August 4, 2020

Klasie Kraalogies: Love and Marriage – was Frank Sinatra wrong after all?

The Marriage Contract, Gerard Jean-Baptiste Scotin (1745)

Love and Marriage – was Frank Sinatra wrong after all?
By Klasie Kraalogies

A little while ago I was asked a question by Mule, in the context of discussing Matthew Paul Turner’s divorce – and let me quote:

I am open to correction on this, especially from David and Klasie, but I think that the Reformation’s denigration of ‘monkery’ eventually did more damage than good. It exalted the married state and made it default in Christendom. In a way it opened the door for our present discontent, where the orgasm rather than the blessed Sacrament is the institutional means of theosis.

A very interesting concept. Of course, what we really should think about is the evolution of marriage itself, and the relationship between the sexes (including same-gender relations, btw, although I won’t specifically discuss the topic).

In 2017 a very interesting paper appeared in Nature. It highlights that whereas for the longest period in our shared human history we experienced little wealth disparity, that the dawn of agriculture led to a massive growth in wealth disparity. More recent studies of hunter gatherers by anthropologists like James Suzman (Affluence without Abundance, 2017, published by Bloomsbury) highlight the lasting nature of egalitarian societies like the Kalahari San.

Furthermore, research published in 2015 by Dyble et. al. shows that the stability of pre-agricultural revolution societies was based not so much on kin relationship as was previously suggested, but on sex equality. From the abstract:

Our results suggest that pair-bonding and increased sex egalitarianism in human evolutionary history may have had a transformative effect on human social organization.

The authors even go so far as to suggest that egalitarianism was the most important distinguishing factor between our ancestors and their close cousins, chimpanzees. From a 2015 interview with The Guardian:

“Chimpanzees live in quite aggressive, male-dominated societies with clear hierarchies,” he said. “As a result, they just don’t see enough adults in their lifetime for technologies to be sustained.”

Yet things changed quickly once man learn control. The ability to control environment spilled over into familial life. Stephen Bertman writes in his Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press, 2003):

In the language of the Sumerians, the word for `love’ was a compound verb that, in its literal sense, meant `to measure the earth,’ that is, `to mark off land’. Among both the Sumerians and the Babylonians (and very likely among the Assyrians as well) marriage was fundamentally a business arrangement designed to assure and perpetuate an orderly society. Though there was an inevitable emotional component to marriage, its prime intent in the eyes of the state was not companionship but procreation; not personal happiness in the present but communal continuity for the future.

Yet love poems from the same period abound – as well as other works of art. In the same work, Bertman describes a statue where:

An elderly Sumerian couple sit side by side fused by sculpture into a single piece of gypsum rock; his right arm wrapped around her shoulder, his left hand tenderly clasping her right, their large eyes looking straight ahead to the future, their aged hearts remembering the past.

Thus from the start we see the intertwining of economics, power, and love. Really nothing has changed.

The procedures of marriage are not really defined in the Torah. Much of the discussion around marriage and marriage life comes from the Talmud. For instance, if you think of marriage in Genesis – “he took her into his tent” – that is that. And if she can’t have children – well, then one of the servants should stand in. It is all rather ghastly and will certainly raise the eyebrows of the church ladies or the clan down at the Country Club. We don’t’ want those people around here!

As we know from the Mosaic laws, and continued through the various Jewish traditions, divorce was an accepted reality.

Over time though, custom and understanding changes. A lot. Then the early Christians started closing the door to divorce. Also, while St Paul was clear in including love in his description of marriage, in such a way that sexual intercourse is encompassed by the description, things pretty much went downward from there. Augustine has the “I’ll allow it but rather not attitude” – he believes that intercourse is solely for procreation. This quickly leads to the teachings of Chrysostom, with the claim that sexual intercourse exists because of sin, and thus the celibate life is a better way. This of course leads to a tension in reality – a tension that arises from the difference between biology and belief. At the same time, we find the ascetic ideal often including the ascetism of the table. And in the end, the viewing of life and biology as dirty. Interestingly, in my own fundamentalist upbringing, the same tension between pulpit and reality came was a defining characteristic of the culture. And the result of this is dysfunction.

But back to marriage. From Canon 50 at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD):

Extending the special custom of certain regions to other regions generally, we decree that when marriages are to be contracted they shall be publicly announced in the churches by priests, with a suitable time being fixed beforehand within which whoever wishes and is able to may adduce a lawful impediment. The priests themselves shall also investigate whether there is any impediment. When there appears a credible reason why the marriage should not be contracted, the contract shall be expressly forbidden until there has been established from clear documents what ought to be done in the matter. If any persons presume to enter into clandestine marriages of this kind, or forbidden marriages within a prohibited degree, even if done in ignorance, the offspring of the union shall be deemed illegitimate and shall have no help from their parents’ ignorance, since the parents in contracting the marriage could be considered as not devoid of knowledge, or even as affecters of ignorance. Likewise the offspring shall be deemed illegitimate if both parents know of a legitimate impediment and yet dare to contract a marriage in the presence of the church, contrary to every prohibition.

The advent of the Reformation deconstructed the culture around celibacy but tightened the control over marriage. In a brilliant paper by Saskia Lettmaier (Law and History Review, Volume 35, Issue 2) it is shown that while many think that Luther’s earlier diatribe against Rome’s view on marriage led to the secularization of the institution, in practice this most definitely wasn’t the case. What it did lead to was the raising of the clergy to effective judicial positions. A similar evolution happened in England – from the same paper:

Jurisdictionally, in marriage cases, the English Reformation only removed the right to appeal to Rome. As the headship of the English church was transferred from pope to king, appeals, formerly to the pope’s curia, would now lie to the king’s High Court of Delegates (which was an ad hoc tribunal composed of ecclesiastical and temporal lawyers). Marriage cases continued to be dealt with in the ecclesiastical tribunals, as they had been prior to the Reformation, and secular courts, when faced with questions in which the validity of marriage was a preliminary issue (which might happen in property cases), would refer that matter to the ecclesiastical courts. The only curtailment of ecclesiastical jurisdiction over marriage consisted in the fact that the common-law courts began to issue writs of prohibition, enjoining the proceedings in the ecclesiastical courts, where an annulment was sought after the death of one or both of the spouses.

