(Don’t) Let Them Eat Cake!: On Gay Marriage and the Extra Mile


DSC01941The Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows business owners to deny service based on sexual orientation. More to the point, the bill allows those in the wedding industry – photographers, bakers, planners, and the like – to deny services to homosexual couples based on religious convictions. Across the nation, of course, the issue of Christian bakers refusing service to homosexuals is a controversial one; in many instances the bakers face fines and sometimes shut down their businesses on principle.

I want to ignore the legal issues regarding personal conscience coming into conflict with societal obligations. The issue is tricky – after all, all of us wish to live with our personal convictions and to act on those convictions. None of us wants to engage in or aid an activity we believe to be wrong. But at the same time, sometimes being in a society means we have to do things we don’t want to do. That’s part of being an adult in a community. Where that limits begins, however, is highly contentious and I’m not sure if we can discover that line, hence my reluctance to engage in that discussion. While I think we’re moving beyond a secular state and into an anti-religious state – that is, one in which you’re allowed to believe in your faith, just not act upon that belief – I’m also uncertain whether a business owner has a right to exclude certain people from his business.

That being said, what is the Christian approach to such an issue, regardless of the law? If you owned a bakery and made wedding cakes would you make one for a homosexual couple? For many Christians who believe homosexuality to be a sin the answer is typically a quick no, or causes some to pause for a minute. But what if we used similar examples? What if the couple is grossly overweight, obese, caused by gluttony (Proverbs 23:2)? What if one or both people in the couple is/are divorced (Matthew 5:32)? What if the couple is extremely wealthy and gives nothing to the poor, and in fact intend to use this wedding as a display of their greed (1 Timothy 6:10)? What if they don’t go to church (Hebrews 10:25)? The list goes on of potential sins that the couple perpetually engage in as part of their lifestyle.

Now, some could make the case that these sins are different as they do not change the meaning of marriage. Homosexual marriage, it’s argued, changes the entire definition of marriage. Certainly one could make that case. Yet, the problem of a divorced couple going through a marriage remains; as does the problem of if the couple has already had sex and lived together, or if the couple does not attend church regularly, or if the couple isn’t even Christian. See, while “One man, one woman” fits nicely on a bumper sticker, it doesn’t really fit the Christian ideal of marriage. I dare not say the Biblical teaching on marriage because while the Bible is a holy book inspired by God, it also doesn’t always display the ideal in telling history. To put this bluntly, would we refuse King David a cake at his wedding to Bathsheba? While homosexual marriage might be different from gluttony, it is no different than remarriage or a watered-down version of a church wedding.  Continue reading

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Empathy Goes a Long Way or, The One Where Matt Walsh is Wrong (Again)


DSC01434I’ve done quite a bit to avoid writing about Matt Walsh, mostly because I really don’t want to give him the time of day. His posts typically consist of the following pattern:

[Sarcastic strawman of position he’s going to argue against]

[Saying, “Yeah, but that position is just wrong, and you’re stupid if you believe it, let me show you how]

[If you believe x, and I don’t believe x, then you’re a moron. QED]

Go through most of his writings where he’s contra-anything and you’ll see that tends to be his typical pattern. Recently, he wrote about how he thinks white men can have an opinion on any issue and that one cannot be dismissed simply because one is a white man. To be fair, he’s mostly right; being a man, woman, black, white, straight, homosexual or anything does not preclude one from forming an opinion on any issue. After all, if I read that Nigerian terrorists are kidnapping women for simply going to school, I do not need to be from Nigeria nor a woman in order to form the opinion that what these terrorists are doing is wrong. Likewise, on the issue of abortion, I need not be a woman in order to make the argument that killing an innocent human being is wrong, nor do I need to be a woman to make the argument that a fetus is an innocent human being. There are far too many people who simply dismiss an argument by saying, “Well, you aren’t a man/woman/military member/pacifist/etc, therefore you cannot make a valid argument on this issue.” It’s not just liberals that do this either; argue that the war in Iraq was unjustified and someone will might argue that since you’re not a veteran, you can’t have an opinion on the matter.

