Marriage: The Foundation of Civilization

Just before John Kerry outed Dick Cheney’s daughter in the Third Debate, there was a brief discussion of the same-sex marriage issue, treated so carefully by both candidates that one would believe they have the same position. Of course they don’t.

Kerry is party to the effort to frame the same-sex marriage argument as part of a continuum of ever-increasing equality for “marginalized Americans,” as The New York Times editorialized this summer. But marriage is not a constitutional right; it is a crisply defined ancient institution that—until present times—has never even been considered a union of same-sex partners.

Our relatively young nation has codified some financial benefits for married couples, such as social security benefits, and certainly making these narrow benefits available to committed same-sex couples could and should be debated. But we should not escalate the discussion from immediate and temporal tax and monetary matters to a colossal redefinition of a ancient institution grounded not only in the teachings of nearly every religious tradition, but in 6,000 years of civil law in both eastern and western civilizations.

It is troubling, however, to observe many in the conservative, pro-family movement engaging in a tactic that elevates persuasion over truth by defining same-sex unions as the great threat to marriage. It has always seemed to me that opposing same-sex marriage is initially an effort to prevent the popular use of an oxymoron. Because marriages are a spiritual and civil union of a man and a woman they cannot be between two people of the same sex. But although use of the term “same-sex marriage” could be a threat to our definitions, the greatest threat to marriage is bad marriages.

Unless you have been in a heterosexual relationship with a homosexual, you’d have a hard time explaining how homosexuals are threatening your marriage. There are a lot of reasons why our marriages start badly or go sour. The homosexual agenda isn’t one of them.

There’s a good booklet on marriage titled “Why is Marriage Important? The Reasonable Defense of Marriage” by S. Michael Craven, a vice president at the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, a group doing great work against pornography.

Craven writes in part:

The Judeo-Christian concept of marriage is as old as mankind. It has served as the very foundation of civilization itself. The marriage covenant is singularly unique in civilization; for marriage is not just a civil union between two people, rather it is an emotional, physical and spiritual union between one man and one woman. Emotional in the sense that these two people, male and female, each with different attributes, join together in life; each assisting the other, nurturing and caring for one another, affirming and guiding one another – in essence, completing the other. Physical in the sense that marriage is procreative – two separate biological beings blending together to create what neither can create on their own: children. And lastly, spiritual in the sense that we are made for this partnership that places the interest of the other (or others in the case of children) above self – a relationship that ultimately mirrors God’s sacrificial love toward each of us and His bride: the church.

It is this understanding of marriage that we must recapture for the sake of this and future generations. We must persuade the culture to understand the necessity of the Judeo-Christian view of marriage to social peace and order. Augustine wrote in the 4th Century, “peace is the tranquility that is produced by order” (tranquillitas ordinis). Marriage is the very cornerstone of moral and social order. History has proven that no community can enjoy peace and harmony without following a true moral order and marriage provides the only suitable foundation for perpetuating this order.

–James Jewell

About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group ( Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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