The Second Step in the Re-Definition of Marriage

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Yesterday I posted on the implications of the teaching Luther in beginning the change of the mindest of what Marriage fundamentally was up until that time.    Today, we speak of the next logical implication to that changing mindset.

If Marriage is a contract, and more importantly is not a Sacrament, then the idea of an indivisible unity between the individuals is greatly weakened, if not broken entirely.   Instead of that undissolvable bond being a very real thing, it is instead a symbolic thing.  The strength of the bond is not the bond itself, but the vow representing the bond.   This may seem close enough, but it is actually very different.  And there are natural implications that can come with it if humans start to walk down that path.   And, of course, we did.

To our credit somewhat, it took quite a while for the embracing of this to occur in either civil law or religious law, even among those who broke away from Catholicism.   The history of the reluctance to allow divorce may be read by some as a poor reflection on the rights of women (and this isn’t an altogether incorrect argument, in that given the allowance of divorce women had to work from a much stricter standard than men).   But the very reluctance to grant divorce, even with the precedent set by Henry VIII and the new theology of Luther is an indication that natural reason still rang true in the hearts of men.   There was something about ending a marriage that was very difficult for lawmakers and religious leaders to embrace as something favorable to society, or even the persons involved.

This reluctance is telling, especially in light of the case of Henry VIII.  The argument started in 1527 with Pope Clement VII.   Henry wanted an annulment because his wife was not providing an heir to the throne.   Clement declined.   In 1533, the King broke from Rome, declared himself the head of the Church of England, and married Anne Boylan.   One has to wonder if what transpired next was divine retribution, as Anne provided one still-birth, and within 3 years was accused of treason, adultery, incest, and ultimately beheaded.   All that religious upheaval for absolutely nothing.

Interestingly, divorce was not embraced after this, but it was clearly the next step in the process.   The next known divorce in England was in 1552, and there is no record of anything again until 1670.   By that time, only an act of Parliament could grant a divorce.   By the time divorce law was relaxed in 1857 in England, only 324 divorces were recorded in the history of England.

In the meantime, in the U.S., the Protestant mindset seemed to move things along a bit more quickly.   This is not to say it was taken lightly at all – it wasn’t.   It’s to say that the natural implications of the new theology progressed a bit more quickly.

By 1629, Legislative Tribunals allowed divorce for major offenses (adultery, desertion, bigamy, impotence).   Divorce was greatly discouraged, but allowed under these circumstances.   In 1776, divorce came under the authority of the courts.  In general the same standards applied, though by the end of the century some states had realized they could use relaxed divorce laws as a commerce opportunity, and thus these states had less strict standards of qualification.

Back to England, in 1857 divorce moved out of parliament but still maintained strict standards.    In 1937, standards were relaxed further, and in 1969 no-fault became the law of the land (though minimum periods of separation were required).

In the U.S., divorce moved from judicial court to family court in the 1950s.   The first no-fault divorce law was signed in California.  Governor Ronald Reagan would later call this one of his greatest errors. In the next 15 years, nearly every state followed California’s lead.

As civil laws relaxed, so did the religious standards.    With the new theology of Luther, there really wasn’t much chance this evolution wouldn’t happen.  Obviously, the Church of England was established almost entirely because the King wanted a divorce.   The Church of England itself actually tightened up its view on marriage after that, however.   Baptists, even today, while not necessarily believing in the Sacramental nature of marriage, have at least held steadfast in the belief that this is a vow God does not want broken, and have not changed their position much.   Other mainline Protestant denominations have readily accepted divorce, and this is now commonplace in most Christian denominations.   In 1976, the United Methodist Church explicitly recognized the right of divorced persons to remarry.

The Catholic Church has remained constant in its teaching of Marriage.   The bond is real, and the only way a person who has been married can remarry is if the marriage was only valid in the civil sense and not the Sacramental sense.    Thus, the annulment process is meant to discover whether there was any impeding factor at the time of the wedding that in any way made the Sacrament invalid due to a violation in form or in substance.    Many – including the Pope himself –  would argue that even in the Catholic sense, the annulment process has been liberalized.   Well-meaning people want to help get an annulment rather than strictly viewing the case on its merits.   But even if this is the case, if the Church rules for nullity, then its ruling stands, and no Sacramental marriage is deemed to have existed.   There is then no pain of sin to the person if they want to remarry.    Even if the process could use some help, the Theology is constant and the view of what Marriage is remains the same.

