Sunday, October 30, 2005

Screwing around with--I mean, reconfiguring--marriage, yet again

After all the Great Relearnings we've been through the last half-century, oughtn't the societal if not spiritual value of monogamous heterosexual marriage be pretty much settled by now? Some on the fringe haven't yet had enough visits from the Clue Fairy--that, or they are still in revolucionario mode and actively seek to subvert the institution of marriage.

Fr. Neuhaus calls our attention to one such activist in the "While We're At It" column of October 2005's First Things. He quotes a study by the Institue for American Values which states in part:

Institutions like marriage and parenthood are not simply mechanisms to fulfill individual needs and aspirations. They are also thick, multi-layered realities that speak to the needs for meaning and identity within human community. Marriage is the complex cultural site for opposite-sex bonding. A rich heritage of symbols, myths, theologies, traditions, poetry, and art has clustered around the marital bond. To change the core features of marriage is to impact real people, adults and children, whose lives will be significantly shaped by the renewal or decline of this institution.

This reminded me of this seventy-five year old observation, by H. L. Mencken:

To propose that marriage be abandoned and half-marriage substituted is like advising a man with a sty to get a glass eye. He doesn't want a glass eye; he wants his own natural and perfect eye, with the sty plucked out. All such reformers forget that the real essence of marriage is not the nature of the relation but the performance of that relation. It is a device for time-binding, like every other basic human institution. Its one indomitable purpose is to endure. Plainly enough, divorce ought to be easy when the destruction of a marriage is an accomplished fact, but it would be folly to set up conditions tending to make that destruction more likely. Too much, indeed, has been done in that direction already. The way out for people who are incapable of the concessions and compromises that go with every contract is not to fill the contract with snakes but to avoid it altogether. There are, indeed, many men and women to whom marriage is a sheer psychic impossibility. But to the majority it is surely not. They find it quite bearable; they like it; they want it to endure. What they need is help in making it endurable.
-- H. L. Mencken, "Divorce" The New York _World_, Jan 26, 1930

Rather nice to know that we aren't the first to have to fight this fight.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! Please keep your comments civil and on-topic. Spammage will be cheerfully removed.