Why same-sex marriage won’t spark a marriage crisis.

“I now pronounce you married.” The notary public smiled while the groom kissed the groom. The crowd behind the couple cheered at one of Florida’s first same-sex weddings, filmed by the local news.

That was six, almost seven months ago, and was the result of the expiration of a stay on the US District Court ruling that said same-sex couples can’t get married here. The stay’s lift was a precursor to the Supreme Court’s decision on June 26 to legalize same-sex marriage.

Which is historic, and kind of causing a ruckus.

People are happy. Cry and kiss your partner happy. Jump out of your seat and shout happy. Happy enough to troll the decision’s critics on the Internet. And people are sad. Cry and pray in quiet chapels sad. Shake your head and pound your fists sad. Sad enough to do a lot of stuff that Jesus wouldn’t.

The legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the US has sparked celebration and debate. It has sparked discussion and division. But I’ll tell you what it hasn’t sparked: a marriage crisis.

It won’t, because there already was one.

Marriage is intended to be a sign of Christ’s presence — a witness of Christ’s love for us.  It is supposed to be an indissoluble union between a man and a woman, and it is supposed to be open to fertility (See CCC 1601-1658, and Matt. 19:4-9).

It has to be, because of what sex is: a sacred physical sign of the vows that a husband and a wife made on the altar where they were married, designed both for procreation and to be an expression of the unity achieved by the sacrament of matrimony — pleasure is the bonus, not the goal.

Marriage is supposed to be perpetual and exclusive. We are supposed to pick spouses who bring out the best in us, spouses who are committed to our becoming saints. Marriage is designed to result in the destruction of self absorption.

The crisis is that people are married who don’t know that — that people are married in the Church who don’t know what marriage is supposed to be, and that nobody who knows it ever told them.

The result is that what marriage is supposed to be is so seldom modeled that most people have never even encountered it — that there largely has been no discernible difference between how marriage is done by people who are part of the Church and how it’s done by people who aren’t.

Which is a problem.

People are freaking out about the legalization of same-sex marriage, about marriage’s redefinition. And I get it, because we believe that God is the author of marriage. We believe that he doesn’t need an editor. So a lot of Christians — Catholic and Protestant — vilify the Supreme Court for turning marriage into something that it isn’t supposed to be without acknowledging this: We did it first.

We turned marriage into something it isn’t supposed to be when we decided that attraction is the paramount standard for picking a spouse, instead of his or her commitment to your sainthood. We turned marriage into something it isn’t supposed to be when we decided that sexual compatibility is better sought before marriage than achieved over time after the wedding.

We turned marriage into something it isn’t supposed to be when we decided it is better to control fertility than to cooperate with it, when we decided that love is involuntary — as if its start or stop is beyond our control — instead of a choice.

We turn marriage into something it isn’t supposed to be when we, as significant others or spouses, live like it’s OK to use each other as long as our use of each other is mutually advantageous. (That is not OK!) We turn marriage into something it isn’t supposed to be when we know what love, marriage, and sex are but let kids turn into adults who don’t.

Marriage, among people in the Church and among people outside it, widely has looked for my whole life like its purposes are pleasure and companionship, like it’s “only about the affective gratification of consenting adults” — a notion that, earlier this year, the Florida Catholic Bishops warned would be advanced by the legalization of same-sex marriage.

It is a notion we advance, too, when we don’t live like we believe that the Church is right about marriage. Knowing what the Church teaches — that marriage is not merely about the “affective gratification of consenting adults” — is important.

But believing what the Church teaches changes everything.

It determines how and why and who we date and whether we date at all. It requires discernment and prudence and fortitude of us where the culture that surrounds us says there doesn’t need to be.

It means that preparedness for marriage is more important to us than preparedness for a wedding night and that what we as a married couple could contribute to the world is more important to us than how warm or fuzzy our feelings were the day we met.

It means that exemplifying what the Church teaches is more important to us than pouting about the Supreme Court’s decision. It means acknowledging that living what we believe changes the world and fighting with the people who don’t believe it… doesn’t.

So it is time to decide whether we truly believe that the Church is right about marriage.

And if we do, it is time to prove it by living like we do — and to date, discern, marry, and teach like it’s true.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • John Morgan

    Excellent Arleen. I also think we’ve turned singleness into something it isn’t by including marital benefits. We have a world that asks, “Why should a guy get married when there’s nothing in it for him?” Because a guy going into marriage today without sexual experience is a completely foreign concept. When chastity is taken out of the married/unmarried equation, both lifestyles lose their meaning. As a biblically unmarried guy though, I don’t feel responsible for the current marriage crisis. I can only pray that the world can see a difference in how I’ve done singleness as opposed to how it’s done in the world.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thank you!

  • barbieahayes

    Arleen, wow! I am committed to your column for life, lol. Thank you for the comprehensive summation of the truth. Too many of us learned these truths too late, even though we were educated and married in the Church. My parents brought us up in the Church, and with a loving extended family, and thought the priests, bishops and nuns were the partners in education. But my parents became caught up in the world and didn’t follow through with our lessons. They thought they were doing what was right. After we left the home, the education stopped. My parents stopped telling us what to do. The conventional wisdom told them not to interfere. And so it goes until the faith is lost. the damage set in.

    The priests and bishops have got to get their spine back! We, the laity, by happenstance (is there such a thing?) or by fortuitous interference, return to the faith, many of us with a fervor we did not know we possessed. There are too few of us and too many secularists (and I include those who think they are faithful Catholics). So, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI advised, we will be a smaller Church, a remnant, but oh so grateful and so much more open to truth because we now know that we can never be wiser than our Creator. From us the others must learn. Blessings.

