What Maketh A MARRIAGE
At present, I am currently undergoing confirmation to the Roman Catholic Church (having detailed my path from militant atheist to God’s embrace previously). One part of this is weekly classes covering various aspects of the faith and how it relates to life. The most recent topic of discussion was the Sacrament of Marriage and in particular what a Catholic marriage entails. The description in brief was of a relationship of three; one man and one woman united together in devotion to the Lord. While this might sound a little weird on first brush, when you delve into the meaning of this it gets much clearer. One point the pastor at my church often makes is that to be Catholic is to live your faith every day; it’s not something you simply stop doing when you step outside the parish at the end of service on Sunday. Living your faith means taking the meaning of it and injecting it into everything you do. This includes your relationships with other people and therefore naturally the most important human relationship in your life, the one with your spouse.
In more real terms, the point was emphasized that any health relationship needs to be about more than two individuals and instead encompass some transcendent value otherwise it really is about nothing more than selfish self-gratification. The more I pondered this statement the more it made sense. I’ve never been married, but when I look to my relationships in life in general the strongest ones have always involved something greater than me and the other person. A few years ago when I was at university I had numerous friends. Since graduating I have actually keep in close touch with remarkably few of them, and of some of those that I have would have been rather surprising to my much younger self had he been told so when he first set foot on campus so long ago. One consistent trend I have observed in all those relationships I’ve maintained is that in each instance I’ve held something in common with people; a similar outlook on life or a shared passion or some activity or even just an appreciation for good conversation over good wine and food. For the many friends who I fell out of contact with, despite no decisive incident of a falling out, it simply was because the transcendent value I held in common with them was attending the same university, and when that ended so did a good bit of what drove the friendship.
Why should a marriage be any different? When we look at it that way is it any surprise that we are in the woeful position we are today. Marriage and the traditional family are decidedly out of favour, and divorce rates are at an all-time high. This might just have something to do with the fact that marriage today has basically become, in the eyes of much of society, simply another set of living arrangements. One person has a roommate, another person has a wife, really what is the difference? Marriage’s transcendent value, that of coming together in a sacramental union to form a family and have children, has largely been erased from the popular consciousness and society has paid the price of this as the chickens of the Sexual Revolution have come home to roost.
Now in case I’m starting to sound too much like a bible-thumper, I would like to clarify that I am not arguing the only good marriage is one between two believing Christians who see it as an act of worship of the Lord. I’ve met plenty of couple over the course of my life who are not particularly religious but have had quite successful marriages. As I have often stated before, I believe one can certainly be moral without believing in God; it is the ability to believe in nothing and still possess a sense of morality that I have doubts over. When a marriage, as is often the case today, is based on nothing but mutual self-gratification and is stripped of any real value beyond that, whether it is family or mutual devotion to one another, it is one that is built on tremendously shaky ground.
Should it be any wonder that so many marriages fail in this sad modern world we live in? When a union between two people is based on nothing more than the selfish satisfaction of the immediate impulse for gratification it should serve as no surprise to anyone that once they initial glow of heady romance ends so too will the relationship itself? After all, what comes at the other end of the altar isn’t all just champagne and roses, but that’s what we have been conditioned to expect by the modern day cult of happiness (happiness being defined in its most superficial sense). To be “happy” in this day and age is the ultimate good and if you’re not for some reason the solution is not self-reflection or the tempering of expectations or any other old fashioned reaction such as that but rather to prioritize yourself and go looking for something new to make you “happy” again like an addict ever seeking his next fix. Personally I think we have far too much “happiness” these days and people should instead try to discover the true joys of contentment, it would make for a refreshing change.
The cornerstone of civilization, ultimately, is neither the state or the market but the family. Therefore, one key realization that it is imperative to argue for in the modern world is the need to strengthen the family by refocusing on the transcendent value of childrearing and familial support that used to be at the center of marriage. To be husband and wife (or wife and wife or husband and husband) is about more than degenerate self-glorification and instead involves the dedication of oneself wholly to something greater; there is more to life than an endless quest for the next endorphin-inspired high.
Such a revaluation would likely be unpopular in certain quarters. Feminists would doubtlessly bristle at the suggestion that there might be priorities worth valuing other than the single minded pursuit of career (out of duty to the female trailblazer of old no less!). Quite a few men might also be a bit put out at the idea that the nonstop pleasure ride free of any duty or responsibility or strings of any kind. What is right and what is easy are rarely the same thing. However, despite the best effort of the establishment to laude the morally relative status quo we have lived with for most of the past half century surveys still show the majority of people still aspire to marriage as a life goal. Additionally, polling on the question of happiness increasingly shows people are actually quite miserable about the state of their lives (women especially so) despite near limitless attempts to impress upon us that we’ve never had it better than our libertine status quo. Ordinary people, it would seem, are well aware that all is not well in their lives. All that is lacking is to give them a sense of direction.