Tag Archives: relationship

The Godfather and The Essence of Relationship

Everything is personal. Someone tell Michael Corleone.

In The Godfather II, we have an opportunity to compare Michael with Vito, his father, at the same stages of life. We watch as Michael wends his way to dismal failure by his father’s standards. And it all has to do with human relationship. In Godfather I, we see where Michael departs from his father’s path, and it’s right from the start. Remember that famous line?

“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”  

Everybody but Michael knows that’s a lie, and that it’s totally personal. His father had been gunned down, he knew by whom, and he intended to inflict payback and then some. It was what brought him into the “family.”

But to Godfather Don Vito Corleone, there was business, and there was personal. I do not think his conceptions of business and family were conflated, even though to us, they seem hopelessly mashed up and arbitrarily differentiated. His family relationships were warm and real. The business was called a “family.”  It made sense to him, and to those in his world.

Even his illegal business dealings were conducted on the basis of an objective code and the justice he meted out had objective rules which adhered to his subculture’s community standards, brutal but measured in accordance with the offense. Because of this code he could put aside the personal offense of the attempted murder of himself and the murder of Sonny in order to maintain the balance of power and peace with his competitor “families.” Don Vito honored his code even when it hurt very much to do it. The code was surprisingly nuanced in its complexity, but everyone in the subculture knew the score.

You almost feel sorry for hapless Solozzo, the foreign upstart, trying to wield Old-World vendetta thuggery against this professional class of organized crime, and for thinking that his clueless police bodyguard, truly a stranger in a strange land, would be of any help. They did not understand who, and what, they were messing with.

Doors shut out Michael’s wife, Kay, more than once.  Also an outsider, she could never really enter their world.

Michael brought in a newer New World. Did Michael blend the Old World (remember his Sicilian bride) with the New, and invent a third? Or was this just America?  Let’s just try to stay on a track.

His sense of justice, and his code, were based on his subjective preferences and definitely more relative.

He blurred the distinctions between the business and the personal. Superficially they were strictly divided. That is seen in his fierce insistence that his wife should never ask about his business (even when business included the murder of their brother-in-law); but in practice, personal/business distinctions were self-serving. If someone offended Michael’s sense of family pride…offended him personally…it became a “strictly business” item to be punished without mercy. That nearly none of his victims suspected what was coming tells us that he was operating according to his own codebook.

Michael called all things business matters, but all offenses were personal and the only penalty was death without mercy. Personal and business were one but he rationalized acting on personal feelings by calling them business matters. Personal was business, business was personal.

By creating this professional class of criminals, Francis Ford Coppola was trying to communicate that the Mob is an illustration of American business: hypocritical, dishonest, greedy, power-hungry, murderous. Many mob characters from the older generation draw the same false dividing line, and excuse terrible personal betrayals on the basis of “strictly business.”

Tessio: “Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.”

But Michael had moved away from a family context toward a business model. He had always deceived himself with the belief that business is not personal.

The most fascinating layer of meaning to me in The Godfather films  is cosmological. In this universe, Don Vito is God the Father, Sonny is Christ the Son, Tom Hagen is the Holy Ghost. Each one functions rather consistently as a corrupt version of his symbol. So who is Michael?  I leave that to you, but here are some items of evidence: he lies; he twists the meaning of his father’s words in order to satisfy his own desires; he is all about personal power and revenge. He winds up alone and bitter, ruler over an empire of fear. All personal relationships are cold, estranged or literally extinguished. He murders his own brother Fredo when he is no longer a threat. It simply must be done in order to satisfy his own feelings of justice.

The jewel of his father’s life, his family, is utterly destroyed. Kill, steal, destroy. And it was so easily done for Michael the Berserker.

All this to illustrate something I’ve learned from the Bible? The cosmology of The Godfather strikes me as remarkably consistent and valid.  Don Vito, Michael, Sonny and Tom Hagen, as well as Clemenza, Tessio, and Kay, sometimes in spite of themselves, act out some of the deepest and most significant principles that I find in God’s Word.

If I look at the Word through the lens of relationship, as surely God wants us to, I can distill three messages.

Everything is personal. Life is all about relationshipThe God of the Bible is a personal being. He has personality and mind; He is not an impersonal force or a principle. He defines himself as love, and expresses Himself in loving His human creations.

In the Upper Room, Jesus celebrated his relationships with the men who had followed him:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  

If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  

You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  

This is my command: Love each other.  John 15: 9-17

Relationship means identification. In the Gospels, the purest and most ideal relationships shown to us are those of connection so close that the participants lose distinctions and become intertwined. The marriage relationship, in which two become “one flesh,” is the perfect symbolic illustration for the truest intimate relationship: God’s love for each of us.

My beloved is mine, and I am his. Song of Solomon 2: 16

How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me… John 14: 9-11

 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  John 14: 20

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Even within our closest relationships, there are limits to intimacy. We are imprisoned in our bodies and in our own minds. We can empathize but we cannot literally feel any feelings but our own. We can’t enter the thoughts, the emotions, the soul of another human being. At times we feel this desperate isolation even in a crowd of family.

