What We Mean By Marriage

Ballista has just written a post over at Society of Phineas where he attacks the modern counterfeit of marriage. His post, Defending the Lie That is Marriage, is worth reading in its entirety, and I suggest my readers head over there first before finishing up with my post.

His post, and the comments which spawned it over at Deep Strength’s blog, got me thinking about what we mean by “marriage.” Ballista likes to use the terms “Marriage 1.0” and “Marriage 2.0” to distinguish between marriage as it was, and marriage as it is now. Certainly for the purposes of discussion such terms are a vast improvement, as they help us keep in mind what is actually being talked about. However, I think that we can go yet further with them. More divisions of what marriage is, and marriage was, are possible. This extends even beyond a categorization based on time, because when we talk about the institution of marriage we are really talking about two different things- the religious institution of marriage, and the legal/civil institution of marriage. They are not the same thing, not by a long-shot. [Edit: As Christians, we should recognize that the State can call whatever it likes marriage, and that doesn’t actually mean that it is marriage. But while the object may not be marriage, the name is, and so it is important to distinguish between them. This post aims to explore that distinction.] So I’m going to use this post to try and break up the two of them, and then categorize them as well, so that when we talk about marriage, we can be as specific as possible.

I. The Religious Institution

Over the course of nearly two thousand years the Christian understanding and meaning of marriage has changed enormously. But most of that change has taken place in the last century or two. Prior to the last two centuries there was a general understanding of what Christian marriage was, and what it wasn’t. Below are my attempts to categorize what Christians (including both Churchians and actual, devout Christians) mean when they refer to marriage in a religious sense:

A. Classical Christian Marriage

This is Christian marriage as it originally existed. Some of its features included:

  • A holy union between a man and a woman which is joined together by God, bound by him and their oaths
  • The purpose of marriage is to serve God, avoid sexual immorality and to raise Godly Children
  • A clear hierarchy in the marriage structure: husband->wife->children
  • Binding for Life- the marriage lasted until one party died, with only rare exceptions
  • Spouses may not deny each other their conjugal rights
  • Contraception was a defilement of the marriage bed
  • Clearly defined roles for husband and wife- both worked, although often in different capacities

I used past tense here because, as a general rule, Classical Christian Marriage doesn’t exist anymore- either as a practice or as what people have in mind when they think of marriage. Save perhaps for the most orthodox/conservative Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, where you might see it.  They are an exception, even among exceptions, however. Otherwise, this is not what Christians think of when they talk about marriage.

B. “Traditional” Christian Marriage

This is Christian marriage as it existed following the rise of modernism, but before the full manifestation of contemporary feminism. Its features include:

  • A holy union between a man and a woman which is joined together by God, bound by their oaths to each other
  • The purpose of marriage is to raise Godly children, as well as to civilize men and allow women to achieve their dreams of motherhood
  • Recognition of the marital hierarchy, but often accompanied by exemptions and caveats
  • Binding for Life- marriage is still supposed to be for life, but there are more “outs” available now
  • Spouses are not supposed to deny each other their conjugal rights, but there are exceptions/exemptions
  • Contraception is generally a bad thing, but sometimes may be necessary
  • Clearly defined roles for husband and wife- the husband works and provides, and the wife raises the children and keeps the home.

When nearly all Christians talk about traditional marriage, or going back to what marriage “used to be”, this is what they mean. Not classical marriage, but rather the religious understanding of marriage that was affected by culture and politics in the modern era. I say politics because legal definitions of marriage started to become prevalent at this point, and influenced people’s understanding of what marriage was.

C. Contemporary “Conservative” Christian Marriage

This is Christian marriage as most “conservative” Christians think of it nowadays. It is thoroughly infected with modern feminist thought, even though its supporters may argue otherwise. It has been around for several generations now. Among its features you find:

  • A holy union between a man and a woman who are in love, [DG: here is the newest addition] gay people should be able to get something similar so as to not discriminate
  • The purpose of marriage is for the spouses to be happy
  • Unclear notions of the marital hierarchy- there might be some nominal notions of submission and headship, but more likely than not marriage is treated as a partnership of equals, i.e. “Mutual Submission”
  • Binding for Love- marriage is “supposed” to be for life, but if one of a dozen different things happens, all of which tied to one spouse’s happiness or falling out of love, the marriage can be ended by either party
  • Spouses shouldn’t sexually deny each other, but both get a say on what is appropriate or not, and besides, marriage is about more than sex and caring about it too much is a sin
  • Contraception is a personal thing between a married couple and God
  • Clearly defined role for the husband- he works and provides for and protects the family; the wife however has the right to decide whether she wants to work or wants to stay at home and choose if she wants to raise the kids herself

For most “conservative” Christians this is what they understand by marriage. As one can see by comparing it to what came before, it bears little semblance to what marriage used to be, what marriage is supposed to be. Yet for most Christians they can’t understand how marriage could be anything different- in large part because they haven’t seen anything different themselves. As for another idea of marriage, something more traditional, well, that is something they just are ashamed to think of, much less be associated with.

D. Contemporary “Progressive” Christian Marriage

This is what “progressive” Christians think of when it comes to marriage. Incidentally, this is probably the future of marriage as most Christians understand it. After all, “conservative” marriage now used to be progressive Christian marriage back in the day.

