Marriage and the language of submission

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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.


5 thoughts on “Marriage and the language of submission

    @blamer said:
    August 30, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    What an amazing example of a holyman teaching hurtful fictions as if they’re the facts of the matter.

    Jensen: “The rush to embrace libertarian and individualistic philosophy…”

    Oh that’s the root-cause is it? He’s looked into it. Please show your working out Jensen. You need to check it isn’t just too much salt in our diets, the increasing influence of Satan, or an unusually hefty head-cold affecting the Creator and/or his successor.

    Jensen “…means that we miss some of the key relational elements of being human, elements which make for our wellbeing and happiness.”

    Now that isn’t what psychology is telling us about marriage, is it Jensen? Not instead perhaps that Jensen and the public’s pop-psych beliefs about “what makes people happy” are profoundly mistaken?? The stuff of no-nothing self-help books that think they’ve finally seen behind the curtain.

    Jensen: “Individualism leaves us with little reason to join our life to that of someone else.”

    He thinks that ism is tricking people away from coupling. On what planet. His problem isn’t caused by what he says and most certainly won’t be solved by what he says.

    Jensen: “I would say that we need to go back to biblical principles and understand, improve and support marriage rather than abandon it”

    Well as an anglican archbishop you would wouldn’t you Jensen. What if –just what if– understanding, improving and supporting this thing (as per every other 21st century thing that humans do) has zero to do with those “biblical principles” that say nothing about legalising same-sex marraige.

    And now this is REALLY maddening, just extreme naivety or willful dishonesty:

    Jensen: “It is a pity that the present discussion has been so overtly political.”

    Political? Religio-political?? Jensen here is re-framing this known-to-be divisive issue, a legal issue that’s before democratic governments –a proposed change to the Act, to legislation– as if marriage law is a topic that has something or other to do with him, with clergy, their favourite work of fiction, and its characters that talk in riddles.

    Sickening Jensen, just sickening. If you don’t want to be insert yourself into a polarizing politico-religious debate, then please by all means –you and and all your christian leader buddies– STFU !

    Dan Rea said:
    September 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I go with everything you just said @blamer. One thing though; you said “…those “biblical principles” that say nothing about legalising same-sex marraige”.

    I should probably point you towards Leviticus 20:10-13… the last bit is a little indication of their sentiments towards poor homos:;KJV

    davedeane said:
    October 9, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Interesting read, although I can’t help but sense that your brought to the program your own set of presuppositions?
    I guess first of all, while a Christian, I’m not a ‘Sydney Anglican’ (i dont’ even live in Sydney!) but from my point of view, I saw things radically different to you on that night. I’ve attempted to provide further consideration of the biblical position on submission on my blog…But what we have here is obviously a clash of world views. Unless or untill we are ready to lay down our spears and see the situation for what it is, we will never be able to have a discussion here. I can say with a clear conscious that i tried, but i really struggled to see past the striking Biblical ignorance and imputence of Deveny

    You can find my post below. I trust it won’t offend.

    In anycase, thanks for providing your thoughts on the evening.

    PS – To Dan Rea, If you want to quote an OT reference, such as Leviticus, you had better put it in the context of the Ancient Near East ethic, more than 3000 years ago.

      rationalbrain said:
      October 9, 2012 at 9:22 pm

      thanks for you thoughtful and polite response – quite refreshing these days.
      Yes, definitely a clash of world views. Sorry haven’t read your blog yet – a bit busy on other issues at the moment, but I will get around to it.
      Just wanted to reinforce that your sense is right. I did bring along my obvious pre-supposition – that religion is fantasy.
      Sorry, don’t mean to offend, but there’s no way to sugar coat it – there are not two sides to the argument. I simply believe in reality, and seek to explain the natural world with natural explanations, not arm waving. When natural explanations are not available, I choose to adopt theories which best fit the observations, rather than resort to the short cut of religion.
      Apart from the obvious and undeserved privilege that religion enjoys in society, both financial and social (not to mention the significant extra time that Jensen was given), there is the paternalism for which it is famous, and the abrogation of personal responsibility, which were two of the themes of the discussion. This was barely disguised by Jensen.
      I do agree with you though that Deveny is not a good spokesperson for atheism. She tends to recycle simplistic arguments and try to bully other people. Shouting tends not to convince others of one’s beliefs, right?
      Anyhow, and I will get to your blog, but in the meantime happy to have some short exchanges if you like.

    Vlad said:
    December 12, 2012 at 12:35 am

    The problem with most religions is that they have a date of inception that generally comes much AFTER the first recorded occurrences of most concepts.
    As such, Marriage as a form of social contract has been encountered across just about the entire planet in many forms, because let’s face it, we like to declare possession over people just as much as we like to do so over things.
    In the grand scheme of history, Christianity is so young, that having orders coming from God declaring (or being interpreted) that thing should be in a certain way is so grating as to be unbearable, especially in the context in which any person interested in ancient history must acknowledge that while each cult has its own flavor, most of them have general defining traits, such as telling people how they should act, think, feel and what kind of punishment awaits them when they fail to do so.
    I’d love to see that Archbishop go to an Islamic nation and try to convert people there. Maybe then he’d understand how most non-religious people feel when he have this kind of crap shoved down our throats.

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