14 February 2012

GreyMail: Divorce and Marriage

CC writes:

Well written article on the 3 lessons for conservatives.  But I am curious, you made one exception for divorce, but what if one party does something against the law along the lines of domestic abuse?  Also curious to what you think of the right for people that are homosexual to marry?

It should be noted that there are a couple of lenses through which to analyze the general subject of marriage.  There is the legal aspect of marriage, the socio-cultural aspect of marriage, the religious aspect of marriage, the entertainment aspect of marriage (i.e. how marriage is portrayed in pop culture among the various media), and so on.  For sake of brevity, I will only concern myself with the first three analytical lenses.

I actually deny the moral authority of state-ordained marriages, though I do recognize that legal marriages do offer certain exclusive legal rights, and make the exercising of other legal rights more convenient.  As such, I think any human should be allowed to enter into a legal marriage with any number and type of other humans for as long as said human so desires.  I also think that anyone should be able to terminate their legal marital contract at any time for any reason.  I’m also of the opinion that there should not be any form of default alimony or child support, and that these things should only be granted when one marital party has obviously violated the terms of marital contract (note:  if all or no parties violate the marital contract, then alimony and child support would be off the table).  Since I don’t view the state as having moral authority in this matter, I see no reason for the state to place any restrictions on marital contracts, which I mean in the same sense that I see no reason for the state to place any restriction on business contracts.

As both a Christian and libertarian, I consider the socio-cultural aspects of marriage, particularly gay marriage, to be of no political concern.  As a Christian, my duty is to preach and teach God’s word; it is not my duty to use the government to impose Biblical morality.  As a libertarian, it is not my ethical duty to control other people’s lives; in fact, any attempt to do so would be unethical.  Thus, if there are negative socio-cultural consequences to gays having the legal right to marry, so be it.  If a majority of my fellow citizens wish to go down this path, it is certainly their choice, and I cannot coercively prevent them from doing so.  I may (and should) warn them of the consequences of their decisions, but I cannot coercively prevent them from making what I judge to be bad decisions.  As such, I have no desire or right to regulate marriage on socio-cultural grounds.

Finally, from a religious perspective, I should probably clarify that I’m not the one who made the singular exception for divorce.  Jesus, in Matthew 19, said that, “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality,* and marries another, commits adultery.”  As a Christian, I believe that God created the institution of marriage and, as such, he is the one who gets to regulate it.  Jesus also teaches in Matthew 19 that marriage is intended to be one man and one woman until death does them part.  I don’t get a say in determining these rules; I only get to live by them.  Thus, from a religious perspective, I reject the validity of gay marriages, polygamous marriages, and adulterous marriages.  If God doesn’t recognize these unions as valid, then how can I?

Regarding domestic violence, I think a couple of points are in order.  First, domestic violence would be implicitly condemned in scriptures (cf. Eph. 5:22-33), and therefore has no place in marriage.  However, it is not a reason for divorce (see Matt. 19:9, above).  It’s also worth pointing out that men are, per a study undertaken by the CDC, more likely to be the victims of domestic abuse than the perpetrators.  It’s also worth pointing out that a decent number of women seem to be attracted to violence, as evidenced by this study of rape fantasies.

I also recall seeing a study a long time ago (I was unable to find a link for it, though, sorry) that most women were able to predict the violent tendencies of men just by looking at them, which implies that most women who end up suffering domestic abuse are able to have predicted such an outcome.  I have no sympathy for women who decide to marry violent psychopaths knowing full well that they are marrying violent psychopaths.  If you choose a certain bed, you’re going to have to lie in it.

At any rate, I hope this answers your questions.  I realize I wasn’t as clear on distinguishing between my analytical assumptions in my prior post.  I do make a distinction between the legal institution of marriage and the religious institution of marriage, and have actually written extensively on how to separate the two.  Ultimately, legality does not equal morality, and it is a mistake to think otherwise.

* From the Greek word porneia, which means “all illicit sexual activity.”  Anyone who commits any form of fornication, then, has by definition committed adultery, and can (not “must”) be divorced.  Note also that divorcing anyone on any other grounds and remarrying also constitutes adultery, which implies that one is still effectively married even when one divorces for any other reason than adultery because, by definition, only married people can commit adultery.


  1. You said it better than I could. Your Disappearance of Marriage post was quite succinct and echoes my own thoughts. A radio host on my local FM talker says much the same, although he approaches the issue from a purely secular stance (having had it "up to here" with religion, as he says).

