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    Ideas Have Consequences: Redefining Marriage

    July 1, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    Last night, I ran across an interesting post concerning our state Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage. What I found even more interesting was the discussion that ensued in the comments. A common theme I saw in the comments was one I have encountered everywhere I go these past couple weeks. There is much debate over what the effect of this new change will be. Many folks say that they can’t imagine a gay marriage having any impact on their own marriage whatsoever.

    So today, I invite my readers to use their imaginations.

    Ideas have consequences. They do. Saying that we cannot imagine what the consequences will be doesn’t change the fact that each and every idea has a consequence, and usually a multitude of consequences. The fact that we are unable to predict how the future will be different because of the sins or virtues of today is simply an admission of our own limitations rather than any limitation on the ramifications of an idea.

    It is my belief that limiting the discussion to the question of “How will legalized gay marriage change my marriage personally?” is actually quite myopic. Ideas, and especially ideas made into law, have consequences for the young, middle-aged, and old. They have consequences for singles, for widows, for married couples, for divorcees. They change the culture in one generation. To limit the discussion to how a wedding ceremony might change, or how even marriage might change, is to overlook that the family unit, which is a core building block of society, has been changed beyond recognition, and the ramifications of that will reach into the far corners of life as we know it.

    So today, I invite you, as I said before, to use your powers of imagination and also observation. If you live in California, things are already changing. If you live in another state, be prepared because California tends to export itself to the uttermost parts of the earth. Use Scripture. Use logic. I’ll give you extra points for using both. Make one observation, or make many. My goal here is thoughtful conversation.

    Here are my current thoughts and reflections on the issue:

    1. Think of the children. It is hard for me to imagine how this will change my own marriage personally. I was married way back in 2001 when marriage meant something different than it means today. However, the existence of marriage and weddings as they were then formed my expectations as a child. For instance, I was a female, therefore I imagined the other party in the wedding being a male. I imagined myself wearing a white gown and veil. I imagined my groom in a tux. I imgained bridesmaids standing up for me, and groomsmen standing up for him. All of this dreaming was a direct result of my culture. Now imagine what doors have opened for my children, especially for the one I carry in my womb, who will live his entire life {perhaps, unless we overrule our Court} in a state where the culture of marrying and giving in marriage is entirely different. We intend to teach our children well, but culture is a powerful adversary. Children now will choose not only their wedding colors but whether they will have a bride or a groom opposite them, and whether they will dress as a man or a woman. {If you think this sounds crazy, I must explain that on the first day of the ceremonies, my husband saw a “groom” wearing a bridal veil. Our local paper displayed “brides” dressed in matching tuxedos, the traditional attire of the groom. Every tradition seemed to be mocked that day.}
    2. Think of what public life will be like. On the day of the Court decision, our family made our weekly grocery trip. I found myself steering my son to the right and to the left to avoid a particular 20-something homosexual couple that couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other, and when they weren’t touching, they were behaving in such a way as to draw as much attention to themselves as possible. I have seen numerous same-sex couples at the grocery store over the years, and never have I felt the need to change our usual route. The difference, I believe, was the Court “victory.” These young men were emboldended by the Court, and were determined to display their victory celebration. As gay “marriage” becomes more and more mainstream, more of these couples will be holding hands and kissing in public. And what will people say? That husbands may not kiss in public under any circumstances? No. Now that homosexuals have appropriated the language and the cultural forms, they will act the part. And now we will have to explain to our children and younger and younger ages what in the world it is that they are seeing.
    3. Think of government. I am not a legal expert, but I did vote in favor of the law that the Court overturned. The Court is in the habit of overturning the will of the people. At what point do we say that we no longer have a democratic republic? Rather than discussing the law, let us discuss how the law came about in the first place and whether or not this will change how all laws are made. What else is next. Where else will the Court tell us that we are wrong, that our traditions are illegal, and that we must be silent and accept their decisions?

    I could go on, but I really do have other tasks before me today. I hope that you all choose to participate. Many perspectives is one of the things I value about blogging. So please, without being combative, share what you imagine, or what your eyes have already beheld.

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    6 Comments

  • Reply annie July 3, 2008 at 3:08 am

    Thank you for answering my comment. I’m sorry about your child! I hope that passes quickly!

    I understand where you are coming from, but I do disagree with your conclusion regarding stealing (though I understand you were trying to make your point, which is hard without using the topic itself). All humans have empathy, some more than others. I myself am an atheist, and so derive my morals from empathy. Would I want to be stolen from? No, so I will not steal. Would I want someone to hurt me? No, so I will not hurt others.

    Similarly, would I want someone to tell me I couldn’t be with the person I loved? No, I wouldn’t. So I won’t do that either.

    Obviously, we can’t say yet whether children will wonder whether they’ll marry a man or woman, but I will say that I’ve had many gay friends who “just knew” even when they were young that they were different. Most of them never imagined a wedding at all, and perhaps now they can.

    On a different subject, I do agree that culture creeps in and does influence children. I don’t believe homosexuality works that way, but other things (behaviors) do. I don’t like the rampant comsumerism/materialism, etc in this country. My husband and I don’t have tv, and won’t have it for our children either. The list of things I don’t care for goes on and on.

    In any case, I’ve rambled on, but I do agree with you on some fronts!