Then, by 1753, the marriage act was introduced. It declared that all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England to be legally binding. Only Jews and Quakers were exempted. This was followed in 1836 by Parliament removing the requirement of a Church of England wedding, and allowed non-Conformist, Catholic and even non-religious civil marriage. The amusing thing was the Scottish exemption – the 1753 act did not apply in Scotland, and therefore “irregular” marriages still occurred. These include the following:

1. A couple were legally married if they declared themselves to be so in front of witnesses, regardless of whether this was followed by a sexual connection. Marriage contracted in this way without witnesses was also legal, but much harder to prove in court unless there was other evidence, such as letters that confirmed what the couple had done.

2. A promise of marriage, followed by a sexual relationship, was regarded as a legal marriage – but this had to be backed up by some kind of proof, such as a written promise of marriage, or an oath sworn before witnesses.

3. Marriages ‘by habit and repute’ were also legal if a couple usually presented themselves in public as husband and wife, even if no formal declaration of marriage was made.

Anyone who has read Austen understands the tension between love and the securing of an economic future. The latter most often stood in the way of the former. It bears saying that Austen wrote using personal knowledge.

He may look good in a wet shirt, but what made Mr Darcy really attractive was the strong economic component. Footage from “Lost in Austen”, 2008, BBC.

So until 1929, when an English couple wanted to run away, they only had to make it across the border to Gretna Green, where marriages outside of religious establishments could be officiated, the most common being over a blacksmith’s anvil (Gretna Green, by Gordon Nicoll)

The more recent history of marriage is familiar to all, and I will not discuss it here. But the point of the survey is to show that out understanding of marriage and sexual relations associated therewith has changed a lot through time. Religious, and later civil control evolved over time. But in essence, the heart of marriage was contract and property. For the longest time this was between families. Procreative sex was expected. But from the earliest times love and of course, erotic love was part and parcel of this. Ironically, it was the church that tried to drive it out – but we all know how that went. The medieval experiment with celibacy did not end well – anyone who has read the words to Carmina Burana, or the Canterbury Tales, would realise that instead of ascetic purity, celibacy led to all the lasciviousness one can imagine, and then some.

Marriage has evolved. Traditional marriage is a misnomer – pick your date for your tradition! Fifty years? Five hundred? Five thousand?

Marriage is essentially, and has always been, a legal contract. The desired outcome of the contract is a growing economic entity. Hopefully, a pleasure and not a pain.

What then, of sex?

Some months ago, on a Stoic forum, the nature and desirability of sexual relations were discussed. Some (predictably) younger men counted sexual relations as adiaphora – they are irrelevant to your morality. I countered and spoke about the nature of sex and connection, and how casual sex denies the nature of intercourse, namely that it has a profound and deep affect on the psychology of the parties. I was immediately accused by quite a few people of putting sex on a pedestal – but interestingly, all the accusers were men. Every single female commenter supported my assertion. Now that is evidence from anecdote – sure – but it tells me that disregarding the affect of intercourse, especially on “the female of the species” is a deep, and potentially damaging mistake.

And it is at this point that one needs to counter the assertion that sex is all procreation. Of course, it is not. The reality is that humanity has practiced contraception – in Ancient Egypt, a mixture of acacia leaves, honey and lint was used to stop sperm. We humans are very fertile – and the practical result of continuous pregnancy are very severe – whether you are in Memphis, Egypt, in 3020 BC, or Memphis, Tennessee in 2020 AD. I do not want to have a debate here about contraception – but it is not a modern phenomenon and one should understand that.

But what then of sex? If marriage is an economic contract, why is sex bound by it? It is a good question. After all, should the very personal be governed by faceless bureaucrats or clergy that may or may not care about you (yes, there are many wonderful clergy out there. Sadly, this is not a universal statement).

At the same time, simple questioning will show the perversity and harm of “going at it like rabbits”.
Frans de Waal notes in The Bonobo and the Atheist.

Rather than reflecting an immutable human nature, morals are closely tied to the way we organize ourselves.

Bonobo Love. I could not find the original photographer. But a fantastic photo.

Therefore we have to realize that we have begun to understand as the morality of marriage, grew out of our need to make secure an economic arrangement, which itself resulted from the upheaval caused by men grabbing power within the familial structure, following the agricultural revolution. It helps to deconstruct the culture and institution and find out what really matters. And that is relationship. Sex has meaning within the context of relationship. And by relationship, I mean connection. Deep and real connection. Which requires four things:

  • Honesty
  • Commitment
  • Equality
  • Empathy

What it does not require is a piece of paper from a magistrate or clergyman. And yes, that statement should not be construed as a license for licentiousness. It means that within a formal marriage, if you so choose, or without a formal marriage (call it a commitment, call it a common-law marriage), sex should (ideally) not operate without those 4 things. Because if something is not real, if something is not true in its essence, it is a lie. And thus, at least from my perspective, it is entirely possible to be in an ever-so-close to an immoral relationship with the person whose name is on the economic contract sanctioned by the State and /or the Church.

Note that way up near the beginning, I said I include same-gendered relationships. Which brings us back to Mr. Turner. Him and his spouse seems to have done the right thing – they concluded the impossibility of the connected relationship they thought they had.

Comments

  1. David Greene says

    “Chimpanzees live in quite aggressive, male-dominated societies with clear hierarchies,” he said. “As a result, they just don’t see enough adults in their lifetime for technologies to be sustained.”

