Why Marriage is What it is

“I now pronounce you a couple” is challenging “I now pronounce you man and wife.”  In several European countries, and now entering America, is a radical transformation of the institution once called marriage.  Framed as a civil rights issue, proponents of non-traditional marriage state “anyone should be able to marry the person they love.”  Opponents of the “new marriage” argue there are good reasons to keep marriage purely traditional.  They are frequently labeled “intolerant bigots” and the newest label is “faith based intolerance.”  This labeling almost effectively cuts off debate on the issue, but not quite.  It is very hard to kill the nearly 4000 years of recorded history.  In all of human history, same-sex marriage has been in existence only about ten years.  Getting rid of that factual material would involve banning and burning almost all the books in the world.  Same-sex marriage is certainly a newcomer to the world scene.  Whether or not it should be welcomed is one issue, but another interesting issue is why it was never considered before.  That brings us to the question of why was there ever marriage at all?

In primitive societies, of which a few still exist in the present day, there is no national or state government, and therefore no legal marriage.  However, there is still a tribal ritual of male and female bonding.  Most of these bonds involve one man and one woman.  This is true even in tribes where the children are more or less raised collectively by the tribe and in cases where the whole tribe of men go off hunting, leaving the whole tribe of women to keep the home fires burning, nurture the children and care for the elderly.  There are reasons for the one man-one woman bond, probably not the least being that fights over whose woman was whose could destroy the tribe.  But the idea of protecting the children certainly loomed large, for the children were the future of the tribe, insuring its survival.  Children then, as now, needed to know who their father was, and be claimed by him.  There was pride in parenthood throughout history and across cultures.  The continuity of one’s family line was a treasure.

Polygamy was more widely practiced in ancient cultures, probably because women simply outnumbered men.  Due to war and the danger of hunting, its likely that men were at more of a premium then, and it would be wasteful and unthinkable for a woman to remain childless because there was not a man for her.  Whenever the numbers of men and women were more equitable, one man-one woman marriage would prevail.  Forever in history it has been expensive to keep a woman, and keeping two was cost prohibitive!

Marriage, whether tribal or government sanctioned, has throughout history been about the procreation and nurture of children.  The idea of voluntarily childless marriage was unthinkable.  It has only been in the relatively recent past that the failure to procreate has been seen as other than a tragedy.  Then, in the 1960s, the birth control pill came along and gave women a choice about whether to become mothers.  Right on the heels of the means, came the desire for fewer children or no children at all as the feminist movement insisted women achieve equal status with men in the marketplace.  Along with financial means and the baby bust came an independence from men that fueled the widespread divorce rate.  The barn door was now wide open, and the main reasons for marriage–the procreation and nurture of children and the protection of their mothers–escaped the society.  Now society, at least in the West, became a female culture of households without children, and households where children could grow up without fathers, and in some cases without knowing the identity of their fathers.  The identity crisis began in earnest.  Boys didn’t know how to be husbands, and girls didn’t know how to be wives.  Without any role models, the chance of successful marriage for these children faded.  As time went on, sex became more a matter of hedonism and manipulation than about lifelong love and family making.  Gender roles became so blurred, the whole definition of male and female became confused.  Into this has come a baby bust of mammoth proportions in the West, mitigated only by high birthrates in the immigrant populations.

The ancient reason for marriage-the procreation and nurture of children for the survival of a culture is proving to be true, as Western civilization is commiting slow suicide and fading into history.

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