Posted by: sailingspirit | May 13, 2011

Redefinition of Marriage

People in this country, and perhaps others around the world, have moved toward re-defining family and marriage. Much debate has risen over this topic in recent years, escalating to a point where factions are pointing fingers and demanding each other change. Last I looked, it seemed those who were demanding the loudest were seeing the least headway on change. Let’s take a minute to consider this, both the demand itself and the manner of demanding. Let’s step out of the ring for a moment and ask a few clarifying questions.  Such as, Who? Who are the people re-defining these concepts? And Why? Why are they motivated to make these changes? Would it not be easier to solve the issue if we understood its source? Do professional firefighters aim at the top of the flames, or the base?

So first the Who part: The people moving toward new or different definitions of marriage and family are typically people who are below a certain age, people who live in more densely populated areas of the nation, and people who (for the most part) are already divorced or in some way estranged from their relatives in a permanent way. So to find the source of the issue we must investigate the data as presented. We must ask whether their concepts of marriage and family differ because of their age, because of their location, and/or because of their own family situation. Could it be a combination of these, or is yet another factor hidden behind them?

Let’s start with the age question. It was not people of a certain age but below a certain age that coincided with the change in concept. Thus it cannot be something related to physical age nor something people grow out of after developing through a certain stage. So let’s look at age from a larger point of view; since many things are common across people of a single generation, but may differ even widely between generations, it may be not so much their age as The Age. That is to say, people belonging to a certain generation (or generations) following some point of change in the timeline may have this sentiment in common. If so, that would indicate an underlying factor for which age is simply an indicator.

Next is location. Certain areas of the nation are experiencing more of this debate than others, indicating the cause cannot be something we are all exposed to. So TV and Internet are out. Likewise, similar changes in other nations would indicate it is not a problem stemming from our mere nationality, American culture, or even an exposure in a physical sense—that is, it’s not something in the water or in the soil or in the air. Data indicate it is more common in heavily populated areas than lesser ones, so are we to guess it’s a communicable sickness? Like a virus? If so, is it not ridiculous to debate with a virus? There appears to be no distinction along educational lines, either. What, then, might we otherwise notice to differ between big cities and rural areas…could the source be exactly that, a source? Resources? Access to (or competition for) resources?

Our third indicator was pre-existing divorce or estrangement from family, which is not always found but does seem to be highly correlated. To me it seems rather obvious that if you’ve had a bad experience with marriage or family, you might not be so inclined to do it again. So let’s continue from here, as our strongest lead thus far, and see if perhaps those other things don’t end up tangentially related after all. If you will, take a quick walk down memory lane with me for the oh, let’s say, last 50 years or so:
Beginnings are difficult to pinpoint, but it appears the most noticeable changes to concepts of marriage and family (in this nation) happened in the latter half of the 20th century. Perhaps even the latter third. Multiple wars around the world were leaving people more aware but also more divided, and as many families were experiencing the longer-term effects of those casualties there was also an economic unsteadiness. We saw a sharp decrease in birth rates, and a sharp increase in women entering the workplace much like their Rosie Riveter mothers did. At the same time the number of people in the living rooms decreased, the numbers of televisions, home computers and video games increased turning people’s attention more toward screens than each other. Workaholic parents began bringing home more money and material goods, but they also brought home drugs, STDs, and divorce papers. Child support payment lawsuits began to rise, as did headcounts in daycares and foster care. Then came abuse of the foster care system itself, leaving kids who previously had to raise their parents or raise each other now out on the streets in their teens with no money or training to go by because even their trust funds had been raped. Meanwhile it became more glamorous for the greedy to gossip, so family members would rip each other apart and stage their own cold wars; apparently as the turn of the century neared, things were reaching a head because suddenly it became normal for people to let their skeletons out of the closet on national TV. Reports of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse were everywhere, battling for front page territory with gang violence, angry rocker overdoses, and flung talk- show furniture. Before the conclusion of 2010 daily traffic meant both polluting the planet and pornographically prostituting our preschoolers. Unless, of course, you were a priest or a teacher, in which case it meant prison.

