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May 29, 2015

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There are a vast number of examples in literature of homosexual relationships in antiquity. They were more knowledgeable about this than we are. I think the one difference, though, that Greco-Romans had with us today in the west concerning this issue is that they were not foolish enough to call it marriage. They didn't think it was marriage because homosexual relationships wouldn't produce an heir.

this touches very close to a challenge a fellow believer shared with my husband and i on facebook. he asserted that marriage has not been between a man and woman since the dawn of time, as we often say. he read a book about the history of marriage and came away with the idea that marriage is a social construct we made up. your article here is almost proving his point - that other sexual unions were recognized. do you have any ideas how to handle this? if marriage has not been constant through the years, our entire argument collapses...

sorry, but this is what he said: Because he provides no justification for why being "sexually complementary" is necessary for a marriage. It just is because he says it is - no logical reasoning behind it.

Marriage is, and has always been, an human *invented* social construct. It's definition was made up out of thin air to serve one or several specific functions in society - often this function being a means of consolidating power and influence, defining legitimate heirs of property and wealth, and organizing a division of homesteading labor.

The purpose of a marriage and the definition of a marriage has never been static - both across time and across cultures. Different societies have found overlapping ways to fulfill all of the various functions of marriage through some extra-mariatal means often leaving them with completely non-overlapping definitions of marriage. So, if you were to combine said societies, you could leave "marriage" as a social institution completely out. In fact, some societies do not even have marriage as a social institution and they get along just fine. Because marriage is something humans invented.

Marriage is whatever a society wants it to be - and the purpose it serves is for whatever purpose society chooses it to serve. Marriage isn't a mathmatical or scientific principal. It isn't an absolute truth. It is a idea - an institution designed to serve a social function - and whatever social function a society wants it to serve is completely up to them.

Choosing a completely arbitrary (and might I add completely *non-traditional* according to history) definition of marriage around "sexual complementary" partners has no rational or logical underpinnings. It is the same as saying a government isn't a government unless it is a constitutional representative democracy just like the United States has decided to define it's government. It is like me claiming you aren't culturally "American" if you don't like apple pie and baseball because I decided to arbitrarily define that as a prerequisite (for no justifiable or logical reason).

Considering the function that marriage serves in modern western society, and in the United States in particular, there is absolutely no logical argument that requires it be limited to heterosexual partners. Individuals, churches, religious organizations - they are perfectly free to define marriage any way they want to - for themselves and members of their society. But not everyone is a member of your church or religious organization, so not everyone should be shackled with the definition of marriage you choose for yourself.

This has been a pet research topic of mine for several years now, and I have done extensive reading and research on the topic. I used to be in the same camp as Ryan Anderson, but I must confess that is merely because I was ignorant. Now that I have had access to a wider range of information and arguments on both sides of the debate, the logical conclusion is clear: If a government is a constitutional democracy is going to provide special privileges and recognition for marriage (something I am not entirely sure is a good idea in the first place), then marriage can be whatever that society wants it to be so long as it fulfills a basic necessary social function, erring on the side of inclusivity rather than exclusivity (down with the tyrany of the majority!).

Here is a little historical context for you in case you are interested...

http://www.amazon.com/Marriage-History-How.../dp/014303667X/

Eva,

if marriage has not been constant through the years, our entire argument collapses...

No, the entire argument does not collapse. The entire argument is not that "All societies throughout human history have believed marriage was 'x' therefore marriage is 'x'."

That would clearly be a ridiculous argument that can be disproven by pointing out that other societies at other times and/or places thought marriage was something other than 'x'. But that's not the argument.

The observation that various societies in different times and places have recognized 'x' as marriage is a piece of evidence that 'x' has a rational basis: that marriage is being recognized instead of arbitrarily created by whim.

he read a book about the history of marriage and came away with the idea that marriage is a social construct we made up. your article here is almost proving his point

Since nothing in the article says anything about same-sex relationships being granted the status of marriage, how does the article almost prove his point?

Eva,

In regards to what your friend said...

Because he provides no justification for why being "sexually complementary" is necessary for a marriage.

Who is "he"? I'm not going to try wasting time defending an unknown argument from an unknown person, but I will point out that Girgis, Anderson, and George do provide a justification for why sexual complementarity is an essential part of marriage.

Marriage is, and has always been, an human *invented* social construct.

You said your friend was a Christian. How does this Christian understand Genesis where marriage is a divinely instituted relationship?

completely non-overlapping definitions of marriage.

Your friend gives a long narrative about how marriage is a social construct. He cites no sources and gives no evidence for his narrative and I'm not going to bother trying to debunk it (like I said, it's really not essential to the argument anyway). But I would ask for some examples here, since I'm curious.

Marriage is whatever a society wants it to be - and the purpose it serves is for whatever purpose society chooses it to serve.

So he would have no principled objection to a soceity that wants to recognize incestuous marriages between a father and daughter?

Choosing a completely arbitrary (and might I add completely *non-traditional* according to history) definition of marriage around "sexual complementary" partners has no rational or logical underpinnings.

