“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
Soon, the Supreme Court will rule on the marriage issue. Many people are holding their breath as they wait to hear the ruling from 1 First St. NE, Washington DC. It is almost as if the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) sits atop Mt. Olympus casting down judgments from on high. Can the court really change the definition of marriage? To some the obvious answer is yes, but this isn't a post about legal language, it is a post about the metaphysical nature of what has normally been referred to as marriage. This post isn't about the law of a particular land ruled by a particular group of people, it is about the laws of the universe.
The Supreme Court cannot change the essence of marriage. It can change what a particular legal body accepts as a definition. It could even come up with another word to define a different kind of relationship (civil union for example). What it cannot do is change the way the universe operates. This is true whether you are a Christian or not. There are certain laws of nature that cannot be altered. SCOTUS will make a ruling and in that ruling it is possible that they will say that states must recognize same sex relationships of a certain kind as a marriage. This would force companies to extend benefits to same sex couple, change health care coverage, change vacation policies, and so on. For some, this is the goal. While those are consequences worth discussing, that is not our purpose here. SCOTUS' ruling has significant consequences in many arenas, but what the ruling cannot do is change the essence of marriage.
There are many elements that are common to marriage relationships, and many of those elements overflow into other relationships, even non-romantic relationships. Intimacy, for example, is experienced in a unique way in a healthy marriage relationship, but, as a whole it is not exclusive to marriage. Two good friends can and should be intimate in sharing with one another and supporting one another. This is the kind of relationship that David and Jonathan had in the Bible. Affection is another example. A healthy marriage is affectionate, but appropriate levels of affection should be shown between a parent and a child regardless of the gender. While I would argue that it is immoral outside of the bond of marriage, sexual acts can, and unfortunately do, take place between people outside of marriage. Yet, with the many common elements a marriage relationship can have with other kinds of relationships, there is one thing that distinguishes marriage from other kinds of relationships. That thing is the production of a family. Some might say that people can choose not to get married and they can produce children. This is true, but when a person speaks in that way, they are talking about legal or perhaps religious recognition of marriage. That is not what I am talking about. From a natural law perspective, when people engage in sexual relations that can produce children, they are at a minimum mimicking marriage; that is to say they are acting as if they are married, at least in those moments.
Historically, governments have seen fit to protect this very special kind of relationship that is unlike any other. They have passed laws to safeguard this relationship for the purpose of protecting the children as well as assuring the continuation of a people and a nation. Many times in history governments have not only protected such relationships, but the government has essentially attempted to bribe its people to get married and produce children. This was the case in Rome just before and after the birth of Christ. People stopped getting married because of loose sexual mores, among other things. Polyamorous relationships, homosexual relationships, and so on were widely permitted. As a result, there was no real reason for people to get married and make a commitment to one person or even one kind of person. Few were getting married and few were having children.
As a result, the government over several hundred years attempted to incentivize marriage. In the first century BC the senator Augustus proposed a law that would require men to marry so they would have children. He said, "If we could survive without a wife, citizens of rome, all of us would do without that nuisance; but since nature has so decreed that we cannot...we must plan for our lasting preservation rather than for our temporary pleasure." The same senator argued for higher taxes on men who were not married. Many benefits have been given to those who were married and had children over the centuries. If you know even a tiny bit about the tax code in the United States you will be thinking about child tax credits and other such benefits to being married and having children. Lycurgus the law giver of the spartans enacted laws to embarrass bachelors. In more recent history, after WWII the Soviet Union, Poland, and Romania enacted tax penalties on adult childless persons.
The list could go on, but no more is needed. The point is simple and clear. Governments have not been interested in the romantic relationships of its people because, as Ryan Anderson puts it, "the government is a sucker for romance." The government is interested because children ensure the continued existence of the state. Marriage is the only kind of relationship that ensures such a thing. Generally speaking, outside of the context of marriage children are a more significant burden than they are inside that relationship. When the ideal of marriage is abandoned, it impacts entire nations. Marriage declines, few people have children, and the propagation of a culture dies.
The SCOTUS can do whatever it likes, I suppose, but the uniqueness of a marriage relationship as it has historically been understood and as natural law demands that it be understood cannot be altered by SCOTUS or any other body of people. Breaking this natural law has severe and dire consequences. There is no compelling reason for the government to endorse same sex relationships by demanding that states recognize such unions as marriage. No matter what SCOTUS says, nature will not comply.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.