  • A union between two [DG: soon to be any number] people in love
  • The purpose of marriage is for the spouses to be happy
  • No marital hierarchy- marriage is supposed to be a partnership among equals
  • Binding for Love- marriage lasts as long as both spouses are happy and in love, once that ceases either may end the marriage for any reason
  • Spouses decide for themselves what kind of sex life they should have
  • Contraception is a purely personal thing between the couple, and there is nothing wrong with it anyways
  • No defined roles for spouses- the spouses do whatever they want with regards to work and children

Everything above is a short summary of what “progressive” Christians think marriage to be. Of course, this is increasingly what the mainstream, “conservative” Christians will come to believe constitutes marriage.

That covers the religious institution of marriage. Now on to the legal/civil side of it.

II. The Legal Institution

The legal “understanding” or “definition” of marriage has changed a great deal in a much shorter period of time than has the religious understanding. In large part this is because the State has played a minor (or even non-existent) role in marriage for most of Christian history. Only in the last few centuries has this changed- not coincidentally this happens to overlap with changes to the religious understanding of marriage as well. [Edit: Remember that we are talking about the State definition of “marriage”, not the institution/sacrament that God created.] Here are my attempts to categorize the legal institution over marriage over time:

A. Marriage v. 0.5

This represents the legal state of marriage before significant government involvement. For much, but not all, of the history of Christianity, this was the norm. The exceptions would be the present, modern age, as well as in the very beginning of the Church under Roman rule.  Some of its features:

  • Minimal Government regulation- recognizing and regulating marriage was largely left up to the church, and not handled by the state
  • Legal Separation- divorce, like marriage, was a private affair; there was generally no civil recognition of divorce, although legal separation of spouses, which handled property rights, was recognized
  • Paternal Custody- the father gained custody of all legitimate children in the event of some sort of separation
  • No wealth transfer- the state didn’t enforce monetary sanctions on a spouse, as it wasn’t involved in marriage; this means no alimony, property transfers or child support

As you can see, a pretty hands off approach. My basic understanding of history leads me to believe that this was the paradigm from the fall of Rome up to about the Reformation. After that, we saw the next legal stage of marriage develop.

B. Marriage v. 1.0

For a long time this was the classical legal understanding of marriage. It marked an era where government became involved in the field of marriage. The reasons for this are numerous- property disputes, dispute over custody, and moral concerns. Here are a few of its features:

  • Government Regulation- government recognized and regulated marriage, marriage licenses were commonplace and were often necessary in conjunction with a Church wedding
  • Fault-based Divorce- divorce was permitted in only a few circumstances, such as repeated adultery, abandonment or abuse
  • Nature- marriage was a special contractual relationship between a man and a woman
  • Paternal Custody- the father gained custody of all legitimate children in the event of some sort of separation; however, certain doctrines did give the mother limited custody, such as during the “tender years”
  • Limited Wealth Transfers- In some instance, primarily/only when the husband was at fault, the wife was entitled to alimony payments; otherwise no child support or property transfers
  • Coverture- husband and wife considered “one person” for many aspects of the law, with the husband in principal control of the marriage, although certain exceptions did develop towards the end of this regime
  • Standing Consent- husband recognized as having the legal right to sex with his wife at any time, no such notion as “marital rape” is recognized, as they are both “one person” (you cannot rape yourself)

Up until the last century or so this was the standard legal understanding of marriage. However, starting with a number of exceptions and caveats developing in the late 1800s, this regime started to undergo a radical transformation. Partly this was due to cultural changes, but also legal changes that expanded upon existing exceptions and doctrines.

C. Marriage v. 2.0

Now we come to the vaunted “Marriage 2.0”, which was, until the last few years, the standard for a number of decades. Only the very oldest now living experienced a time before this legal regime was present. Its appearance was a result of the logical expansion of a number of doctrines, like the “tender years” doctrine, as well as the natural extension of concepts like “married woman’s property laws.” Below are a few of its features:

  • Government Regulation- government recognized and regulated marriage, marriage licenses were standard and were often necessary in conjunction with a Church wedding
  • Nature- marriage was a special contractual relationship between a man and a woman
  • No-Fault based Divorce- divorce was permitted in all circumstances, without any party being “at fault”, essentially unilateral divorce
  • Maternal Custody- the mother gained custody of all children in most instances of separation, usually only failing to do so when she was gravely at fault in some way, such as a drug addict
  • Significant Wealth Transfers- Child Support is standard from the higher earning spouse, in addition alimony might also be required (usually of the husband), in addition property is split during divorce, with the nature of the split determined by the jurisdiction
  • Egalitarianism- husband and wife are separate persons and “equals” before the law, and have equal rights in the marriage
  • No Standing Consent- marital rape is recognized everywhere, spouses have no right to sex in marriage

Over the course of the last century Marriage 2.0 developed and flourished. For the longest of time it was the standard legal regime when marriage was concerned. While “No-Fault” divorce was a large part of it, it wasn’t the only component which made Marriage 2.0 what it is. In addition, even when fault was still required some courts still treated it as no-fault anyways. All of these components added up to what constituted Marriage 2.0. I am using past tense here because this regime is in the process of being replaced by a new “edition” or “version”, one which is still forming.