    I wonder where this leaves homosexuals and secularists who desire the type of commitment that is traditionally called "marriage." Time for a disclaimer or confession, if you will: I have a secular marriage. It was not sanctified in a church or by a priest, since my husband is nominally Christian but not practicing, and at the time of our marriage, I was not practicing religion either. I'm slowly being drawn back; I am hesitant to commit because I am not certain I can accept Catholic dogma and doctrine wholeheartedly, and feel it the height of hypocrisy to pay lip service to a religion in order to wear the badge. Or, as Carnivore so often puts it, be a "cafeteria Catholic."

    So my marriage would then be rendered null, I suppose. I might be able to live with that; in our hearts we were husband and wife before we took the vows, and are committed to our family and finances for better or worse. Divorce is not in our cards because we will not let it be, religious sanctity of our vows or no.

    I also have a gay family member and know a few gay people casually. Nice people all around, some happy, some deeply unhappy with their relationships or life situations. I think they think if they could just get married instead of have a civil union, life would be great. They are naive in that respect; life long commitments are hard work and not immune from trouble or hardship, but the rewards are great. No formal contract is needed to enter into a relationship; it is an artifact of government intervention in what happens when the informal contract dissolves for any reason.

    In the case of my gay in-law, she and her partner have a civil union but want it to be marriage. I've never asked her why. It seems that they want the same dignity and respect that married couples get. Husband and wife has a ring to it that wife-and-wife does not. They are grieving over not being able to have kids, and I sympathize with their grief, but the Catholic girl who still lives in my head and heart says this is why homosexuality is forbidden. It is an abomination because it is anti-life; homosexual sex is not open to life in the way heterosexual sex is, even if conception is not taking place during the act.

    Catholic doctrine is not specifically anti-gay in the vein of "kill them all." Rather, it encourages gay people to examine their feelings and live a life of celibacy and service to the church as a means of not committing the sin of homosexual union. I understand that many gays would rather follow their sex organs than follow doctrine; many (most) hetero Christians do, too. But one cannot have it both ways; if you want to live within the Church you must accept doctrine, and if you choose to live outside of it, accept and suffer the consequences.

    This is just like the Sydney Spies story. Bed made - lie in it.

  2. @Cranberry-

    1. I'm not sure where I stand on secular marriages. I'm sure God's grace can cover them, but I do not know of the specific mechanism.

    2. To be fair, there are a lot of straight people who think that marriage is a magical solution to all their problems. I would imagine that it can be helpful to have someone shoulder the load, but it's unreasonable to think that they will do this perfectly all the time and never once contribute to the load.

    3. I believe there is a case to be made on the wrongness of homosexuality from the lack of reproductivity standpoint. I also think the broader theological point of Malachi 2:10-17 applies as well.

    4. Most religions and religious folks don't actually appear to want to "kill the gays," even though homosexuality is profoundly abnormal. God is clear on the subject, and if you have to choose between obeying him or obeying your sexual desires, you will certainly receive and deserve the consequences of your decisions.

    5. Again, let me reiterate my opinion from earlier: You should really have your own blog. You'd be a wonderful blogger.

  3. Simon, regarding #3, I understand the other arguments against homosexuality. But the recent debate over birth control and the Catholic church spurred on a lot of debate at Reason.com as to why Catholics think NFP/FAM are OK but barrier or chemical birth control is not. The being "open to life" part is critical in a Catholic marriage. I do not know about other Christians; to read Dalrock or Patricationary, I get a sense that lots of Christian denominations have lost their way when it comes to these questions.

    When I said "kill the gays" I was being hyperbolic - to hear some people talk about Christian opinion on gays is to think that Christians want to eradicate them completely. But gay people have the same choice before them that we all do: live in grace and obey God's law, or do not.

    As for secular folk, I am convinced daily that many of them are better "Christians" than some Christians I meet.

    As for #5, I started last night: http://www.jewelledcranberry.wordpress.com

  4. @cranberry- The theology of sex doesn't interest me very much, so I can't say that I've ever spent a lot of time trying to figure out the broader ethics of it.

    I gathered that you were being hyperbolic; I was responding in kind. I've only ever met a handful of religious people that ever displayed any form of vitriol towards homosexuals. Most religious people seem quietly disapproving of the homosexual lifestyle.

    And I've also met some secular folk who were more decent than religious folk. I've also met some secular folk who were complete asshats. Sadly, I don't think religion (or a lack thereof) is a useful marker of character anymore.