    Well there’s your problem right there… we have become chimpanzees 🙂

    • anonymous says

      there is indeed a great DNA similarity between homo sapiens and the species called ‘chimpanzees’

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Although Bonobos are even closer. And they are much more peace loving. But they are matriarchal…

  2. “Sex has meaning within the context of relationship. And by relationship, I mean connection. Deep and real connection. Which requires four things:

    Honesty
    Commitment
    Equality
    Empathy

    What it does not require is a piece of paper from a magistrate or clergyman. And yes, that statement should not be construed as a license for licentiousness. It means that within a formal marriage, if you so choose, or without a formal marriage (call it a commitment, call it a common-law marriage), sex should (ideally) not operate without those 4 things. Because if something is not real, if something is not true in its essence, it is a lie.”

    Out of the park, dude. 🙂

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      +1

    • Robert F says

      Yes. A loveless, mutually destructive formal marriage is far worse for both partners, and for any children they might have, than a nonmarital commitment involving the four qualities Klasie lists. And there are many such nonmarital commitments. You can see them every day.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        So marriage is breaking out of its traditional form (especially the highly-restricted Christianese Purity form) into a different form (“commintment involving the four qualities Klasie lists”)?

  3. Robert F says

    So, Klasie, is your answer to Mule that both the sacralization of marriage AND “monkery” were the result of a denigration of sexuality, of “orgasm”? Both the understanding of marriage as a sacramental relationship and the the medieval idealization of monastic celibacy developed out of the same unrealistic view of sexuality?

    • Robert F says

      And this religious denigration of sexuality results in the idea that it always must remain primarily procreative, and its unitive relational aspect secondary?

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        By and large, yes. But also, the fact that marriage has been an economic contract for ever so long, and that, if anything, the medieval church had strong economical concerns, and therefore the relational aspects was further denigrated.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And now with long-term “nonmarital commitment involving the four qualities Klasie lists” it’s bouncing back into a different form?

          Downside is this new form is ditching the legal protections of the previous form as well as its legal restrictions.

          And Evangelicals by doubling down on Purity, Quiverfull, and “Complementarianism” (8 syllables to say “Male Supremacy”) are once more throwing themselves square in the way. Not only the usual Late Adopter, but “If THEY do X, We Must Do The Complete Opposite of X!”

          Compounded by this (Marriage) being a Pelvic Issue with a HOMOSEXUAL angle (“Marriage”), either of which alone pushes Christians way up the Crazy Tree. Put them together and…

          • If people are not resorting to the legal form, it’s probably because the protections offered by it often don’t match up to expectations. If it’s promises of bliss (or alimony if the bliss is not forthcoming) are just got air,behy bother at all?

        • Christiane says

          Hello Klasie,

          there have been many who married who had little or nothing of this world’s wealth, or who lost everything but still honored their commitment to one another. . . . such a union was celebrated in this poem about an Irish couple during the Famine years by Eavan Boland:

          “Quarantine”

          “In the worst hour of the worst season
          of the worst year of a whole people
          a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
          He was walking – they were both walking – north.
          She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
          He lifted her and put her on his back.
          He walked like that west and west and north.
          Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.
          In the morning they were both found dead.
          Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
          But her feet were held against his breastbone.
          The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.
          Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
          There is no place here for the inexact
          praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
          There is only time for this merciless inventory:
          Their death together in the winter of 1847.
          Also what they suffered. How they lived.
          And what there is between a man and woman.
          And in which darkness it can best be proved.”

          (Eavan Boland)

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > Traditional marriage is a misnomer – pick your date for your tradition!

    This. I still, to this day, ‘enjoy’ the irony that Scripture seems widely disinterested in:
    (1) marriage/sex, which is mostly treats as a-thing-that-happens
    (2) Afterlife stuff, including Angels/Demons and the specifics of heaven
    The contrast between that disinterest and the demonstrable interests of The Church…

    Meanwhile, Scripture talks about money, contracts, and rich-vs-poor a **LOT** – again in contrast with the demonstrable interests of The Church.

    > adiaphora… Every single female commenter supported my assertion.
    > Now that is evidence from anecdote

    I’ve had similar conversations. My anecdotes align with yours.

    > the assertion that sex is all procreation. Of course, it is not.

    This, it really is an absurd notion [yet critical to devotes of “Natural Law” arguments].

    > If marriage is an economic contract, why is sex bound by it?

    I’d point to the real inability to unbundle Economics and Power, and that Formality can [not that it always does] provide a defense of the less Powerful/Privileged Party in any exchange. Compelling the more Powerful/Privileged Party to make a public commitment and put something of tangible value on the table is virtuous, IMO.

    • “Formality can [not that it always does] provide a defense of the less Powerful/Privileged Party in any exchange. Compelling the more Powerful/Privileged Party to make a public commitment and put something of tangible value on the table is virtuous, IMO.”

      Which, I suspect, is the root of much of the OT Law. But as we all know, Privilege is very clever at gaming the system. And Jesus calls us to totally eschew privilege and favor the less powerful, no matter what the Law says.

      • Robert F says

        Yes. It also is likely why Jesus seems to prohibit divorce, not because he intended to make marriage indissoluble, but because it was enormously easy for men to get a divorce when they wanted one, but almost impossible for women. And even if they could, a woman’s existence would be drastically altered for the worse by seeking and getting a divorce. Given the realities on the ground, saying that marriage should be as hard to get out for a man as a woman was a way of leveling the power differential. It was a prophetic condemnation of the way things worked with regard to marriage and divorce, not an eternal decree of the indissolubility of marriage. But I think Christians started getting it wrong from a very early date.

        • Even earlier than that, probably. After all, the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ “saying that marriage should be as hard to get out for a man as a woman (as) a way of leveling the power differential”, was “If that’s the case, it’s better not to marry!”

          • Dana Ames says

            And in that same passage, Jesus is also giving the okay to being celibate, which was by no means the optimal situation for Jews of the day. As Jesus said, the one who is able to receive this, let him receive it.

            Remember that the earliest Christians did not try to impose their way of life (either lifelong marriage to a person of the other sex, or celibacy) on anyone. The assumption is that if you were going to be a Christian, you would at least make an effort to follow Christian teaching – but for those outside Christianity, not a concern.