Had Walsh decided to make a well-reasoned argument, showing that it’s a logical fallacy (poisoning the well, ad hominem, and so on), then good on him. Sadly, of course, you don’t get to his level of popularity without polarizing the issues (which is probably why we at The Christian Watershed will happily hover in our current readership). Thus, instead of saying, “I get where you’re coming from, but here are some good reasons as to why you’re wrong,” we get, “Man, you’re an idiot and it’s stupid and you’re a liberal and I’m right and I’m white so I’m going to mock you and never make an actual point.”

However, Walsh then explains why he’s chosen to write about this specific issue, and it’s in this moment that I realize he’s wrong. He states,  Continue reading

10 Movies Every Man Needs to See or, Really, Everyone (Men and Women) Needs to See These


IMG_0084Too often a “guy movie” has some action hero shooting stuff up, blowing stuff up, and then having his way with whatever women he happens to see. Or it’s just a collection of stupidity which is supposed to be a comedy. There are movies out there, however, that while good for everyone to see, tend to play well with the male psyche. They play well with the idea of hope, an epic struggle for fulfillment, or the battle close to every man, that of father and son relationships.

Being someone who loves to watch movies, especially good ones, I have a few movies in mind that I think play well off the male mind, though anyone and everyone ought to see these movies. This list is in no particular order, just a list of ten really good movies worth watching: Continue reading

The Philosophical Problem of Common Core or, Why All Modern Education Fails


IMG_1066Apple has done the world a great disservice by dubbing a great speech from Dead Poet’s Society in order to sell an iPad. The speech is as follows:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Now, I’m not exactly sure what any of that has to do with Apple products (my verse will be an overpriced machine?), but the speech itself is the cry of anyone who has sat through a humanities degree. Such people tend to realize that there is a life beyond what one can earn in terms of income. I happen to be one of those people with a humanities degree and like so many other people with one I’m consistently bombarded with the question, “Well what can you do with that though?” Well, I could ask why you want fries with that, or I could just become incredibly successful since that tends to be what people with humanities degrees do, mostly because they can read and write unlike their peers. The whole point being, everyone looks at an education as a vehicle and rightfully so, where we go wrong is in viewing education as a vehicle to a nice job.

Our quest for pragmatic education has its current culmination in a Common Core curriculum, an incredibly controversial program that doesn’t seem to have much to offer. From a scientist stating that its mathematical solutions are difficult to follow to Indiana officially removing Common Core from the classroom, Common Core is in desperate need of a PR firm. More than likely this program will eventually collapse and another program will take its place, yet our educational ratings will continue to decline and our students will still continue to lose the wisdom of previous generations.

The core problem in Common Core and in all modern education elements is that it attempts a “one-size-fits-all” education pattern, or to put it one way, Common Core is “…designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or enter the workforce.” Via interpretation, the message is, “We’re preparing your kids for a job or to go to college prepared to get a job.” Every student from Maine to California will study under a uniformed method, expected to produce the same answers. Common Core will make the teacher nothing more than a factory worker, imputing data into tiny little machines and expecting them to produce the same product; and if the factory worker fails then the government just takes over the school completely (a la Bush’s still intact “No Child Left Behind” policies). Just as every iPad is the same after coming off the factory floor, so too should every child’t education be the same after coming off the factory floor of US public education. The Orwellian term employed throughout the website is “equality,” but expecting the same results from the same method is not equality, it’s uniformity.

