Wednesday, October 18, 2006

C.S. Lewis

Marriage - is it a civil or a christian ceremony? Andrew Sullivan found a wonderful quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. The point is that the reason for civil control of marriages is different from the religious reasons for marriage. When we confuse the two we get religious leaders arguing that an approval of same-sex marriages is religious discrimination.

The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite
different question - how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of
Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the
community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to
think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the
Mohammendans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.
My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the
British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, and the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought be to quite sharp, so that a man know which couples are married in a Christian sense and which
are not.

Those who are christian view marriage in one (acutally more than one) way but the needs of the Christian are not the same as the needs of society. I'd go further and say that even in a society where everyone is christian, the Christian view ought to be that we provide for those whose view of marriage is different. There are cogent secual arguments against marriage between partners where one is not able to consent because of age or disability. There are cogent arguments against polygamous marriages. There may even be cogent argumetns against gay marriage - though most of the arguments against same-sex marriage (please note that not all of them do this) I've heard boil down to we don't like it and we're going to provide false witness until you don't like it.

If you ask the question "is marriage a civil or religious ceremony?" then any answer is wrong. There are marriages that are one; there are marriages that are the other; there are marriages that are both.

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