            Also remember that the early Christians treated their wives well enough – with that honesty, commitment, humility and empathy – that a lot of women wanted to join up. Two centuries later, when it became a matter of good citizenship for Roman women to legally marry in order bear children to shore up the declining population of Roman citizens, Christianity offered a woman the choice NOT to marry and become a baby-making machine; this was also attractive to women – aside from living in the fear of wondering if/when you would be persecuted for becoming a Christian. For some women, this was a nearly equal trade-off, and Christianity won. See St Barbara and many other Christian women denounced and even killed by their families for refusing marriage – hence the numbers who are honored as Virgin Martyrs (many of whom were probably technically not virgins because in being tortured they were likely raped – just as happens today to women around the world).

            And in the East, it’s also different in that sex in itself has never been considered sinful; it’s the misuse of the gift that’s the problem. Finally, in the Sacrament of marriage, the Church recognizes and blesses a relationship between a man and a woman that already exists, and gives encouragement that in living in the Church in sacrificial love for the other, each person will be the means of the Holy Spirit’s work (grace) in the other. That is what is paramount, not procreation (although under normal conditions the couple needs to be open to having children, because the nature of Love is life-creating).

            Dana

            • “Remember that the earliest Christians did not try to impose their way of life (either lifelong marriage to a person of the other sex, or celibacy) on anyone. The assumption is that if you were going to be a Christian, you would at least make an effort to follow Christian teaching – but for those outside Christianity, not a concern.”

              Oh for the good old days…

            • Robert F says

              I don’t think the belief that Jesus is talking about celibacy in that passage is anything like clear. He uses the word eunuch; a eunuch and a celibate are not the same thing. Eunuchs are incapable of sexual relations, and traditionally thought to be incapable of marriage. A celibate is not incapable, but chooses not engage in sexual relations, and traditionally not in marriage either. It’s not clear to me what he meant — other of Jesus’ teachings are not clear either, so that’s not unique; given our historical distance from him it’s not surprising but to be expected that the meaning of some things he says aren’t clear to us — but I don’t think it’s justified to believe that when he talks about eunuchs he’s referring to celibacy.

              • Klasie Kraalogies says

                Agreed.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says

                +1

              • Dana Ames says

                Sorry I can’t find references at the moment, but I have read that in the C1 Jewish context and the way the Greek is constructed, it would have been clear to Jesus’ listeners that he was talking about “voluntary” eunuchs – “made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens” – as in celibate people who follow him. Wright reminds us that “kingdom of the heavens” means “God’s sovereign saving rule coming to transform everything, coming to bring the whole creation into a new state of being, a new life, in which evil, decay and death itself will be done away.”

                The whole passage is interesting in how it flows from the question of divorce to essentially the power dynamics in marriage and how Jesus’ followers are not to maintain those ways, to those who do not marry, to children not being hindered from coming to Jesus. Seems there is a connection between all of them, and how that “new state of being” impacts people now, in their most intimate relations.

                Do please update us when you are able, Robert.

                Dana

        • thatotherjean says

          Very much this. There were roles in ancient societies for widows–the wealthier they were. the more power they were able to exert–but practically none for divorced women, except as prostitutes. Their husbands were no longer obliged to care for them, and their families, among the poor, might no longer be able to take them back and keep them fed and clothed. That Jesus’s condemnation of divorce was a protection for women that they did not have before seems to make more sense than seeing it as a demand that even the worst marriages must not be broken.

          NB: I believe that Jewish customs in the 1st Century permitted divorce and offered some protection for a divorced wife, but all I know about them is that they had to initiated by the husband. That changed after the 3rd Century, but it what ways, I do not know.

  5. In my state, a change was made to completely separate the concept of a civil marriage and a religious marriage. A couple can marry in front of a pastor and never register it with the state and vice versa. I wanted this many years ago as a solution to the religious differences concerning same sex marriage, but it didn’t happen until court rulings forced it.

    It creates interesting opportunities, especially for older couples with grown children and their own retirement plans. It has the potential to help young couples who would financially be harmed by marriage as a result of the chlid tax credit (that is a whole other messed up story).

    Back to your point in the last few paragraphs. Whether the commitment is registered with the church, registered with the state, or not registered at all, I don’t think it matters. But, I agree it must come with those 4 things.

  6. Robert F says

    I think the Reformation got it right when it rejected the belief that marriage is a sacramental union. Unfortunately, it had already incorporated too deeply the earlier idea that sexuality is inherently sinful and needs to be controlled by only taking place within a marital contract, and so it continued the idealization of marriage that had existed for a long time in a new form ultimately just as unrealistic as the earlier form. The root of the problem is in the devaluation of the unitive relational aspect of sexuality, or “orgasm.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > rejected the belief that marriage is a sacramental union

      Agree. It is simply far to complicated and messy to be a sacrament. I don’t see how it fulfills such a role.

  7. Michael Bell says

    Sex has meaning within the context of relationship. And by relationship, I mean connection. Deep and real connection. Which requires four things:

    Honesty
    Commitment
    Equality
    Empathy
    What it does not require is a piece of paper from a magistrate or clergyman. And yes, that statement should not be construed as a license for licentiousness. It means that within a formal marriage, if you so choose, or without a formal marriage (call it a commitment, call it a common-law marriage), sex should (ideally) not operate without those 4 things.

    This is why I do not view same-sex unions as sinful. This is why I do not view common-law marriages as sinful.

    This is why I think we need to redefine what we call sin, because those who are currently defining it have got their definition wrong.

    Monday’s topic perhaps?

    • If you choose to camp out in the Mosaic Law, and certain portions of Paul’s letters ripped out of context, you could get the impression that God is primarily concerned with our obeying the rules and keeping up formalities. But any serious reading of the Prophets and the Gospels gives no comfort to that notion at all.

