A casual observer of today’s Western culture would be hard-pressed to miss the prevailing trends toward marriage devaluation. As increasing numbers of heterosexual couples are opting to do ‘married people things’ absent the marriage commitment (e.g., cohabitate, have and raise children, etc.), marriage itself is viewed with considerably less favor than a generation ago.
In the midst of all this comes the push for “marriage equality” in same-sex unions. Why is this community swimming against the prevailing marriage devaluation stream? They seem to appreciate what we no longer value – a legal, long term commitment to one person. Do they know something that our society has forgotten? Are they wiser than those who see marriage and the nuclear family as “obsolete institutions?” If so, this is a just indictment against our civilization. While I cannot biblically justify same-sex unions, "marriage equality" advocates are to be commended for valuing a form of this gift toward which our society has become cavalier.
At the same time, same-sex advocates seem unaware of their contribution to the devaluation of marriage in general as they promote their own. Our media is complicit as it both persuades and reflects our culture by presenting an increasingly distasteful view of “traditional marriage.” Caricatures of “traditional marriage” abound, yet when “same-sex marriage” is discussed many politicians, media pundits, network executives and creative types gush in glowing terms. This is sociological schizophrenia.
Those who approve of “marriage equality” continue to ignore the camel’s nose already in the tent. After all, like advocates of traditional marriage, they too advocate for marriage to one partner. If the God-given institution of marriage is redefined by mere men to begin with, then polygamists, polyandrists, etc., will have every right to demand their own form of “marriage equality.” Would this cheapen the same-sex community’s sense of the “sanctity” of their own marriages? Moreover, will these new forms of “marriage” be matters for the states to decide, and will states that don’t approve of these “marriages” be obligated to recognize them? Will the federal government see this as an opportunity to irreversibly seize more power in the name of “regulating” such a morass?
In the end, marriage confusion will be the order of the day, all because our society didn’t clarify or value traditional marriage in the first place. If the litigious ramifications were to lead state and federal governments to “wash their hands” of the whole issue, then separation of marriage and state will be the ultimate result and another human right will be sacrificed on the altar of “fairness.”
I am no conspiracy theorist, but if there were a conspiracy afoot that required the elimination of marriage and the nuclear family, then our society could now be the proverbial frog in an increasingly hot pot of water.
We face the dawn of a ‘cowardly new world.’ If we don’t think through the underlying issues critically, all of us who appreciate “marriage” on any level will eventually be reduced to mere mindless wards of the state.
Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. is a theological anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, TX. Follow Dr. Ellis on Twitter: @CarlEllisJr