Even if you support same-sex marriage, there’s still a lot of value in traditional Christian notions around marriage. Now, I’m not talking about specific prohibitions or particular dogmas. Rather, if we look at the principles behind Christian teachings on marriage, we’re likely to find insights that are useful. Most of us probably don’t give enough thought to things like trust and fidelity, the dignity of the human body, the need to protect the vulnerable party in unequal power relationships, and so on.
People rightly disparage the behavior of Mike Huckabee, Rob Dreher, and the scores of Catholic bishops whose discourse did little to inspire genuine dialogue or promote mutual understanding during the recent debates on marriage, but let’s not toss out the wisdom that religious communities possess. Engage them critically, but don’t dismiss them.
And then there’s the importance of history. For example, you’re likely to look at Catholic marriage teachings differently once you understand that prior to the advent of hygiene and medicine in the 19th century, very few married couples were together for 50 or 60 years because people didn’t live as long and were far more susceptible to death by disease or injury. It wasn’t so odd for someone to have two or three marriages in the course of their life. Also, couples didn’t have 15 or 20 children because of the enormously high rates of child mortality and maternal death. We forget how dangerous pregnancy and childbirth used to be. For most of the Church’s existence the practical realities of married life were radically different from life today. What was always biologically possible was almost never what people experienced. In a sense, the Church still hasn’t figured out how to come to terms with that. The intersection of the Church’s theology and the lived experience of Christians is often a complicated matter.
June 27, 2015