But with God, there is no limit to intimacy. He is a Spirit who communes with our spirits. There are no barriers on God’s side.  If I find brick walls or blank ceilings when I try to communicate with God, I am the builder.

“I am in you and you are in me, and I am in the Father.”  “I and the Father are one.” When Jesus has stood in your place in your greatest need, God does not distinguish between you and His Son. And that is the third theme that I see shining through the pages.

My life for yours.

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15: 12,13

Jesus Christ, True God of True God, chose to suffer lonely torture and horrible execution in our place.  His life for mine, his life for yours.

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  John 1:1-2

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. I John 4:10

Sadly, there is no Savior in the cosmology of The Godfather. If Sonny is the Savior figure, he fails famously. Without a savior, a redeemer, a reconciler, there is no hope.  There is no foundation or reason for maintaining a code.

In conducting his family and his business as he did, Godfather Vito Corleone had a distinct goal:  “Senator Corleone, Governor Corleone…” The Godfather’s goal was that his dearest son Michael would one day be on the throne, a legitimately powerful man.

But Vito also said ,”A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Michael’s reach for power blends those two worlds and he is surprised at the inevitable price to his family.

In the end, we see that Michael Corleone has tragically missed the value of the things his father lived for, and thrown away that which was his father’s dearest goal to give him. He has substituted power, control and retribution for familial love. He has cynically destroyed the future his father built for him.

As do we if we miss our Father’s message of personal relationship, identification, and selfless love.

Reducing Relationship

I have a husband who won’t let me get near the dishes lately. There are always a lot of dishes here, a lot, always. His reasons are clearly excuses.

In 31 years, we have not had Fight One over who works harder, whether he should help with the housework, or whose job it is to iron his clothes, mow the lawn or put the kids to bed. But it’s certainly not because we’re above such things.

We don’t do 50/50 here.

Did other people speak wedding vows which assigned domestic duties, and which spouse was going to be the primary breadwinner?  Because  to hear some people complain about the sorry thing called marriage, you would think that in their vows, they promised to model Ozzie and Harriet in their suburban 1950’s home. And they don’t want to, so away with marriage, that obsolete patriarchal engine of oppression.

We didn’t sign a contract outlining household duties or role requirements when we got married. We didn’t confuse our wedding vows with societal expectations or TV sitcoms.

What did we vow?

“Will you have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?”

“In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”

What we vowed may have been a slight variation on these words, I don’t remember. We knew what we were promising.

Notice that we both vowed the same things. There wasn’t the Housewife Version and the King of the Castle Version.

You’ll also notice that these vows are not limiting, but rather open-ended, except as to duration–until death. We were promising to love, to comfort, to be faithful.  We were not promising the nuts and bolts, the how we would achieve these abstract states of existence. We were promising to live the rest of our lives committed to and committing to one relationship.

A relationship has the potential to grow and expand, and to build toward almost infinite intimacy. To live under a contract would reduce our love to a pre-ordained set of boundaries.

On another front…

During my tenure as a parent, I’ve been advised by persons who are over The Age of Eighteen, that I ought not to tell adults what to do. All the advice-granters in the world would tell me to say: OK, you’re an adult now, so I’m not allowed to tell you what to do. In return, I give up caring whether you get yourself up for church, school or work. It’s your business and I’m not going to help you anymore. You’re not my responsibility.

There is certainly truth in there. My role as a Mom changes as my child matures and I do have to increasingly step back and let him make decisions, and let him live with the way those decisions play out. I’m fine with Mr. Experience  teaching her the responsibilities of adulthood. And I’m not above feeling a tiny bit of pleasure when an “I told you so” would be a legally appropriate thing to say.

But relationships are not contracts. A contract spells out what I am, and am not, responsible for. Beyond the requirements of a contract one does not go. A contract limits my actions.

When we had a young teenager who was self-willed and apparently in danger of going off the rails, the going advice was to put the relationship under contract.  This is what’s expected of you, Teenager.  And if you commit these crimes, here is a handy list of the corresponding consequences. Now you know what to expect. 

It was an invitation not to be resisted. And because our children are creative people, it was unresisted very creatively. There was no instance in which he/she committed Offense X and therefore was liable for Consequence X.  It was never that simple.

Because they don’t just want to do X and get away with it; the goal is to confound your attempts to be the authority in the first place. They want to mess with you. It’s all about the relationship, and the rebellious child knows that better than you do.

Contracts and legal agreements reduce a relationship to that which is spelled out therein. Do we really want our family relationships lived via contractual agreement?

Relationships are not contractually binding; relationships supersede contracts. My behavior toward those I love aren’t limited by the letter of the law. Or so says The Author of Relationships:

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

John 15:12-13 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Romans 12:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

“We love him, because he first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”   I Peter 4:8.

Relationships with human beings are infinitely more binding than legal agreements. We are accountable to love one another. To act on their behalf toward their good, even and especially when they aren’t able to appreciate the help, even and especially when we don’t think we have the strength to do it, even and especially when we feel like doing the opposite.

According to J.Budziszewski, “Love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.”

I want to relate to people in my life according to love and grace, not according to a reductive contractual agreement.  At times, I must borrow heavily from an inexhaustible Source to fulfill my part.

