Thursday, October 02, 2008

Annother Viewpoint on Marriage

Marriage has been on my mind a lot lately.

No, not mine. I'm still looking for someone.

But, marriage, and the institution of it has been.

You see, I see marriage as a sacred institution. And as a sacred institution, I don't want my government poking it's head into who I will marry. Much like I don't them coming in and telling me I have to wheat bread and grape juice for the Sacrament.

Furthermore, if someone's religious beliefs allow them to marry 10 wives, their cousin, or someone of the same gender, then so be it.

Because having government get involved only serves to cheapen marriage, not strengthen it. Imagine if they performed baptisms at the County Clerk's office.

So, there's my view on the subject. I decided to write this, because of another post I read From the Mind of Murph:

There has been something on my mind for the last few months and it has to do with my cousin, (who… incidentally… lives in California) and her marriage to a lovely young lady, a marriage for which I am very happy for them both. Yes, gentle reader; I did say HER marriage to a young LADY, and that I am HAPPY.
Now most of you who have read my blog before know that I am LDS (a Mormon) and …somewhat… of a conservative Christian. But, my cousin’s marriage hasn’t bothered me at all… going against all stereotypes of what the Christian right is supposed to think about the topic of gay marriage. Guess you can’t trust stereotypes of any kind… hu.
This bothered me for some reason, it shouldn’t have, but it did. And I thought that… well, maybe I wasn’t living my religion. Or maybe… I needed to go confess something to my bishop, I’m not sure what, but something. I mean, as a (somewhat) conservative Christian, I should be condemning the marriage… right?
Well, I found out why I’m not bugged about her marriage, and why I shouldn’t be bugged…

Continue reading here.



I am Laura said...

On facebook today I saw a friend of mine join the group "protect the sanctity of marriage and the family." I think it is funny how letting a gay couple get married will somehow threaten my family relationships and the sanctity of the marriage I have with my husband. I don't really feel that threatened by allowing gay people to have the same right that I had. Hey, I even got to be married behind closed doors where only people who had a recommend could see it: in some counties this is not allowed. I agree with you Bob and your friend "from the mind of murph." I wonder how in the minority we are the three of us being ok with gay marriage and Mormons.

Just and Holy said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Bob.

So, you don't think government should be involved with defining marriage at all? That's understandable, but given the reality that government is involved in it now, do you support letting homosexuals marry legally?

Also, what do you think about the Church's position on gay marriage?

Jeremy said...

Just and Holy,

Why does it matter what Bob thinks of the LDS church's position on gay marriage? We members are expected to support our leaders so even if we disagree with the church's political statements most of us aren't going to be openly critical. Are you trying to stifle this discussion?

I think Bob is bringing up an interesting point. The institution of marriage predates any civil government. Why must we now depend on government to define this most basic institution for us?

For the most part marriage has traditionally meant a union between a man and woman. This makes sense because that combination is generally required for the family to increase in number. I think this definition of marriage makes the most sense and I would never participate in any other kind of marriage. That said, I don't have a problem with government providing the same legal benefits I enjoy with my wife to non-traditional groupings of people who want to call themselves families.

Just and Holy, Why should I be opposed to that?

Just and Holy said...

Hi Jeremy,

I'm not sure I follow all of your points.

Stifle the discussion? I said that I understand Bob's view, and yours I think, that government shouldn't be involved in marriage. I'm just wondering (sincerely) what Bob's view, and yours, is given the current situation. Government is involved in marriage, so are you for allowing gay marriage or not?

As far as I know, the Church hasn't said anything about benefits, it's just said that we shouldn't allow gay marriage. So do you agree with that Church or not? That's all I'm asking.

From your statements, I'm not sure what your positions are on gay marriage given the current situation. If you don't want to tell me, then that's fine.

Murph said...

Hey, thanks for the quote!
I don't know that I've ever been quoted before... makes me feel kind of warm and fuzzy.
Take Care!

Jeremy said...

