At a certain age, mothers and fathers explain to their children that there are boys and there are girls. Boys and girls are different. For all of world history, in every civilization, boys have grown up to marry girls, and girls have grown up to marry boys. The boy and girl, or rather husband and wife, now come together, and from their union, a baby is born. The process repeats.
It hasn’t always worked perfectly. Sometimes the couple is barren. At various times, there were multiple wives. Sometimes, there are adulterous liaisons. And tragically, sometimes there is divorce.
But the basic format of man and woman, coming together to form a family, from which children are procreated, and raised in that family, has been the building block of civilization since creation. The family is the basic social unit. It has existed before governments arose. Various civilizations and empires have arisen, conquered, and fallen again. The family remains constant.
This week the Supreme Court of the United States is hearing arguments that would try to change that basic truth. If the plaintiffs are successful, and right now it is largely assumed that they will be, then the official position of the United Sates government will be that marriage is only between two consenting adults, of either sex. But once we have redefined marriage, why stop at two? The word Throuple has already been coined to describe a legally recognized threesome. It merely awaits the legal recognition. Before long, marriage will have lost all meaning. Of course, in large part, it already has. You can not get this far into destroying a foundation without undermining it first.
Fifty years ago, getting a divorce required specific accusations of conduct which were sufficient to declare the one flesh bond between husband and wife broken. Desertion, adultery, mental cruelty, or some other specific charge was needed. Forty or so years ago, divorce was redefined to be “no fault.” Had we known then what we know now, perhaps there would have been more opposition to this deadly change. No longer was marriage a lifelong union. It was now a contract between two consenting adults. But unlike other contracts, this contract could be cancelled at any time by either party with no previous notice, and with no cause given. Marriage became a thing of convenience for adults, rather than an institution for the benefit of children and all society.
The foundation undermined, it was really only a matter of time before someone noticed that marriage as traditionally defined, excluded some adults. They want in on this thing, too. “After all, everyone should get to love someone.” But this definition of love arises out of our disposable no-fault divorce culture, not out of a traditional understanding of marriage. Traditionally, love was an action taken toward another, not a romantic feeling. Once no fault divorce lowered marriage to be just romantic feelings, when those ran out, the marriage was over. The children were abandoned by one spouse or another, and frequently a new spouse was brought in to replace them. This is far from what marriage is supposed to be. Half of all children live in houses without both of their parents. That is not only a bad idea, but our attempt to socially engineer our own family structure according to the whims of however-many consenting adults are present at any given time, will lead to the destruction of our society.
No society which has ignored and despised marriage as the union of husband and wife for the good of society and the raising of children, can long endure. In Communist societies, the state replaced the family. Those governments lasted less than 100 years.
Already in first century Rome, the emperor was urging people to marry and have children for the good of the state. They were postponing marriage to enjoy the pleasures of youth – does that sound familiar? Rome would last another few centuries. But when it fell, it would be a thousand years before the social fabric of Europe recovered. The church at that time picked up the pieces of the culture that were left.
Our society is embarking on a brave new world where family is defined not by the complementarity between men and women, but by the whims of individuals.
I pray the Supreme Court takes a step back from the brink. But if they don’t, when our society falls, the church will again be there to pick up the pieces of the shattered lives left behind. It’s what we do.