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Re: [HoB/D] theology of marriage
> << The one thing about American culture that comes
> under the harshest scrutiny by articulate recently arrived citizens is
> our marriage system. Students from cultures with 'arranged
> marriages' often are the most conflicted in these critiques: many
> want for themselves the greater freedom of choice they find here, but
> want none of the instability that goes along with unions based
> primarily on ephemera. >>
> What are some of their criticisms, specifically? It is good to have other
> perspectives. The Africans I have known who were affianced by their families
> always pointed out that they had the freedom to refuse. They were scornful of
> trying to base a life-long relationship on a feeling, as I recall.
Individuals vary greatly, and as I noted, my students newly arrived in the
USA are often conflicted in their own evaluations of what they find new
here. Many share the same scorn you report for trying to base a life-long
relationship on a feeling. Many believe that affection is something the
couple moves towards, in rich and varying degrees, rather than something
that leads to all the other factors of a life relationship.
Most seem much more aware of and respectful of the family as an extended
unit, not just as the romance of two people.
Most recognize that marriage is an economic entity, one that requires
close nurture. Many in the USA do not learn that lesson until they file
Anyone may monitor the perspectives of people from other cultures on these
and many other issues by visiting newsgroups. Many such groups begin
'soc.culture.COUNTRY' where you replace COUNTRY with a lower case name of
a specific country, such as
Most web browsers allow you to access these groups and to post your own
queries to them. In Netscape, for example, choose "newgroups" under the
Communicator menu. Caveat, many of these groups receive hundreds of
messages a day. If you want a life, you will need to be quite clever in
searching for appropriate subject titles.
In my own marriage, I have found justice to be much more challenging to
achieve than romance, which tends to take care of itself. It is important
to share equally in how we spend our money and our time. It is important
for each to have areas of privacy and a life outside the family. I find
it very important to monitor and try to halt the myriads of ways that I
can hide my selfishness from myself. Carter Heyward warns, "Love without
justice is cheap sentimentality."
Assuring justice is made more complex by our differences. I continue to
be amazed by the doors that open to me as a white male that do not open to
Ernest as a black male, often visible in insidious 'little' ways. For
example, in 26 years of marriage not more than 3 or 4 times has a waiter
ever brought the check to Ernest when we have eaten out. Although he pays
as often as I do, the waiter's assumption is always that the white man is
the one able to be generous. What a distortion!
One of the things that troubles me much in the current discussions about
the blessing of lesbigay relationships is that often the emphasis is all
wrong, as in "Let those lesbians and gays have the Church's blessing
because they are as good straights." People do not marry because they
have proved worthy of it: we marry because marriage itself is a worthy
estate. Our laws allow couples with the politically correct plumbing to
marry who have met only hours ago; although their decision may be
imprudent, laws do not deny them access to the estate, and we are wise to
pray that the estate itself will prove efficacious, as often it does.
One of the most important things I have learned about marriage is not what
the Church wants to hear: It would be easy to assume that God blesses
Ernest and me when we are nice to each other, which is most of the time.
But I am much more profoundly aware of God's redemptive presence with us
on those occasions when each falls into his worst self. At those times
the other has always responded with love that cannot be exclusively of our
own making, but God's love working through us. Marriage is an outward and
visible sign of that inward and spiritual grace. Thanks be to God.
Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to
this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome
estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and
joy conquer despair. Amen.
Give them such fulfillment of their mutual affection
that they may reach out in love and concern for others.
Grant that all married persons who have witnessed these
vows may find their lives strengthened and their loyalties
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