Wednesday, February 1, 2012

first comes love, then comes marriage...

“Johnny and Janie sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G! First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!” If you are anything like me, you could repeat this little rhyme before you reached double digits. You may have even used it to tease your friends on the playground and, though you didn’t tell anyone, got some secret pleasure when your friends teased you with it because they noticed that someone liked you—yes you! But what you didn’t think of, I presume, is the very specific “love approach” that this rhyme advocates. By reading the events backwards, we can recognize society’s expectations. Do you want children? Then you better be married. Do you want to get married? Then surely you will be in love. Whether or not this all begins in a tree is up for debate. But aside from the tree situation, there is no room to deviate from the norm. We could write an entire how-to manual based on the assumptions packed into this little diddy, though I’m afraid it would have to be titled “How to Live and Love According to Narrow Convention, Even Though You Are Probably Different.” To make myself clear, there is nothing wrong with following this convention. I, too, want to fall in love with a man, get married, and have kids. But I recognize that this is the path for me, and perhaps many others, but surely not for everyone. And this is what is key to recognize.
Another interesting tidbit that we can pick up from this rhyme is the notion of marriage and the conception that marriage is completely normal, expected even. Natalie Angier considers this idea, and questions it, in her chapter titled “Of Hoggamus and Hogwash: Putting Evolutionary Psychology on the Couch.” Angier puts forth the question, “Are we the marrying kind?” She remarks that she does not know the answer, but then nobody else does either. Where she goes on to tackle this question, and the faults of evolutionary psychology, I would like to offer up an argument in light of Christian tradition.
Now some people might question my decision to use Christianity to approach this question. Surely Christianity hasn’t always existed, and not everyone believes in God, so why even bother? And why do I need to bring in religion in the first place? To answer the last question, religion and faith are not things that you can compartmentalize. Christianity is not something to indulge in from time to time, but rather a comprehensive way of life. Furthermore, as a Catholic, I believe that I am right in believing in God. People may be wary of those who claim to be right in a modern “live-and-let-live society,” but it would be pointless for me to identify with a faith if I did not think I was right. It is impossible for both believers and nonbelievers to be right. I identify with theists, hence I think I’m right. Furthermore, just because Christianity has not always existed, and people may not have forever recognized God, does not mean that God has not always existed. And this existence of God, and his plans for us, is how I substantiate my claims. I would argue that humans are the marrying kind, in general, but I would not argue that marriage is for everyone. Priests are technically married to the Church, but what about those who pursue the single life? Those who are called to be sisters? Who are not legally allowed to marry? There is nothing wrong with these people simply because they are not married. I would argue, however, that humans are designed for lasting pair bonds. Marriage is the public recognition of these pair bonds, usually between men and women but between woman and woman or man and man in some of the more liberal states. Nevertheless, God created us for love and out of love. It is the human desire to want to be loved and to give love. The formation of a pure pair bond with another human is the closest we will get to the union we will have with God after earthly death—a union of utter love. This love will fulfill us and bring us complete happiness, thus it only makes sense that we try to imitate it on Earth. One may argue that atheists get married, which is obviously true, so how can I say they seek to imitate their future union with God? I would argue that just because they don’t believe in God does not mean that God does not exist. Despite their disbelief, God endowed them with the same human desires as everyone else. So, to get at the heart of the question, I do believe that two people can fall in love and stay in love for the entirety of their lives, happily (at least most of the time) remaining lifelong companions. Given the rate of divorce we can see that this is not always the case, but there is still a remaining hope.

1 comment:

  1. For me, there is always a tension between the ideal of marriage as a sacrament and the refusal of marriage for priests. Early Christianity was anti-family because the church did not want family (i.e. wives) to interfere with the men and also due to inheritance issues.

    That said, I am all for marriage, for whoever might want to do it, without imposing it on anyone or denying it to anyone.