He just spent several paragraphs telling us that marriage is an arbitrary institution that can be whatever you want... now it looks like he is complaining that the "traditional view" (or whatever you want to call it) is arbitrary. Well, so what? According to him all definitions of marriage are equally arbitrary, so why should someone who opposes same-sex marriage get an equal opportunity to impose their view on society?


But not everyone is a member of your church or religious organization, so not everyone should be shackled with the definition of marriage you choose for yourself.

Not everyone is a secularist. So not everyone should be shackled with the secular definition of marriage that some secularist same-sex advocate chooses for herself.

Eva, everything you say about "marriage" must also be true of "society," since a "society" is no more than a collection of individuals than is "marriage." Thus, when you say that marriage's reality is only to serve the ends of "society," this begs the question: to what end does society exist? If you say, "the individual," then we can go on and ask the same question and apply it to the individual. So, at some point, there must be a non-instrumental good that these other goods serve, since you can't go on forever with instrumental goods. Thus, ironically, If you can't find a non-instrumental good, then there are thus no instrumental goods, since to be instrumental presupposes an intrinsic good to which the instrumental good is ordered.

Marriage, like man, woman, or dog, is either identifiable thing or it isn't. Saying that marriage only exists to serve some social function actually doesn't answer the question. After all, having a child serves a function for some people--it allows them to love another unconditionally--but that doesn't mean that all that the child is is this function. In the same way, just because marriage serves a particular social function, that does not mean it is reducible to that function. The question you have to ask yourself is whether it is the nature of marriage that makes that function possible, just as the nature of the child is what makes loving him possible. So, let's think about this. Why does marriage arise in the first place? Sexual complimentarity the combined powers of each pair to bring young, vulnerable human beings into existence. Without that complimentarily power, there is simply no marriage. If human beings reproduced asexually, marriage would not exist. What else is essential? Permanence and exclusivity. Why? Because the nature of conjugal love--the power to bring new life into being--is so intrinsically valuable that the best way for the offspring to flourish is that their parents are committed to each other, forever and to no other. This is what makes marriage deeply serious business.

One more thing, Eva, why believe in the abstraction of "equality" as true and real, but then claim that marriage is a social construction. It would seem that what is true of marriage is also true of "equality." Why isn't "equality" merely a social construction? As an abstraction it is in some ways "less real" than marriage. In that case, "marriage equality" really means "What we like, what we like."

Coca-Cola (my husband would love your name), thanks for your response. i just had no idea where to start with my friend's claims. i was hoping for a book or some evidence for the constancy of man-woman marriage throughout time. his entire response is based on a book called Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz. from what i read, it asserts that marriage relationships have changed throughout time, therefore, it's false to say it's always been between a man and woman. i don't believe that, but i didn't have a history book to back me up like he did.

could you clarify your statement for me?

"The observation that various societies in different times and places have recognized 'x' as marriage is a piece of evidence that 'x' has a rational basis: that marriage is being recognized instead of arbitrarily created by whim. "

as for this article "almost" proving his point, i meant that i think he'd say that b/c there were recognized homosexual relationships in Greece and Rome, that gives his view more credence. that marriage relationships have changed over time and not been solely between a man and woman.

the "he" he refers to at the beginning is actually Anderson (from this video where he makes a case for marriage based on the complementary sexes and history of marriage as between a man and woman. therefore SSM aren't legitimate marriages. he considers his definition of man-woman marriage arbitrary b/c it's supposedly changed throughout history. https://www.facebook.com/191900549668/videos/10153313031554669/?pnref=story)

as far as how my friend would interpret Genesis, i think he'd say that the Bible is the Christian worldview, but that shouldn't be forced on the rest of the world who don't believe it. and again, he would say that marriages throughout time have not been solely male-female. i disagree, but again, have no source besides hearsay that marriage has always been that way.

i do wonder what he'd say to the incestuous marriage idea. it's been a couple weeks since this conversation so it's pretty much over. i'm asking more for my own peace of mind. i agree with everything you've said. just don't know how to respond to him.

that is a good point about marriage definitions being arbitrary. if that's true than why shouldn't we have a seat at the table?

i didn't see the self-defeating nature of his argument that b/c we're Christians we shouldn't force our beliefs about marriage on others. but somehow they are allowed to force us?

i was hoping for a book or some evidence for the constancy of man-woman marriage throughout time. his entire response is based on a book called Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz. from what i read, it asserts that marriage relationships have changed throughout time, therefore, it's false to say it's always been between a man and woman.

I haven't read Coontz's book so I can't comment on it. I did find a brief summary online and it looks like Coontz points to things like male-female role differences as the basis for claiming different concepts of marriage. This is a common tactic among same-sex marriage advocates. For instance, we heard it recently in the SCOTUS arguments from Mary Bonauto. She claims that because we previously thought that men were the head of the marriage unit/family unit but now we don't we therefore have a totally different concept of marriage than previously. Or, for example, we previously thought black people should not marry white people. We now recognize that they can marry and therefore our understanding of marriage has radically shifted.