Of course, everyone wants to remove Common Core, but this is a return to the status quo, a status quo in which American students are failing. Even college students are considerably worse off than they were ten years ago, especially in job prospects. Getting a vague business degree with a minor in management might seem like a sure-fire way to get a job until you realize that everyone else has that same degree. Or even getting a degree in the medical field or some other “hot field” right now doesn’t mean those positions will be open 4-6 years from now. I had many friends who did biology majors and have advanced degrees in pharmaceuticals because at the time they began working on those degrees, that field needed jobs. Once they graduated, however, the jobs were already filled. Same thing with those who received law degrees in the early 2000s, to the point now that unless your law degree comes from an elite university, you’re going to struggle to find a good that will even come close to paying off your school debt. Yes, we can remove Common Core, but it doesn’t come close to touching on our educational crisis, our problem, which is philosophical in nature.

The problem isn’t necessarily Common Core, the problem is we think education is meant to get us a job. When we approach education with the attitude, “This is meant to help get a better job,” then education is no longer about learning what is necessary for life, but instead what is necessary for a living. Education becomes a pragmatic pursuit that teaches the student nothing about the world and only about what is necessary to survive in the world. To some, this might sound logical, but put it in an analogy: It’s like taking a paratrooper in WWII, teaching them how to fire a weapon, how to jump out of a plane, how to survive once they land, and how to read a map, but then never telling them where they’re dropping, who the enemy is, or why they’re fighting. They’ll have all the technological knowledge in the world to make a good soldier, but they’ll still be ineffective because they’ll know nothing of the world around them. Our current educational system teaches our students how to get along in the world, but then tells them nothing about the world, meaning the students ultimately learn little.

A better approach is to realize that the goal of an education is not to develop a worker, but instead to develop a human. While many might agree, they ignore the ramifications of such a statement, the biggest one being is if we truly adopt this as our approach to education then there is no way to quantifiably measure learning. If we are in the business of developing humans and humans are diverse, it means that the outcomes in education will equally be diverse. Yet, we should allow such diversity to occur because diversity is the beauty of life, it is essential to a free society. Uniformity punishes anyone who steps out of life while diversity celebrates the lack of a line (within reason of course). The problem with Common Core isn’t just in its implementation or curriculum, it’s in the philosophy that works behind it that snuffs out diversity in learning. A better way to learn is to allow the natural creativity inherent within all humans to bubble to the surface and for the teacher to help the student hone and perfect that creativity.

Teachers ought not be viewed as factory workers putting cogs into machines and expecting the same results; rather, teachers ought to be viewed as midwives, bringing unique individuals into the world, guiding the process, but not forcing the process. Education ought to teach students about the world and how to be good humans within this wide, adventurous, and mysterious world. This approach is especially true at younger ages; an eight-year-old shouldn’t worry about a career path, nor should we prepare her for a career path. Let her first learn how to be a human before she learns how to be a worker. Do we really expect an eighteen-year-old to know what he wants to do in life? Or even a twenty-one year old? Why are we preparing them for careers before they even know who they are? Let them discover this world and who they are within the world, let them develop who they are within the world, and I assure you the career will come on its own. After all, that’s how it worked for thousands of years and the human race progressed quite nicely.

Though we’ve put a higher emphasis on the hard sciences, students are losing more interest in those hard sciences (unless we show how learning them will make them money). Our experts are at a loss, but it’s not that difficult to know why students aren’t interested; it’s because we’re giving them tools to understand the world without actually helping them to understand the world. At three and four years old, these kids unceasingly ask “why” when they encounter every new things, yet within two years they’re put in an institution with the capacity to answer these whys, but the students stop asking questions and instead become bored. Pragmatic education, educating students for jobs rather than life, doesn’t like or allow for a lot of “whys,” and instead just wants to feed the curriculum to the student. An education geared for life, however, teaches the student not only how to keep asking why, but how to search out the answer. An education for life takes the inquisitive taste for adventure of the four-year-old and helps that taste mature and develop into the actualization of that adventure later in life, of always asking questions and seeking answers.

