Thank you for slogging through that last letter. I know it wasn’t… the most thrilling thing, but I believe the ideas in it are important to understand.
So, as an institution, what is the societal goal of marriage? What’s it about? What problem does it remedy or prevent?
I think I’ll start at that end.
- We’ll begin with the fact that men and women are different. I didn’t make it so; nor did any law; nor did any religious teaching. We simply come out of our mother’s that way.
- Which leads us to another fact for humanity: each of us has a mother. Again, this isn’t culturally dependent or created by legislation or religious affirmation. It’s simply part of what it means to be a human being.
- And mothers don’t become mothers on their own. Rather some pretty remarkable stuff is done with the differences we’ve already mentioned, and because of this an entirely new and distinct human being comes into existence. This stuff is too crazy to have been made up; and of course no one did make it up.
- Humanity perpetuates itself as a species in this way- like just about every other species. Life results when you bring together the sexual differences of male and female. Without the union of male and female, there is no new life. Please notice that this isn’t the case because the Bible tells me so. Condom companies have customers among both believers and unbelievers, secular and religious folks.
- A baby forms over a lengthy and difficult period of time inside a mother’s body. She delivers it painfully and dangerously; and once the child is born her body continues to be the source of intimate sustenance for a long, long time. In contrast men can father child after child and never be aware of it. More than a possibility; it happens all the time. “Who’s the mother?” is an easy question to answer. The same isn’t true of the Father. There is an inequity in nature, here. A vulnerable and important one- as any father of daughters knows. Women get pregnant; men do not.
- Both men and women continually find others sexually attractive and desire to do that remarkable stuff with new partners.
- Jealousy is real, powerful and destructive.
- Children are vulnerable and totally dependent for many, many years. In order for humanity to continue, children must be raised, protected and nurtured. Someone must do this. Someone must be responsible for children.
- Children are best nurtured in secure (long lasting), responsible families in which the differences of both mother and father are committed to the welfare of the child they created. This isn’t opinion. It is reality as the data exposes it. For example do you know what the number one predictor of whether a child will grow up to a life of crime, poverty and government assistance is? Race? No. Education? No. Growing up in Poverty? No. It’s the presence of a Father in the home. Is it a stretch to say that society has an interest in lowering those who are criminals, poor and dependent on government assistance? This is why the state has an interest in the institution of marriage.
- The perpetuation of the inheritance of families and societies depend on heirs.
- Human beings need a personal identity. The formation of this identity begins at birth.
While it doesn’t exhaust it, that’s reality as I see it- unbidden and unchosen. It is part of our humanity, and one can either lament these aspects of our humanity or celebrate them.
This leaves questions- questions of celebration or lamentation; questions of a very practical nature.
Are the differences between Men and Women important and precious? Ought the inequalities of begetting and birthing allow men to do as they please? Who is responsible for the raising of children? Which children? Does a child profit from having both a mother and father in his life? How are secure and responsible families established, maintained and encouraged? Who will continue in our place after we are gone? Who is this child?
Reality raises all of these questions. Every society has answered them with the institution of marriage, which ties the biological, societal and legal aspects of parentage together. Perhaps some of the questions seem very obvious to you. That’s because you have been formed in a society that still maintains marriage as an institution.
But each of the questions raised can be answered differently or dismissed as unimportant. Ought we to answer them differently? It seems that our society has the distinction of being the first among mankind to ask that question. That is what the debate on Same Sex Marriage is really about.
There’s a common thread that runs through all of these questions- through all of the reality that gives rise to them. Do you see it? It’s the sexual relationships that have the potential to result in children. The state is involved in marriage only because of the very public consequence of these very particular relationships. The institution of marriage is society’s way of ensuring its own continuation through the creation of children (both planned and unplanned) within secure families.
The institution is about kids. It always has been.
I’m sure this brings all sorts of questions to mind. Don’t worry (or worry 🙂 I’m not done.
Letter I– The Discussion
Letter II– Equality
Letter III– Institutions