Was traditional straight marriage ever really ‘strait’?

In the many heated debates over Gay marriage and the very nature of marriage since the SCOTUS decision, particularly those comments coming from conservative representatives of political and religious traditions that have taken a stand against same sex unions, is a presumption that needs examining, that within their respective religious teachings is a traditional marriage ‘;;;design’;;; which originates with God.

If by origins those religious are referring to the union poorly described in Genesis from which man fell from grace, than there is painfully little which allows one to comprehend the basis or nature of that union or the religious claim. But while there is considerable reference within the scriptural record to the spiritual union of one man and one woman, and one can hardly doubt that God, if there is a God, would have an interest in the matter, there is an acute shortage of important detail. One of the unspoken missing links within institutional Christian tradition is the absence of any insight into that union, which once brought a man and woman into direct contact with the living God, without the necessity of any of the institutional forms or middleman-priesthood we know today.

Even after two thousand years of scholastic theological exegesis, tradition is unable to describe with precision, not only the nature of the union from Genesis but exactly what the single transgression was that left man in his fallen state. A state or fall that many would agree remains the fact of human nature today.

Among the curiosities of religious teaching on marriage is one wearing so thin as to be transparent is the concept of ‘;;;natural law’;;;. The idea that human sexuality represents a spiritual component or a ‘;;;gift’;;; of God. But the question is how can an unruly instinct of biology, a leftover from our evolutionary past, one outside human volition and for the most part irrational in response and itself a material reality be either moral or spiritual? The idea that a potential of biology, called euphemistically ‘;;;procreation’;;;, accrues some moral or spiritual advantage from God to the relationship is a dubious concept indeed as the basis for any moral standard. Especially since carnality and it’;;;s union existed long before any of the monotheisms ever appeared on earth. And the basics of that biology isn’;;;t changed by some contrivance of language, ceremony, blessing or the most sincere aspirations of a man and woman.

It is also presumed that human nature and natural law as understood today is the same as within the union referenced in Genesis. For an omnipotent, omniscient God that may not be the case, as the carnal bond has not shown itself to be a particularly solid foundation for a spiritual or moral union between a man and woman, even less between gay men, if the writing on public toilet walls or the proliferation of ‘;;;hookup’;;; apps has anything to say about fidelity. The idea that sexual response has any fidelity is one of the great male lies. And it is within human sexuality that a dangerous and dark side of human nature is exposed too clearly not to take pause and reflect.

The religious preoccupation with human sexuality has never been concerned with Love or the nature or quality of human spiritual union, but with contract and control, historically at the expense of woman. But for many valid reasons! For it is self evident that our species own control of this unruly force of nature within us is something much less than complete. A force of nature too often able to overrule any moral authority of conscience. And the price for this limitation has been high.

One needs only consider pornography, prostitution, divorce, the broken homes and marriages that infidelity causes, unwanted children, questions of overpopulation, all sexual abuse and violence, trafficking, pedophile priests, rape, an Aids pandemic, Syphilis, Gonnorrhea and at least another dozen sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Than there is contraception, abortion and suggestive links to testicular and prostate cancers, degenerating DNA in sperm, implications for the immune system and even female vaginal conditions; with such huge risks and costs to human well being, both individually and culturally, one might think such overwhelming evidences would give reason a start to seriously begin questioning this often predatory act which looks more at home on the farm than approved of by Heaven. This act, bought and sold the world over, from this perspective looks more a material tyranny and a curse than any ‘;;;gift’;;; of God, making us slaves to concupiscence and Madison avenue. And while there may be some satisfaction of the senses from carnal gratification, does it satisfy or feed the soul, the heart or bring us closer to God?  Probably not!

Unfortunately answering this question requires questioning human nature itself. And such critical self scrutiny is no easy task when there are no obvious alternatives to turn to. And so here human pride kicks in and any claim to honesty or rationality goes out the window. But is confusing a biological imperative for a spiritual expression little more than an intellectual prostitution and the sleep of reason? I suspect that is the case. So before condemning other sexual conduct, straights should take a hard look at the character of their own sexual conduct and union, founded upon the same impulse of nature. And however straight we may wish to believe our union may be, I have to doubt that there is no gay or strait before God, just the corruption of an ideal of Love lost at the fall and yet to be recovered.

So then is this confusion just more wishful thinking, the futile attempt by the religious to hold fast to an idea that ‘;;;we’;;; are ‘;;;created’;;; in the ‘;;;image and likeness’;;; of God without being able to convincingly define that likeness, moral or spiritual? The whole of existing religious identity rests on that assumption. An assumption, however appealing, the growing environmental crisis is quickly tearing to pieces. Our tragic stewardship of the planet could not possibly reflect the wisdom of God or a spiritual dominance within human nature, especially while we remain so self evidently an unsustainable and destructive species.  

And with regard to marriage, another curiosity of the Judeo/Christian’;;; tradition is this: If our Fall from grace came from within a spiritual union of man and woman created by God, by a single disobedience, one might imagine that our return to the grace and favour of God would be by the obverse path, by a yet unknown, single command to a single Law and obedience which re-establishes the divine union, which was once the foundation of a Covenant, Command, Law and direct relationship with God.

Of course the existence, ‘;;;as in the beginning’;;; of such a single Law and command would be heretical to the established religious order, for in practical terms, it would make all them instantly redundant, changing the very nature of religion itself from the top heavy, institutional temple/church traditions we observe in the world today, to an individual spiritual-virtue ethic conception, founded within the marriage of one man and one woman and without the need of a self ordained, theological priestcraft and any other mumbo jumbo at all! Just integrity and fidelity to new moral purpose. Sounds like revolutionary stuff. Maybe that’;;;s what sent Jesus to be crucified on the Cross?

Marriage between a man and woman, as an ideal of relationship that it should be . . . isn’;;;t!  The high aspirations and expectations that two bring to this relationship are easily worn down by the weight of contradictory realities that too often prevent human flourishing, especially for women. The failure/divorce rate for this union speaks for itself.

This ancient and flawed institution desperately needs new foundations, now more than ever before, which religion has failed to provide. Assuming there is a God, should he wish to make a spiritual union between a man and woman pre-eminent over all others, He’;;;ll need to try something just a little different. A foundation of divine wisdom, clear of the many corruptions natural law is heir too, that ‘;;;lifts’;;; the spirit to new insight and understanding of both God the very nature of Love, maybe even a Resurrection that unifies the dualism within the human condition into a single whole.

Religion, as we understand that idea from history and tradition, intellectually bound to a concept of natural law, self evidently offers no means to correct the crooked timber that is human nature. Yet Shakespeare, the ever wise bard,  appears to have an insight and a better idea than most religious of what it might take to straiten out the human heart. Quoting from his poem Venus and Adonis and from Dante’;;;s Divine Comedy:

Call it not love for Love to heaven is fled
Since sweating lust on earth usurped his name.
Under whose simple semblance man has fed,
upon fresh beauty blotting it with blame,
which the hot tyrant stains and soon bereaves
 as caterpillars do the tender leaves.

Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,
while lusts effect is tempest after sun.
Love’;;;s gentle spring doth alway fresh remain,
lust’;;;s winter comes ere summer half be done.
Love surfeits not, lust like a glutton dies,
Love is all truth, lust full of forged lies.

For as I turned there greeted mine likewise
what all behold who contemplate aright,
that’;;;s Heavens revolution through the skies.

 

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