only a mated pair can be a complete organism capable of human procreation. By contrast, homosexual acts have no relationship to procreation and can't unite persons organically. As a result, these acts can't be marital -- which means relationships integrated around them can't be marriages. Same-sex partners are physically incapable of marriage. It takes a man and a woman to become "one flesh." I can already hear the arguments your secular neighbors are making. "Okay," they say. "That's your definition of marriage. But why should your views be imposed on everyone else?" That's why we have to be ready with additional, non-religious arguments for traditional marriage. For instance, if we expand the meaning of marriage to include same-sex unions, on what grounds could we legitimately oppose marriages between three or more people, or weddings between siblings? Another argument made by my friend Bill Bennett is the impact it would have on the shaping of human sexuality, especially among the young. "Societal indifference," he writes, "about heterosexuality and homosexuality would cause a lot of [sexual] confusion." When we defend traditional marriage, we're upholding far more than just the Christian definition of matrimony. Since the beginning of recorded history, virtually every society and every major religion has revered and protected traditional marriage. It's the institution that nurtures, protects, and civilizes children. Marriage forms the framework of society's most basic institution: the family. If supporters of same-sex marriage succeed, marriage would be reduced to nothing more than a legal contract between any two people based solely on feelings. True marriage would be abolished, and the damage to our society would be irreparable. That's why it's so important for Christians to understand the prudential arguments in support of a traditional view of marriage and why it deserves special protection under the law. George's book, The Clash of Orthodoxies, will help you do this. You'll learn why even the most elaborate wedding cannot a marriage make -- unless it's between one man and one woman. For further reading: Robert George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (ISI Books, 2001). William Bennett, The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family (Waterbrook Press, 2001).


Chuck Colson


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