D. Marriage v. 3.0

At last we come to the newest legal version of marriage. Of course, it is still in “Beta”, and can be considered v. 2.5 if we want to get technical. So, what are the changes? Well, to begin with have the removal of any requirement that both parties to a marriage be a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage is recognized under the new regime. Another possible change, one that I predict happening within 15 years, is acceptance of legal polygamy. So it will be a contractual relationship between “two or more” people. For the moment, at least, I think that the requirement of people will stick and animals or other objects won’t be included, but perhaps I’m being optimistic.

Of course, with same sex marriage certain doctrines no longer work. For example, “maternal custody” is likely to be set aside, because it won’t apply to gay couples. My suspicion is that new system for determining custody, based solely on availability and time spent with children, will be developed. Ironically, this might be to the advantage of some men. Otherwise, I don’t expect any significant shake-ups. It is, if anything, a logical development of what has gone before.

III. Interplay

What can be readily noticed is that Marriage 0.5 and Marriage 1.0 match up fairly well with both Classical and “traditional” Christian marriage. This is because the former was heavily influenced by the latter. Unfortunately, the development of “traditional” Christian marriage also influenced the legal aspects of marriage, leading to the slow expansion of Marriage 1.0. In fact, for a time there was probably a Marriage 1.5, mostly in the early part of the 20th century. But it was quickly swallowed up by Marriage 2.0. That in turn was also influenced by the “conservative” Christian take on marriage, and reciprocated by influencing “conservative” marriage in turn. Both fed off each others worst natures.

[Edit: Because there was such a strong similarity to what God intended to be marriage, and what the State called marriage, it was easy for most people to assume they were the same thing. In fact, most people still think that the State can determine what is, and isn’t marriage, and that includes most Christians. Zippy covered this subject before in a post here, I think most will find it worth a read, even if they aren’t Catholic.]

This brings us to the counterfeit that Ballista warned about. When most “Christian” leaders today talk about marriage, when they promote marriage, what they are really talking about/promoting is “conservative” Christian marriage under a Marriage 2.0/2.5 regime. Perhaps a few, a rare few, might even support “traditional” marriage. But that is still under the present legal regime. That is a far cry from what “marriage” was like a century ago, when it was either classical or “traditional” Christian marriage under a Marriage 1.0 regime. These conditions might share the same name of “marriage,” but in reality they are very different entities notions.

Setting aside even any legal considerations, the form of marriage that Christian leaders push today is still not classical Christian marriage. While it might superficially resemble marriage as it originally was for Christians, beneath the surface are found significant mutations that warp the purpose and nature of marriage. Alas, these mutations have been around for long enough that they are now associated with how marriage “traditionally” existed a long time ago. The deceit inherent in traditional marriage is dangerous to someone who think that they are entering a truly Christian marriage for two reasons. The first is that they are not in fact living a Christian marriage as God intended. The second is that the “flaws” in traditional marriage make it vulnerable to the pressures of contemporary culture and the present legal regime- there is plenty to encourage a spouse to change their mind about marriage and blow theirs up on a whim.

As I end this post, I would encourage my readers to offer their thoughts on the interplay between the religious and legal institutions of marriage, as well as my analysis of how marriage has changed over time. Let me know if I’m on the right track, or point out where I missed the mark.

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92 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Churchianity, God, Marriage, Serial Monogamy, Sin, Temptation, The Church

92 responses to “What We Mean By Marriage

  1. Guest

    Scott:

    “The Duluth power and control model (which is the defacto law in every state now) will call it abuse if you:

    1. Put your wife on an allowance
    2. Have final word in an argument
    3. Demand to know where she is going
    4. Only have one car
    5. Do not let her work outside the home

    …and many others.

    As a licensed psychologist, if I am doing marriage counseling/couples therapy and I get wind of these things, I am supposed to make a report, because they are abuse.”

    This is simply untrue. There is no law on the books in any state of the US that would make it mandatory for you to report the “abuse” of having final word or one car, etc., simply because none of those things are considered reportable abuse per se.

    Spreading misinformation is wrong. I hope you are not a psychologist as you suggested, because if so, then acting this way would be unethical from the professional point of view.

    I would also hope that people who read such opinions, which are either uninformed or tendentiously misrepresented, take a moment to do their own research to find the facts.

  2. @ Donal

    I happen to fear a broken marriage FAR more than I fear death. Why? Simple enough: sin. A broken marriage represents an enormous opportunity for temptation and sin that cannot be denied. Whereas if I die for the faith… well, this life was temporary anyways. It means I probably didn’t sin by renouncing Jesus, and I don’t have to worry about sinning again.

    We need to keep in mind long term risks as Christians. And if we think long-term, then we realize that death isn’t nearly as bad as a whole host of other possibilities.

    I’m not sure I agree with this assessment. In whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, even with the best of choices, we are to honor God by obeying Him. Of course, some men fear things worse than death, but any and all hardship is a way to glorify Him.

    Still, I think most of it falls under irrational fear.

  3. mdavid

    Zippy, The State can’t state out of the marriage business unless it tells the police to just stop answering the phone: unless it ceases governing.