I give the Adult a wake-up call because I know he has trouble hearing his alarm, on the morning after receiving the caution not to tell the Adult he should go to bed. Or go pick her up when she didn’t plan for the ride home. Overlook irritating and irritated talk.  Dive in to thankless tasks. Really act as though the person is truly loved, and you couldn’t live without her, because it’s true.

And isn’t the debate over complementarian (no, it’s not in my spellcheck vocabulary either) vs. egalitarian marriage really a hyper-focus on this very thing? They can’t get their eyes off of that simplistically reductive 50/50.

The change agents are so proud of their enlightened egalitarian marriages.  They’ve given us something new, something never seen before in the long millennia of human history: men and women, equal in marriage! Hey, congrats and thanks, guys!

I do hate to tell them that the Bible had this one a long time ago:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21.

And specifically on marriage:

Ephesians 5:33: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

I Peter 3:7:Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  I Corinthians 7: 2-5

Settle what job is whose, for goodness sake, and move on.

Of course when you have just now thrown away: what women are, what men are, and what you are; and you confuse Ward and June Clever with millennia-old Scriptural teaching, it makes for a little tiny bit of confusion. If you’re going to set out to right societal wrongs, it would be best to get an understanding of the issue all the way down to its foundations.

My husband does the dishes lately without explanation.  He fends me off and tells me to go relax.  After working all day and then chauffeuring for awhile, then going to a meeting, after working on his own writing, before going to bed much too late and getting up much too early.

It’s not because he’s invented a brand new kind of marriage. It’s not because he’s heard on Christian radio that husbands doing housework get rewarded in the bedroom. He has nothing to prove and no secret agenda. He just understands what he promised.

 

 

The First Creation: Part 1

What makes a marriage a marriage? We need to define it before we re-define it.  What is distinct about it?  What makes marriage…marriage?

I think we misunderstand it, and that is pure tragedy.

Man and woman were made in the image of God. They were created beings who were able to relate to God; sentient and self-aware; in His image because they possessed spirits. Out of all that God created, man is the only being who is able to commune with God.

God called this creation something special. Together they were His joy, His most cherished creation. We were created for this relationship with God, and cultivating this relationship with God is man’s responsibility and his privilege.

God created man. Then woman was made from man. Note that she was not created a separate being or species.  They are two manifestations of the same created being.  She was made from him. So intrinsically was she created to be the one who completed him. They are inseparable.

Genesis 2: 23-25:

The man said,

         “This is now bone of my bones,

         And flesh of my flesh;

         She shall be called Woman,

         Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

The fundamental creation was the man and the woman in exclusive, intimate relationship. We call that marriage. Marriage is primal in two ways in terms of human societal significance: it was first or primary; and it was the original creation from which all else followed.

In sexual intimacy between a man and wife, that which was once complete in one being, then separated into two, joins again into one. One flesh, one union.

Either marriage is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the church is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the nation is created by God, or it’s a human construct.  As such, either God is sovereign over them, or there is no authority over them except whoever exerts and maintains power over them.

The Breaking of It

Marriage has been understood everywhere, by everyone, at all times. Heterosexual marriage is what has been understood as marriage. Even where other sexual relationships are tolerated, monogamous marriage is the standard to which all other relationships are compared, and no society in human history has ever defined non-heterosexual unions as marriage.

Marriage growing from the root of the special sexual relationship is more primal than any law; its violation more basic, fundamental and outrageous. Cultures everywhere know this without regard to their knowledge of Judeo- Christian culture.

Socially and historically, its violation is often perceived as more egregious than murder.

When comparing codes of law across world civilizations, there are very few laws which are truly universal. The one law which is common to every culture is a man’s exclusive relationship with his woman.

In some cultures, this is understood as the man’s ownership of his woman. It is not an egalitarian rule: a man may have multiple women, wives or concubines but the women are regarded as in exclusive relationship with the one man. I’m not defending; only explaining.

And in some primitive societies, it is lawful to kill in order to protect this relationship, and it is lawful to avenge its violation by killing. Murder then is considered a virtue under the circumstance of protection of one’s woman—one’s exclusive “ownership” of the relationship with one’s woman. That relationship is understood to be the foundation upon which that man’s family or clan is built. If he loses her, he loses all.

Everyone everywhere always understood the meaning and importance of marriage. Til the enlightened new age, now.

Next: But What Is It?

Manifesto: The Primal Creation

What makes a marriage a marriage? We need to define it before we re-define it.  What is distinct about it?  What makes marriage…marriage?

I think we misunderstand it, and that is pure tragedy.

Man and woman were made in the image of God. They were created beings who were able to relate to God; sentient and self-aware; in His image because they possessed spirits. Out of all that God created, man is the only being who is able to commune with God.

God called this creation something special. Together they were His joy, His most cherished creation. We were created for this relationship with God, and cultivating this relationship with God is man’s responsibility and his privilege.

God created man. Then woman was made from man. Note that she was not created a separate being or species.  They are two manifestations of the same created being.  She was made from him. So intrinsically was she created to be the one who completed him. They are inseparable.

