At the risk of groans from those who’ve heard me say this before, I’m as good at relationships as Genghis Khan was at living in peace with his neighbours. This means you’re free to take everything you read in today’s blog with a generous pinch of salt. Or maybe a couple of kilos of the stuff.
I got into a conversation about marriage over breakfast this morning. Doesn’t happen very often. I don’t do conversation over breakfast. Not since I stopped being married. And the flow was rather one-way even then. My brother and his wife were passing through on their way to Cornwall. They’ve been married less than two years, so the subject is still quite fresh in their minds. We started off talking about unrealistic expectations. Fairytale weddings. Happy-ever-after. That kind of stuff. Then we strayed into the idea that real marriage is more about love than paperwork. Dangerous territory.
Marriage has been in the news over the last couple of weeks. Specifically, marriage equality. A law that finally allows people who happen to be gay to do the paperwork as well as the love came into effect on 29th March. I’m in the odd position of not understanding why that’s such a big deal. Of course it’s a big deal for those who’ve been denied the right for all this time. What I don’t get is why so many other people are up in arms about it. What’s wrong with two human beings making a loving commitment to one another?
Some have even gone so far as to blame last winter’s floods on same-sex marriage. Seriously? If God wants to wreak vengeance, he has plenty of other cause. Is it so bad for two people of the same gender to love one another? What about all the real horror perpetrated in the name of marriage down the ages? Polygamy. Adultery. Subjugation of women. Domestic violence. Rape. Child abuse. Murder. To name but a few. Doesn’t that stuff bother these people’s God?
One man, one woman, for life is the mantra. The ‘biblical model for marriage’ I’ve heard it called. I’m not sure what happens in the bible looks much like that. Polygamy’s the norm in the Old Testament. Where that vengeful God mostly hangs out. If all those wives failed to give you sons, you slept with the servants as well. And if a woman you happened to want didn’t fancy you, you could always rape her. She’d have to marry you then. It doesn’t sound much like a magical world of happy-ever-after to me.
Jesus’ approach was different. For a start, he wasn’t vengeful. He wasn’t married either. But he was an if-you-look-at-another-woman-with-lust-it’s-adultery man. And here’s the odd thing. All those people I’ve heard insist on biblical literalism (especially when it comes to things they don’t like about other people). They can always find a way round that one. It’s hyperbole. He didn’t really mean it literally. It’s a spiritual metaphor.
In a former life I used to marry people. The last bride I saw walking towards me was my own daughter. I will never forget that moment. I’m still an old romantic at heart. I’m just a lot more realistic about the commitment involved than I used to be. Marriage is all about love. Real warts-and-dirty-socks-and-squeezing-the-toothpaste-all-wrong love. Not paperwork. Not convention. Not ‘models’. Biblical or otherwise. On paper I was married for forty years. Forty years, two days and about three-and-a-half hours to be precise. I know people who’ve never done the paperwork. They didn’t see the need. Or they haven’t been allowed to until now. Nevertheless, they’re more married than I ever was. Regardless of the number of X or Y chromosomes involved.