(Why the faces? Is it shocking to hear what you already know is true? Did you think by ignoring it, it would just go away? Not so many roses on memory lane as you thought? Not such a pleasant journey?)

After so many years of experiences learned the hard way it became rather clear to people growing up during those years that family is not a sure thing, if it can be trusted at all. All this in conjunction with a society that values independence, indulgence, and exaltation of self above all else—just look at the multi-billion dollar sports entertainment industry or the irreverent rash of reality TV. Is it any wonder each successive generation raised in this “dog eat dog,” “always look out for #1,””supplies are limited” world wouldn’t learn quickly exactly that which it was taught? And react accordingly? For those of you who are surprised by any of this happening I just have to ask you, What did you expect? Loyalty for mutiny? Seriously? Young adults today (and even those who aren’t so young anymore) have taken to redefining marriage and family precisely because they have been taught those things will hurt them, and certainly not help them achieve this so-called American Dream being pushed like a drug from an enterprising whore. “Get yours today! Don’t delay! You work hard, you deserve it!”

"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

Image via Wikipedia

What I’ve been sent here to say today is that all these groups arguing over left-wing and right-wing, liberalism and conservatism, this administration and that administration—SHUT UP!! Everybody’s talking but nobody is listening! Just shut your blowholes and LISTEN to what’s being said, listen to your children, LOOK AROUND at The reality not just your reality. Instead of pointing fingers and flinging blame like the bullshit it is examine yourselves and own up to your own portion of responsibility for this mess. This could not possibly have been created by any one person, party, or even generation all alone. This is the result of each one of us making decisions every hour of every day of our lives. Decisions about what to believe or not believe, embrace or not embrace, value or not value, be or not be, do or not do, buy or not buy, allow or pretend not to allow, vote or not vote. A collection of decisions for which there are always consequences, whether you happen to like them or not. Unless you are under the age of 3 you have made decisions and participated in this society somehow, for better or for worse. Yes, You.

God is not a “wing,” an “-ism,” or an administration any of us can vote on or off the throne. He is God, you are not. He is God, you are not. He is God, you are not. He is God, you are not. He is God, you are not. He is God. And He has made His wishes quite clear, in His Word. The Church, however, has muddled it up for many years and now hardly anyone is knowledgeable how to end this bickering because they’re all caught up in it, too.

Despite the blame game being played out on political platforms and preachers’ pulpits alike, these people who are re-defining marriage and family are actually displaying a pattern of thinking and behavior not altogether deviant from what God wants, albeit a tad misguided for lack of complete information. They deserve that information, and indeed it is right for the Church to give it to them, but they will not hear it nor heed it from the current Church because most of the people who make up the Church are the ones who pushed them to it in the first place! They are the pushers! And this generation is way too wise to be made a fool of again! They are wary of you and for good reason.

In the New Testament, God makes clear that He is developing a new race, a new creation free of the Old Man and destined for greatness in the Holy Family by way of inheritance through Jesus our savior, brother, and friend. His New Man, and new Church, are to be a collective of equals bonded together in unified worship of a singular, common God. They are unified not by race, not by nationality, not by gender, not by age, not by economic status, not by social standing but by choice, by voluntary agreement and mutual commitment to becoming part of the new Body. In Acts we read about these people gathering daily to develop not only their understanding of scripture and what their visiting apostles had to say but to support each other as they became accustomed to this new Lifestyle. They ate together, studied together, discussed together, worshipped together, and also lived together! Folks, I don’t think these people simply chatted politely and mused absent-mindedly about the weather. They were committed to walking daily life together, a team, a unified front. No doubt a healthy dose of persecution helped that along a little bit. Sticking together takes on new meaning when your life is on the line!