Genesis 2: 23-25:

The man said,

         “This is now bone of my bones,

         And flesh of my flesh;

         She shall be called Woman,

         Because she was taken out of Man.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

 

The fundamental creation was the man and the woman in exclusive, intimate relationship. We call that marriage. Marriage is primal in two ways in terms of human societal significance: it was first or primary; and it was the original creation from which all else followed.

In sexual intimacy between a man and wife, that which was once complete in one being, then separated into two, joins again into one. One flesh, one union.

Either marriage is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the church is created by God, or it’s a human construct. Either the nation is created by God, or it’s a human construct.  As such, either God is sovereign over them, or there is no authority over them except whoever exerts and maintains power over them.

The Breaking of It

Marriage has been understood everywhere, by everyone, at all times. Heterosexual marriage is what has been understood as marriage. Even where other sexual relationships are tolerated, monogamous marriage is the standard to which all other relationships are compared, and no society in human history has ever defined non-heterosexual unions as marriage.

Marriage growing from the root of the special sexual relationship is more primal than any law; its violation more basic, fundamental and outrageous. Cultures everywhere know this without regard to their knowledge of Judeo- Christian culture.

Socially and historically, its violation is often perceived as more egregious than murder.

When comparing codes of law across world civilizations, there are very few laws which are truly universal. The one law which is common to every culture is a man’s exclusive relationship with his woman.

In some cultures, this is understood as the man’s ownership of his woman. It is not an egalitarian rule: a man may have multiple women, wives or concubines but the women are regarded as in exclusive relationship with the one man. I’m not defending; only explaining.

And in some primitive societies, it is lawful to kill in order to protect this relationship, and it is lawful to avenge its violation by killing. Murder then is considered a virtue under the circumstance of protection of one’s woman—one’s exclusive “ownership” of the relationship with one’s woman. That relationship is understood to be the foundation upon which that man’s family or clan is built. If he loses her, he loses all.

Everyone everywhere always understood the meaning and importance of marriage. Til the enlightened new age, now.

But What Is It?

We often say that the family is the structure supporting civilization. And it’s so, but let’s look deeper.

God designed marriage first. It was the first human society or institution.  It is before and underlying all codes of law ever invented.  It is fundamental to everything else. This is God’s design.

Not only is the family the tiny society upon which all other social structures are built (such as communities, clans, and governing bodies small and large);

…and that the husband and wife couple are at the foundation of, and are the beginning of that family;

…but that the exclusive sexual relationship which is the signal defining feature of that relationship is the foundation of ALL of it.

There are many kinds of human relationships. Many of them can be intense, close and beneficial.  But there is only one human relationship in which two people become immersed in one another, intertwined, and complementary to one another.  In this relationship, two people become one. This is the male-female marriage relationship created by God.

And this union is strong enough to create other people, socialize them, and teach them to create more families, thus continuing a civilization, with its culture and heritage.

The male-female exclusive faithful sexual relationship lies below the foundation of every culture and society. It is utterly unique.

What makes that relationship so special? That our society has begun to seriously question its specialness is foreboding.

There is only one valid physical way that two people attain that complementarity, that intertwining, that immersion, that real union. It is the “one flesh” union which confirms and consummates that unique union. One male and one female in the physical act made obvious by our complementary anatomies. It is an utterly unique sexual relationship, this “becoming one flesh”.  It is only that specific physical union which signifies marriage in the eyes of God and those who honor Him.

Jesus is quoted in Mark 10: 6-9: But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Two singular people combine and become not a union of two, but a union of one which is greater than the combination of two. One becomes greater than two.

There is only one sexual act which causes two to become one. In the wedded heterosexual union, there is a union which is not only physical; it is emotional, spiritual, and volitional. Two hearts find expression of affection and intimacy which is so intense it defies description. Two wills choose to give selves entirely to the other in mutual trust. And, in the case of two people who understand that their relationship is created in the mind of God, and express their joy in each other and Him, there is spiritual union.

What is Sex?

Our modern world has come to believe that the essence of sexual union is the orgasm. We define sex as the achievement of orgasm, and the person we are committed to experiencing that orgasm is…me, the self.

Any variety of relationship can unite in a variety of sexual acts where each one reaches satisfaction. Several different anatomical configurations are on the menu, and sometimes inanimate objects are needed.  All loving sexual practices are equal, right?

There are problems with this belief. Orgasm can be achieved in many ways with any assortment of partners or alone. (Can one achieve oneness by himself?) One may achieve an orgasm for oneself without any care for the partner, at the expense of the partner, or by using another human being. Sex can be a cold, selfish, sterile act, and often is.

And a loving heterosexual couple may enjoy their oneness without both of them reaching orgasm.

And one may legitimately question whether some sexual practices can be selfless and loving.

So can orgasm be what sex is?

Isn’t sex supposed to be intrinsically meaningful? Is it not an expression of the joy of unique relationship? Then we must look for its meaning elsewhere than the orgasm.