    The State easily could “get out of the marriage business”. It would be simple for the state to say that husband and wife are considered one flesh for legal consideration. The only thing they would need to do is decide if a marriage is recorded or not. If it is, they back out away just like if I was doing something to myself, all property would be owned jointly. If the married couple keeps bugging the police or disturbing the peace, the state could merely arrest both, just like if I was yelling in public they could arrest me. Identical to my home utilities like power or sewer; the company doesn’t care if me or my wife do something without the other’s say-so, they treat us as one person.

  4. mdavid

    Zippy, …anyone considering marriage needs to keep their eye on the real risks – the particular risks. Now the problem is that the current social and legal environment produces people who are not suitable for marriage. So it is easier than ever to make a poor choice, and the real world options for many become remaining alone or marrying someone unsuitable.

    This is very well said.

    The bottom line is that the “particular risks” magnify exponentially today due to the lack of decent female marriage partners alongside draconian anti-male law. That’s why a) marriage is probably not a wise choice for most men today, and b) the laws need to be changed to protect men, c) boys should be strongly warned that marriage (and women in general) have never been more dangerous, and d) preparations should be taken to mitigate particular risks long before it might occur. A good offense is a good defense here; I have a great marriage and cannot imagine it failing, but am still prepared. But I greatly fear for my boys merely due to lack of decent partner choices and will support them however I can. My daughters? They can make their own way just fine with the weight of the law behind them.

  5. Chad:
    I’m not actually proposing any ‘solutions’, certainly not on a grand scale. I’m just trying to get to where we have an accurate understanding of reality, and most people are not there yet.

    The reality is that politics which insists on metaphysical neutrality – liberalism – is what got us here in the first place; that liberalism isn’t just impractical but is rationally incoherent; and that ‘conservatives’ are always being taken in by the idea that the solution to the problems caused by liberalism is more liberalism or a more authentic liberalism.

  6. mdavid:

    The only thing they would need to do is decide if a marriage is recorded or not.

    That doesn’t solve the problem, because the State still has to assert what is and is not marriage – it has to assert what marriage means – in order to record them and to decide what to do when one of the parties petitions or calls the police. Suppose someone – call him “master” — decides to “marry” someone else, call him “slave”. (In return perhaps slave’s family gets enough money to pay for a child’s operation or whatever). This gets recorded as a ‘marriage’.

    Under this proposed ‘neutral’ marriage regime, does it follow that “master” can do literally anything whatsoever to “slave”, and that “slave” has no recourse to the sovereign, no matter what “master” does to him?

    I know, I know — if only the State were authentically liberal (metaphysically neutral politically) enough, that would solve the problem. The solution to the problems caused by liberalism is a more purified, better, more authentic liberalism.

    Because taking that approach for the last couple of centuries has worked so well.

  7. Pingback: Mitigating the risk(s) — courtshippledge.com

  8. deti

    The only way to realize Zippy’s position (and to be clear, I think he’s probably more or less correct, at least about this particular issue) is to bring the State in complete agreement with the biblical view of marriage. When you have the concepts of individual rights and liberties in a representative democracy, inevitably the definition of “marriage” is diluted to make everyone “happy”.

  9. Pingback: Uncontracts and the seductiveness of selective anarchy | Zippy Catholic

  10. ballista74

    @donalgraeme I know you disagree with my position, as you’ve basically done this post once before. I vehemently disagree with yours as your assessment is supportive of traditional feminism.

    Zippy is taking a liberalist position on this one with the fallacious argument with the issue of “contract enforcement”. The issue is not that the State is there to arbitrate contracts, but the State is unilaterally defining the contract, and therefore intruding into the intimate lives of all married couples. His complete lack of understanding of how marriage and contracts work legally renders his position to be utter ridiculousness.

    If regular business contracts were rendered like marriage is, where a third-party unilaterally dictates all the terms, business would ground to a halt. In a world of business contracts, if the conditions placed on marriage would be universally noxious to just about everyone, when they are rendered absolutely unable to dictate any of the terms of the contract or where one side is unable to bring enforcement upon the contract.

    DeepStrength basically gets it:

    Rather, I believe that it is that individual desire to be able to make their own contracts without the State rendering them null and void at the State’s whim, to impose upon the couple a contract they never desired. You see this in marriage, in pre-nups, etc.

    Those of us that “want the State out of the marriage business” just want marriage to be interpreted in the same terms as regular business contracts, where each party can negotiate and agree to the terms, expressing their public agreement within the marriage ceremony. If a specific denomination wants to set out their vision of marriage, they can draw up their own marriage covenants that the husband and wife must agree to before God. Everyone else can do the same.

    This is well expressed both on my blog and in other arenas. In effect all this position is demanding is to return the initiation of marriage to the same conditions that existed 100 years ago before the State declared marriage illegal and started granting licenses (exemptions) against their law. (Yes, this is really how it’s set out)

    This is as described in the previous paragraph. As two people can enter into a business contract and dictate their own terms without the State including itself as a third-party and then dictating all the terms via adhesion contract to aggressively enforce its own interests, so should marriage be instated. If a man and woman wants to be married, all they need to do is get together and declare their vows of covenant before God before witnesses and they are married. They do not need the State’s approval or blessing. In fact, 100 years ago, the State didn’t care. If a man and woman said they were married back then for legal issues, the State just accepted it. It did not require the State’s approval.

