In my last Huffington Post article, I wrote about some of the reasons people get married other than love.
While most of those who responded thought the article had several good points, some told me in no uncertain terms that my ideas were not novel, and the religiously-minded readers were infuriated by my lack of focus on the holy nature of marriage.
What I found interesting about the responses to the "Whys" of marriage was how vehement those with the religious bent are that there is only one real reason to marry and no good reason to divorce. People also spoke as if their concept of marriage was the only way humans should ever (or have ever) marry.
Yet, marriage has had a rich history throughout time and throughout all cultures. It has gone from being a transaction overseen by Civil Authorities (wherein a wife could be purchased) to an entity of the Church (wherein two people became one "being" under God).
Today, while most people get married in a religious building with the officiant being some type of clergy, they are not legally married until the the filing fees have been paid and the marriage license has been recorded with the local courthouse. So, while God may have clout with some, He/She/It doesn't have enough clout to stand alone in our culture when it comes to marriage.
Throughout the rest of the world, there are dozens of accepted forms of unions in practice -- arranged marriages, marriages that must comply with a caste system (India, for example), those that include multiple wives (as with certain Muslim traditions), even a few that have multiple husbands (the Nyinba people of Nepal) and polyandry where both men and women can have multiple spouses (the Amazon Zoe tribe).
Like marriage, divorce has changed shape throughout the millennia as well: It has gone from being no big deal and easy to obtain (with the Greeks and Romans), to becoming illegal (Medieval Europe), immoral (Roman Catholic Church) and legal again in much of the Western world.
We are generally not taught much about how those around the globe practice marriage so it can be tempting to think "my/our way is the best way."
Take Tara Klinges from Philadelphia, for example. She wrote:
"This is deeply disturbing and sad to me and goes against everything that Marriage does stand for under God, love and family. Contracts,types,terms,renewals,termination dates? You make it sound like you're at a deli ordering a custom sandwich. Hold the Mayo, umm, yes I will take pickles, but on the side please.Or a all inclusive travel package at Sandals."
Some interesting dialogues took place between readers as well.
Shirlcare: "[Susan] also missed the foundation is God, mixed with hard work, respect, commitment, and a bulldog tenacity to stick through the worst of times, endure it, and celebrate the best of times..."
Jasminefay7: "She did not "miss the foundation is God," she didn't put it in there because that's not true."
And ShelleyintheWest wrote, "Let's talk about what marriage has always meant, and why we shouldn't undo what God knew was best."
The responses she got to this comment were:
Apduncan: "Which god?"
DesiresSilence: "Who's god? The institution of marriage predates reliable recorded history. So not the Christian god, or any god for that matter that's in modern circulation. it was a business contract, short and sweet. Anybody who tells you otherwise, is trying to sell something, or solicit you for money. Which is what most religions do, so I guess it makes sense that you'd be mistaken in your belief."
Maritess420: "If we went by everything your 'god' says about marriage women would still be treated as property, which is really where the institution of marriage comes from. Don't get me started on what 'god' knows is best when there are millions of suffering children on this planet. Lets talk about the reality that one person cannot necessarily meet all of the needs of another person and how selfish it can be to put that burden on someone. Or about how everyone treats love as if it is some finite commodity."
Phoenix Lady: "You weren't raised by my parents. I begged my mother to leave my father from the time I was 12 years old on. Children are better off in single parent households if the alternative is parent in an abusive relationship. Don't tell me that is what God wants because it is not so."
I'm not religious, but I remember reading a passage from the The Bible at my sister's wedding from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV): "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
If this argument is truly about God, then it seems to me that there wouldn't be just one way to marry.
Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson are collaborating on a project on reimagining marriage, If you interested in being a part of their research, please contact Susan or Vicki at firstname.lastname@example.org.