We cannot look at the current state of marriage in this country without a view of the history of divorce.    It is almost remarkable that it took hundreds of years after that first step of Luther’s and the second step of Henry VIII’s for even relatively strict divorce law to be applied.    But we can clearly see the progression in speed here.   Once the relaxation started, it continued, and each step came successively faster until there was no more relaxation to be had.   No-fault became the law of the land in a 15 year period, and from the beginning of that time to 20 years later the percentage of people who were divorced went from 11% to 50%.

The implications of this are staggering on many levels, including the fact that the poor and less educated are hardest hit.    Children are growing up in broken homes.   The sociological effects of this fills books.

But for the point at hand, it fundamentally changed marriage.    This created a very real shift in attitude about what the entire purpose of marriage actually is.   It’s a shift towards self-fulfillment as the ultimate goal.    That fundamental shift has its roots in Luther and Henry VIII’s views of the marriage arrangement, but it took quite some time for a more self-centered view of marriage to take root and grow.    This was aided along by a few other things that I’ll post about later.   All these things brought us to where we are today, and it starts to show us that the very thing we are now lamenting (redefinition of marriage as something other than a man-woman institution) is possible entirely because of all the previous things we’ve allowed to degrade the idea of what marriage fundamentally is.

A Metal Confession

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I’m a devout Catholic who is listening right now to “Ride the Lightning” by Metallica.   I doubt this CD is real popular among most of my friends.

I can accept any opinions that I should stop and embrace chant or something with more beautiful expression.

But what can I say?   I like it, it keeps me awake, and I think I work faster.   Maybe not smarter, but faster!

The Re-definition of Marriage Began a few hundred Years Ago

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Over the last few years, and culminating (to this point, anyway), with last Friday’s Supreme Court decision there has been a lot of lamenting the fact that we’ve taken it upon ourselves to re-define marriage.

It is right to lament.   This new innovation is, to date, the furthest we’ve yet deviated from the the true definition of marriage.   For all the prior differences between religions and cultures of what marriage is, what its purpose is, how it should be consummated, and so on there was always at least one constant: men married women, and at least at some level there was a focus on the propagation of the human species with children raised by those who helped bring them into this world.

All of that is true, and the very idea of the concept that marriage would not even include that most basic of requirements should be fought.

But while this is the latest marital innovation, it is not the first innovation.  In fact, numerous progressive elements have been at work over the the last few centuries to get us to the point we are today.   This does not occur in a vacuum.   And each successive innovation had to happen, grow in acceptance, and become part of the culture – both civic and religious – in order for us to ever contemplate as a society that the current legal definition is in any way acceptable.

I should be clear:   there has never been a global universal agreement on what marriage is.   Yes, there has been universal agreement on the need for a male and female partner.   But polygamy is part of the historic past, and is still practices today in some cultures (whether officially or unofficially).   In many cultures, marriages have been and continue to be arranged.   This essentially removes the idea that love for the other is a necessary requirement of marriage.

The issue here isn’t that differences across the world and various cultures are just fine and dandy.    But there is a difference between people having a flawed view of something who never had the right view to begin with, and people completely abandoning the correct view for something severely flawed.    In the first case, the correct view has not been rejected.   Out of tradition, culture, and ignorance it is either not known or fully understood to begin with.    And just as we’ve done for 2,000 years we try to bring the light of truth to more people who, likely through no fault of their own, don’t know any better.

The tragedy that lies before us now is that the progress that was made in bringing a proper understanding of marriage to the people of the world has not only stagnated, but actually reverted.   This reversion was very subtle over a period of a few hundred years.  In some respects, it was slow, but in other respects it wasn’t.   It’s just that it was not nearly as evident as the more recent changes.    The more recent innovations to the marriage arrangement are more dramatic to the senses, but the groundwork to enable them has been at work for some time.

The first major change in the view of marriage that set this whole reversion from the appropriate Christian viewpoint of it is was put in motion by Martin Luther.   Until this time, Christian thought was universal in that marriage is a Sacrament.   Martin Luther held that it was not a Sacrament.

From Martin Luther’s Theology of the Sacraments, we get this:

It is not enough for the symbol or sign merely to be analogous to a divine truth. There must be a divine promise connected, and the rite must be instituted by God as such.8 Thus, although such things as prayer are connected with promises, they are not sacraments because there is no visible sign. Likewise, marriage is not a sacrament because there is neither a sign nor a word of promise.9 Luther says, “To be sure, whatever takes place in a visible manner can be understood as a figure or allegory of something invisible. But figures or allegories are not sacraments.”10

The footnotes:  (8) Althaus,The Theology of Martin Luther,p. 345. “The symbolic act must be instituted by God and combined with a promise.” (9) See “Babylonian Captivity of the Church,”Three Treatises,p. 220. “Nowhere do we read that the man who marries a wife receives any grace of God. There is not even a divinely instituted sign in marriage.”   (10) Ibid.

