Is “Traditional Marriage” a Myth???

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by Kenneth Justice

~ For the better part of a decade throughout the Western World there has been a war waging in the battlegrounds of defining marriage. Self-called “traditionalists” argue that “marriage has been and always will be defined as a union between one man and one woman; anything else would be uncivilized“.

Modernists argue that marriage is about individual choice, responsibility and love; “If two people love each other, regardless of their gender, they should have the right to be legally married”.

The battle lines have been drawn, and with a few exceptions, the modernists are clearly winning the debate. More and more Western countries, states, and provinces have moved toward government sanctioned marriage between any two consenting adults, regardless of gender.

As a bystander amidst this fray, I’ve often wondered why people are so up in arms over the subject. Could it bet that we humans simply like a good fight, or have our personal, political, and religious ideologies blinded us to the truth?

After all, “marriage” as it exists in the modern vernacular is a rather new phenomenon to the annals of human history. The modernists speak of marriage being about “love between two consenting adults” yet, until recently, the overwhelming (and I mean OVERWHELMING) majority of marriages throughout human history had nothing to do with love. Whether you were rich or poor, marriage was a matter of convenience;

—) marriage united families (sometimes warring factions) together

—) marriage meant more bodies to help with labor

“Love” as we think of it in the 21st century was mostly a foreign concept to the vast majority of women involved in marriage. Sure, there were novels by the likes of Jane Austen in which romance and intrigue enveloped the courtship between two couples. But those were the exceptions; in the pre-20th century world, women had almost no legal rights, and were always under the ownership of her father. If she had a benevolent father, he might let her be more involved in the marriage process. But “love” as we know it in our vernacular rarely played a part.

The traditionalists speak of marriage in the “one husband, one wife” concept as if this is a biblical law written in stone by Moses. Unfortunately, the bible is far less supportive of this traditionalist view. Jacob, King David, King Solomon, and a whole host of other “Great Men of the Bible” all had multiple wives (not to mention the plethora of concubines; aka sex slaves) hanging out in their houses. And while it might be a nice thought to think that once Jesus came, the whole polygamy thing died out, but nope; about the only anti-polygamy law the Apostle Paul laid down was that if you were going to be a church leader you could only be married to one woman.

Setting aside the whole polygamy issue (which is what the majority of people practiced throughout history), even within the confines of early Christian marriage; ‘love’ was still a secondary (at best) concept to the whole process. Marriage was viewed as a matter of convenience and pragmatism.

Even stranger to me are my fellow Christian’s who get all up in arms over people living together or as Dr. Laura loves to say, “Shacking up”. Do my fellow Christians have short term memory problems? Have they forgotten that it wasn’t too long ago that two Christians of the opposite sex would have been “in sin” had they merely gone on a date by themselves without a chaperone. Isn’t this and other examples I could list ample reinforcement for the idea that we have progressed beyond the antiquated notions of our overly law-zealous ancestors?

Traditional marriage. Hmmm, what does that truly mean? Throughout history, men of means were most likely to have women on the side (concubines, mistresses, etc) and the peasant men were all vying to get more money so they too could obtain that kind of lifestyle.

In talking about this subject at coffee with my fellow Christians, they often refer me to the biblical book, “The Songs” which chronicles the love between a man and a woman. Oddly enough, the principle character in the book is believed to be King Solomon who is said to have had over 1000 wives, and if we add in the concubines he hooked up with, sheesh, who knows how many his number would have been!

In ancient Greece and Rome, marriage was clearly defined as being between a man and a woman; strict monogamy was the way of the land. However, as with every other society, men of means had mistresses, some men in Rome found loopholes in the law that enabled them to marry boys, and in certain Grecian areas (like Sparta) it was quite common for married men to hook up with their fellow male friends as a matter of releasing all of the sexual energy that their their wives weren’t able to completely satisfy.

In the United States, one of the most troubling elements of legal marriage, is that the whole idea of a marriage license didn’t come around until whites decided they wanted to prevent interracial marriage. Until this abhorrent discriminatory attitude, marriage had nothing to do with the Government. Now all these years later, do we really want the Government involved in marriage?

Tonight on our 30 minute Culture Monk Live Streaming show, we will be discussing marriage, dating, and all of the subjects discussed in today’s post, I hope you’ll join us.


p.s. Culture Monk Live begins at 6pm Central and is available for rebroadcast following the show on my YouTube channel.

Categories: Culture & Society

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21 replies

  1. good analyses of what is going on in the “western” marriage culture…

  2. great read! it’s always helpful to put practices etc in perspective, comparing time periods and cultures!! will be interesting to see how the notion of marriage is translated in the next 20 years…

  3. Sorry Kenneth. This one I didn’t like. While your argument contains a lot of truth historically, I think you have a very wrong understanding of our Lord and the Scriptures on this matter.

  4. I view the marriage debate as something that distracts us from bigger problems to solve.

  5. I’m about as traditional as you can get when it comes to marriage and NO! I don’t want the government involved!!! If two people want to apply for a license to be together so they can get a tax break or have rights to each other medical information or share in the raising of a child, who cares?! I don’t! Why are we making it a legal matter? If there really is separation between church and state, why are pastors legally marrying people? Shouldn’t all that be separate? Shouldn’t the church deal with their idea of marrage and let the state do whatever it wants with legal rights?

