Marriage and the language of submission
You’ve got to admire the blinkered way that some people go about their lives. And the smug satisfaction from knowing that all they need to live their life is in the bible.
So it is with Archbishop Peter Jensen, as exemplified by this opinion piece on marriage.
On one hand, he predictably believes marriage is the only way to go, but does acknowledge people are opting out because:
for many marriage has become an arena of suffering, exploitation and disappointment.
But instead of exploring the reasons for this fairly meaningful observation, he turns to the bible for instructions on how to fix marriage.
(At this point, we once again see that good ol’ ploy of the religious: if it’s all good, then god did it, if things are bad, then someone else is to blame, so let’s go back to the bible.)
So let’s get this straight – that god-given institution of marriage is broken, so let’s go back to god for more instructions, right? Yep, that’s exactly what he’s saying.
He goes on to tell us that ‘public promises make a marriage‘. To me, this is rather pathetic. It seems that the religious really do need watching don’t they? First they need the threat of hell to ensure they behave in general. And now we find that they also need public scrutiny to live up to any promises they make when they marry. That’s pretty weak. Do they have no intrinsic goodness or intention to do good? Is it all simply a facade based on the expectations of other humans?
What follows is a couple of dogma-paras on submission and obligation and a man loving his wife the way Christ loved the church (say what?). Really, does he really think this is persuasive in any shape or form? No, rather than trying to persuade non-believers with some sort of rational analysis rather than dogma, he instead goes the boot:
Secular views of marriage are driven by a destructive individualism and libertarianism. This philosophy is inconsistent with the reality of long-term relationships such as marriage and family life.
Tell that to all the wives in women’s refuges, who no doubt have been loved like a church (again, what?) at some point, but have since suffered much worse than a crucifixion. And Peter, what is your evidence for this deep observation? And as if to underline his bible-driven paternalistic view of the world, he adds:
When a husband promises to love his wife as Christ loved the church and give himself up for her, he is declaring his intention to be a man of strength and self-control for her benefit and for the benefit of any children born to them. Such qualities, properly exercised in the spirit of self-sacrifice, enhance the feminine and personal qualities of his wife.
And the kicker,
Her submission rises out of his submission to Christ.
It’s all about the submission, isn’t it? What a depressing way to live a life. He follows up with a huge non-sequitur, calling for a ‘serious and respectful debate about marriage‘, but then informing us that the bible contains ‘great wisdom on this fundamental relationship‘. It’s a non-sequitur because any reference to the bible doesn’t encourage debate – it trumps debate. You’ve heard it before: Person A says “In my opinion, it’s reasonable that X & Y happen”, followed by the usual debating tactics by Archbishop B of: “Ah yes, that may well be, but the bible says….”. End of debate.
His closing sentence is actually the best bit of the article, and I also happen to agree with it:
It’s time to rethink marriage from first principles. It really matters.
Yes, let’s do that. Let’s think about why we marry, and why we allow some forms of marriage and not others and for what fundamental principles. It certainly matters to those who are currently not allowed to be married.
The bottom line is that if the institution really is broken, then rather than point the finger at ‘individualism’, or ‘libertarianism’ or any other perfectly reasonable way to live your life, let’s take a long hard look at the religious underpinnings based on submission and obedience – I’m tipping that’s where the problem lies.