Now don’t ask me for which system we need in order to accomplish this. While I’m heavily in favor of the classics, I also realize that how the classics are administered is going to vary from culture to culture, from state to state, town to town, and teacher to teacher. There is no single uniformed approach to learning how to live life; while a classical education is proven to be the best approach, that approach is quite ambiguous. All I know is that whatever educational system is developed at a local level, it must have one goal and one goal alone: Teach children how to be humans in this world. Don’t prepare them for the career path or for college, prepare them for life, which is so much more than what you do for a living or where you go to school. We prepare our students for a living when we ought to prepare them how to live.

We can continue on with Common Core or programs like Common Core. We can try our best to improve our education, but as time goes on we’ll notice that the job market becomes harder and harder despite all our innovative methods. We’ll find that we have students who understand certain aspects of jobs, but cannot think outside of the box or muster up enough creativity to find a new answer to an old problem. We need to educate our kids for life, not for jobs. Jobs will come and go, but life will always be around. If we train our kids for jobs and that job market fails, then they have no other recourse for income. If we train our kids for life, however, and their job fails, they will always have a calling, a mission, a goal, and the creativity to find some other way to make it in this world. Real success isn’t measured in tests, it’s measured in the lives our students end up living. By that measure, I’d say we’re failing.

 

I Lost Faith in Myself . . . Now I Have Hope


IMG_0526

It occurred to me the other day that Nietzsche is right.  The only thing I could possibly have faith in, if God is dead, is me.  This thought, I must confess, is rather unsettling (namely, because I know myself far too well).  But, if there are no transcendent values, if there is no meaning, what else is there to put my faith in?

I suppose I could put my faith in “science” or in some abstract notion like “humanity” or “the universe”—but these things are only meaningful, in a world devoid of intrinsic value, if I consider them meaningful.  In such a world, I, the subjective knower, am the arbiter of truth, meaning, and value.  It is clear, therefore, that, in actuality, “I” (and not some objective reality outside of myself) am what I truly have faith in.  I have faith in my beliefs, my intentions, and my desires (e.g., my affection for science is the source of my trust in science; for science in and of itself has no objective meaning or value).

This, however, is truly a miserable, and hopeless, state of affairs.  I am finite; I am mortal; I can be (and will be) destroyed.  My existence is a temporary blip—a shifting shadow like the shadows on Plato’s cave wall.  I am merely the byproduct of cold, impersonal, meaningless, physical processes which blindly, and uncaringly, march on without direction until the final death and collapse of the universe.  In such a world, I am not a subject; but, merely, an object—a passive object.  All of my thoughts, longings, desires, and emotions, as well as my ability to reason, are merely physical happenings—unimportant, undirected, predetermined, events.  Thus we see the sickening irony of the situation: there is no “I”—at least, not in any traditional sense of the term.

To make matters worse, I am unreliable.   I fail to understand or to comprehend or to communicate effectively.  I am forgetful and can easily be deceived.  I fail to keep my promises.  I tell lies and cheat and steal and have pity parties.  I lack self confidence and lack the power to change anything about the laws of nature which completely hold sway over my fate.

As I ponder these things I realize that, in the absence of God, there is no hope; because I am my only hope . . . and I have no delusions of grandeur.

When we recognize that placing total faith in ourselves is utterly useless and ultimately futile, we are finally in a position to understand the paradox that Truth presents us with:  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).

“I” is an absurdity—a meaningless illusory object—operating under the delusion that the world has value.  Life is hopeless; the universe is impersonal; I will end; I can’t save myself.  This is because I live in a fallen world disconnected from Truth and estranged from the Giver of Life.  I remain in this despairing state so long as I worship “self”; so long as I pin my hopes on a temporal, finite, feeble, dying blip in the universe.  This is why Truth tells us to deny ourselves and to follow Him.  Only He can give us life; only He can restore meaning and value.  Apart from Him, we remain in the void, in the darkness, and held captive by death.

Previously posted on Truth is a Man.

Is Philosophy Dead?


