Letters

First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, May 2015 | Go to article overview

Letters


MARRIAGE

"The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage" (March) is a clear articulation of the importance of marriage in Christian theology and the need for churches to remain faithful to Christian teaching. But for all that it gets right, the piece contains one line of argument that Christians should be on guard against. The authors write, "Christians have too often been silent about biblical teaching on sex, marriage, and family life." It goes on, "In a few matters, we do not speak with one voice: We hold somewhat different views about the morality of contraception, the legitimacy of divorce, and clerical celibacy." Finally, later: "An easy acceptance of divorce damages marriage; widespread cohabitation devalues marriage. But so-called same-sex marriage is a graver threat, because what is now given the name of marriage in law is a parody of marriage."

Taken together, these quotes represent a dangerous line of argument, because same-sex marriage cannot be abstracted from the wider background of marital collapse enabled by widespread divorce and contraception. This is true both as a matter of principle and of prudence.

As a matter of principle, any argument against same-sex marriage that invokes the reproductive end of sex necessarily implicates contraception. Contraception frustrates reproduction no less than homosexual sex does. Therefore, to say that the morality of contraception is merely questionable but the morality of homosexual sex is clear is internally incoherent. And it's not just pure logical consistency at stake, either. The Christian intellectual tradition has the sweep and grandeur of the Cathedral of Notre Dame; it is a space of cavernous beauty and monumental profundity. Anyone who takes even a step inside is immediately struck by the sense that something important happens here. You cannot separate the discussion of gay marriage from the full scope of Christian sexual ethics without limiting this sweep and grandeur.

As a matter of prudence, prioritizing the wrongness of same-sex marriage over divorce or contraception (or even masturbation) only serves to reinforce the claim that Christians are motivated by some kind of anti-gay animus when they defend traditional marriage laws. The best defense against that charge is an equally vocal concern for all the threats to marriage, and all varieties of sterile sex.

Many of the leading writers on gay marriage have spoken well about the need to limit no-fault divorce, and are clear about their moral opposition to contraception. Indeed, "The Two Shall Become One Flesh" makes several gestures in the direction I outlined above. For instance, the authors write, "Christians are implicated in this decline. Evangelicals and Catholics are more likely to divorce than they were fifty years ago. Moreover, Christians have adopted to no small extent the contraceptive mind-set that in society at large has separated sex from reproduction and so weakened the centrality and attraction of marriage."

But these statements coexist with the ones I quote at the start of this letter, and that creates an ambiguity that has bedeviled the marriage movement. The authors contend that Christians have often been silent on marriage. When it comes to gay marriage, this is simply not true. The debate over gay marriage has consumed the nation for several years, and there has been no lack of Christian voices expressing the Christian view. That Christians are "anti-gay" seems to be one of the few "facts" this country knows about us. But when it comes to divorce and contraception, we have not always raised clear objections. The uneasy relation this document bears to those issues does not really correct that silence. It dances around it.

Peter Blair

WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement "The Two Shall Become One Flesh: Reclaiming Marriage" was an appropriate summary of the many articles on this question in First Things. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Letters
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.