That's false because things like "patriarchal" or "racial unity" are not essential parts of marriage as spelled out by conjugalists or traditionalists like Girgis, Anderson, and George. These aren't fundamentally different concepts of marriage in the way that we would need a fundamentally different concept in order to recognize same-sex marriages.

Ryan Anderson, for instance holds to a definition of marriage that is compatible with egalitarian marriages or patriarchal marriages or interracial marriages. None of these various sorts of marriages require a change in the basic structure of marriage as he defines it.

*If* Stephanie Coontz's book is pointing to these non-essential features of marriage as changes in our understanding of marriage then you should realize that they don't touch the argument of Girgis, Anderson, and George.

I don't have any book at hand that I could recommend on the history of marriage. There is one I have in mind, but I don't recall if it goes into much detail the way Coontz's might. I'd have to check it out when I get home.

i think he'd say that b/c there were recognized homosexual relationships in Greece and Rome, that gives his view more credence. that marriage relationships have changed over time and not been solely between a man and woman.

But since Greece and Rome didn't recognize same-sex marriages then it does absolutely nothing to show that marriage has changed over time and "not been solely between a man and a woman." How could two cultures that didn't recognize marriage between same-sex partners possibly provide evidence about marriage including same-sex partners?

The point actually works against his position. It shows that even societies which didn't have any animus against same-sex relationships still saw no reason to grant those relationships marriage.

the "he" he refers to at the beginning is actually Anderson

I haven't seen the video and can't watch it right now. You should read the book "What is Marriage" by Anders, Girgis, and George if you haven't yet.

as far as how my friend would interpret Genesis, i think he'd say that the Bible is the Christian worldview, but that shouldn't be forced on the rest of the world who don't believe it.

I think that fails to adequately address the issue. Your friend is pretty dogmatic in his assertion that marriage is whatever society claims it to be. As a Christian he can't accept that (if he gives the Bible any weight). For instance why not say that "fleecing the poor is whatever society claims it to be" and, thus, there is no objective fact about what is abuse of the poor? He would probably say that the truth is, God has told us what constitutes abuse of the poor and society may be wrong about that, but it can't overturn it.

The argument that marriage is whatever society says it is appears logically incompatible with the idea that marriage is an institution created by God (and which man, therefore, has no right to tamper with). So it's not like your friend can just compartmentalize one view from the other.

Eve,

I just read the first chapter of the book you cited. What was evident, and this occurs in many books by Christians as well, is the authors uncritical examination of their source material. For example, the author has this quote from the 16th century essayist Montaigne who wrote that 'any man who is in love with his wife was a man so dull that no one else could love him'. My question is: "do we believe this is typically true. Men who truly love their wives are the kind of men no one else really likes?" I don't think so. So while this may have been a view held by this author, it in no way can be said to represent the thought of the common person of that time and culture.

The author makes note that in some ancient cultures, parents could tell their son to divorce their wife if they didn't like her. As this is not typically the case today in most western cultures, does this mean the view of marriage changed or did culture change so that now we have a greater sense of individuality and value personal choice more?

By citing selected examples of variable marriage attitudes and practices, I don't think makes a very strong case that marriage can be defined as we wish. The one consistent marriage perspective throughout chapter one is that every example is between a man and a woman.

I've never heard of Stephanie Coontz until now so doing a quick search on the internet for a quick synopsis of what her theory is, I found this on livescience.com. History of Marriage: 13 Surprising Facts

According to Coontz "What marriage had in common was that it really was not about the relationship between the man and the woman,". I am not sure how she could have been so blind and confused, since she wrote an entire book and raise the examples of what constitute as marriage from a historical context.

According to livescience's understanding of her book the historical context of marriage is not about man and woman, but rather, it is about "arranged alliances", "family ties", "polygamy preferred", "babies optional", "monogamy", "monogamy lite". What did all these different modes or purposes for marriage had in common? It is exactly the opposite of what Coontz said. The only constant commonality is that they are the products of the union between a man and a woman. Even the examples Coontz used to illustrate some of these relationship were of a man and a woman. What Coontz and advocates of same-sex marriage have failed to do is to give evidence that same-sex unions were prevalently considered as marriage in history.

Just because the marriage union between a man and a woman had cross functions and methods of implementation, does not change the historical consistent common denominator that it is the union between sexually complementary individuals.

In no society ever until the last 50 something years has any society ever claimed that marriage was between people of the same sex, not even in Greco-Roman society. This is because of the inability for people of the same sex to produce children, which in all contexts of marriage in all civilizations is central to the concept of marriage. On the other hand, people in Paul's day knew what sexual relationships with people of the same sex were. These sorts of things have always existed throughout human existence. I find it incredibly arrogant to assume that only people in the 21st century know what such basic human experiences as sex and the like are. It's the typical idea that we are somehow superior to our ancestors. Superior maybe in technology. But morally? Based on what? Because we have more technology?

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