Sexual intimacy as the result of a covenant between a man, a woman and God in a permanent relationship intended to (at least potentially) create family and continue a heritage, sexual intimacy which validates and gives to the other selflessly, sexual intimacy as a powerful expression of emotional, spiritual and volitional oneness, sexual intimacy as physically designed by our Creator…is an entirely unique thing.

Song of Songs 2:16: My beloved is mine and I am his…

For the best testimony on behalf of the unique experience of marital love, read The Song Of Solomon.  It has never been surpassed.

We seek after the sublime and transcendent sexual experience. But it is not a result of the orgasm. The oneness is achieved in the will and finds expression in the act.

This is what happens in married sex: the two shall be one flesh. God knew what he was talking about when he described the relationship this way.  Jesus, confirming Genesis, said:

“But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall be one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” Mark 10: 6-8.

The power of a faithful, committed, selfless, affectionate sexual relationship to create a transcendent and meaningful bond between two people of opposite sex is a mystery, a miracle. Those who are privileged to experience it know that they are blessed.  But our world does not understand it, and that is a wide-ranging tragedy.

DNA

Marriage is consummated by sex; sex , as designed by its Creator, defines marriage. Marriage is the context God has designed for that relationship.

Our world, across societies and cultures, across the centuries, everywhere and always, is created with the committed heterosexual union woven intrinsically and seamlessly into its fiber. It is in our world’s DNA.

 

Hebrews 13: 4: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

No matter what you call other unions, they aren’t marriage. They do not consummate the union. They aren’t even having sex.

I am saying that any other arrangement is not legitimately marriage because they cannot consummate their union. Just as heterosexual marriage is not equivalent to any other grouping which calls itself marriage, heterosexual married sex is not equivalent to any other sexual practice.

We have already un-defined sex. When we UN-define marriage, we are at the point of the dissolution of everything. It’s in the fabric of the universe. If we deem other relationships  equivalent to marriage, we are reaching the point of the dissolution of everything.

The Real Forgotten?

Understand that no matter what our society prefers or legislates, real marriage as God created it is untouched; marriage will not be altered by our attempts to ape it, abuse it or to alter it cafeteria-style to suit ourselves.

But society’s perception of marriage matters because if it is undefined, its enormous grace and helpfulness, the variety of familial special relationships it creates…disappear. Future generations will be unable to reap the benefits of an institution of which they know nothing.

The Erasing of It

Gay marriage is a watershed issue. It is dividing the population in terms of public opinion. It is dividing the church between the faithful and the preferential-cultural.

To judge by the rhetoric surrounding the conservation of traditional marriage, even the evangelical church does not understand the true value of marriage. Redefining marriage is absurd and disastrous, but its defenders do not seem to understand why.

We must base our persuasion solely on God’s truth, whether it is believed or not, whether it is deemed offensive or not. Arguments from practicality and from behaviorism may be valid, but they do not convince, and they aren’t the real reasons.

As Christians, we must talk about what marriage is, what sex is, and what they mean. Because no one else knows.

The people of the world don’t really have a chance of understanding the significance of sex, or even of the sexual experience. They are blind and unconnected to its spiritual attributes, and hardly able to comprehend its true meaning and power. They talk about it as though it’s merely a physical rush accompanied by a transient emotional high.

And that’s how we find ourselves fighting the belief that all kinds of sex are equal, that all kinds of “marriages” are equal.

When we forget what marriage is and what it means, as we clearly have, we misunderstand the differences between male and female. We lose the distinction between men and women. And the family disappears.

We lose everything.

Because everything is built upon the male-female distinction and relationship.

We lose marriage completely when we define it out of existence.

We lose the concept of family, and we lose all family relationships.

We lose the significance and the enjoyment of sex.

The Disappearance of It

When marriage by definition is the recognition by God and society of the permanent exclusive commitment between a man and a woman consummated by sexual union as designed and sanctioned by God;

and we re-define it to mean:

the state’s recognition of a semi-exclusive (relative) commitment between any two people of any sexes, defined by non-normative sexual practice,

yet unconsummated by God’s design for sexual union;

when both and all cases are recognized as having equal validity as marriage; we lose marriage.

There is no more marriage. There are only couples of any variety seeking temporary approval and validity from the state.

The logical, inevitable outcome of the legal re-definition of marriage to include gay marriage is that the state is now sanctioning a contractual relationship based on the self-report of an intense emotional state of a couple. Once that is the case, there is no reason why those criteria cannot be applied to any relationship involving any number of any types of persons.

And then that which is sanctioned by the state and society has become a legal contract between any number of persons who wish to enter into that contract for any reasons of their own.

Do you see how we are moving, step-by-step, away from a religious commitment based on a faith promise recognized legally by the state? The state then is in the business of recognizing legal relationship contracts…the state is the solemnizer, the legitimizer, the approver… because the method for solemnizing and (making official) is now only legal.

The state will then cease to recognize religiously solemnized marriages. Recognizing faith based marriage will be outside of the state’s scope.

The real effect, and perhaps the real purpose, of the marriage equality movement is to separate any connection of a religious nature from the societal and state sanctioned approval of marriage.

Thus making religious marriages second class, unsanctioned and “illegal.”  Am I cynical enough to believe that was the plan in some activists’ minds from the start?  You bet I am.

