The Greatest Threat to Marriage – It’s Not What You Think It Is

It’s hard to claim that allowing a tiny percentage of gay men and women to marry will destroy an institution that already has little to do with what conservatives say they are trying to preserve.

The Changing Face of Marriage infographic

Nearly half of births are to unwed mothers. Many more children grow up in households wrecked by divorce. Marriage is not in a meaningful sense a legally binding contract.

One of the reasons it’s plausible for so many people to think Christians oppose same-sex marriage because they are bigots is because on the whole Christians have shown themselves to be much more fired up about homosexuality than about problems like divorce, adultery, and what was once known as illegitimacy (problems with which Christians themselves are quite complicit). To be sure, many Christians opposed the liberalization of laws pertaining to divorce and adultery. But many others proved highly susceptible to the feminist claim that such radical  liberalization was essential to the liberation of women, unable to distinguish between reforms that were necessary and those that went too far.

If social conservatives – most of whom are Christians – have any hope of recovering the institution of marriage as a meaningful factor in the procreation and raising of children in this country, they are going to have to get back to the basics. Set aside same-sex marriage for the moment. What should traditional marriage look like? The relevant audience that needs to do some hard thinking here is not simply the audience committed to gay marriage, but the audience committed to the rights of men, women, and children to have sex, get married, have sex with people married to other people, and get divorced at will.

How do we recover the binding legal character of marriage so that it will benefit children, men, and women without allowing that institution to be used for the exploitation of women as it so often was in the past? What might laws regarding adultery and divorce look like – laws with teeth – that protected and empowered women as much as they promoted the interests of men? Perhaps most important of all, how do we persuade a skeptical audience – in practice made up especially of those both at the top and the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum – not only that marriage matters, but that it is good? That, not the narrow issue of same-sex marriage, may be the vital social question of our time.


About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on April 8, 2013, in Homosexuality, Marriage, sexual revolution, women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Greatest Threat to Marriage – It’s Not What You Think It Is.

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