      • –> “But any serious reading of the Prophets and the Gospels gives no comfort to that notion at all.”

        Yep. And the Prophets and Jesus’ continued denouement of the Law “uber alles” got them all killed by those who didn’t so much like that message.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      +1

      These four qualifiers actually make a pretty high bar, not anything like an Open Door To Licentiousness.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Take Equality out of it, a term that irks me infinitely no matter how you mix it, replace it with Humility, and you have as good a recipe for theosis as you can manage in four words.

        • Humility is functional equality AFAIC.

          • Michael Bell says

            Only in the context of mutuality.

            • Should go without saying. 😉

              • Michael Bell says

                I was thinking primarily in terms of Philippians 2 which speaks of Christ humbling himself.

                Was also thinking that those speaking of the submission of women in Ephesians 5 usually miss the mutual submission context.

                • –> “Was also thinking that those speaking of the submission of women in Ephesians 5 usually miss the mutual submission context.”

                  I was looking at Colossians version of those Ephesian ideas recently (Col 3:18-25), and it struck me how “relational” they are intended to be. It’s not “do this because I say so,” it’s “do this because it’ll be good for the dynamic.”

                  In other words, I think those verses really fit Klasie’s four keys to a good relationship:
                  Honesty
                  Commitment
                  Equality
                  Empathy

                  (Even if many Evangelical preachers try to make it about something else.)

                  • Dana Ames says

                    I think “equality”, when used especially as a counter against “prejudice” or “unfairness” due to some unchangeable characteristic, is becoming like the word “gospel”. We all think we know what we mean when we use it, but that might not be the case. (“Princess Bride” clip here…)

                    No two people are completely “equal”. We can say that people are equal under the law, in that the laws are supposed to ensure fair outcomes in terms of justice and/or opportunity; these things are external to persons. Even ethnic background and biological sex are, in a sense, externalities we try to “level” by means of the law. But reality is that no two people are exactly the same in terms of psychological make-up and personality at the very least; these things are internal to persons. And certainly everyone here knows someone, or more than one person, whom we would consider more “Christ-like” than others we know, so there’s the “inequality” of holiness as well. “Humility” covers all of that internal stuff – that which is visible to us, and that which is not. It puts the externalities in their place, so to speak. So I will stand with Mule on this one.

                    Dana

                    • Michael Bell says

                      Methinks thou dost confuse the matter. All dictionaries that I quickly googled had “equality” as having the same basic meaning.

                      “a situation in which men and women, people of different races, religions, etc. are all treated fairly and have the same opportunities:” – Cambridge

                    • Klasie Kraalogies says

                      Strongly agreed Michael.

                    • Michael Bell says

                      Maybe that too could be a post of its own. 🙂

                    • Dana Ames says

                      Yes, that’s the dictionary definition, and I most certainly agree with the situation the dictionary describes. However, usage is another matter. I would contend that in general usage, most people hear “equal” as meaning “the same as”. Especially in these times, it needs to be more carefully nuanced.

                      D.

        • Michael Bell says

          Perhaps to achieve theosis, you need to have some humility and accept equality. 😀

          • Burro (Mule) says

            God is humble.

            See Friday’s discussion on losing. God loses. Divinely.
            …trampling down death by death.

            Also, the fact that our problems with sex and power predate the writing of the Scriptures do not for me invalidate the Scriptures but rather reinforce them. I don’t view the preagricultural egalitarian Neolithic as anything close to a utopia and a terminus ad quem but as something that needed to be broken in the same way that the Jewish particulars were broken in the post-Exilic age.

            Finally, it is so hard to get you guys thinking right. Sin isn’t ‘dirty’ and ‘icky’ requiring a cleansing which is experienced as penal even if not intended as such. Sin impedes the manifestation of the Logos, and should be experienced as a barrier to what is ardently desired.

            • Michael Bell says

              You guys – does that mean Protestants?

              Maybe you could elaborate on what you mean in your last paragraph.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says

                Agree, I don’t ‘get’ the last paragraph.

              • Burro (Mule) says

                It was kind of a outburst of impatience with the ease with which you all (RobertF, Eeyore, Michael, Finn, among others) seduce me to your way of thinking. I am a product of the same intellectual world as you, so thinking of ‘Honesty, Commitment, Equality, and Empathy’ as the sine qua non of ‘relationship’ (another word I loathe) trips as automatically down my neurons as does completing the phrase ‘You get a lot to like with a Marlboro, filter, flavor, _____—”

                Even though it is the most Gnostic statement I’ve read since the last time I opened Plotinus. My confessor places far more emphasis on ‘how’ I pray; standing before the icons with my hands in the ‘orans’ position, than in what I pray specifically. I fight like a Trojan to think differently than I do by habit, and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the effort.

            • –> “Finally, it is so hard to get you guys thinking right.”

              Not sure that was intended as humor, but I almost did a spit-take with my coffee over that line!

            • Adam Tauno Williams says

              “””the fact that our problems with sex and power predate the writing of the Scriptures do not for me invalidate the Scriptures but rather reinforce them”””

              I do not see anyone suggesting that is the case.

              “””I don’t view the preagricultural egalitarian Neolithic as anything close to a utopia”””

              I do not see anyone suggesting such was the case.

              “””but as something that needed to be broken in the same way”””

              I don’t follow. It was rendered obsolete by the creation of the City-State which offered people potent advantages so compelling the majority of societies adapted to the new construct.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says

              Mule, you are reading some things into the post that aren’t there. The goal in discussing the long evolution of the idea of marriage is to show that it is exactly that, a long term evolution. The role of religion, both pre-Judaism, and pre-Christian, was part of that evolution, and nothing special in and of itself. It basically placed the economic and power contract within religious context. Some of my friends would say “sanctified it”, although naturally won’t put it in those terms.
              I am certainly not a Rousseauan idealist that wants us to return to being “Noble Savages”, a very problematic term and idea in and of itself.