    @allamagoosa
    That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying it’s not possible to have a Godly marriage because the State has supplanted God in marriage with the approval of a super-majority, including everyone in this thread, and every major “Christian” agency. He has not given the keys of marriage to the State, but has reserved the right to define the terms and make the unions to Himself. Marriage as it is currently constituted is worship of the State, which is a violation of Commandment I (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”)

    “God is no longer in the marriage business” because the State kicked Him out of that role. “Marriage is a lie” because the State consequently eliminated almost all of God’s terms and replaced it with its own. The prince of this world is the one that has the keys to marriage now, not God.

  11. ballista74

    @all It’s really sad how reading this (and the other posts) have really confirmed my view. It’s unfortunate that so many welcome the intimate intrusion of government into their lives, holding the liberal position.

  12. Excellent summation, Donal.

    Yet for most Christians they can’t understand how marriage could be anything different [than “Contemporary ‘Conservative’ Christian Marriage”] – in large part because they haven’t seen anything different themselves.

    I think the more fundamental reason they can’t imagine anything different is because, like most churchians, they are ignorant of what Scripture says about marriage – often willfully so. Short of a collective return to an actual understanding of what the Scriptures define as marriage, the trend will be, as you point out, a long, slow, ugly decline into “Contemporary ‘Progressive’ Christian[?] Marriage.” With any luck Our Lord will have returned to Earth before that point.

  13. @ MDavid
    “If a specific denomination wants to set out their vision of marriage, they can draw up their own marriage covenants that the husband and wife must agree to before God. Everyone else can do the same.”

    You’re not addressing Zippy’s argument. Here is what I’m able to get from it, hoping that if I’m wrong he will correct me:

    1. Some contracts are Wrong. They go against what is Good in favor of what is Evil. As such, not all contracts are lawful. Slavery contracts are not lawful and will be overturned by the state, because they are Evil even when chosen of a man or woman’s free will.

    2. Right now the State has an implied view of previous versions of Christian Marriage (as Donal has defined them) as those similar to slavery. Pre-nups that attempt to achieve the previous versions of Christian Marriage by legal recourse are also contracts of slavery. Hence, the state will always overturn them because it views them as Evil.

    3. The arguments as stated are not that the State gets out of the Marriage Business, but that they adopt a particular form of liberalism in which people are allowed to make Evil contracts if they are done with their own free will.

    4. Those people whom are desiring the ability to make Evil contracts are doing so because they want to make Good contracts as defined in the Bible in regards to Marriage.

    5. In regards the the marriage contract, those people inclined to define their own contractual agreements desire to eschew authority in order to make authority.

    6. With this rightful authority placed in individuals, the world will be a better place.

    7. Thus, our current liberalism simply isn’t liberal enough.

    That is Zippy’s argument from what I can gather. My question of if he views the solution to the current issues with marriage, regarding my previous claim that marriage laws are not all that unfair currently, but supremely unjust, was based in the idea that the Church needs to reconsider whether it should be advocating and instructing governments on what is Good and Evil once again. If it did so, it would be breaking the chain of the above arguments at number 2 while still keeping in mind that there are, in fact, very real Evil contracts that should not be allowed and should always be overturned. This would also avoid attempts to overthrow very legitimate and just authority for illegitimate and unjust authority in ‘the name of good.’

    Alternatively, one could say that the Church’s job is to teach individuals, and not governments, what is Good and what is Evil. This, I think, is the way in which fallen times are restored as been shown historically through the history of the Church – Heresy comes, finds foundation, and is rejected by individual saints of overwhelming holiness and virtue, at which time authority is revitalized with proper senses of Good and Evil to govern from the top down. Such saints have always worked within systems to diligently revitalize the faith or worked to convert both leaders and followers of nations, so that those nations make the changes of their own free will without unBiblical rebellion.

    It’s a complicated subject to say the least. But to say that the State should stop interfering with what is considered to be contracts that it (wrongly) views as akin to slavery is to open a very liberal door to very evil deeds in the name of ‘Good.’

    I don’t think I can support that view as I have in the past.

  14. ballista74 writes:

    If regular business contracts [blah blah blah] business would ground to a halt. In a world of business contracts, [blah blah blah] [Zippy’s] complete lack of understanding of how marriage and contracts work legally renders his position to be utter ridiculousness.

    I do know a thing or two about business, investing, contracts, etc. I have an MBA, I’ve run a few P&L’s including companies I started myself, I’ve set billable hours records for significantly sized law firms in Silicon Valley, I’ve moved stock market indices with my own words, etc etc. Of all of the successful early Internet pioneers I’m probably the dumbest one, which is why even if you knew my name IRL you probably wouldn’t have heard of me or anything I did. But I actually do know how contracts really work, and you appear to not have any clue how they really work at all.

    If you think that business contracts don’t work like marriage contracts — in the sense that the State creates and enforces all sorts of limits on what terms are permissible, reinterprets them in the light of the law, severs certain terms that it deems unenforceable, etc etc — then you are just revealing your own ignorance.

  15. ballista74

    Somehow, I expected that kind of response instead of anything rational. Such a response only shows how invalid your position is. The State is not my god, and I will not assume the State as my god as you have with your position.