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thanks so much, Barbara!

  • While I agree overall, Arleen, I think you’re missing the point about why this SCOTUS decision is so bad. Not only is it a travesty of justice (it’s bad law), it is also an important step on the road to state control of individuals, most vulnerably, children.

    Contrary to your assertion, many of us aren’t “pouting”; we’re trying to teach our fellow citizens about how truly dangerous to liberty this decision is. Same-sex marriage lays the groundwork for abolishing it altogether, and this is pernicious indeed. Stella Morabito at “The Federalist” does an excellent job of explaining it. She writes: “Central planners have always understood that when you legally isolate people, you can better control them. Take away the sanctuaries of marriage and family, and you take away everybody’s privacy and autonomy. The state zooms into that vacuum.” She goes on: “Thus, the effort to abolish marriage is intimately connected to the ongoing radical redefinition of family. All of this is about—whether consciously and willfully, or not—abolishing family autonomy, abolishing privacy, and, by logical extension, abolishing all personal relationships based on mutual trust. If there is no legally protected autonomy in the family, how can it exist in any other personal relationship? It can’t. By abolishing marriage, we all become strangers to one another in the eyes of the state. Statists have always salivated at the prospect of regulating all of our personal relationships, all of our social interactions. This is not good.”

    Where are children safest and most likely to thrive? With two biological parents who are married to one another. Right now, that cannot happen in a same-sex marriage. I write “right now” because scientists are working on creating humans from two men and growing them in artificial wombs. What happens when the mother-child or father-child relationship somehow breaks down? While some children are better off when the state steps in, many go on to lives that are even worse.

    No, I’m not pouting. I’m praying and reading: books and articles on the law, on history, on the tactics used by community organizers, and on psychology and propaganda. I suggest that you do the same.

    Here are links to the articles I reference:



    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thank you for the feedback, Cheryl! This post is not intended to be commentary on the SCOTUS decision and what it means for liberty. It is intended to be commentary on Christian complicity in the redefinition of marriage.

      • I understand that, Arleen, but when you use words like “pouting,” you imply that Christians just need to “buck up” and change their attitudes. You imply that this decision is not really a big deal. Something like 60% of Catholics support gay marriage, likely because they think it is simply about love, and Jesus is all about love, right? It is hard to fight evil when we don’t recognize it for what it is and who is being used by it.

    • Janine Wieber Burton

      Can you please explain to me how a gay couple getting “married” changes my marriage? Or how granting them that right somehow takes away our “sanctuary of marriage and family” as your quoted text states? I am a Catholic and I am against gay marriage sort of intuitively, by can’t really explain it.

      • It doesn’t change your marriage, per se, but it will likely affect parental rights, and it will certainly affect the lives of children. For instance, a couple I know took their 2nd grader out of school and started homeschooling because the child got in trouble at school for asking another child about her father (the other child had been donor conceived). This happened last year, long before the SCOTUS ruling, but such politically correct bullying has been going on for a long time.

        You’ve likely heard of the wedding photographers, bakers, (and now the Methodist Church in England) being sued for not participating in gay nuptials, but the net gets cast wider. A urologist at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston was fired for using the hospital’s computer network to send an email describing the health risks associated with homosexual sex.

        Those examples are a few of many, but this is a complex issue, and I don’t know if I can do an adequate job of explaining it here. The Federalist, First Things, and National Review Online are great places to get up to speed. I just ordered a book called Law 101, so I can gain a better understanding. I’ll try, however, to bring up a few points to keep in mind.

        1. Laws have unintended/unforeseen consequences. Title IX is an excellent example. It was written to ensure that girls in public schools have equal access to sports, but it’s now being used to silence professors who hurt a student’s feelings.

        2. The SCOTUS ruling came down on Friday, and there is already talk of taking away a church’s tax-exempt status (but, of course, an organization like Planned Parenthood would remain tax exempt). There is also talk of legalizing polygamy and incest.

        3. Like in number 1, unforeseen consequences always pop up when we try to ignore the laws of nature (which are really God’s laws, but I generally try to stick with nature so I’m not shut out for “preaching religion”). Think of the problems with in vitro fertilization, hormonal birth control, and abortion.

        So, after all that, my advice is to educate yourself before you do try to explain it. The tactics used by proponents of same-sex marriage are pretty slick, and it can be difficult to defend your position against them.

        This link that may be helpful in the short run:

        In the post, Popcak recommends this book: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Marriage-Conversation-Right-Effective/dp/1937155803/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435761284&sr=1-1&keywords=getting+the+marriage+conversation+right
        I’ve added it to my wishlist, but don’t own it.

        Thank you, Arleen, for your post and for facilitating the discussion on such an important topic.

  • Garrett Baker

    I Agree with you Arleen!!. To add on to what Cheryl Ruffing said that caught my eye ” Where are children safest and most likely to thrive? With two biological parents who are married to one another. Right now, that cannot happen in a same-sex marriage. I write “right now” because scientists are working on creating humans from two men and growing them in artificial wombs. What happens when the mother-child or father-child relationship somehow breaks down? While some children are better off when the state steps in, many go on to lives that are even worse.”
    In Man of Steel on krypton the people there started to do artificial population in which the scientists would be able to control what profession the child would grow to be. Zod being the best example because he talked about being to made to be a conqueror later in the movie. Essentially

  • pastordavidrn

    Always appreciate your commentary, Arleen! Linked to yours within my own blog article inspired by this recent decision: http://pastordavidrn.blogspot.com/2015/06/our-supreme-court-isnt-supreme.html. God’s blessings on your continued faithfulness, sister!

    • Arleen Spenceley

      Thanks so much, Pastor David!

  • Allie

    This is fantastic!

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