"Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah…So tweasuwe youw wove,…" – The Impressive Clergyman
Today I watched a beautiful Ukrainian Catholic Divine Liturgy in which my friend, and occasional cohort in blogging crime, Jerry Nora, entered into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. I wish him and his wife, Krystia, all the happiness in the world. May God bless them with a marriage that sanctifies them, unifies them, and provides them with many children.
Due to in part to this blessed event, I have a mildly polemical point to make.
I think it's high time Christians take responsibility for how they have directly or indirectly damaged the institution of marriage. I think the high rates of the practice or tacit approval of divorce, premarital sex, abortion, and homosexuality have the same root cause.
Marriage is being redefined. Holy Matrimony was once a permanent, exclusive, and sacramental union of one man and one woman for the sanctification of two people in one flesh and for begetting, raising, and catechising children.
The first blow against the institution was struck by rejecting marriage as a sacrament. Sacraments are conduits for sanctifying grace which, if confected properly, cannot be revoked, removed, or repeated on the same elements. The Reformation demoted marriage to merely an outward sign of an inward covenant. This opened Pandora's box, so to speak.
The second attack was the acceptance of no-fault divorce by Christians. Christ said, "every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." (Matthew 5:32, 19:9). Why has this Scripture lost power in the Church? Divorce among Christians, though considered undesirable, is often not treated as sin. Furthermore, remarriage is not discouraged. The result? A lifetime commitment is treated like a leased car.
Marriage was damaged a third time by attack was the acceptance of artificial contraception. No longer was child-rearing a necessary component of marriage. The focus shifted to the couple in exclusivity. With permanence and fruitfulness negated, marriage became an institution many people entered into because they were in love and for no other reason. Furthermore, a wedge was driven between spousehood and parenthood. One need not enter one to experience the other. Sex, once intimately linked with the command to "go forth and multiply", could be enjoyed without procreation. When pregnancy is treated like an undesirable side effect, rather than a natural and appropriate outcome, abortion is soon to follow. Sure enough, within a generation, abortion began to be accepted by Christian laity and clergy alike.
Today many nominal Christians enjoy pre/extra-marital sexual relationships without fear of consequences. Marriage has become an optional state-sponsored institution that only the most old-fashioned or anti-progressive insist upon. There isn't any real Scriptural support for this practice, but too few people declare it to be sinful and condemn it, so it continues unabated. Many Christians, who are to be the salt of the earth and a light to the nations, have actively participated in or impotently witnessed the deconstruction of marriage to merely a weak binding of a man and a woman who claim they are in love and ready to spend their lives together. They may or may not have children and raise them to love God. They may or may not stay together. If the marriage "just doesn't work out", they'll end it and the Church will accept them without chastising them. If you don't condemn wrong behavior, you might as well be condoning it. You're not part of the solution, so you're part of the problem.
Conservative Christians are scared about the prospect of homosexual marriage. They are quick to blame secular culture for the downfall of society. However, I think the bulk of the blame lies with the Church. The Church has idly watched marriage be redefined, abused, degraded, and discarded. If Christians want to stop the current threat of homosexual perversion of marriage and the future possibility of state-sanctioned polygamy, they need to return to the full sacramental and procreative view of matrimony. To demand any less is to sin against God's created order.