It’s currently fashionable for scientists to dismiss philosophy as a viable activity – some have even pronounced its death!  One branch of philosophy, which particularly gets singled out, is metaphysics.  For those of you unfamiliar with this term please note that I’m not referring to the occult or astrology; but, rather, to the branch of philosophical inquiry concerned with the nature of reality.  A metaphysicist will ask (and attempt to answer) questions like: What is truly real? What is personal identity?  What is the nature of the mind?  How do things persist over time?  What is a cause?  What is time?  Etc..

Unlike a scientist, a metaphysicist approaches these questions, primarily, through rational discourse.  They are more concerned with abstract generalizations than with explaining concrete particulars–with the theory underlying our scientific presuppositions than with specific details regarding particular things.  As Stephen Mumford explains:

“When we consider what exists, the philosopher’s answer will be at the highest levels of generality.  They may say there are particulars that fall into natural kinds, there are properties, changes, causes, laws of nature, and so on.  The job of science, however, is to say what specific things exist under each of those categories.  There are electrons, for instance, or tigers, or chemical elements.  There are properties of spin, charge, and mass, there are processes such as dissolution, there are laws of nature such as the law of gravitational attraction.  Metaphysics seeks to organize and systematize all these specific truths that science discovers and to describe their general features.”

A good example of a metaphysical problem would be the laws of nature.  Scientists, largely through observation and testing, attempt to detect and record regularities in nature in order to explain particular events (e.g. the falling of an apple).  These regularities, over time, become laws of nature (i.e. the law of gravity or the law of thermodynamics).  Metaphysicist’s, in contrast, are less concerned with explaining particular events, and more concerned with explaining the nature of the laws themselves.  Hence, a philosopher will ask: What are the laws of physics?  Are they objective realities that we discover about nature or merely a construct of the mind?

Both questions are extremely important, but the methods we use to arrive at a proper answer are very different.  One must primarily rely upon empirical methods (i.e. observation and testing) in order to explain particular events; but to answer metaphysical questions, one must primarily rely upon reason.

Because philosophy focuses on the abstract, and utilizes slightly different methods than science, many scientists are suspicious of, and even antagonistic towards it.  Without realizing, they slip into a form of anti-intellectualism known as scientism.  Scientism, to put it crudely, is a stunted or incomplete theory of knowledge.  It is roughly the belief that science is the only viable source of knowledge and that all other disciplines are either useless (e.g philosophy or theology) or incomplete.  Scientism’s adherents will typically claim that empirical methods, alone, are capable of giving us genuine knowledge about reality.  Thus, they proclaim the death of philosophy!

Immediately, however, one should be suspicious of this point of view: namely, because scientism, itself, is a philosophical position.  It is not possible to prove the claims of scientism through purely empirical means.  From the outset, therefore, it refutes itself and demonstrates why we need philosophy.

Fr. W. Norris Clarke brings up another important point, with regard to empiricist limitations on knowledge:

“One central flaw in all such theories of knowing is that they are in principle unable to do justice to the very subject or self that is asking the questions, since this is at the root of every conscious sense experience and quest for understanding, but not out in front of our senses as an external object to be sensed by them.  In a word, the inner world vanishes in its very attempt to understand the outer world.  The empiricist way of thinking also cripples the age-old natural longing of the human mind to understand, make sense of, its direct experience in terms of deeper causes not directly accessible to us.  The human mind cannot be satisfied to operate only within this straightjacket of an arbitrarily restrictive epistemology.”

Inherently, we all desire to find answers to the questions philosophers ask.  We all want to know the nature of ultimate reality and the value of our existence; we all want to understand how it is that we can know anything about the world; or what knowledge is to begin with.  Scientific research is incredibly important, and empirical methods provide us with a vast number of interesting facts about particular things in the universe.  Science, however, does not give us the deeper meaning behind these amazing discoveries.

Science has especially failed to provide us with any meaningful answers to the questions of personal identity and self consciousness—the “subject or self that is asking the questions” as Fr. Clarke just put it.  It gives us innumerable, and important, facts about our biology and brain chemistry, but it fails to explain the value or purpose of the observer.  More pointedly, it fails to provide a viable explanation for the self’s existence at all.  These questions, along with a host of others, are primarily the subject of philosophy and theology.