              I won’t speak to your mentioning of theosis etc., because that is not my concern. I am merely indicating that marriage is and has always been an economic and legal contract, with a strong power dynamic. As Dana points out downthread, it can be seen as a nice legal package deal, although, in some of the more advanced democracies, the necessity of the legal package deal is being diminished.

              An aside: The concept of sin is an interesting one. In my understanding it is a social construct, but the interesting question is what it means within social interaction. I would tie it to morality that transcends species boundaries. We have discussed the idea of primate morality before, in terms of guilt, empathy and obligation, which are well established as operational principles in certain primate societies. Sin is therefore that which hinders the operation and well-being of the group/pack/society, as well as the individuals within.

              • Dana Ames says

                in some of the more advanced democracies, the necessity of the legal package deal is being diminished

                I do not believe this. We delude ourselves into thinking such because of, for example, recent legislation re same-sex marriage, or other judicial rulings in practice that do nothing more than contribute to confusion and familial/societal instability. For the safety of women and minor children, especially in the USA under the conditions of wide income disparity, a flood of firearms, the general societal devaluation of women (see advertising and other expressions of pop culture) and children, and the tendency of some humans to behave like chimpanzees, the need for the legal package remains vital, so there can at least be an attempt at redress when the marriage situation goes south.

                Dana

                • Burro (Mule) says

                  In middle- and upper-middle class strata perhaps, income being the single most powerful predictor of martial longevity.

                  I have a comment in moderation. It doesn’t directly address everything. It was more of a growl.

                  • Dana Ames says

                    The legalities are supposed to protect poor people too, though that is becoming more difficult, as you say.

                    D.

                • Klasie Kraalogies says

                  Dana, the US is not an advanced democracy.

                  • Dana Ames says

                    LOL – that was supposed to be built in to my comment…

                    But really, pick any country that you consider has an “advanced” democracy, and you will find social problems. The problems may not be related to economic safety nets, but they are still there. First Nations women in Canada. Alcoholism in Iceland. Domestic abuse in Sweden. Neo-Nazism in Germany. Racism in Norway. Increasing poverty among the elderly in Denmark. Eschewing having children all over Europe; what’s that about? Even in Finland, drug abuse and child custody fights.

                    The “best” government can reward Virtue, but it cannot inculcate it. Hence, the continuing need for legalities.

                    Dana

                    • The question is, are the legalities addressing the most current social problems? Or do they address what people thought were the problems 200+ years ago?

                    • Klasie Kraalogies says

                      Sure. But the situation in say Finland is a far cry from say the situation in it’s neighbour to the east.

                      I said the necessities are being diminished. I didn’t say they have vanished. It is an evolution, not a quantum leap.

                    • Dana Ames says

                      The only evolution that lasts happens in the deepest depths of a person’s being. The conditions that make it possible for that evolution to occur are found in in the ancient interpretation of ancient Christianity, passed down most fully at the heart of Eastern Christianity (EOrthodoxy – and yes, on the outside we are a mess, so no need to bring that up again – we’ve discussed that many times). That evolution has to do with Virtue, but absolutely nothing to do with Legalisms and Morality. “Against these things there is no law.” You quote a RCatholic council and you are familiar with other aspects of western Christianity; all I can say is “go east, young man” (but don’t read the Eastern Fathers like you were trained in your youth to read Scripture, in spite of some EO converts doing that – those folks miss the point.)

                      Go read Fr Stephen’s posts on Morality. If you can grasp what Fr Stephen says, you’ll have a clue to understanding Mule’s comment about the Logos and what is ardently desired. Drill down to the heart of things.

                      Dana

                    • Klasie Kraalogies says

                      Dana, I have certainly read Stephen Freeman’s posts.

                      That is all I will say.

                    • Dana Ames says

                      Klasie, if you’re back again, I’m glad you’ve read Fr Stephen. I appreciate your willingness to hang out here and talk.

                      Dana

                      p.s. When your heart soars from Beauty, you are touching the Divine…

                  • Adam Tauno Williams says

                    +1

                  • Robert F says

                    Truth.

                  • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                    Dana, the US is not an advanced democracy.

                    More like toying with the idea of “Third World Failed State” with the Christians(TM) among the cheerleaders.

                • Robert F says

                  Perhaps it is you, Mule, who thinks “sin” is “dirty” and “icky”, but are projecting. Nobody else — none of “you guys” — seems to have been speaking in those terms here. Not sure where you got it from.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I would like to point out that the Christianese arguments on Sex in general always seem to devolve into Letter of the Law Uber Alles while the secular ones stress Consent (and Klasie’s Four Qualifiers). Why can’t we have both? :Legal Marriage AND Consent/Commitment?

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          Indeed. I often think that these arguments say more about the people who make the arguments than anything else. Over the last couple of days a “Fireside Chat” by Dennis Prager appeared where he argued that without moral rules and police, all men would be rapists. My comment is that such talk says a lot about Mt Prager and nothing about all men.

          • Robert F says

            I don’t know him, but this Dennis Prager must have a very low view of human nature.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            > such talk says a lot about Mt Prager and nothing about all men

            +1,000

          • Marcus Johnson says

            Didn’t you know? Murder was morally justified until the Ten Commandments came along. All those amoral patriarchs in Genesis, literally getting away with murder!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Over the last couple of days a “Fireside Chat” by Dennis Prager appeared where he argued that without moral rules and police, all men would be rapists.

            I remember “All Men Are Rapists” as a mantra associated with some of the most X-Treme Feminists.

            I remember listening to Dennis Prager’s radio talk show some 25-30 years ago, and he seemed to have his head on straight back then. His online essay from about 15-20 years ago (“Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality”) made a lot of sense.

            I can only conclude from your comments that he has deteriorated in those 20-30 years since. Much like Rush Limbaugh with Entropy over time, though Prager had farther to fall. One telltale sign is did he retain any sense of humor, especially towards himself?

