The Truth About Marriage; neither God nor the Church invented it

Marriage Equality and Religion: Frequently Asked Questions

What is marriage?
It depends. The definition of marriage has always varied depending on the religious, cultural and political circumstances of a particular society. In some contexts, marriage is a covenant of love; in others it involves primarily a legal arrangement ensuring property inheritance rights. It is often a complex mixture of both.

Hasn’t marriage always been between one man and one woman?
No, it has not. In many cultures, both ancient and modern, polygamy has been quite common, which describes the relationship of one husband with multiple wives. This was, in fact, the predominant pattern of human family in ancient Israelite and other near-Eastern and Mediterranean cultures.

What is marriage in the United States?
This depends on the individual states. Each state has the right to define and regulate what constitutes a legal marriage in this country. Regardless of which state one considers, the history of marriage in the United States exhibits a dual nature we still see today, which includes a complex mix of both legal contracts and religious covenants. Ordained clergy, for example, function as duly authorized agents of the state when they sign marriage licenses after performing religious ceremonies, yet couples do not necessarily need to be married in a religious ceremony for their marriage to be legally recognized.

Why is marriage considered a civil contract?
In this country and many other countries, marriage primarily constitutes a legal agreement between two people that is confirmed and validated by state-designated officials. Regardless of what religious rites a couple may participate in, they are only legally married if they can obtain a properly registered state license. Moreover, a couple who obtain a validated license from a state-designated official are married whether or not they chose to participate in any religious rites at all.

Why is marriage a political issue?
Marriage is a political issue because the civil contract of marriage extends over 1,000 federal benefits to married couples from which lesbian and gay couples are currently excluded. That makes marriage not only a political issue, but an issue of social justice as well.

Have states ever restricted civil marriage in the past?
Yes. States have the right to regulate who can obtain marriage licenses and these regulations vary from state to state. For example, while some states allow first cousins to marry, others do not. Likewise, until relatively recently, some states did not allow couples of “mixed races” to marry. Laws forbidding this practice—known as miscegenation—changed only through the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967.

Doesn’t our government have a responsibility to protect the sanctity of marriage?
No. What constitutes something as “sacred” is the exclusive realm of religious tradition and communities of faith. The government’s sole responsibility in this arena is to ensure just and equal protection under the law for every American citizen. That’s why the U.S. Constitution insists on the separation of “church and state.”

Is marriage a religious sacrament?
Only for some religious communities. Within Christianity, marriage became a “sacrament” only in the early 12th century. Moreover, not every religious community or Christian denomination considers marriage a sacrament today. Those that do include: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and some branches of the Anglican Communion.

Do ministers “marry” people?
No. In both Catholic and some Protestant traditions, the ordained minister is not the one who “marries” the couple; the two partners are themselves the ministers of the rite and the ordained clergy functions only as a witness to the couple’s vows of commitment. The Christian tradition has various views of who does the actual “marrying”: it can be the couple themselves, God, or the community as a whole, but it is never the minister.

Can same-sex couples currently get “married”?
Yes and no. Same-sex couples may currently participate in religious rites of “marriage” in a number of faith traditions, including both Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Christian denominations of the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Churches, some Disciples of Christ (Christian), some Episcopal churches, and some Baptist churches. However, because the state will not currently issue a civil license to these couples, they are not legally “married” as far as civil rights and federal benefits are concerned.

What effect will civil marriage equality have on religious celebrations of marriage?
Absolutely none. By extending marriage equality to lesbian and gay couples, the State will not nor can it say anything at all about whether a religious community chooses to bless same-sex couples with liturgical rites. Religious communities can choose to offer liturgical blessings of same-sex couples or not; the state has nothing to do with those decisions.

Doesn’t the Bible support marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

Not really. The primary familial pattern in the Hebrew Scriptures is polygamy—one husband with multiple wives. The sexual ideal in the Christian Scriptures is chastity and celibacy. Jesus was even critical of the institution of marriage, suggesting that those who wished to be worthy of the resurrection “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35).

But doesn’t the Apostle Paul endorse marriage?
Not quite. Paul affirms that marriage is not a sin, but stops short of endorsing marriage as a laudable choice. Paul never says marriage is for the sake of children, or for pleasure, or even for companionship. For Paul, the only reason to marry is to provide a remedy for lust and encourages his readers to remain as he is, presumably unmarried.

Hasn’t Christianity always supported the importance of marriage?
No, it has not. Unlike the positive regard in which marriage was generally held in the “pagan” Greek and Roman cultures in which Christianity developed, early Christianity itself demoted the institution of marriage in favor of celibacy. It is only in the medieval world and especially in the development of Protestant Christianity during the 16th century that marriage was re-constituted as an important Christian institution.