Philosophy is not dead–and as long as subjective knowers (i.e. human beings) exist it shall never be.  For Philosophy – the love of wisdom and the desire to understand the deeper, underlying, questions about the nature of our world – is rooted in and flows out of our very nature as beings made in the image of God.

Re-Posted from: Truth is a Man.

Feminism is the New Patriarchy or, Marriage Isn’t for the Weak


IMG_0235A few disclaimers before getting into what I want to say:

1) I am not actually accusing feminist ideology as being akin to patriarchy, at least not “feminism” in its proper sense. Wanting women to be equal to men is hardly patriarchal; what we make them equal in, however, is another matter.

2) The article I’m drawing from is, in all fairness, from the Daily Mail, who is one bad day away from declaring the Loch Ness Monster real (and subsequently declaring that they hate the Loch Ness Monster as it is an illegal immigrant). I would not be surprised if the article is a fake or just written to sound controversial in order to drive viewership, so perhaps I’m a sucker.

That being said…

It seems that we have lost both the picture and purpose of marriage in our so-called modern society. Apparently, Kate Thompson has decided that in her own life, she comes first while everyone else comes second. Now, certainly this article is pure hyperbole – possibly parody – as there are many contradictions within the article (after all, how does one have two children of different ages who are but a few years apart, yet claim to only have sex once a decade). Regardless, Thompson’s essay does point to a problem within our modern society, namely that the family has disappeared.

While it is in vogue within some Christian circles to blame homosexuality, rampant sexual perversion, and liberals as the reason the family has slowly disintegrated within our society, these things would serve more as symptoms of a broken family, not the cause. Were I to put the blame anywhere, if I were forced to point to just one cause of why the family unit is broken down today, I would point my finger to the Industrial Revolution. In this revolution, society revolted against its very foundation thinking it would gain prosperity, and it did, at least for a while. It required men to leave their homes and work long hours in factories and later in office buildings. Though patriarchy has always reigned supreme in almost all civilizations, in the West there was still a partnership between the husband and the wife. The husband and sons worked the field while the wife managed the household and sold the goods. Both were involved with the family.

Under modernism, men were removed from the home. The idea of a “housewife” is relatively new, though the term is not new. In the 11th and 12th centuries the ancestral English referred to married men as wer and married women as wif. Such terms worked under feudalistic societies. In England, from about the 8th to 14th century, feudalism reigned. However, around the mid-12th century to 13th century, the middle-class began to rise up. Men owned their homes and worked from them while their wives would manage the household. One way to think of it is that men were the owners of the business and their wives were the general managers. The English began to use the word husbonda for “husband” and husewif for “housewife.” The husbonda refers to someone who is a freeholder – property owner – of a house or real property. Thus, husewif refers to someone in charge of the house. 

Such terms adequately describe the middle-class living arrangements in England (and most of the west) up until the Industrial Revolution. Men were taken from the home and put into a factory, forced to work long hours. Capitalism, ironically enough, removed freedom and placed man back into a privatized feudalism. Men, removed from the home, were allowed to skirt around certain moral requirements. Men could take mistresses, could stay away from the family, could ignore their fatherly duties, and not worry about public ridicule. Women, however, were expected to maintain the close moral grounds. Feminism arose to correct this ethical inequality, but I would argue failed.

This brief history lesson brings us to the point: What we see in Thompson’s article is nothing more than patriarchy wrapped in the guise of feminism. Again, while much of it is hyperbole, it does point to a trend that is on the rise in the West. That trend is where rather than correcting men’s bad behavior, women feel obligated to cry out to act equally as bad. It would seem that feminism is not so much about correcting social norms so long as those social norms allow both sexes to be equal in their depravity. Why is it fair that men can go have sex without consequences? Rather than say that men should tame their desires, our supposedly progressive society says, “Let women have sex without consequences as well!” A man puts his career in front of his family and he’s considered a distant father. A mother does it and she’s considered a trailblazer for women’s rights.