  8. “Some months ago, on a Stoic forum, the nature and desirability of sexual relations were discussed. Some (predictably) younger men counted sexual relations as adiaphora – they are irrelevant to your morality. I countered and spoke about the nature of sex and connection, and how casual sex denies the nature of intercourse, namely that it has a profound and deep affect on the psychology of the parties. I was immediately accused by quite a few people of putting sex on a pedestal – but interestingly, all the accusers were men. Every single female commenter supported my assertion.”

    My observation of the (American) kids nowadays is that “cheating” (however defined) is severely denigrated. That is, they definitely hold that there is a connection between sex and morality. This is entirely distinct, however, from marriage. It only requires a “committed relationship.” How this is defined is a bit vague, but if both parties acknowledge it, then it definitely exists. It can, however, be unilaterally terminated. The common effect is serial monogamy, while for those not in a committed relationship more or less anything goes. (The more worldly also recognize variants of open relationships. What constitutes cheating there has to be defined for each relationship. The rule might be, for example, anything goes but you have to tell your partner about it. In this instance, the sex act may or may not be cheating, depending on subsequent actions.)

    There also seems to be an ideal of eventually settling down, with much anxiety over when this will occur. Settling down may or may not involve formal marriage. A twenty-year-old sowing his or her wild oats is one thing. At thirty this is beginning to verge upon undignified.

    While I have couched this in terms of kids nowadays, it really isn’t any different than when I was that age, and outside the Evangelical cultural bubble. Full disclosure: I was not a virgin on my wedding night.

  9. Roger Olson made a similar comment regarding the vague yet clearly operative term “committed relationship ” on his blog once. As a pop culture example, he pointed to an episode of The Big Bang Theory in which the principals, though not married, were definitely up in arms over one them cheating.

    I’ve also read that the percentage of married couples saying it was ok to occasionally cheat was remarkably high in the 1970s afterglow of the Sexual Revolution. It certainly is no longer. Open relationships are still quite rare.

    Something marriage-like seems very hard for us humans to avoid embracing, hopefully in the four-fold context Klassie indicates.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Something marriage-like seems very hard for us humans to avoid embracing

      Pragmatism. It solves – at least crudely – issues of paternity, custody, inheritance, allegiance, long-term care, and proxy (for both social and legal decisions, etc…) while involving the fewest number of parties. Not to mention that pairing – since most people “pair” in that other way anyway – is possibly the best financial decision possible, even if only the cost of housing is considered.

      • Dana Ames says

        All of these pragmatic issues are what “the piece of paper” addresses. The social context in which it is obtained assumes the adults involved will act responsibly, and if that does not happen in whatever situation, the force of law (supposedly) can be brought to bear to ensure at least fairness, if not out-and-out safety. Of course, the force of law is not always effective, but the ideal is that it will be. The paper also ensures some privileges of family relationships vis-a-vis certain institutions. If one is not part of a religious community that can impose consequences for un-loving behavior (whether they actually do so is another issue), then obtaining a state record of a marriage seems to me to be a reasonable thing to do, especially if one is a female and minor children are involved, given the chimpanzee-like behavior of some humans.

        Dana

      • Also, all sorts of tasks that are not easily or conveniently accomplished with just two hands. To say nothing of scratching that itchy spot in the small of your back.

    • “I’ve also read that the percentage of married couples saying it was ok to occasionally cheat was remarkably high in the 1970s afterglow of the Sexual Revolution. It certainly is no longer. Open relationships are still quite rare.”

      I was just a kid then, but this is consistent with my impression from that era. The combination of the pill and antibiotics separated sex from reproduction and (for a time) disease. The idea of an open marriage, whether express or tacit, is that sex can also be separated from emotional bonding. This is a tough one. Sex is a powerful tool for emotional bonding. While clearly some people can separate sex from bonding, my sense is that for many, the bonding is entirely jettisoned. This is a sub-optimal result.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        Well said. But it is also the result of how marriage developed. Marriage was an economic contract. In time, it means sex is subject to an economic contract. Thus, the emphasis is on contract and sex and bonding is something you work upon and you hope is good, but not an inherent part of it. Sure it was written into marriage vows, but that is neither here nor there. The essence should be bonding.

        • Robert F says

          Virginity in a young woman was a highly valued commodity. The young woman’s family could benefit greatly from the virginity of the unmarried girls in their kinship network., because men in search of a wife, especially wealthy men, wanted to secure patrimony. Virginity in men, otoh, was not so highly prized.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        “Open relationships are still quite rare.”

        And the incidence of them varies from subculture to subculture.

        • I have in the recent past been part of a subculture that was very, um…, open to this. In my entirely unsystematic observation, monogamy was still more common than not, and the non-monogamous relationships were not notably stable.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Which subculture?
            And I’ve seen the same in various subcultures called Fandoms. Furry Fandom has the reputation, but you also found such “um, open to this” in SF litfandom. Don’t know about Anime Fandom, though they can also get pretty weird.

  10. Nicely researched and written, Klaasie. I enjoyed this.

  11. Robert F says

    Unrelated to today’s topic, I want to say that my wife got through her bilateral mastectomy yesterday without any problems, the surgery went well. She was kept overnight in hospital, as had been planned, and is now home. We do have a concern, however, in that she was running a 101-plus degree fever last night for a while after I left the hospital — which I found out this morning — and she has developed some respiratory congestion, which can quickly turn into bronchitis and then pneumonia in her case. We are monitoring the situation closely; please keep her in your prayers.

