It is easy to define marriage in the narrowly focused prism of Right Wing talk radio and television as some sort of Hallmark card defense of that supposed monolithic religious sacrament. The problem with any argument on the Right is that you must either be ignorant of history and the meaning of words, a zealot, or complacently buy their acutely framed definitions.
They will constantly press the definition of marriage as religious, as long as no one asks what religion is exactly, or tries to define the tenants of that religion, its associated culture, gender politics, and interpersonal and social power dynamics. As long as one assumes that “religion” refers to a “Father Knows Best” episode, circa 1955, then everything is fine. Locked into that Hollywood crafted ideal then religion, marriage and sex have been static and unchanged from the dawn of Humanity until say women burned their bras and Coloreds took a seat at formerly whites-only lunch counters. After that, all hell broke loose, with every one thinking that they could just be free, and free to marry whom they chose. Who do they think they are, Americans?
But the history of religion is hardly about which one is best. We’ve seen that the pushiest and most violent often claim that mantle. Rather, the history of religion is really about questioning, about the assertions of the human heart and the ascension of human rights. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence invoke the religious beliefs of the day to assert Secular Humanism. A contradiction, but then so are people. Right?
The word marriage gets even stickier. The Right projects the “One man, one woman, in love and dreamy-eyed” idea as if it was a universal fact, hoping that most will take the path of least resistance in not asking those fundamental questions. The first of those questions is, which kind of marriage they are talking about precisely?
The Father Knows Best marriage creation is hardly the rule and more the exception. Much of the world, indeed the majority of the world throughout history has placed far less emphasis(or any at all) on love as a reason for marriage as on practicality, and often basic survival. Women through history have been considered property, and it was once the practice in Hinduism for a widow to imolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.. In Buddhism, marriage is a secular affair, not a religious one. In parts of the world women are still murdered over dowries.
There are Fixed-term marriages in some Muslim cultures, such as the practice of Nika Mut’ah. The Baha’i faith views it as a mutually strengthening bond, not an obligation. Gandharva Vivaha in Hinduism is an instant marriage by mutual consent without need for a single witness or ceremony. Or is the Right referring to tribal marriages, arranged marriages, family obligations, the practice of Wife stealing in Central Asia or common law marriage? Which one of these fits their narrow political pretense?
Perhaps they would also assert that it is a covenant with God for the procreation of children. And yet all holy books ascribe more time and importance to property rights than children. And if that is the standard, then does that de-legitimize couples who cannot have children for health or physical or economic reasons? What about people who find love late in life? If 2 atheists marry, is it valid? Do we also have to dissolve all inter-faith marriages? Greek, Roman, Persian and Egyptian pagans married. Can we now re-write history to say those unions were not valid?
Gay Marriage is said on the Right to degrade all marriage. I’ve been married to the same woman for 17 years, and the idea of 2 men or 2 women marrying has not affected my commitment and view of that bond at all. If anything it has blossomed the belief in me that loneliness is the greatest sadness in the world, and that expanding marriage to eliminate that blight is the proper moral and human thing to do. marriage, ultimately is supposed to be about commitment and responsibility, both Right Wing talking points. They eschew promiscuity and irresponsibility, but then many of them can’t control either in themselves, which might be the reason they want to restrict the rest of us…just a thought.