REFLECTION: Some Thoughts on Marriage
by Archpriest Andrew Morbey
Printed with permission
Marriage in some form or another has existed in most places. It has taken many forms. Even the Hebrew scriptures themselves, for example, make mention of polygamy, concubinage, levirate marriage, fruitful and unfruitful marriages, adulterous ones, arranged ones, romantic ones, those according to the law of Moses and those not according the law.... Just imagine the varieties of marriage to be found globally in the innumerable cultures and sub-cultures that have made up human society from its beginnings!
Many people, among them church fathers, have thought it tremendously significant that given this great variety, just about all known societies nonetheless identify and privilege committed heterosexual unions, surrounding them with taboos and proscriptions, limits and rules and regulations, rites and ceremonies. It seems likely that societies shape and enforce their cultural expectations of heterosexual marriage in light of the obvious importance of reproduction, nurture, and the transmission of family property and identity. Whether or not God designed us this way, which is the traditional understanding embraced by the Church, simply on a descriptive level, I think we can say this: most societies in most places have valued, privileged and enforced some sort of heterosexual relationship capable of supporting reproduction, nurture, the transmission of family or tribal or cultural identity and, of course, property. The marriage could be polygamous, it might permit sexual expression outside of marriage (especially for men, and even in some cultures permitting same sex activity), it might burden and demean women, but I don't know of any culture that didn't and doesn't place this sort of heterosexual relationship at the very center of society, of law, of public sentiment and personal identity. Tampering with this very human, natural moral ecology is, I think, a very risky business.