What is Marriage?

By Joseph Delli Gatti

According to the OS X.5 built-in dictionary, marriage is “the formal union of a man and woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife.”  Another definition to this entry is as follows: “a similar long-term relationship between partners of the same sex.”  This second definition is truly the topic of debate and of a lot of questions in recent years.

Well, let’s turn to an even broader definition of what marriage is (according to the Mac Dictionary): “figurative a combination or mixture of two or more elements”  This is probably closer than both earlier definitions in accuracy.

My great uncle and aunt stopped by for a visit a few years ago.  They offered to make us dinner at our house.  We were delighted and a little excited.  Spaghetti is the treat of family tradition.  When they came over they carried in a large bowl.  My uncle explained that the bowl contained a combination of different sauce elements.  The elements were set aside to age over a period of time (aka. mature).  Then these separate elements were poured together.  My uncle said that this was “marrying” the two elements into a whole and complete sauce.  Needless to say, that evening, I had the most delicious spaghetti that I have ever eaten.  It was a true marriage – a mixture or a combination of two elements that became a new element.

Remember, marriage is not just the combination of two or more elements – in fact, water and water cannot marry.  The elements must be unique (different from each other) and mixable so that they become a new element when put into the same container together.  For example, oil and water don’t marry well either.  If the elements bond, you have a marriage.

“Marriage” apparently finds its dictionary origins in the French word “Marier” or “marriage”.  However, “marriage” the concept as it pertains to humans finds it’s origins in ancient Hebrew writings.  The first appearance of marriage in these writings (now referred to as the  Old Testament), which Jews, Muslims, and Christians all share as doctrine, is contained in the book of Genesis.  Genesis was apparently written by Moses and contains an account of a people from many centuries (possibly about 1,000 years) before Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1:  21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

This is a command passed along by Moses from the mouth of (what billions of people accept as) deity or God – to marry in a very basic sense.  One need not accept a religion or it’s doctrine to accept the origin of a common definition of a word.  Most people could care less about who invented the concept of 0 (zero), which apparently originated from Hindu mathematicians, or “relativity” as conceived by an agnostic man.  The point in introducing these ancient and widely accepted scriptures is to point out the origins of the modern concept and accepted definition of marriage rather than to try to use the scriptures in a doctrinal way to prove that God “just wants it that way”.  In other words, we’re using the Bible for it’s publication date and the cultural circumstances of the authors when they wrote the Bible.

Genesis 1: 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…

Genesis 2: 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Again, this is the first appearance of marriage in the most ancient writing known to man.  Genesis also molds the definition for the word associated with the concept.  It explains that each plant and creature (including humans) creates after its own kind.

Marriage involves the joining of a man and a woman at maturity into “one flesh”.  This “one flesh” or new element spoken of in ancient Holy writ all by itself constitutes the completion of a basic marriage.  The act of joining two bodies (or elements) together to create “one flesh” (or a baby) is what defines marriage for humans.

When a man and woman join together to create a new little child, they have become literally and physically married.  This marriage lasts beyond the life of the parents and becomes renewed with every future bond created through procreation.

When a mature man and woman decide that they can be compatible enough to endure the hardships of life and child rearing together, they go through a process of self-consecration (or setting themselves apart in preparation) for that purpose.

Consecration is an act generally carried out by all of the following sources: husband, wife, parents of both spouses, the church at which the couple claims to be a part of, and the government.

Once the consecration is recognized by all of these parties, the idea is that the couple is granted permission to engage in a procreative/marital relationship, and is granted protection from interference from the rest of the world.

For instance, a wife is granted church and governmental protection from her husband engaging in activity that would divide or divert his potential dedication to their exclusive procreative relationship.  Adultery, for instance, was not just a crime punishable by church officials, but is against the law in most states (until just recently).

These consecrated reproductive efforts require love and dedication; they require combining resources, time, and talents.  A couple also benefits by having a common religion or a common set of values, and by having religious and public acknowledgment.  These constitute some of the tools used by couples in a marriage.

So, marriage is not just an act of personally or mutually benefitting from these marriage tools; however, these tools do generally facilitate a more successful marriage.

From ancient times, dating back to about 3,000 years ago (from 1,000 BC to 2009 AD), marriage has remained a joining of a man and woman in a procreative relationship.

Marriage has had a lot of conditions placed on it by couples, parents, religions and governments over the centuries.  Some of these stipulations or laws have limited breeding to a certain race, religion, nationality, number of allowable offspring, or familial status.  In certain situations in history, celebrity marriages have also symbolized the union or combining of kingdoms and lands.  If no baby was created from the celebrity couple, the union of the kingdoms could be questioned.

In recent years, confusion has crept in, and not all people now understand the nature of marriage.  For instance, people who have created together don’t always seek to dedicate themselves to rear their children together.  Some individuals don’t acknowledge that their procreative acts warrant any relationship or dedication at all.  Both of these scenarios are examples of abusive marital relationships.

Some people have the required dedication and engage in a marriage relationship without going to the church and/or the state for recognition.  These people rob themselves, their spouse, and their children of the publicly recognized status, exclusivity, and protection provided by the law.

Some couples have the public recognition and protection while engaging in extramarital practices and in activities that diminish or nullify that consecrated relationship.  Couples involving both spouses neglecting or sending their children to daycare to be taken care of by someone else while they both divide their efforts for selfish or worldly things constitute another example of not completing obligations that accompany the public and religious act of consecration (or setting apart).  In other words, both husband and wife are neglecting their agreed upon duties.

Some male/female couples can’t have children.  The state and church will still normally afford them with the same benefits and tools to enable them to rear adopted children, etc.  These couples can serve as procreative role models and can easily fulfill the after-birth responsibilities of the original parents.  If these couple’s don’t use their consecrated relationship to rear adopted children, they are essentially benefitting from the rights, protections, and recognition without fulfilling the requested (although un-enforced) requirements as a publicly recognized married couple.

Marriage has many different spellings and pronunciations in many different languages.  The concept of marriage itself remains unchangeable and is not open for greater inclusiveness.  However, now homosexual and other alternative couples would like the public recognition and state protection associated with these consecrated marriages with no intention of being truly married (procreative).  They want the title and reverence of a married couple.  What for?

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