I have great respect for my non-Catholic Christian friends, but if you have decided to go the way of Martin Luther in your theological thought, then you need to understand the implications to this Theological position.   This position essentially makes marriage a human institution, not a divinely instituted one.    Martin Luther essentially declared marriage to be a contract.  Yes, it is a holy contract rooted in spiritual values.   We promise to love one another and we promise to be faithful and all that.   But the promise is between those two people.   It is a vow before God, and that is supposed to then be the weight of the seriousness of the vow.    All this is well and good, but it still makes the very idea of what the marriage institution actually is significantly different from the Catholic (and pre-Reformation era) one.

Here is a nice summary quote from Luther:

“Know that Marriage is an outward material thing like any other secular business. The body has nothing to do with God. In this respect one can never sin against God, but only against one’s neighbour” [Weimar, Vol. 12, Pg. 131].

So, if we want to talk about the “re-definition” of marriage, we need to take a tour of how we got to how we are thinking about marriage in today’s world – especially in today’s Christian world.   Every journey starts with a single step.

Martin Luther made that first step.    And over the next couple centuries, countless souls followed the teachings of Luther, broke from the Catholic Church and adopted the view of matrimony as something less than what it was (and still is) in the Roman Catholic Tradition.

Co-opting The Rainbow

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If you asked a hundred random people today what they think of when they hear the word “rainbow,” or perhaps what they associate the rainbow with, I wonder what the results would be.

Taken further, if you asked a hundred random people today what the colors of the rainbow represent, I wonder what the results would be.

Even the most devout among us, who would answer correctly that it is the sign of God’s covenant with man, would nonetheless have a picture of a rainbow flag come into our mind.   We would suppress that as our correct answer, and we would shoo it away to the best of our ability, but the imagery is there.   The co-opting of the rainbow as the symbol of LGBT rights is one of the most dramatic progressive marketing achievements in all of history.

And for this reason, I have to believe it’s by design not limited strictly to the genius of men.

It follows then that – despite all the Christians who are arguing that favoring gay marriage and embracing the complete and total acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is simply Christ-like love – it is the most devious and diabolical marketing campaigns ever undertaken.

I’ve talked about this before, but the word “diabolical” conjures up extreme pictures of evil in many peoples’ minds.   But in actuality, the more diabolical something is the less evil and more good it looks to someone who does not recognize the nature of the thing.   That, in fact, is what makes it diabolical.   The horrible and contorted imagery may be an accurate one in God’s eyes as He looks at it, but to our human eyes the diabolical can take all sorts of seemingly pleasant, and even good, forms.

Everyone recognizes certain and extreme examples of evil actions.   We haven’t (so far) lost our way so much that when we hear stories of small children being used or abused in horrific ways that we collectively get a sick feeling in our stomach.  Nearly all of us say “that is evil.”   One does not have to even believe in God to recognize it.  This blatant evilness is not of a diabolical nature.   There is no attempt by anyone to mask it as a good or pretty thing.

Something that is diabolical is akin to a spiritual Trojan horse.   It is something that people want to embrace as good or useful.   It is not self-evident to many that it is not good.   It needs to be a thing that festers and grows and takes over, and the only way it can do that is to continue to look nice and shiny and appetizing.   But anything that is diabolical usually has what poker players would call a “tell.”

A “tell” is when a player gives away the kind of hand he or she has because they can’t completely control their reactions or emotions in certain situations.   (If anyone has watched “The Middle” you will know that their son, Brick, has a “tell” when he is lying.   After he lies, he drops his chin to his chest and loudly whispers “I’m lying.”   Most tells aren’t that obvious.)  Someone may nervously scratch their ear every time his hand is strong.   They may tap their cards on the table when they are bluffing.    Good Poker players are masters at picking up the subtlest of signs and using those things to their advantage.    This is one reason I’m not a great Poker player.   My female wife (I feel the need these days to distinguish the nature of my marriage, you know) could change the carpeting in my house and I wouldn’t notice.   As if I’m going to pick up on the fact that some guy itches his ear lobe when he has pocket aces.    But I digress.

Anyway, the Devil – believe it or not – has a few tells.   His hatred for God drives everything he does.   And he can’t help trying to find ways to either mock God’s authority or to usurp it.