Just and Holy,

The way I read this post the primary thesis is that government shouldn't be involved in something that should just be a religious sacrament...not that we should persuade our government to allow gay marriages. The gay marriage example Bob shared serves to illustrate the idea that maybe we'd all be better off if we didn't have to lobby the government to force everyone to recognize marriage the same way we do.

I personally am not sure what I think of the church asking its members to campaign for a government crackdown against gay marriage. As you said, it is true that we are stuck in a system where government's dictates trump individual religious beliefs on the definition of marriage. In a case like this I guess the church has no choice but to ask that their definition of marriage be codified into law. I still think the ideal solution to the problem might be for all of us to lobby the government to get out of these types of religious matters.

My interest in this post is the very libertarian idea being proposed on a generally liberal blog written by someone whose writing I have followed for a couple of years now. It is fun to see someone I respect talking about ideas I'm interested in. I just didn't want to see it all get bogged down into one of the ubiquitous same-sex marriage arguments that can be found all over Utah's bloghive.

I'm sorry if my points are hard to follow. I'm up quite a bit past bedtime right now! :-) I usually try to write as clearly and intelligibly as possible.

Shaun said...

it looks like I've been getting to bob.

My interest in this post is the very libertarian idea being proposed on a generally liberal blog written by someone whose writing I have followed for a couple of years now.

It is true that marriage is an institution of religion. It is also true that marriage has been (I believe incorrectly) taken over by government.

If marriage is an institution of religion, is it not appropriate for religions to request that it maintain the requirements the religions originally set forth?

I consider marriage being taken over by government to be a theft of authority. Churches requesting limits are only trying to reclaim the rightful authority that has been taken from them.

Just and Holy said...

Alright, let's address whether or not government should be involved in marriage.

Shaun says that he considers government intervention to be "theft of authority." What authority has the government stolen? Any person can choose to marry one other person, same or opposite sex, privately. They can also choose to marry that same person civilly but don't have to.

Perhaps it may be better for government to be out of marriage so that it doesn't use it as a tool to influence religion and relationships through the tax system, etc., but I don't see it as theft since it hasn't taken away from anyone the authority to marry, unless I guess you want to marry more than one person or your sister.

My conservative view is that government has a role in encouraging the institution of marriage and the family in order to help perpetuate a healthy, enduring society, which is why I'm against legalizing gay marriage. Any more thoughts?

Jeremy said...

Just and Holy said:

"Perhaps it may be better for government to be out of marriage so that it doesn't use it as a tool to influence religion and relationships through the tax system, etc."


"government has a role in encouraging the institution of marriage and the family"

Aren't these two statements incompatible?

How is government going to maintain its role of encouraging the institution of marriage and the family without influencing public policy related to religion, relationships, the tax system, etc.?

The only possible way for government to encourage the institution of marriage is to provide incentives for people to take up that institution. Those incentives are always paid for by the public in one way or another and usually involve special privileges given to one group of people at another group's expense.

Do you think that without government encouragement people will stop getting married and starting families? Has government encouragement to marry helped perpetuate a healthy, enduring society? The large number of broken families, divorces, and single parents we see in our country doesn't indicate that Just and Holy's favored policy has been fantastically successful. I'd argue that government encouragement has little to do with whether or not successful marriages and families occur. Why not get government out of the business altogether?

Just and Holy said...


Those two statements do sound incompatible. I think that government should encourage healthy marriage, but perhaps not necessarily to the extent or in the same ways that it is today. I think the main role of government is to acknowledge through law that marriage is vital to the health and endurance of a prosperous nation. By codifying marriage, government reinforces the idea that marriage is important. Even if that's all it does, I think that is good. Marriage isn't a business, it's the most important institution of our society.

"Do you think that without government encouragement people will stop getting married and starting families?"

I don't know. Government has recognized and encouraged marriage for a long time.

"Has government encouragement to marry helped perpetuate a healthy, enduring society?"