Should religious communities support the right to marry in this country?
Yes. The right to civil marriage in the United States has absolutely nothing to do with the religious and spiritual meaning of marriage. It does have everything to do with social justice. Religious leaders and communities have been on the forefront of every movement for social change in this country; the freedom to marry should be no different.

What are the legal and economic benefits of marriage?
You can read the report from the General Accounting Office of the United States online [PDF]. This includes information on “1049 federal laws classified to the United States Code in which marital status is a factor.”

History of Marriage: 13 Surprising Facts

By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | June 26, 2013 04:26pm ET

Moonstruck partners pledging eternal love may be the current definition of marriage, but this starry-eyed picture has relatively modern origins.

Though marriage has ancient roots, until recently love had little to do with it.

“What marriage had in common was that it really was not about the relationship between the man and the woman,” said Stephanie Coontz, the author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage,” (Penguin Books, 2006). “It was a way of getting in-laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force.”

But as family plots of land gave way to market economies and Kings ceded power to democracies, the notion of marriage transformed. Now, most Americans see marriage as a bond between equals that’s all about love and companionship. [I Don’t: 5 Myths About Marriage]

That changing definition has paved the way for same-sex marriage and Wednesday’s (June 26) Supreme Court rulings, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and dismissed a case concerning Proposition 8.

From polygamy to same-sex marriage, here are 13 milestones in the history of marriage.

1. Arranged alliances

Marriage is a truly ancient institution that predates recorded history. But early marriage was seen as a strategic alliance between families, with the youngsters often having no say in the matter. In some cultures, parents even married one child to the spirit of a deceased child in order to strengthen familial bonds, Coontz said.

2. Family ties

Keeping alliances within the family was also quite common. In the Bible, the forefathers Isaac and Jacob married cousins and Abraham married his half-sister. Cousin marriages remain common throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East. In fact, Rutgers anthropologist Robin Fox has estimated that the majority of all marriages throughout history were between first and second cousins.

3. Polygamy preferred

Monogamy may seem central to marriage now, but in fact, polygamy was common throughout history. From Jacob, to Kings David and Solomon, Biblical men often had anywhere from two to thousands of wives. (Of course, though polygamy may have been an ideal that high-status men aspired to, for purely mathematical reasons most men likely had at most one wife). In a few cultures, one woman married multiple men, and there have even been some rare instances of group marriages. [Life’s Extremes: Monogamy vs. Polygamy]

4. Babies optional

In many early cultures, men could dissolve a marriage or take another wife if a woman was infertile. However, the early Christian church was a trailblazer in arguing that marriage was not contingent on producing offspring.

“The early Christian church held the position that if you can procreate you must not refuse to procreate. But they always took the position that they would annul a marriage if a man could not have sex with his wife, but not if they could not conceive,” Coontz told LiveScience.

5. Monogamy established

Monogamy became the guiding principle for Western marriages sometime between the sixth and the ninth centuries, Coontz said.

“There was a protracted battle between the Catholic Church and the old nobility and kings who wanted to say ‘I can take a second wife,'” Coontz said.

The Church eventually prevailed, with monogamy becoming central to the notion of marriage by the ninth century.

6. Monogamy lite

Still, monogamous marriage was very different from the modern conception of mutual fidelity. Though marriage was legally or sacramentally recognized between just one man and one woman, until the 19th century, men had wide latitude to engage in extramarital affairs, Coontz said. Any children resulting from those trysts, however, would be illegitimate, with no claim to the man’s inheritance.

“Men’s promiscuity was quite protected by the dual laws of legal monogamy but tolerance — basically enabling — of informal promiscuity,” Coontz said.

Women caught stepping out, by contrast, faced serious risk and censure.

7. State or church?

Marriages in the West were originally contracts between the families of two partners, with the Catholic Church and the state staying out of it. In 1215, the Catholic Church decreed that partners had to publicly post banns, or notices of an impending marriage in a local parish, to cut down on the frequency of invalid marriages (the Church eliminated that requirement in the 1980s). Still, until the 1500s, the Church accepted a couple’s word that they had exchanged marriage vows, with no witnesses or corroborating evidence needed.

8. Civil marriage

In the last several hundred years, the state has played a greater role in marriage. For instance, Massachusetts began requiring marriage licenses in 1639, and by the 19th-century marriage licenses were common in the United States.

9. Love matches

By about 250 years ago, the notion of love matches gained traction, Coontz said, meaning marriage was based on love and possibly sexual desire. But mutual attraction in marriage wasn’t important until about a century ago. In fact, in Victorian England, many held that women didn’t have strong sexual urges at all, Coontz said.

10. Market economics

Around the world, family-arranged alliances have gradually given way to love matches, and a transition from an agricultural to a market economy plays a big role in that transition, Coontz said.