  6. I don’t think Joseph Campbell would like the way you use ‘myth’. Of course, It’s a myth… a very strong and healthy one, judging from the numbers of young people who still have a marriage as an overriding goal. Most of the problems most people I’ve noticed have with marriage – who by the way, aren’t (married) – is that they expect way more out of it than there is in it. Of course, it is going to fail them. They make outrageous demands of marriage, and then are outraged that it doesn’t meet them.

  7. I think there is something profoundly spiritual about the idea of one man and one woman and creating that union regardless of the reasons one got married. The need to unite the yin and the yang is a concept that goes way back in human history. Marriage is also an important cornerstone for economies, democracies, communities themselves. It provides a great deal of stability for children, a motivation to work and invest in your community, a commitment to making the world a better place. From a scriptural perspective, marriage is often used as a metaphor for Christ’s relationship with the church, so marriage has pretty intense spiritual implications.

  8. Interesting article. Will definitely watch the live show! Not live probably, but I will watch it tomorrow 😉

  9. Good analysis. I’ve never understood why it was OK for murders on death row to be married, satanists can get married and Christians are OK with it, old people can get married even though they can never have children, and couples who have known each other for 5 minutes can have a quickie Vegas marriage etc., yet same sex partners couldn’t until recently. From the any two consenting adult side, the legal issues are one of the big reasons for wanting it – a spouse has many rights a partner does not. Also a “same but different”, i.e., civil unions, is still discrimination just as much as a white drinking fountain next to a black drinking fountain.

  10. I don’t know if the modern stuff is about love any more than the ancient stuff. People don’t really stay together most of the time after they get married. But I do wonder why we need the government involved. It seems like a religious/cultural issue and the state isn’t supposed to be a church.

  11. I have a problem with government involvement in marriage, but that certainly does not mean I take issue with the Biblical concept of one wife.

    Yes, Solomon had many, but nowhere is it said that God condoned it. HE also had concubines, but that doesn’t mean God condoned that, either.

    Suggesting everything Moses said was not “written in stone” can be said of everything in the Bible, except the Ten Commandments. That certainly does not mean we are to discard verses or even entire books because we simply don’t think they pertain to today’s culture. Exactly who do we serve, culture or God?

    I think I will refer to Mark, chapter 10 for guidance.

    More than ever, this nation’s children are facing confusing times with many cultural influences attempting to steal them away from our Creator. What they need now, more than ever, is a stable family based on a God-fearing, married couple.

    Want to know when you are going in the wrong direction? When you find yourself in agreement with the world. When you are there, you’d better hit the brakes and grab the Bible. It is where we find guidance that is just as valid, today.

    • “Want to know when you are going in the wrong direction? When you find yourself in agreement with the world. ”

      common sense dictates that even a Christian will find himself/herself in a state of co-belligerence with non-Christians on various topics. Your sentence is a bit too extreme for my taste….

    • What did Jesus say? He said the world will hate you as it hated Him. He also stated the world will love you if you are of it.
      John 15:18 is where he says that.
      Don’t have a personal taste, Kenneth; have Jesus’ taste. It’s OK to do that. While the world will mock, ridicule and find you “extreme,” the Creator of the universe and all things in it will be with you. If find that to be much more important. I also find that more important than to be found lukewarm by my lord and savior. I prefer not be spewed from his mouth. Again, Biblical.

  12. The NY TIMES, disagrees with a lot of implied condescending nature of marriage in this blog. The Divorce surge is over, but this myth that marriage is failing is the myth perpetrating by ideas this blog is proposing.

    “The delay in marriage is part of the story, allowing people more time to understand what they want in a partner and to find one. The median age for marriage in 1890 was 26 for men and 22 for women. By the 1950s, it had dropped to 23 for men and 20 for women. In 2004, it climbed to 27 for men and 26 for women.

    Perhaps surprisingly, more permissive attitudes may also play a role. The fact that most people live together before marrying means that more ill-fated relationships end in breakups instead of divorce. And the growing acceptance of single-parent families has reduced the number of shotgun marriages, which were never the most stable of unions, notes Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College and author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.”

    Instead of this idea of what is the natural course of humans, the correlation found is more or less that marriage failed in the past due to poor decisions made by societal pressures. People who shouldn’t have gotten married did, or folks were married at a younger age. Marriage success is trending up because folks are living together before they get married, and they know how to work together in a more cohesive unit. So in 20 years, the idea that monogamous marriages may be gone doesn’t support the evidence.

  13. Again a very interesting post. I smiled when I read the part about Jane Austen novels showing romance and intrigue, true but also true that Jane Austen’s female characters were very much influenced (controlled maybe?) by what their fathers had to say about their choice of partner, or if any marriage would be allowed to take place. That was just a sign of the times. Today is different from then, tomorrow again may be different.

  14. Traditional marriage is not so much a myth let alone something traditional as a man and woman. When you say traditional there is so many traditions we cannot even comprehend what they are like. We cannot just look one way, let us say Greek.

    Divorce just got easier, as in early days you was made to stay married by your village. Second to that reason for getting marriage has changed as well. Like we romanticize it a lot more. Tradition is changing our feelings is changing toward things that were a principal above anything else. A man should marry a woman.

    Maybe we should not mix up an old fashioned principal with a tradition. As traditions are very local.and never a like.

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