We all hate when our pants don’t fit. My wife put my favorite jeans in the dryer and now I have to lose a couple of pounds to get them back on. Thankfully, these aren’t jeans I’ve had forever. I’m not trying to put on any pants I wore in high school, trying to prove something to myself that I’ve still got it. And yet, our pants, just like our paradigms, are treated with the same devotion.
You may have heard about the married Mormon humorist that came out on his blog as gay and happily married (and sexually fulfilled in the marriage). If not, read for yourself. I read about him in a post by Dianna E. Anderson, whose great response was “I truly don’t know what to do with this.”
Anderson’s response was to deal with the tangled elements of the issue and what she personally makes of it. It highlights all of the symantics of our dominant paradigm. How the labels and the understanding don’t quite piece together how we’d like them to. As we try to put together the puzzle called “marriage” and the one called “sexuality” we are left with pieces that don’t fit and don’t work the way we talk about either or both subjects.
There was incredible evidence of this during the Prop 8 hearings in California in which all of the arguments for the defense (anti-gay) were treated as incredible by the judge. There was a “if you can’t demonstrate how this hurts your marriage, you expect me to only use humanism in this way but not that, and you expect me to believe this has anything to do with your religion, what are we doing here?” vibe to it. The entire spectacle of Prop 8 has completely trivialized the existing dominant paradigm: that marriage totally rocks, but only for gainfully employed, Christian heteros.
But what we’re left with at the moment is a hazy feeling of what marriage is really supposed to be about. The way Josh Weed talks about marriage, and I mostly agree with him, is to describe something of true value that requires sacrifice. And too much of that talk has been used to abuse the LGBT community and treat its members as crazy outliers in need of reform. The problem is that we have been breaking apart a nihilistic and cancerous paradigm, but have lacked the ability to articulate its replacement. Or, more precisely, a plurality of people demand a paradigm and are willing to tear down the current one only if it will be replaced with a superior one. And much to their chagrin, the replacement paradigm doesn’t look enough like their expectation for a paradigm.
Here’s my solution to the problem. Find what fits and wear it. Then take what doesn’t fit to Goodwill. If it is stained or torn or out of style, throw it away, because Goodwill is going to anyway. Don’t obssess about what you wear to Goodwill.
The problem is the dominant paradigm, not its replacement. And it does not necessarily track that the replacement paradigm must be articulated by the reformers before the dominant paradigm is replaced. Not in this. Because the new paradigm won’t be as constraining and reckless as the old. It will be based out of an understanding that marriage is primarily about the love of the couple, which is a natural extension of what came before it. The contract entered into by two consenting adults. Before that, the contract entered into by a man and another man concerning that man’s daughter. And before that, a contract entered into by a man and several other men concerning their respective daughters. Or the contract between a man, another man concerning that man’s daughter, and their female slave. And so on. The biggest change, then, is not about sexuality, but about contracts between men. And we long ago rejected that tradition–that orthodoxy.
We know what has happened to marriage: It has become about love. And love isn’t only about sacrifice, but embrace. It isn’t only contracts between consenting men (and even nonconsenting men). It is about the people actually doing the living together, the binding together. It is about intimacy and love and the Scripture abounds with all manner of support for that view of relationship. Our culture is crying for a view of personal relationships to be about love.
The Weeds can serve as a perfect example of intimicy, not because of their tradition, but in spite of it. How Josh and Lolly describe their marriage is in the true spirit of love and devotion, in a way that transcends our juvenile obsession with other people’s privates, and their faith tradition’s relationship to a past system of binding. In fact, our current, cobbled together view of marriage, that is both divorced from its long, ignoble history while willing to allow some radical transformations and not others, is comically unsupportable without major revision or rejection.
What ways is your generation’s view of marriage different than your parents’ and grandparents’?