(Perhaps a little persecution would get our commitment levels back in line, hmmm? Clarify our priorities? Are we so spoiled with the comfort of our freedom to worship as we please (or not) that we take such liberty for granted? Persecution of Christians didn’t end after the first century, people! It continues on today in nations all over the world! People executed for merely considering opening a bible! And here we are complaining about reading it, as if the newspapers and magazines and text messages we gorge on all day long are just too much for our little eyes to handle!)

So if the newspapers are the only thing you’re going to read, then get this: the people you read about in those papers, and gossip about at your churches, and point blaming fingers at are a fair ways along that path toward making thoughtful commitments with other people, regardless of age, race, gender, socio-economic status, nationality, etc., but rather based on mutual commitment to helping each other walk through the daily ins and outs of life, side-by-side, one foot at a time, and displaying that long term commitment to treating one another as part of the same valued family—instead of persecuting each other at every turn. Maybe that family is three men and a dog or maybe that family is one woman one child and a cactus but in either case if no one is being abandoned, defrauded or abused we’re a lot further along than a man who beats his wife, rapes his children, and kicks the dog, aren’t we? That is precisely the hypocrisy that is pushing young adults away and will continue to push them away until it is resolved. Because if there’s one thing this generation has spot on it’s that they can smell hypocrisy a mile away. And they have zero tolerance for it! So the more they feel pushed, pressured, pinched and put down for their willingness to make—and make good on—commitments their elders and churches would not make or keep, the less likely we are to ever get an audience with them again.

Yes, they need to know God’s definition of marriage and family but so, too, do we need to check ourselves on the entirety of scripture. The New Testament is rather revealing about the One New Man and the elimination of familial labels thereafter. Jesus made clear who His mother and brothers were; Jesus made clear who Mary’s new son would be, Jesus made clear no one would be given or taken in marriage in heaven and Paul confirmed it’s not the be-all institution we’ve come to think it is. Because there is a bigger picture, a bigger context, and bigger priority going on here, folks! We are to be married to Him! We only marry each other while on earth as a symbol, to practice the covenantal commitment we are to have with Him when He collects us, the Bride, for His wedding feast. And by “us,” Bride does not mean many individual brides; God is not polygamous. “Us” means a unified Church—one flesh. This side of the cross, under the New Covenant, God wants us to learn how to love everyone equally and unreservedly, as part of our own body. Therefore we will get nowhere condemning people instead of loving them, especially if we do so by condemning them for loving in ways we ourselves are not willing to display. Only after we have removed the logs from our own eyes can we speak of the splinters in others’. And only after we are willing to humble ourselves and repent of our failures to teach God’s desire for Family—singular!—by LIVING IT OUT will others be willing to hear what we have to say.

So here is what needs to happen:
1. Christians need to redefine marriage in their own minds according to what the Bible says is its purpose is in this age and the next.
2. Then acknowledge and show respect for those aspects of “marriage” and “family” lifestyle that people are getting right, and that should be kept. Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
3. Apologize for the ways in which you taught them wrong, and validate their experiences by admitting they did what might be expected under those circumstances. They were not making it up nor are they stupid.
4. Then tell them the rest of the Truth, the Good News, which affirms what they knew all along was right and shows them how to find the trust, security, and promise they yearn for in God.
5. Then assure them you, too, will be making dramatic changes to your thinking and your lifestyle accordingly. Because there is only one standard—God’s standard—not either of ours and certainly no double.
6. Focus on getting the logs out of your own eyes, not the speed with which they accept Christ, return to church, experience change in their lives or agree to give you another chance. You may have to re-earn their trust, respect, etc. It will come the most quickly, if it comes at all, when you focus on Jesus as if He’s all you’ve got left anyway. We do not face Judgment Day as earthly families, only as individuals hoping to be invited into God’s house. Soon enough, you will be on your own and so will they.

If you are ready to admit your portion of all this and acknowledge what your children have been through, but aren’t sure how to go about telling them so, I have written a statement you may use collectively to announce the familial reconciliation aloud. (See: Apologies to Our Children).

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