Authorizing Marriage? Canon, Tradition, and Critique in the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

By Mark D. Jordan; Meghan T. Sweeney et al. | Go to book overview

MARRIAGE AND FRIENDSHIP IN THE
CHRISTIAN NEW TESTAMENT

ANCIENT RESOURCES FOR CONTEMPORARY
SAME-SEX UNIONS

Mary Ann Tolbert

Contemporary marriage in the Western world of the twenty-first century is a different institution altogether from the practices and purposes of marriage in Greco-Roman antiquity.1 Today, mutuality, intimacy, lifelong companionship, shared economics, and sexual pleasure are generally listed as central values for marital relationships. Over the past several centuries in the Western world, the need for families themselves to produce the material means for survival, such as food, shelter, and care in sickness and old age, has been drastically reduced, depriving marriage of many of the most important roles it fulfilled throughout most of human history. In the absence of supplying this needed material support, modern marriage has focused instead on providing emotional and psychological support for the couple. Romance, intimacy, mutuality, and emotional and sexual compatibility have replaced fertility, wealth preservation, and family alliances as the primary justifications for modern marriage. Even the creation of progeny is not as high a value in many discussions—especially Protestant discussions—of contemporary marriage as mutuality and intimacy have become. Because some married couples in our seriously overpopulated world have made the moral choice to forgo childbearing, and because marriage between people incapable of childbearing, such as the elderly or impotent, is still valued and encouraged, the production of offspring as the sine qua non of marriage has dropped out of many discussions of contemporary marital values, even Christian marital values. However, the production of legitimate heirs for the preservation of family assets within a decorously ordered household was the most important function of marriage in antiquity. Moreover, many of the values attributed to modern marriage, such as mutuality, fidelity, intimacy, companionship, and sexual pleasure, are in the main not found at all or not found in the same way in ancient constructions of marriage and are certainly not values associated with marriage in the Christian New Testament. Indeed, the writers of the

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