  16. Chad:
    You’ve opened the door to what I am on about, but the rabbit hole goes even deeper. The very notion of metaphysically neutral government that libertarians like Ballista74 insist upon is incoherent. Government by its very nature is the institution that discriminates authoritatively and restricts freedom based on a particular, substantive conception of the good.

    Liberalism (including not just left liberals but also the autistic libertarianism that has infected so much of the Internet, the anti-democracy neoreactionary crowd that thinks there must be better formal structures than democracy around that will achieve “authentic” liberty, everyday Republican-flavored ‘conservative’ right-liberals, etc) pretends that it can govern without imposing a particular substantive discriminatory conception of the good on everyone; but it can’t, because the very idea of governance presupposes a particular substantive discriminatory conception of the good.

    So liberalism (all forms of it) still always discriminates authoritatively, initiates force, and restricts everyone’s freedom, just like every other political philosophy. It just does so sociopathically, while denying that that is what it is doing.

  17. ballista74

    The very notion of metaphysically neutral government that libertarians like Ballista74 insist upon is incoherent.

    Misrepresentation of my position.

  18. @ Zippy
    Ok. Thanks. That gives me a great deal to ponder as I consider how romanticism of the past blinds us to the different ways authority was given unto men by implicit, informal, communal authorities instead of the current explicit, formal, governmental authorities.

    The grass is greener in the mind of the time distorted liberal divide.

    My instinctive reaction is that the major difference is less of the system itself, and more that Western Civilization stopped teaching objective Truth to individuals a long time ago, which has bled over into the governmental system. The problem is not in the authoritative system per se; merely that the system is using justly gained powers in pursuit of injustice because it believes those unjust ends are, in fact, just.

  19. Chad:
    The issue can be phrased more tightly to make it at least slightly less OT.

    Many folks seem to presuppose that metaphysically neutral contract enforcement is both rationally coherent and practically possible. That is, that when the parties to a contract come to the sovereign for dispute resolution, that it is possible for the sovereign to be ‘neutral’ and ‘just enforce the terms of the contract’ without ‘injecting his own bias’ or what have you.

    That eminently reasonable sounding thought (to us moderns) though is incoherent, for the same reasons that metaphysically neutral governance more generally is incoherent.

    When I say that governance presupposes an authoritative discriminatory substantive conception of the good that necessarily initiates force and restricts people’s freedom, I am not making a value judgement. I am not saying that that is what government should do. I am saying that that is what all government actually and necessarily does, so political theories (other than straight anarchism) that suppose otherwise are incoherent. (Straight anarchism is completely impractical, but the concept of having no government at all is not logically incoherent strictly speaking).

    There are further implications to be drawn from the fact that most of (first world) humanity believes incoherent things about politics, but I’ve already hit the tl;dr limit here.

  20. Zippy–

    I have been moving in the neo-reactionary direction from libertarian over the past year and I think a lot of what you say makes sense. However, I do not labor under this delusion at all:

    “everyday Republican-flavored ‘conservative’ right-liberals, etc) pretends that it can govern without imposing a particular substantive discriminatory conception of the good on everyone”

    Dennis Prager puts it this way: (I am paraphrasing) but he points out how silly it is when liberals say “you are shoving your values down my throat.” Of course we are, just like you were shoving desegregation down ours. Everyone happens to agree that [desegregation] was the right thing to do, but it was still throat shoving, nonetheless.

    I want throat shoving. I don’t want “authentic” freedom. I realize that what I want to be free to do will take others freedoms away. Not concerned about it all.

  21. However, I think that if we wait for some strong, wise and benevolent leader [or group of leaders] to come along and solve these problems–problems which I think you and Ballisat74 have analyzed differently but are both worth chewing on– we will all grow old an die first. This is why what I am trying to do is address the problems of marriage–created by a host of infinitely complex and intertwined perfect storm-type events and philosophies–at the micro level. As you pointed out earlier in this thread–the society produces folks who are not suited for marriage. So I choose to make this a centerpiece of raising my own kids. Step two (expecting courtship from them) is the logical follow on to that. There is no law against either of those (yet).

  22. Forgot–

    Chad, Your 7 point break down of Zippy’s position is precisely how I read the issue. Not sure if he agrees 100% but I love it.

  23. Donalgraeme,

    I’d be interested in a more detailed account of classical vs. “traditional” marriage. What characteristics distinguish them, other than “traditional” marriage just being less strict on each count? I’m vaguely aware that the division whereby the wife keeps the house and the man leaves to work is an industrial-age novelty. But what’s the difference that makes a difference? Is there, e.g., some consistent principle that motivates the differences between “traditional” and classical, so that someone might argue for one over the other on principle?

  24. Scott:

    I want throat shoving. I don’t want “authentic” freedom. I realize that what I want to be free to do will take others freedoms away. Not concerned about it all.

    Then you probably also aren’t concerned about shoving certain metaphysical and moral constraints down the throats of people who would make voluntary contracts contrary to those constraints; and more power to you in that respect, because you have an at least rationally coherent view of politics.

    The question is, given that, do you think that the idea of getting the State out of the marriage business is rationally coherent, and, if so, is it a good idea?