  • Reply Si July 2, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    I have a social consequence to share: I read recently on a pastor’s blog that in the Scandanavian countries, where homosexual unions have been enshrined for several years now, man-woman marriage is largely ignored. Four out of every five couples co-habitate instead of marry. The pastor noted that even traditional couples often hide their wedding rings in public out of shame (perhaps fear of being viewed as “out-fashioned” and out of touch with their “progressive” land).

    Exposure desensitizes people. Even one exposure begins to alter the mind to accept the behavior in question. Ellen Degeneres had a show in the 90s that featured a lesbian character. It bombed. But in a few short years, nearly every show has homosexual folks. Americans’ tolerance grew as homosexuality was positively portrayed in the media. Any parent who doubts this to be true should ask themselves why they don’t allow their children to view porn in magazines and online.

    Unfiltered, non-biblically minded exposure to sin destroys the Christian character of our souls … without us even realizing it. Culture shapes people’s perceptions of what is right. Like the law, culture is a moral teacher.

  • Reply Brandy July 2, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Annie,
    Welcome, and thank you for your comment! I am sorry it’s taken me so long to reply…my toddler chose today to come down with the stomach flu. Poor baby.

    Anyhow, I think I should admit up front that it is very hard for people like you and I to discuss this issue because we approach it from certain assumptions. I understand your conclusions, and why this new definition of “marriage” does not concern you, because I understand your presuppositions. Namely, that homosexuality is natural, at least for some people.

    It is not natural, and this was once understood, as sodomy was called a “crime against nature.” When I say it is a crime, this isn’t mere condemnation of the person practicing it, but also a concern for them, body and soul. A crime against nature is a serious crime, and there are serious ramifications for that person as an individual.

    I understand why my contention that having a bride or a groom would now be a wedding choice for young children dreaming of their weddings. You and I both never dreamed of anything other than a groom. But I would contend that many of our perceptions when it comes to daydreaming about weddings when we are young are based on culture and/or religion. When you and I were young and dreaming these things, marriage as a definition was something entered into as a man and a woman. If a woman didn’t want to marry a man (for whatever reason, moral or immoral), she simply didn’t plan a wedding.

    I think I’m wandering a bit with my point, so let me see if I can pull it back.

    As my husband says, people make culture, but culture also makes people. Culturally, one of our highest values is choice. I don’t mean in regard to abortion, I mean in general. It is our cultural religion (not my personal religion, but I think I generally understand the nature of the times we are in), to make as many choices as possible and therefore define ourselves and find meaning through the choices we make. Adding in the choice of bride or groom to the wedding mix will, I predict, encourage the bride/groom decision as a wedding option. I think it will encourage confusion about gender identity. I think that what I see so far is a lot of confused people around here, and I think small children are easily influenced by what they see. Actually, I know they are, as I am an avid collector of small children.

    I suppose I could explain it this way. If you will, for a moment, assume with me that homosexuality is a sin. I know that you don’t believe this, but I just hope to help you follow my reasoning. Now, I assume that you and I both agree that stealing is also a sin (i.e., a moral wrong). Now in our culture, stealing has been defined as a legal wrong for many generations, and that provides some support for our cultural perception of stealing as also being morally wrong. Now, let’s say that stealing increases in popularity for some reason. So, the people of my state pass a law affirming the belief that stealing is wrong–affirming the tradition of our ancestors. Now envision the Supreme Court telling the people that our traditions are actually illegal and that stealing is now permissable.

    I don’t think that such a change in law would make me a thief. But, as my family bumps up against culture, my children will receive two differing messages: one is that stealing is wrong and one is that stealing is right. And whether or not to steal will be more of a choice for my children than it ever was for me. They will entertain the idea of stealing simply because their culture does.

    Law is intimately tied to how a culture defines morality. I understand that you do not view homosexuality as a moral issue, but I am also sure that you see that if it is a moral issue then the overturning of the morally upright tradition is inherently a weakening of the moral fabric.

    Marriage is, naturally, a much more serious issue as it is tied to the propagation of the species, the rearing of our young, and the actual building and preserving of the culture in a way that stealing never will be. However, I thought by oversimplify a bit it would explain my thinking.

  • Reply annie July 2, 2008 at 12:16 am

    I’m confused by your contention that children wouldn’t know whether to picture a bride or groom. When I was a little girl, I never doubted I’d marry a man. I personally don’t think being gay is wrong, so presumably I could choose to be gay, right? Why didn’t I?

    I think the answer is closer to the fact that we can’t choose what gender we’re attracted to. Gay people can’t choose to be gay more than I chose to be straight. I was just born this way.

  • Reply Brandy July 1, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Flacius,
    Welcome to Afterthoughts. 🙂

    Indeed, California has many problems, and actions are reflections of the heart. Unchaste behavior is certainly a problem. In fact, if we sat down and tried to trace the origins of gay marriage, we would likely find it directly tied to earlier forms of rebellion.

    I’m not sure if California sees more of this or not. I don’t have much to compare it to. The behavior I saw was shocking to me because it was unusual. We shop in the same store on the same day of the week every week and had never seen such a thing previously. So whether or not the behavior was unusual for our State, it was certainly out of the ordinary for our local community.

  • Reply flacius1551 July 1, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Presumably, you wouldn’t approve of a heterosexual couple “that couldn’t seem to keep their hands off each other, and when they weren’t touching, they were behaving in such a way as to draw as much attention to themselves as possible”, either–so isn’t the problem unchaste behavior as much as it is gay marriage? And don’t you see a lot of that in California anyway?

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