Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Ability to Wed

My fiancée and I are throwing an engagement party which will be attended by a variety of friends, both personal and mutual. The following comment was left on the Evite invitation by one of my fiancée’s gay friends:
“I can't wait to celebrate your ability to wed.”
The comment , which I take as a subtle bit of social commentary, illustrates a fundamental concept that is at the heart of the marriage confusion: the question of what marriage is all about. I love this stuff. Getting married is like being a part of a giant sociology experiment. You learn so much about social intercourse, in all its aspects, by participating in the ancient social ritual of marriage.

If marriage were merely a social benefit conferred upon a privileged few, the point of view that it is a right unfairly distributed would be valid. That is, if the benefits outweighed the obligations, it would be fair to demand equal distribution of those benefits.

This is where birth control has confused everything. I must make it abundantly clear: if you are practicing artificial birth control you are harming traditional marriage.

A friend of mine, who possesses the unfortunately rare combination of age and wisdom, made the following comment regarding our wedding: “The sooner you realize it’s not about you and Erin, the happier you will be.” She was referring to the reception and related affairs. She’s right. The wedding is about the community. The wedding is about sharing the joy of our love with everyone else and asking them to participate in it. As soon as we start to plan “our” wedding to our own desires it removes from the joy that we are supposed to be sharing with our friends, families, loved ones, and even total strangers.

The same for marriage: it’s not about us and/or our personal happiness. The moment it is, it takes away from the awesome gift that marriage is to the community. And the sign and symbol of that gift is children. Children are the physical and living reminder that marriage is not about us and our personal happiness. It is about giving back. It is a job, and a dreadfully hard job at that.

A moment’s reflection will make it clear that artificial birth control blurs these lines. Artificial birth control gives me the power to control the gift of life. Hence the rise of “designer” families: two kids, one boy and one girl; just enough to afford everything we want and get everything we want out of the child-raising experience. Children become accessories to the parents, not a gift to community. I have kids because I want to. This is like a modern Frankenstein, replacing God’s plan for families with our own creation. A pale and horrible imitation it is. If children are merely something “I want” then my fiancée’s gay friend is right. If they are a responsibility, a “job”, then he is wrong.

It’s about sacrifice, people. Marriage should be viewed as an awesome responsibility. The laws protecting it should be viewed as laws protecting our society and our future, which have their source in the family. The laws concerning marriage are a social, financial, and spiritual benefit conferred upon those who are undertaking a vital social task. They are not arbitrarily abrogated social benefits conferred upon a privileged class. This is at least the case in families who are undertaking to work in God’s field and raise children for the benefit of society at large and our neighbor in particular.

1 comment:

Jo said...

Dear Tony,

You are absolutely right that marriage is much more about each party
being willing to surrender their autonomy than it is about them
insisting on it. And what better place to abandon oneself than in the
bedroom? Kudos for a courageous statement on artificial birth control
in a base, despiritualized world.