Taken Captive By Culture (II)

In yesterday’s post, I condemned the devaluation of language that leads to a culturally-defined understanding of marriage. One writer suggested marriage and divorce are in evolution. I disagree.

Words (like dollars) have value; words communicate meaning. However, when this currency (our language) is devalued, communication suffers or ceases.

Hence, my strong conviction that our understanding of marriage must not be taken captive to cultural dictates (i.e. redefinition).

A word to alternative lifestyle folks:  Refer to the definition I quoted in yesterday’s post here. You have the option to enter into marriage. No disrespect or unkindness intended, but based on definition alone, same-sex unions aren’t marriage; please create a different (better suited) word to define your unions.

Beyond general devaluation of language, as I see it, the greater injury (over the last half century) to marriage (as a bedrock institution of society) has been inflicted by the increasing prevalence of divorce. I’m hesitant to view divorce (like marriage) on an evolutionary continuum, but I concede divorce has had dramatic impact on society.

By definition, divorce has always been the legal means to violate the inviolable. What makes divorce a cultural phenomenon is how commonplace it has become; terms like amicable divorce, blended family, serial monogamy and starter wives are fairly recent entries to the social lexicon. Culture adjusts conversation and mindset to reflect everyday realities.

Nevertheless, as prevalent as divorce is, I shudder to accept it as a cultural norm. Divorce is an aberration, a direct assault on the family, a repudiation of sacred oaths and contracts, an egocentric abandonment of obligation and trust. Plain and simple, divorce destroys.

The “till death” part of marriage surely has its detractors. I’ve heard the lame rhetoric:  people live longer … we shouldn’t be expected to keep a promise made in our youth … people change, etc.

Look again at the definition; if you don’t like it, be honest and don’t marry! To rephrase a law enforcement bromide — if you can’t do the time, don’t say “I do.” (I know it’s a weak analogy. Marriage isn’t a life “sentence” nor should it be perceived as a form of punishment.) But if a bride and groom were to exchange vows and then add:  “If things don’t work out, we can always get divorced,” wouldn’t you find that outrageous?

Does divorce really harm the institution of marriage? Isn’t marriage just a piece of paper?

In my view, marriage is the foundation stone (from Webster) for “… securing the maintenance and education of children.”  Whether five or thirty-five, a child who suffers his or her parents’ divorce will never be the same again.

Recall the religious leaders challenging Jesus on divorce (Matthew 19). During their conversation Jesus says, “What God has joined, let no man separate.” He tells the religious leaders it was “because of the hardness of your hearts” that Moses permitted divorce. Then Jesus adds:  “… from the beginning it has not been this way.” The Message says, “it is not part of God’s original plan.”

Indeed. Once Jesus finished this lesson, little children came to him; he blessed and prayed for them. Coincidence? Or a tacit warning against the hardness of our hearts?

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