Posted by: smstrouse | February 26, 2011

Marriage: Grappling and Evolving

All this fussing about marriage!  Who can be; who can’t be; rules for entering into a marriage; rules for getting out of one. Why all this fuss?  Well, to paraphrase what I used to say when officiating at a wedding: “Marriage was instituted by God.”

Really? When did God establish an institution? It reminds me of the joke that says that Jesus came to bring in the reign of God, but all we got was the church. So I have to ask: does God establish institutions? Or do we, in accepting the good gifts God has created in us (love, sexuality, community, family, etc.), then create institutions by which to codify and regulate ourselves? Which is not necessarily a bad thing – but let’s call it what it is.

This whole flap about marriage being instituted by God comes from Genesis 2: “God declared, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So God fashioned woman and brought her to man.”  And “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That’s it. That’s the rationale for the ‘institution’ of  marriage. It’s a lovely story, probably written during the 1st millennium BCE, part of the Hebrew story of creation.

We human beings are meaning-makers; we love/need to make sense of who we are and how we got here. All cultures have creation stories. They are not historical fact. So let me go out on the heresy limb here and say: God did not ‘institute’ marriage and certainly did not ‘institute’ all the rule and regulations we’ve put up around it.

Which brings me to the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA). This week the Obama administration announced that it will no longer oppose court challenges to the DoMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of taxes, social security and other programs, because ‘the law’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.’

White House press secretary, Jay Carney, says that while President Obama has long opposed the law, he’s still ‘grappling’ with his views on same-sex marriage. The president himself has said that his position on gay marriage is ‘constantly evolving.’

Hooray for President Obama!  Hooray for abandoning challenges to DoMA! Hooray also for grappling and evolving! I say we all need to do some grappling and evolving when it comes to marriage – and not just the same-sex kind. My personal position is that I support the right of all people to be married – or not. I believe that every couple should have the support of friends, family, community, and yes, even the church.

There is a lot of discussion going on about whether the government should get out of the marriage business altogether, that marriage is a spiritual bond. Others want to take it out of the church because of the discriminatory views of some religions. I think that it’s time we take a real hard look at the foundational premises of this ‘institution’ and do some serious grappling with what we have created. And maybe, in the process, we will evolve into some new understandings about ourselves and our life together.



  1. so are you for gay marriage or not?


    • As I wrote: “My personal position is that I support the right of all people to be married – or not. I believe that every couple should have the support of friends, family, community, and yes, even the church.”


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