On February 14th we will celebrate Valentines, a day known traditionally as a time to express love for significant others. The day is marked by school children passing out Valentine cards with their favorite Disney princess or super hero sharing a cheesy expression of admiration.
Older individuals will celebrate the day with flowers, candies, cards (most likely without princesses and super heroes) and other gifts of admiration and love. This year Valentine’s Day is also marked as the day that the widely debated motion picture “Fifty Shade of Grey” will be released. Fifty Shades of Grey (based on a popular book by E.L. James) has been rated R for “Strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language”. In short the story is labeled as an “erotic romance” a.k.a. obscene and pornographic. Ironically these events are both taking place during national marriage week.
Currently we are engaged in a nationwide debate on the definition of marriage. Surrounding the debate are many pressing and difficult questions.
What is the purpose of marriage?
What makes a marriage different from other relationships?
Why does marriage matter?
What constitutes a marriage?
Is marriage necessary in society?
In his article, The Evolution of Marriage, Ryan T. Anderson addresses some of these questions. He states:
“At its most basic level, marriage is about attaching a man and a woman to each other as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their sexual union produces……Marriage, rightly understood, brings together the two halves of humanity (male and female) in a monogamous relationship. Husband and wife pledge to each other to be faithful by vows of permanence and exclusivity. Marriage provides children with a relationship with the man and the woman who made them.”
Anderson’s belief of permanence and exclusivity are seen by many as outdated. I recently read an article by Andrew Koppelman, a law professor, expressing his views on what marriage is. In short he stated “marriage is merely a social and legal construction—the pure product of conventions.” Koppelmans definition of marriage allows the masses to turn marriage into any kind of union.
Koppelman takes his interpretation of marriage a step further and declares “that there are no principled reasons for would-be spouses to pledge or observe permanence, sexual exclusivity, or monogamy.” These beliefs, which create not a union but merely an easy and convenient way to walk away from morality, are based on selfish desires and have fueled the currently popular self-centered view on life.
Koppelman denies the existence of principles. The lack of principles in marriage allows us to entertain the idea that marriage is not about your spouse it’s about you. You are not obligated in any way to your spouse, thus you are free to do as you please. This is convenient, easy, and wrong.
Yet our society now embraces the self-centered life style where relationships are take, take, take. We have even idolized such relationships. 50 Shades of Grey made the top selling list in both the United States and the United Kingdom and has sold over 100 million copies. And that is a very extreme, dark, disturbing, and disgusting example of a self-centered relationship.
In the debate on marriage it is imperative that we recognize marriage as a union between a man and woman who have dedicated themselves solely and exclusively to one another. This means that both spouses have the same goal, to make their spouse happy. Unfortunately returning to this view on marriage will be difficult. Being self-less and exercising self-control are not things that come naturally. They require work, effort, sacrifice, and dedication. Everything that a marriage needs if it is going to last.
Ryan Anderson posed the question “Will we honor the most noble aspect of human nature — one that doesn’t come “naturally” but requires work and rules to make us flourish?” I believe that that will decide the future of marriage. Unfortunately this Valentines many Americans will choose to embrace the ideals of self-centered relationships portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey. The easiness and instant gratification associated with such relationships appeals to the natural lazy and selfish human. As Ryan Anderson pointed out, marriages create permanency for both husband and wife and any children that come as a result of that union. Families cannot co-exist with self-centeredness.