Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Times: Marriage misunderstanding

Saturday, February 23, 2013 by Henry Pace

The recent political leaders’ debate at the University should serve as a serious eye-opener to the electorate.

For millennia, all societies have viewed marriage as an exclusively heterosexual club. But in the last few years, more and more people are saying it’s time to open the marriage door to homosexuals. After all, we are told, if marriage is all about love and mutual commitment, gay people can do that at least as well as straights, who have thoroughly messed up the institution in any event. And, besides, it would be discriminatory to deny homosexuals the right to marry, no? Yet, according to the authors of a great new book I recently came across, we are on the wrong track already if the marriage debate gets bogged down to the issues of love or rights because marriage is founded on something far deeper.

The book is called What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defence and is written by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson and Princeton University professor Robby George.

“What we have come to call the gay marriage debate,” these three scholars write in their book, “is not directly about homosexuality but about marriage. It’s not about whom to let marry but about what marriage is.”

The authors say that, on the one side, is the traditional view, which they label the conjugal view. “The conjugal view of marriage has long informed the law – along with the literature, art, philosophy, religion and social practice – of our civilisation,” the authors write. “It is a vision of marriage as a bodily as well as an emotional and spiritual bond, distinguished thus by its comprehensiveness, which is, like all love, effusive: flowing out into the wide sharing of family life and ahead to lifelong fidelity.” On the other side is what they call the revisionist view. They write: “It is a vision of marriage as, in essence, a loving emotional bond, one distinguished by its intensity – a bond that needn’t point beyond the partners, in which fidelity is ultimately subject to one’s own desires. In marriage, so understood, partners seek emotional fulfilment and remain as long as they can find it.”

Homosexuality is not mentioned in the authors’ description of the revisionist view of marriage, nor is it necessary. In fact, many heterosexual couples define their marriages exactly this way, summarised thus: “as long as we both shall love.”

The argument is not about homosexuality as such but, rather, about a misunderstanding of marriage that makes supposed gay matrimony just the next step in civil rights.

The stakes for this society are indeed high. See what they say: “The health and order of society depend on the rearing of healthy, happy and well-integrated children. That is why law, though it may take no notice of ordinary friendships, should recognise and support marriages.”

Gay rights advocates claim that heterosexual marriage would not be harmed if gay marriage were legalised. But that’s not so. What Is Marriage? meticulously details some of the critical social goods at risk if we go down the revisionist marriage road – gay or straight: real marital fulfilment, spousal well-being, child well-being, friendship, religious liberty, and limited government. These are not trivial matters! The book tells us why in masterful detail.

Of course, the book also makes us think about our own marriages: Are they other-directed and God-directed or are they merely self-directed? It’s fair to ask: are we part of the problem or the solution?

The book makes an argument, reasoned, and fair. It provides the kind of intellectual energy we need. It gives good reasons when so many involved in the marriage debate – on both sides – are busy producing more heat than light.

On the eve of a general election, the electorate should use its intelligence and deeply ponder to send a clear message to all political leaders and to the respective parties that the country deserves a sound government to carry out their moral responsibilities to which they publicly profess as peoples’ representatives.

Malta deserves good representatives who not only publicly declare that they are ‘catholic’ but put into effect their true morals and convictions.

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