So, the devil knows the following:  Marriage is the image of the inseparable bond of love between Christ and His Church.    The Family is the earthly image of the Triune God.   Children conceived because of an act of love between man and wife emulates in a human way the eternal existence of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, because of the love between the divine Father and Son.   The primary human reflection of Christ and of the Triune God in our world is marriage and family.

Since the Devil knows this, it only makes sense that if the goal is to destroy all imagery of God in this world, the way to do that is turn marriage into something that is sterile.   To turn it into something other than life-giving love and about self-fulfillment.   And to then destroy the very nature of it by making this the preferred and promoted version of marriage accepted by man, while causing animosity and hatred towards those who accept the actual natural concept of marriage.  It’s not enough to just dismantle family, it is better to find a substitute for it that actually mocks God instead of reflects the nature of God.   And the entire time he does this, it’s done in such a creative and ingenious way that a majority of people – including those who profess belief in God – actually partake in it, are complicit in it, celebrate it, believe it is actually good, and claim that God Himself would approve of it.   What a complete and comprehensive victory that is!   (Yes, we know the ultimate victory is Christ’s.   But this particular battle, at least for the moment, resides in the opponent’s camp.)

But what is the “tell?”   The “tell” is that Satan can’t help himself.   From a marketing standpoint there could have been many ways to represent the desire for acceptance, tolerance, and diversity so desired by the gay community.    What they chose is a Biblical symbol.    In many ways, they chose “the” Biblical symbol that was the first real promise by God to man.  The most amazing thing about this tell is that it is about as subtle as a sledge-hammer.   Satan went all-in on this one.   Either the use of the rainbow would be a cause of great alarm and its use would greatly backfire in promotion of the cause, or it would gain acceptance and serve as a tool of complete and utter victory on more than just one spiritual level.   Inexplicably, we Christians sort of fell asleep at the wheel on this one.   It’s not that nobody thought about it, and there were a few little minor attempts to “take back the rainbow,” but we never really fought it to a great degree.   Admittedly, there seemed to be bigger battles to wage.   But looking back, this was a miserable failure.

Christians who may not know any better may truly believe they are acting in love by supporting this progression of what marriage means in the secular world.  I mentioned the rainbow profile pics I’ve seen on Facebook.   Some of the people who changed I know are church-going people.  It is sad, but not surprising.   That is the nature and allure of the diabolical.   But if this were truly something from God and acceptable to God, would He really allow one of the most important signs He ever chose to give to us to be used in a manner that wipes its original meaning from the memory of men?  I, for one, can’t comprehend that this is the case.

A few short decades ago, the answer to “What does the rainbow mean?” would have been primarily known as a religious reference.   Anyone else would have simply not known or would have answered in a meteorological way.

But not today.

And the devil could not be more pleased.

The Remaking of America Live and in Color!

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Just a reminder:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jan/20/obama-inauguration-speech-ceremony

The 44th US president, speaking in front of the biggest inauguration crowd in US history, said: “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.”

I’ll give the man credit.   He kept his word.    I have to say that eight years ago, I didn’t think he was ambitious enough to not only remake America, but also lead the charge to remaking the entire concept of family, held since the beginning of human existence.   He’s an overachiever, our President.

My Facebook Challenge

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Well, I guess there’s nothing like a little Supreme Court decision to get a guy blogging again…    Truth is, I’m not sure I have staying power, because I’m no  less busy than I’ve been since I decided I didn’t have time to blog.

But I come here today not so much because I feel I have any particular insight that the world needs to hear as much as I just need an outlet.   Writing is really a wonderful outlet, because it allows time to compose thoughts and think about what you are going to write.   But there is a caveat to this:   I don’t consider most social or electronic media exchanges “writing.”   Those are type-written conversations.  In fact, in many cases they are worse than actual conversation because there is no personal interaction that helps one realize that a discussion is happening with a human being, and perhaps a line has been crossed.

So, twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, and even e-mail exchanges can lead to bad behavior, or bad responses to otherwise innocent behavior that has been misunderstood.   And quite frankly, it’s a part of social media that I absolutely hate.

So, not quite a year and a half ago, I finally joined Facebook after avoiding it on purpose for years.    I did so because my oldest daughter was trying to get a scholarship and needed a Facebook page to get it.   She also needed people who would comment and like and whatever else you do on facebook.     For self-serving financial reasons (more scholarship for her = less potential tuition from me!) I started a simple Facebook page.

