With the passage of the law making marriage between gay people legal last week in New York, I found myself breathing a sign of relief.
It felt like a right too long denied finally being granted.
I have been listening, though, to those opposed to gay marriage. One of the strongest statements I heard suggested that gay marriage would lead, or will lead, to anarchy in this country. I didn’t understand that when I heard it, and I still don’t.
But by far the vast majority of opinions in opposition to gay marriage circle around a feeling that allowing gay people to marry will undermine the meaning of marriage.
That has really kept me deep in thought. As I think about marriage between heterosexuals in this country, I ask myself, “What is marriage, really? Who really values it?” The rate of divorce in this country is high; adultery is rampant, and my thought is that people are more interested in having a wedding than they are interested in being “married.”
Joseph Campbell said that “when people get married because they think it’s a long time love affair, they’ll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment.” I don’t know that I agree with him totally; there ARE people who “fall in love” and stay that way.
But Campbell says something that is intriguing to me. He says that “marriage is recognition of a spiritual identity.” He says that “marriage is not a simple love affair. It’s an ordeal, and the ordeal is the sacrifice of the ego to a relationship in which two have become one.” He says that marriage is not just a social arrangement; it’s a spiritual exercise.”
I have been chewing on Campbell’s words because they are intriguing and they jolt the senses. How many people who get married think of it as a spiritual exercise, church service notwithstanding? As a pastor, I have seen so many people get married who, frankly, use the church for the setting, not for its significance in the covenant the two people are making. I shudder when people “promise” God that they will be true each other and will be with each other “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.” The divorce statistics don’t gel with the promises made.
If we look at marriage as a spiritual exercise, it takes on a whole new dimension. I have seen so many gay people who have been together for years, and I mean a LOT of years. Theirs have been nothing less than spiritual exercises; they have stayed together “for richer for poorer, for better for worse” in the truest sense of those phrases. They have lived in secret, hiding their relationships, not daring to let on that they have such deep love and respect for each other. When I think of the many very old gay people who no longer have to hide their relationships nor their love for each other, and who now be able to have legal countenance of their relationships, I breathe a sigh of relief for their gain.