Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I'm about to finish God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage by Bishop Gene Robinson (Episcopal, of course).

I intend to do a post about it, because it is interesting, but first I wanted to get you guys' thoughts on what exactly marriage is. Get as detailed as you like: what is marriage? Who does what in a marriage ceremony? (Not like who stands where, but what is the role of the pastor/priest/imam/officiant, the family/friends, the individuals getting married, like that.) At what point are the couple married? Secularly? Religiously? What's the point of marriage? Stuff like that.


  1. I think its an outward gesture that shows the world your commitment to each other and solidifies your commitment to your partner. In our society, its a huge right of passage that we have been brought up to long for. It also gives you a lot of legal rights to your partner and child if needed. I don't think of marriage in the religious sense at all.

  2. I agree with LK. Except that where I live, I don't think marriage gives many important legal benefits compared to living together.

    I think in traditional, patriarchal social systems, marriage is primarily a legal contract giving a couple rights and duties with regard to each other. It's celebrated as the joining of two people into a shared life, which is hopefully going to be permanent. Love, and a real relationship, may or may not blossom over time.

    I think in my (modern) world, it's sort of the other way round. Love comes first, and is the main thing (because with equality of the sexes, we don't really need some of those traditional rights and duties). Getting married just formalises something that's already happened for the couple. Marriage represents a relationship state where two lives have become a shared one, two people have become like family to each other, and that happens organically and gradually.

    I sometimes wonder why we still get married. I think as LK says, it's a rite of passage or a milestone that people still find meaningful. It's nice to celebrate finding the one. And it's nice to symbolically 'tie the knot'. There is an element of commitment, because a shared life is never a bed of roses, and people recognise that it can be very rewarding to work through the difficulties and develop a deep bond with someone over a lifetime. The old couple in the film "Up": we all want what they have, I think. And many of us know old couples just like that, so we know it can be done!

  3. I did the traditional marriage thing - walking down the aisle in a white dress, the preacher officiating and asking, "who gives to woman to be married?", etc. Now I find it all slightly gagging especially as I was never property to be given away...nor do I think my dad thought of me that way. It was just TRADITION, dang it.

    So now I'm waiting for the post on this book because I like your posts and this sounds intriguing.

  4. Since Google Reader went away I keep forgetting to check Feedly and OH LOOK, blog posts from a month ago. :D But you haven't done the post yet so I figure I can still comment.

    I have issues with marriage. Back in undergrad I was part of a book study with an MCC (gay church denomination) minister. It was around the time when the candidates for the next election were being chosen and all of us young gay rights activists had gay marriage on the brain. One day the minister (a lesbian who was in a 20+ year relationship but obviously not married) asked why we thought that was so important. Isn't the bigger issue that the government just shouldn't be involved in legitimizing some people's relationships and granting rights based on whether they approve of who you love? Kind of blew my mind and completely changed the way I think about the whole thing.

    So now I hate the idea that there is still a legal form of marriage at all. I don't want gay marriage passed, I want the government out of the romance business altogether. There should be other ways to handle the legal bits of marriage without judgment of the relationship - you should be able to choose who can see you in a hospital, for example.

    So there are really only two purposes I see for marriage. One would be the family and friends celebration. When it comes to that, there are no set rules. It's all about what the people getting married want. Don't want an officiant? Do it all yourselves! In my case, neither of us wanted a pastor but my mom very much did. I *definitely* didn't want a religious element to my legal marriage, so we had two weddings. I got a friend from school to perform the wedding and explained my feelings on the issue. She gave a sermon because that's who she is, but performed a blessing recognizing our relationship rather than sanctifying or finalizing the marriage. Then 3 days later an atheist friend with an internet ordination did the legal bit. But during the family wedding, the minister was just there for the sake of ceremony, to make other people feel it was worth it to be there. We each wrote words about why we chose each other and what it meant to us, and that was the important part in our minds. I could have done without all the other people being there, but since we agreed to do it that way I guess I'd say their role was just to celebrate with us and for the families to meet each other and get to know us together.

    The other purpose would be religious. For most of my former classmates, marriage was a sacrament. In that case, I think it's more important for a priest/minister/whoever to be directly involved in performing the religious aspect. And I think in that case they should really be more involved than they often are and speak up if they're not comfortable with it. In my field ed there was a long and frustrating (to me) conversation about *the horror* of couples they married possibly getting divorced. In the same conversation, there was an issue of whether the professor should perform a marriage for his pregnant niece and her abusive boyfriend. Um, NO. If it's a religious sacrament that is meant to create a permanent bond and represent God's love for humanity, it should be blasphemy to perform that sacrament in a relationship that you know is abusive and unhealthy. I don't think the average couple who goes to a minister to get married understands the theology involved, and if ministers take that theology seriously they have a responsibility to educate the couple and (if applicable) explain why they don't believe certain relationships are suited for it. When you get baptized, they at least make sure you know what you're doing and what the theological implications are for "accepting Christ." Why doesn't anyone do that for marriage? That combined with the fact that ministers charge (quite a bit, really!) for the service just makes the whole thing feel very squicky to me. You don't charge for the Eucharist or baptism. Sacraments should be free.


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