Utopia

Marriage, irrelevant and superfluous, dries up and scatters in the wind. It is forgotten. What happens then?  Imagine a bit into the future, when all the change agents have had their way with our society and taught us their lessons.  What will their utopia look like?

When we knock out the frame of the house, the structure soon collapses. What happens to the family when it only exists as a copy of an outmoded form which has lost its purpose?  Then family no longer means husband-wife-and their children.

We lose family relationships. Everyone becomes an individual arbitrarily connected to people of his choice. Familial roles like fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts become more tenuous and arbitrary.

We lose the concept of permanent commitment.

We lose any understanding of what sex is, what it means, what it is for, how to enjoy it. It loses its significance and becomes a recreational activity. And disconnected from meaning, it becomes dull and pointless, merely a pressure valve to let off steam.

Ironically to some, it might be the seriously religious, the fundamentalist Christian monogamous married couples, who keep the treasure of authentic sexual intimacy safe for a waiting future, while the hordes sweep civilization’s memory of it away and replace it with a crass caricature. Like a handful of Irish monks who kept safe the secrets of literacy, culture and faith for the revival of western civilization.

In Marriage, Set the Bar High

Here’s how it works:
If you set the bar low on your relationship, you will both live down to expectations.
If you set the bar high, you will probably both live up to expectations.

And you set the bar.

Remember that after you’re married, you are a union.

But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

That union is stronger than you, or him, and even stronger than you + him if this were any other kind of relationship. You will have become one, two individuals with souls and spirits joined together into truly one flesh, one being. The strength comes from things that we can only feebly understand because it is a mystical equation worked out at the beginning of Creation by a Supreme Mathematician whose very being is love. He adds to our 1+1 so that it equals infinitely more than 2. He adds love to the mix, love so crazy selfless that we cannot comprehend.

What does that really mean? All of your being will be joined to all of his being like two droplets of water joined to one, like two branches of the same vine intertwining again so closely that the two can no longer be distinguished from one another.

You can open up to partaking of that vast unconditional love; or you can DIY and hope you don’t run your relationship into the ground. Your choice.

How many marriages have you seen in which the two partners still seem to see themselves as individuals promoting their own self-interest in opposition to their spouse? They actually seem to believe that they can hurt their spouse and improve their own position.

This should never be the way with you, my friend; not for one second.
What you sow into the marriage, you will both reap. If you add your bit of poison to the relationship, you poison it for yourself. What you do to him, you do to yourself.

And you do to that sacred relationship that has been handed to you from God in heaven. Sometimes I feel like this is a secret known to very few. We always understood, somehow, that our love was a gift, an entity separate from me or him, always to be highly esteemed and valued. We would never think of trespassing against that sacred gift; it didn’t entirely belong to us. We would have to answer to the Giver for how well we honored that gift.

This is one reason why 50-50 relationships don’t work. They are built on a false premise which understands marriage as only a mechanical arrangement between two de facto competing individuals. 50% + 50% never equals 100%, even if the parties could explain exactly what 100% would look like in their marriage. Another reason is that those two are alone in that marriage, without that Supreme Mathematician; 1 + 1 = 2.

Setting the bar high means truly living out the “Love Chapter”, I Corinthians 13.

 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.

Love never fails.

Have you ever known someone who thought so well of you, loved you so affectionately, that you wanted to be just the way they thought of you? Setting the bar high means choosing to be inspired like that by your husband.  If you admire him, let that compel you to respond with a faithful reach to be better than you are. Be who he thinks you are when he loves you best.

Set the bar so high that you may never reach it. That way you keep improving.

Ridicule

It’s so refreshing to hear a woman spontaneously praise her husband. That’s because it’s extremely rare. Even those women who genuinely admire their husbands feel a bit embarrassed to speak up. It’s just so counter-cultural.

I’m supposed to be a bit disapproving about some aspect of my husband’s behavior, and I’m expected to share it with a laugh or a roll of my eyes. Otherwise I’m a vapid Stepford Wife.

Our culture is saturated with this attitude. It’s even parroted in our churches. You don’t need me to rehash the many ways we belittle men in our world. Did you manage to miss the Facebook memes today about the superior intelligence of wives, or was it about the selfish stupidity of husbands? That new joke? I’m still laughing.

Actually we’ve been working on the humiliation of men for a long, long time, and the origin is infinitely more unsavory. The first set of judgments from Eden predicts that the besetting sin of womankind will be to resent the place of mankind, and particularly her own mate. To lord it over him, to choose to live in a state of conflict with him.

One of the ugliest things I have seen is a wife who ridicules her husband in front of others and passes it off as a joke. But it’s such a good joke, every single time, am I right?

Is it ever pretty when someone makes herself look good by making someone else look bad? The one-upsmanship can take many forms. It is easy for us women to manipulate before we realize what we’re doing. Do you know why it’s easy? No resistance. Because, usually, he is gracious about it. Because when you are using your power over your husband to manipulate him, you are counting on him to treat you with grace. How does it feel to use your husband’s own kindness against him?
Then there’s the compulsion, like a habit, to put him down. Sometimes it’s subtle. You may put down something he cares about, remotely, as if it’s not a personal insult. I guarantee that he knows he’s been slighted.