Well, in some ways government policies have discouraged marriage (e.g. welfare), but I think many policies at least help keep marriage from deteriorating, even if they don't improve it.

There are many, many things that have contributed to the decline of marriage. Just because things aren't going well doesn't mean government should stop trying to help in effective ways.

My thoughts here aren't very cogent, but I'm trying.

Just and Holy said...

One more thought:

In a world without civil marriage, would people who aren't very religious or not religious at all marry?

I'm guessing there are millions of people who marry civilly outside of churches. It seems that civil marriage provides an opportunity and some encouragement for these people to marry, i.e. make an actual commitment, rather than co-habiting their whole lives. I think that it's possible that government-recognized marriage, and the incentives that come along with it, encourage people to marry who might not otherwise.

The negative effects of co-habitation and children born out-of-wedlock are not good for society. It's great that religion encourages us to get married, but I'm not seeing a problem with government providing an extra opportunity for people to make a commitment to each other that involves legal and financial obligations.

Jeremy said...

Just & Holy,

I think your argument is a fair one but too pessimistic.

You are correct that government has been promoting marriage for a long time but it hasn't always done so. Marriage predates government...or rather it was the first form of government instituted among men. When conservatives argue that a couple should have to get permission from the government before they can partake of the natural rights of marriage they have it exactly backwards.

From the time of Adam and Eve and for thousands of years after humans enjoyed the rights of marriage and family without government interference. Turning those rights over to government which then controls and distributes them according to the democratic process cheapens traditional marriage at least as much as allowing gays and polygamists the right to choose to marry.

Government should be there to protect a family's rights but since it isn't the source of those rights it shouldn't be doling them out according to what the voters or the courts say. If you want a moral defense of traditional marriage you can do a lot worse than arguing that its definition should be left to individual choice. Of course that means people are going to make "incorrect" choices and weird nontraditional families are going to pop up here and there. So be it. Turning everything over to the government only causes problems...especially since government's control over all natural human rights tends to expand over time.

I don't want to go too far down a slippery slope but consider what will happen as government begins to allow different nontraditional forms of marriage while at the same time hate speech regulation becomes more vigorously enforced. Where does that leave “intolerant” churches like ours who, based on their religious principles, refuse to marry people who are gay or polygamists? I know this seems a long way off but look at the changes over just the last couple decades. Is it inconceivable that government could end up forcing churches to recognize family arrangements they find morally erroneous?

Wow…sorry for the long rant but as I said before this is an interesting subject and I think, on this topic at least, libertarian thought is more in line with correct principles than conservative thought.

Just and Holy said...

Good points, Jeremy.

"When conservatives argue that a couple should have to get permission from the government before they can partake of the natural rights of marriage they have it exactly backwards."

As far as I understand it, you don't need permission from government to get married, you can choose to marry civilly if you want the "unnatural" benefits that come along with it. The natural rights are available through religious marriage.

Your last argument is a good one. By accepting gay marriage or other forms of marriage government may begin to enforce "hate speech" laws against religious organizations, which is one reason why the LDS Church and others support Prop 8.

So it seems that society is better off by either having a "proper" definition of marriage (man and woman) or no definition or sanction of it at all. The Church is in a unique situation as concerning polygamy. I wonder if for that reason the Church would prefer no government sanction of marriage, but since government is involved the Church wants to at least keep it defined as man and woman.

I think where I stand at this point is this: government can do much good to encourage traditional marriage, but if it's not going to do it right, then it shouldn't do it at all. Then again, I'm not sure where polygamy would fit into my thesis. The problem is that I don't know if we would be practicing polygamy today if it were legal. Maybe we would be, maybe we wouldn't. I don't think I can speculate about that.

Any thoughts on this?

Jeremy said...

I think the church is working a lot harder to appeal more to modern sensibilities than it used to. I think we probably wouldn't be practicing polygamy even if it had always been legal. I guess we'll never know though!

Thanks for an interesting discussion!