  25. “The question is, given that, do you think that the idea of getting the State out of the marriage business is rationally coherent, and, if so, is it a good idea?”

    It might sound like I am deflecting (and maybe I am) but I don’t think either the libertarian ideal or mine (essentially rewinding the clock to state-enforced marriage 0.5) are even remotely possible. Therefore, I choose to try to operate in the world as it is, not as I wish it to be. This is a tough pill to swallow, and unfortunately Ballista seems to think that means I am perfectly happy with the state being intimately involved in my marriage. I am not, but I cannot do anything about it.

    Someone upthread wrote about the state seeing the married couple as one person, and I recall that this was sort of how it was many years ago in practice. That sounds about right, but so much has changed since then that I am just not able to see how one could put the toothpaste back in the tube without violent overthrow. All of the social norms that one could count on just 1 1/2 generations ago have vanished and I am not old enough to have an accurate memory of them anyway. I sort of remember my parents having Christmas Tree decorating parties at our home and all our friends would come over dressed in their best seasonal attire bearing gifts and food and make small talk as they came in the door, you know? We were lower middle class-not some high society family.

    If my wife and I tried that everyone would think we were weirdos.

    I can, as you suggest do everything in my power to reduce the risk of these things happening to my children (like in the story of Jim).

  26. Guest

    Part of the problem with Liberalism is that they are as “religious” as the right, yet deny it. They insist they are the moral compass of the nation, defending the “rights” of the minority – even if by force. But, for all their naive, impractical, candyland intentions, they fail to see their own self-righteous attitudes and philosophical contradictions. Their leaders – speaking out of both sides of their mouths – promise good gifts to all, as long as those good gifts don’t come out of their own personal pockets. They’re happy to tax the middle class to give to the poor, but – like the rich, conservative hypocrites – they won’t allow the taxman to touch the bank accounts of the rich. So the Liberals that preach about the need to help the little man expect someone else to do it instead. Their ideals exceed common sense. They expect others to sacrifice to make those impossible dreams a reality, and if it somehow does seem to work on occasion, they will be more than happy to take the credit for all those sacrifices of the middle class.

    It is a philosophy that destroys the middle class, driving them further to poverty and dependence on the government. The Liberal leaders then wonder why all those same people the help are unhappy about this “gift” of Liberalism.

    You can’t give unlimited “rights” to a populace without taking the same unlimited freedoms from them.

    As stated elsewhere, Liberalism is just Social Marxism minus the Capitalism.

  27. deti

    “Someone upthread wrote about the state seeing the married couple as one person, and I recall that this was sort of how it was many years ago in practice. That sounds about right,”

    That’s because state marriage laws up until around 1960 or so were pretty uniform that the married couple was viewed as one person, “one flesh”, especially with regard to the relationship between the two persons comprising that “one flesh”. Marital rape was a nonentity. A married man cannot rape his wife because upon marriage the wife is held to give standing consent to sex. The man and wife are one person legally, so rape is impossible because a man cannot rape himself. Divorce was not allowed except for adultery, habitual drunkenness, or violent and repeated physical abuse (which had to be life-threatening). IOW if someone was getting divorced, someone did something Really Bad. If Husband wanted a divorce for anything other than adultery, he paid lifetime alimony to Ex-Wife. If Husband divorced her for adultery, Wife walked away with nothing, and the kids stayed with him. There wasn’t much equitable property division in that circumstance.

  28. @ Ballista

    We seem to disagree on a fundamental level. Further discussion would appear to be pointless.

    @ Nicholas

    Is there, e.g., some consistent principle that motivates the differences between “traditional” and classical, so that someone might argue for one over the other on principle?

    In my view there is a fundamental difference between them that makes such a distinction necessary. It is a topic I intend to cover in a new post some time this week.

    @ Guest

    Part of the problem with Liberalism is that they are as “religious” as the right, yet deny it.

    Indeed. They have many tenets of faith, although they vociferously deny such when confronted about it.

    @ Deti

    Thanks for fleshing out some of what I was talking about earlier.

  29. femininebutnotfeminist

    Nicholas’s comment reminds me of a question I meant to ask when I got a chance and forgot to do it… the last bullet point on the classical and “traditional” marriages about the clearly defined roles of husband and wife (particularly the wife is what I’m confused about) don’t seem to be different, though they are worded differently. Or rather, the “traditional” bullet point looks more detailed. Back then, weren’t women who were married and had children at home? Being at home today wouldn’t be “work” in comparison because we have washers/dryers, refrigerators, grocery stores, water faucets, electricity, and a whole host of things that make it so much less work. As opposed to the amount of time and work required to take care of household chores and all that back then. I’m reminded of stories that my Mom told me of her Grandma (who she affectionately referred to as “superwoman”), who would take care of and harvest an enormous garden, can some of it for the rest of the year, milked cows, churned the milk to make butter (or maybe it was cheese?), fed the chickens, collected and sold the eggs, killed and de-feathered a chicken on occasion for food, cooked huge meals from scratch three times a day, hand made clothes and quilts in the wintertime (no sewing machine), etc…. Scripture even tells women to teach younger women to be “workers at home”. So what I’m asking is, is there a difference between those bullet points as to the roles of women with regards to work? If so, what?