The point isn’t to speak against feminism, but to speak against the modern system that has eradicated the family and turned us into individuals. Though each of us is an individual and unique, we are nothing apart from those closest to us. Contrary to the Randian spirit popular in today’s libertarians, no one is truly autonomous. We all exist within nations. Those nations exist because there were societies that preceded them. Those societies exist because there were cities, those cities because there were towns, and those towns because there were families. Thus, society and government exist for the family and because of the family. Lose the family and you lose the society. Yet, our modern system has begun to focus on individuals outside of the context of the family; in short, in the name of progress we are destroying ourselves.

Contrary to Thompson and what others might say, marriage is not about being happy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that marriage is not a partnership of equals (certainly men and women are equal ontologically, but in our day where metaphysics is taboo the word “equal” hardly refers to ontological situations). Marriage is when two individuals look at each other and say, “I want to remain in constant servanthood to you.” To say that marriage is about being happy means that marriage is based on an emotional status, but emotions change. To say it is about a partnership of equals is to say that marriage is no more than a merger of two companies. In both cases, self-centeredness is very much present. Self-centeredness is to a marriage what a cavity is to a tooth; something that will only invite pain, misery, and decay until addressed. Marriage is the ultimate challenge, a “duel to the death that no man of honor should decline” (as G.K. Chesterton put it), it is the putting aside of the self to acknowledge the needs of another. It is not the total abandonment of the self, but it is putting another in front of yourself, which is why marriage is sometimes not fun or “happy.”

Taken from Jacksons’ Orthodox Mission to Guatemala

I think of a picture I came across on the “Jacksons’ Orthodox Mission to Guatemala.” On their Facebook page. Their son and his wife’s wedding picture was up there. In Orthodox marriage services, it is customary for the bride and groom to walk around the table three times as a “celebratory dance” from Isaiah. Likewise, the three revolutions also represent the Trinity and how the married couple is to be unified just as the Trinity is unified. Sadly, their daughter-in-law fractured her ankle prior to the wedding. The priest instructed the son to walk around the table as a representative for him and his new bride. The son, instead, picked up his new wife and carried her around the table.

Such an act is beautiful in and of itself, but it also serves as an icon of what a marriage should be. Rather than a “partnership of equals” or a constant struggle to find happiness, marriage is a slow and difficult climb up a mountain. At times, one person must carry the other. Sometimes the clouds will clear and the view will be beautiful, while at other times the storms will threaten to toss them off the mountain. The most faithful, however, will weather the storms and, God-willing, live to reach the top. This young man, by picking up his wife, represented the reality of marriage; at times he will have to pick her up emotionally, other times she will have to pick him up.

If only we could be more honest in what marriage really is. Marriage, in its most basic and ideal form, is servanthood. Marriage is the act of willingly becoming a servant to someone else. It is not about finding happiness, it is not about “balancing” career goals with family goals. In such a contest, there is no balance because the family must come first. Perhaps I am speaking idealistically, but in a world of cynical pragmatist someone needs to be an idealist, if for no other reason that we might attempt the ideal.

The problem in our society, aside from the fact that our society exists now to bolster an anti-family economic system, is that some people don’t realize that marriage requires strength and bravery. Though many are obsessed with the idea of being married, few possess the virtue to be married. Were I to ever write a story about a couple in love, the climax would not be the moment they finally kiss, nor would it be their wedding; if I truly wished to show a love story then I would show them in the twilight of their years, having endured the struggle.

Marriage is about self-sacrifice, not self-fulfillment. Marriage is about giving and not taking. Marriage is about “you” and not “me.” It is the abandonment of the self in the pursuit of the whole. In short, marriage is about love, and love is a dangerous thing, but worthy of pursuit.