  12. Norma Cenva says

    I know a woman
    Became a wife

    These are the very words she uses
    To describe her life
    She said a good day
    Ain’t got no rain
    She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
    And think of things that might have been

    Slip slidin’ away
    Slip slidin’ away

    You know the nearer your destination
    The more you’re slip slidin’ away

    — Paul Simon 1977 —

    • Robert F says

      She said, “it grieves me so to see you in such pain
      I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again”
      I said, “I appreciate that and would you please explain
      About the fifty ways”

      She said, “why don’t we both just sleep on it tonight?
      And I believe in the morning you’ll begin to see the light”
      And then she kissed me and I realized she probably was right
      There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
      Fifty ways to leave your lover

      Paul Simon 1975

  13. 90 COMMENTS FROM THE PROGRESSIVES AND LIBERALS. NOT ONE HAS QUOTED JESUS OR THE BIBLE ON THIS ISSUE. I WONDER WHY ? MATHEW 19 4-6 EXPLAINS IT WELL. YOU WOULD RATHER HAVE YOUR OWN IDEAS ON THE ISSUE BUT CHRIST DID NOT.YOU HAVE TAKEN CHRIST COMPLETELY OUT OF BEING A CHRISTIAN. LEFT TO YOUR OWN DEVICES YOU HAVE INTERNETMONK.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      No one expects the Spanish Inquisition….

      🙂

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Also, there are 11 mentions of Jesus in the comments, other than your own.

      Shouting in people’s faces (virtually) is not a good tactic, my friend.

    • Robert F says

      It’s not fair to lump Dana and Mule in with us progressives and liberals, but you did it anyway.

      • Norma Cenva says

        And there are those of us who are not all one or the other, but rather a synthesis of the best that both sides have to offer.

    • David Greene says

      Hmmm, seems like you’ve been around long enough to know better than that.

    • –> “90 COMMENTS FROM THE PROGRESSIVES AND LIBERALS. NOT ONE HAS QUOTED JESUS OR THE BIBLE ON THIS ISSUE.”

      Hmm…

      “Rick Ro. says
      July 29, 2020 at 11:31 am
      –> ‘But any serious reading of the Prophets and the Gospels gives no comfort to that notion at all.’

      Yep. And the Prophets and Jesus’ continued denouement of the Law ‘uber alles’ got them all killed by those who didn’t so much like that message.”

      I’d say maybe it’s you who have taken Christ out of being a Christian. Put down the stone, please!

    • anonymous says

      st bennie is having an attack of ‘KAREN- ITUS’

    • So much for the evangelical trolls going away. Guess they got bored…

    • Steady now.

      You can discuss Christian things using words other than just Bible verses.

  14. Not shouting but just making my own comments. To me this blog has just become more about individual feelings than looking at what Jesus says . I am a Christian and think that the words Christ spoke have meaning. You are free to be an atheist but I wonder why you want to be on a so-called Christian blog

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Stbndct , the nature of this blog has been explained in detailed quote recently. There are lots of paths in the post-evangelical world. Mine is different than most I count lot sof the folks here as friends, just like Michael Spencer was a friend to me.

      However, you made an untruthful statement in all caps, which is the traditional way of shouting I’m social media. So once again, an untruthful statement. For someone claiming the moral and religious high ground, you are awfully fond of mischaracterization, and untruths. I am not sure if that is irony or a classic case of QED.

    • anonymous says

      she speaks and mentions ‘Jesus’ and says ‘I am a Christian’ in the process of her judging, while pointing the finger

      this is revelation indeed

    • –> “To me this blog has just become more about individual feelings than looking at what Jesus says .”

      There might be some truth to that, yes. Fair statement, probably one worthy of some reflection for those who frequent here.

      –> “I am a Christian and think that the words Christ spoke have meaning.”

      I’d say most of us here would agree with that also, but have either been through the wringer a few too many times or been harmed by bad, unhealthy religion to just blindly accept “religious truths” coming from Evangelical mouths. Therefore, you’ll see a lot of honest questions and doubts mixed in with our wobbly faith.

      • Robert F says

        I think it is also impossible to omit discussion about feelings when bad religion has been involved in one’s experience of Christianity, or bad religion in Christianity is under discussion. In an expansive way, for instance, today’s post is about bad teaching leading to bad religion and understanding regarding marriage and sexuality as it relates to the development of certain kinds of Christian beliefs. I think that is completely in line for this blog.

        With regard to the words of Christ having meaning, I and others here might put it a different way: I am a Christian (others might say I have a personal investment in Christianity and its practices and beliefs, though I am not a Christian), and think that what the Bible expresses, especially regarding Christ, has meaning, though I’m not always sure what that meaning is, and that’s why we are here at iMonk, to try and sort that meaning out.

        • To follow up on Robert’s points:

          We are human. Human beings have emotions, and emotions are part of our lives no matter where we are or what we’re doing, asleep or awake.

          Nobody has ever bern successful at separating the mind from its physical “envelope,” the brain. So it is on a somewhat larger scale with body and mind, including the emotions.

          Ever wonder why people who are sick or in pain are often irritable and all that? The answer is fairly complex, but boils down to the interdependence of all “parts” of our being.

          We cannot function on mind – in a sense where “mind” = abstract, dispassionate thought – alone.

          Nobody ever has, and nobody ever will. Even the writers of the Gospels acknowledged as much.

      • ““To me this blog has just become more about individual feelings than looking at what Jesus says .”

        There might be some truth to that, yes.”

        OTOH, take a look at the Psalms. Lotsa feelings there, right there in Scripture, and not all of them “theologically correct” either.

        • Good counterpoint! David in particular comes across as quite “feelings” oriented, almost to the point of seemingly bipolar at times.

    • Michael Bell says

      You are free to be an atheist but I wonder why you want to be on a so-called Christian blog

      You are free to be an evangelical but I wonder why you want to be on a so-called post-evangelical blog.

      I welcome Klasie as someone who sharpens us and makes us think harder about our own faith. He has been on a journey like many of us.

      I welcome you too, as you too can sharpen us.

      In my mind this blog, and the comments, including the comments today, vibrate with the love of Jesus, and the grace of God.

      As an interesting side note, I once heard a sermon on the command vs. permit in Matthew 19. Failing to notice that Mark 10 reverses the speakers of command and permit. Well, at least I found it interesting. 🙂

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Your Virtue Signalling has been Noted, Stbndct.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Something tells me people aren’t actually “free to be an atheist” around you.

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