    Also, I’m assuming all the married people here have marriage licenses from the state, since nobody seems to have an answer to the questions I posed earlier in the thread. I wasn’t musing or being sarcastic when asking them. I really am wondering how to handle real world situations like that when you marry without a license. Not because I think we as christians should get one, but rather because I would rather not have to get one myself if at all possible, but need to know how to handle those types of situations. Does anyone know?

  30. mdavid

    Chad, @ MDavid, “If a specific denomination wants to set out their vision of marriage, they can draw up their own marriage covenants that the husband and wife must agree to before God. Everyone else can do the same.”

    Chad, You’re not addressing Zippy’s argument. Here is what I’m able to get from it, hoping that if I’m wrong he will correct me…

    Chad, I don’t believe I wrote that quote you’ve attributed to me. I think you are confusing me with ballista74, whom I believe did say it.

  31. mdavid

    Zippy, That doesn’t solve the problem, because the State still has to assert what is and is not marriage – it has to assert what marriage means – in order to record them and to decide what to do when one of the parties petitions or calls the police.

    I don’t claim anything would “solve the problem” to make it better. Merely that the state could easily get out of the marriage business by defining marriage as a single legal entity. All then the State must do is find out if the parties registered. Utilities are a good example here: nobody cares who does what to your power bill; anyone can pay the bill, and if it’s not paid all owners suffer for it. The utility doesn’t give a rip who did what to whom, they just cut your power off.

    Marriage could be the same for the State: if spouses stop meeting their obligations of peaceful coexistence and begin to argue with each other to the State, said State merely stops recognizing the union and treats them as two individuals under the law. Now the state is out of the marriage business. For example if a spouse calls police because he/she is being abused by the other, the cops won’t come. If they are forced to come and act against one of the parties for another for somebody’s safety or whatever, this merely nullifies the marriage and the state won’t re-recognize it again. Marriage? Engage in it at your peril because the state won’t care about you as an individual once you are in the union. From the state’s POV, they are out of the marriage business except to define how it’s registered. Merely a ledger of yes or no.

  32. @ FBNF

    So what I’m asking is, is there a difference between those bullet points as to the roles of women with regards to work? If so, what?

    Yes, there is. I will expand on it in my next post. Hope to have that up soon.

    I really am wondering how to handle real world situations like that when you marry without a license.

    Depends on the situation, actually. If all goes well then there is no need to get too terribly concerned about it. At least, so long as you are careful with Wills and deeds and such.

    Would really depend on your jurisdiction. I imagine that different states would have different rules.

    Not really that knowledgeable about them at the moment, to be honest. The Catholic Church requires a license, so I haven’t delved into it. Whether the Church should or not is another matter.

  33. mdavid:

    … if spouses stop meeting their obligations of peaceful coexistence and begin to argue with each other to the State, said State merely stops recognizing the union and treats them as two individuals under the law.

    They call that “no fault divorce”. It is how things work already.

  34. femininebutnotfeminist

    “The Catholic Church requires a license….”

    Oh, I didn’t realize that. That settles it then, since I’m going Catholic now. I don’t need answers to those questions then, but if anyone still decides to answer them on behaf of others that are not Catholic (or converting) then I’m sure those other people would appreciate it. Otherwise, no biggie to me.

    Looking forward to your upcoming post Donal, as always.

  35. @ FBNF

    I’m not sure when I will get it done now. Some things have come up that might push it to the end of the week. Or I might be able to sneak it in before then- really depends on how long it turns out to be.

  36. femininebutnotfeminist

    It’s all good Donal, no worries. Better to get it done the way you intend it than to do it quick, especially regarding something as important as the subject matter of this one.

  37. Pingback: The Differences Between “Classical” and “Traditional” Christian Marriage | Donal Graeme

  38. R7 Rocket

    Zippy says:
    I do know a thing or two about business, investing, contracts, etc. I have an MBA, I’ve run a few P&L’s including companies I started myself, I’ve set billable hours records for significantly sized law firms in Silicon Valley, I’ve moved stock market indices with my own words, etc etc. Of all of the successful early Internet pioneers I’m probably the dumbest one, which is why even if you knew my name IRL you probably wouldn’t have heard of me or anything I did. But I actually do know how contracts really work, and you appear to not have any clue how they really work at all.

    When someone brags about being good with their finances, I ask, are you in debt? Do you have independent streams of income?

  39. R7 Rocket

    The worthless MBA degree is a red flag.

  40. mdavid

    Zippy, They call that “no fault divorce”. It is how things work already.

    The divorce part perhaps. But not the marriage part.

    I’m taking about treating a married couple like a single legal entity until the divorce. That is NOT how things work today at all.

  41. femininebutnotfeminist

    “That is NOT how things work today at all.”

    This. I’ve been told by a young married couple that they still have separate credit scores, unlike my parents’ generation having a combined score. A result of the current rate of divorce.

  42. R7 Rocket:

    When someone brags about being good with their finances, I ask, are you in debt? Do you have independent streams of income?

    I have no debt. I own a couple of homes in an expensive metro area, for which I paid cash. I retired at 35 after making more money than I will likely ever need. I’ve never had a mortgage. This is all in part a consequence of my “worthless MBA”.

    Asshat.

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