And then there’s the outright ridicule. It’s always so funny when a woman points out that the one person in her life whom she had the option to choose is an idiot. But I don’t understand how that makes him look bad.

A woman who makes jokes at the expense of her husband, or who eye-rolls or smirks while he’s talking, is missing something very fundamental about being in a marriage. More so if she believes she is part of a union comprised of herself, her husband, and Christ.

Ridicule is contempt. It’s betrayal. It’s embarrassing to everyone present. It puts her to shame far more than him. I don’t know what response she receives from her man, but others who hear her jibes are inwardly wincing. The person who is looking unfavorable is not the husband.

We women forget how much power we possess.

We possess the power to cultivate or to poison our own sexual relationship. How emotionally close to your husband would you feel if he made it clear to all your friends that he was embarrassed by you? Would you be able to be trusting, without barriers? It’s hard to really trust someone who hurts you. That’s rather important in sexual intimacy.

We possess the power to make or break a home.” The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” Proverbs 14:1. This is exactly what a ridiculing wife is doing to her husband, her children, herself. How you value and respect your husband, or how you don’t, will become a heritage that your heirs will build upon.

We have the power to make or break our society. Ladies, we set the tone, we drive the future. We rock the cradle; we teach the next generation more important things than potty-training, manners, math and reading. We teach them how to navigate and cultivate relationships, how to navigate adulthood in a hostile environment, how to become responsible adults.

Whether to love or hate. Whether to take or give. Whether to value or dismiss. Whether to respect or humiliate. Whether to build or destroy. Whether to serve or use.

We have all the power we dare to exert. We have power we never use. I have no patience with the supposed oppression of women in modern first-world western society. I think we’re afraid of the responsibility if we should dare to righteously use all the power God has given us.

If you want to re-orient your attitude, it might be best to study up on what a man was designed to be. I suggest going to the resource written by the One who invented men.

Once you’ve gained some understanding of what a man is, you may not need my suggestions. But here they are anyway:

Encourage him to be a man. If he knows you support him in being who God means him to be, you will receive the true man God wants for you—and you will be amazed at who he is and what he can do. Your children for generations will be blessed.
And because he is a fallible human being, he will need your support in reaching for who he is meant to be. We all need encouragement for the task to become more than we are.

He has been given talents by God. Be careful not to criticize something which is an expression of his gifts. Heaven forbid that you should belittle how God has gifted him. But you are supernaturally gifted with the gifts of the Spirit, so you can do this.

Treat his thoughts and opinions with seriousness and respect. Don’t only do this only outwardly.

Most importantly, encourage him to lead by respecting his decisions. Give him deference and trust. I sometimes wonder why women have chosen to be in relationships with men who they are unable to respect.

The best men I know are also the most graceful, meaning they treat others with grace. ( Grace= treating someone with more kindness than is deserved or necessary). They are not petty, as we women are apt to be. They humbly return kindnesses for slights. Do not abuse this awesome grace or take it for granted.

Why do we fear ceding too much power to our husbands? Do we try to live down to the canards that a husband “behaves” so as not to risk his wife’s petty wrath?

Your husband will not dismiss your wisdom, your opinions, your convictions, your feelings or your intuitions because he already loves you for those very things. He will value and respect your views and will be guided by your intelligence and your convictions. You need not fear submitting to a loving husband who knows your worth.

You can trust his “final-word” because he is basing his decisions upon your guidance added to his own. And GOD has given him his own portion of wisdom. In trusting him with final authority, you are trusting God.

What kind of a husband do you want? Do you want a man who is afraid to irritate you? Do you want one who obeys you? One who slowly learns to adapt to your spoken criticism, who learns to be what you say about him?
Or do you want a MAN—a man who feels free to become all that God intends him to be?
A man who respects the power structure. He answers to God, not to you. He knows who he is. A man who does what is right regardless of the reactions of the people around him is strong, admirable and noble. You can see by now that you are putting down more than your husband.

Always be the kindest person in his life. Who else if not you? A marriage can endure against many threats. But no relationship can survive unkindness.
The vital importance of simple kindness cannot be underestimated. Just be kind—it’s so easy to know when you are and when you are not being kind. Be kind to him at all times. Be kind when he deserves it and when he doesn’t. Be kind when it’s not necessary. There is no downside; you will receive a better relationship and more love in return, and you will have become a kinder person. You lose nothing; you gain a lot.

If you still find yourself truly being embarrassed by your husband’s behavior, if you think one day that he is actually being foolish, then take a look in a mirror.
You are the one person in the world who has chosen, of your own free will, to be identified with this foolish man. You have stood before witnesses to declare your willingness to be one with him. You picked him.
Then have a laugh on yourself.

Bored with What?

It seems my recent post The Waning of Desire: Thoughts on Modesty and Its Opposite  is in danger of being summed up by a familiar phrase:  “Modest is Hottest.”  My fault, I did put “modest” in the title.  My main aim was not to focus on the dangers of improper dress, although it was a piece of the story.