What was amazing to me was how quickly I received friend requests from all sorts of people.  It was as if people were just waiting for me to join and pounced when I did.   I now realize that, by design, people are made aware of potential friends in a myriad of ways, and it’s really easy to just click an “add friend” box.

I sort of enjoyed it for a while.   “Hey.” I thought, “it’s actually kind of nice to see what people are up to, and to stay in touch a bit.”    Time passed, old friends from high school and college reconnected.    Cousins I don’t see very often sent me friend requests.    I could get quick updates on the Packers or Brewers or whatever I wanted with almost no effort.   OK, maybe I shouldn’t have avoided Facebook after all!

And then it happened.    My teacher cousins and friends started posting incessant anti-Scott Walker rants.  I like Scott Walker. Then someone “liked” a Planned Parenthood post that hit my status.    And so on.    And then, as the culmination of so many of these annoying instances, Friday the 26th of June happened.

Now, let me back up just a bit here.

I fully understand that some are on Facebook specifically as issue-oriented posters.    They may be part of a ministry, or they may work for a political party, or whatever.   Most of their posts will be political or issue oriented or religious or whatever.    In these cases, it is their purpose.   I hold no grudge or animosity against anyone who I choose to be friends with and I know that they will be posting things I don’t like because of the nature of what they do.   Of course, I really am only friends with people in those cases where I generally line up with them politically or religiously, so it’s all good.   But I just wanted to make that differentiation.

My usage preference for Facebook is as follows:    (1) read what people post; (2) think of some sarcastic comment to make that is supposed to be funny; (3) repeat (1) and (2).    On occasion, actually post something remotely interesting about my life that others may find interesting.

Here is my view of how people should treat Facebook:   If my entire group of “friends” were to hang out together and have a nice meal and a drink or two and catch up with one another, and we knew that the cross-section of that group of friends had a lot of different thoughts about a lot of different things, including hot-button issues that stir up a lot of emotions, then there would be a reasonable expectation that the following would NOT occur:   Just about everything during election season or since Friday that shows up on my status on Facebook.

Seriously.

If you called me up and said “Hey, Joe.   It’s been a long time.   I’d like to reconnect.   How about we do lunch?”    And I responded in the affirmative, and then I showed up at lunch and you had on a “Catholics Suck!” t-shirt on and started ranting on about how Scott Walker is an evil moron, then you’d be a complete and total social moron who is acting in no way like a friend would act.

If you showed up at my house on Friday afternoon for no other purpose than to wave a rainbow flag out your car window as you drive up and down my driveway, you’d be disrespecting my beliefs in an immature and encroaching way, while all the time saying “It’s just a flag.   I’m just showing my support for the cause.”      No, the flag is symbolic of taking a side on a hot-button issue, and you are thrusting it in my face.   This is not passive., even if you want to convince yourself that it is.

So, on Facebook, every profile picture that has the rainbow flag, every post that makes fun of Christians, and so on is an encroachment on my timeline.   I didn’t ask for that.   I just wanted to see what you’re up to.   Keep your politics and religiophobic sentiments off my status, thank you very much,

So being the opinionated person that I am, I really really want to respond.   But if I respond, it might get ugly.   Not because I won’t try to do so charitably, but because I’m smart enough to know (and have enough experience in other venues to know) that no matter how hard one tries to be charitable in presenting the truth, the truth itself at some point must be stated with clarity.   And that clarity in truth is actually the thing that some find offensive. So, you can surround the truth with all the usual suspects:  “I really love everyone…” “I am friends with and know many…” “I mean no disrespect to anyone, I just want to explain how I see things…”    and so on.   But all that will be ignored as soon as soon as any sort of statement is presented that is contrary to the accepted moral relativism of our time.   Sadly, it has been accepted by numerous people we know well – family, friends, and many who sit next to us in our churches.

So, I’m posting.    I’m posting because it’s an outlet and it’s not a direct response to anyone and it will not show up on other peoples’ status pages.    I’m posting because the only people who will read this are those who stumble across it or follow the blog – it will be their choice to read it.   It’s therapeutic.

What I really wanted to do was post something on my status stating that I would be donating $X to different charities for every post that annoys me.   And then I was going to list a whole bunch of examples of offending posts.   As a couple examples, “Any anti-Scott Walker post, donation to his campaign.   Extra donation for any references to physical harm”   “Any <so-and-so> has updated profile picture to cover it in the rainbow flag status update – $X to Family Research Council.”   That’s just a couple.   I had a whole list.    I thought it was funny and made my point, but in the end I decided against it.

So, I blogged instead.