On the  “M is H” social campaign, I find the phrase irritating, the sloganeering insulting, and the reasoning confusing…To dress modestly is hottest?  Then are we aiming at being “hot”, sexually provocative, after all? But to do this by covering up is OK? It’s alright to want to turn on our observers as long as it looks like it’s unintentional? As long as we don’t technically break any dress code rules?

I don’t think that’s what they mean to say either. Must remember to think about popular slogans before we repeat them.

My real point was that a lot of people in our society have lost their connection to something primal and instinctual, so much a vital part of our glorious design, that it is intrinsic to being human and being alive. It is the natural drive to desire and seek sexual satisfaction.

It would be almost impossible in a given day to completely avoid not only explicit sexual images and situations, but even remotely suggestive sexual ideas. We are washed with waves of generic public sexuality almost everywhere. And our media culture no longer arranges its schedule so as to spare children from things they won’t understand. There can be little doubt that children are indeed the object toward which much sexually-infused content is aimed. Just trying to create an uncritical and trusting market.

But the result of all this constant sexual stimulation is not what was intended. There is evidence that some young people are bored with sex.

It is hard to believe possible. Some documentation needed?

The day after I posted, I read this article: Bearing New Images about iconic acclaimed anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. He has been writing for years about the condition of popular culture in his beloved Japan. There are people under the age of 25 in my life, so I read it. Miyazaki has been sounding grave worries about Japanese culture and its effects on Japan’s society. And here is the notable piece:

“…on one point he is surely, but sadly, right: Japan is in peril. Indeed, it’s dying. In its 2013 survey of the sexual habits of Japanese, the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) discovered that a catastrophic number of Japanese teens and young adults, aged 16-24, have lost the desire for sex. A quarter of Japanese young men were “not interested in or despised sexual contact”; 45 percent of women reported the same.”

This is astonishing. These young people are bored not only with media-image sex, but are bored with real sex.

I believe we are seeing evidence of similar things right here. Young people flirt with one another by very graphically mimicking sexual situations. Dancing consists of a variety of pantomime sex acts. Near nudity is the only way to dress, and embarrassment over very personal contact has been lost.

To do so is still thought rebellious. Naughty, bad, cool, whatever. But it might just be a habit without a reason. It’s an act. The champagne cork doesn’t seem to pop. All that simulated stimulation leads nowhere. The normal human response doesn’t seem to follow.

Did you think it was possible to make young, healthy people uninterested in sex?  I did not.

I could be wrong. Maybe all that focus on sex is real. Maybe there’s lots of it going on. But maybe it’s just a self-assuring pose.

Our young people are saturated in the popular culture to a degree not seen before. We could turn the TV off and leave the living room. They carry all TV, all media, all of human information, in their hands in one slim device. They have media coming at them from everywhere, all the time.

Add anime culture. Surround them with hero tales, romances, ghost stories, horror, all fractured and rearranged via postmodernism. Then remove all real human beings and replace them with cartoons. Imagine the possibilities. Heroes and villains drawn to order.

Imagine being totally submerged in this popular culture, cosplaying all the time.You identify with anime characters. You are someone else, and that person is digital, two-dimensional and totally imaginary. Imagine how boring cultivating real relationships with real people must seem.

We might have a generation, at least, whose ideal of masculinity and femininity is truly imaginary. Are young men learning what to seek in a partner from the anatomically-impossible standards set by anime women? How many times have you heard a young woman pining wistfully for a man like the hero in her favorite Disney movie? Our kids are looking for cartoon people to build lives with.

They may be disappointed.

The same article goes on to explain why it matters:

“Not surprisingly, in 2012, fewer Japanese babies were born than in any other recorded year. The consequences are clear: JFPA director Dr. Kunio Kitamura warns that Japan will ‘perish into extinction.'”

Will large numbers of young people lack the motivation to build enduring connections with other people, to work hard to support others, to build, to produce, to cultivate? Will they inhabit little solitary islands of self-interest and constant entertainment, wistfully looking for meaning? If so, we all lose.

Not so long ago, it was not considered crass or utilitarian to expect that young people would naturally be driven to seek marriage partners at least partially because they wanted a sexual relationship. Social consensus still agreed that sex was most honorable inside marriage.

And as I pointed out, when we attain a reliable sexual relationship in marriage, we get much more than we thought we were getting.  The drive that motivates us to seek sex is also  the drive to find faithful connection and sublime oneness with another human being. And then we get so much more than we asked for.

Sexual desire is meant to compel us toward important things like finding permanent mates, reproducing, creating families. Families and children need financial support, so people pursue careers and create homes. They cultivate unique cultures in their homes. They build an interdependent society. They pass on a heritage.

Sex (in marriage) requires you to be the right person, work hard and sacrifice, and maintain a committed loyal relationship. I need hardly point out that the formula marriage= sex has been lost, gone out of fashion like spats. Sex is no longer treasured as something special which only happens in the context of a unique commitment.

And when it’s regarded as common, easily obtained, meaningless…who is going to work for that? And why should you be excited about it?

We’re losing marriage. Maybe sex is going next. Maybe there was a real connection between the two? There’s a thought.