Parents historically controlled access to inheritance of agricultural land. But with the spread of a market economy, “it’s less important for people to have permission of their parents to wait to give them an inheritance or to work on their parents’ land,” Coontz said. “So it’s more possible for young people to say, ‘heck, I’m going to marry who I want.'”

Modern markets also allow women to play a greater economic role, which lead to their greater independence. And the expansion of democracy, with its emphasis on liberty and individual choice, may also have stacked the deck for love matches.

11. Different spheres

Still, marriage wasn’t about equality until about 50 years ago. At that time, women and men had unique rights and responsibilities within marriage. For instance, in the United States, marital rape was legal in many states until the 1970s, and women often could not open credit cards in their own names, Coontz said. Women were entitled to support from their husbands, but didn’t have the right to decide on the distribution of community property. And if a wife was injured or killed, a man could sue the responsible party for depriving him of “services around the home,” whereas women didn’t have the same option, Coontz said.

12. Partnership of equals

By about 50 years ago, the notion that men and women had identical obligations within marriage began to take root. Instead of being about unique, gender-based roles, most partners conceived of their unions in terms of flexible divisions of labor, companionship, and mutual sexual attraction.

13. Gay marriage gains ground

Changes in straight marriage paved the way for gay marriage. Once marriage was not legally based on complementary, gender-based roles, gay marriage seemed like a logical next step.

“One of the reasons for the stunningly rapid increase in acceptance of same sex marriage is because heterosexuals have completely changed their notion of what marriage is between a man and a woman,” Coontz said. “We now believe it is based on love, mutual sexual attraction, equality and a flexible division of labor.”

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitterand Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on

39 thoughts on “The Truth About Marriage; neither God nor the Church invented it

  1. Why don’t you just change the name of the blog to gayposts02 and admit your sexuality is confused at best? All you’re doing is cloning the gay-rights-oriented groupsects and pulling down Christianity with every ounce of your being.

    The sad thing is that you don’t even know what you are or what you are doing.

    I’ve yet to discover what either you, wazza or Bones actually believe that is Christian.

  2. OK, let’s break this down somewhat.

    First of all, the understanding I had was that this was predominantly a Christian opinion site and not a gay propaganda site.

    From a genuine Christian perspective the article and Greg’s opinion of marriage are vile, cynical and far from the truth.

    It misrepresents many aspects of what Christian marriage is and downplays the values attached to marriage, especially for Christians, and, I would say for people of other major religions.

    The cynicism is reflected in the attachments, both of which are sexist and culturally abrasive.

    It is also a US based opinion and many of he claims are not relevant to any other nations. It even admits that marriage is defined in the US on a State by State basis, so this in itself renders much of what it claims useless to citizens of the US, the UK, which has just ratified gay marriage, and especially Australians.

    For instance it claims that gays do not get he same rights as married couples, but there has long been State and Territory legislation which gives gays the same arrangements as de facto couples who have equal rights to married couples in most areas.

    So the writer is speaking crap, basically.

    The historic Christian perspective can be shown through Scripture as a historical fact. It is a tradition within both the Old and New Testaments with strict rules. There was never, ever an indication form Jewish or Christian writings that men could marry men or women could marry women. In fact there were prohibitions on homosexual relationships let alone any civil or matrimonial arrangements.

    Whether the civil and secular authorities make provision for gay marriage is not relevant to Christian teaching or conduct. It is made clear to Christians that homosexual sex is sin and should be resisted.

    The origins of marriage are, for the Christian, Biblically defined, but whether the non-christian believes this or not is not relevant to the Christian perspective.

    If Greg and Bones want to deny the prophetic, Scriptural and social implications of Christian thought on marriage then go ahead, deny all you want, resist all you want, preach what you want, but it means nothing in the great scheme of things because the Bible says what it says and true believers are obliged to take the Bible at face value and adhere to its conduct.

    Post all the articles you want which deny Christ and promote homosexual rewriting of history, theology and social values to suit their own ends. Turn this site into a gay propaganda machine.

    The greatest threat to marriage today is the gay lobby.

    But know this. God will never ratify homosexual marriage.

    It is anathema.

  3. But…

    …flowing on from the original argument, which this post attempts, the shifting of the goalposts occurred when someone made the very obvious statement that Christians didn’t invent marriage, which is a non-arguement, really, because anyone who has a Bible knows that people were marrying long before the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, and the Church was a mystery to all until revealed by Paul.

    So who was actually arguing that marriage began with the Church, or that it was entirely a Christian ceremony? Only those who sought to set up a strawman. Hence this post, which changes nothing and proves nothing.

    In fact, I made it clear that the concept of marriage being between a man and a woman began with Genesis, was a pre-Isrealite practice, was followed on in Jewish tradition in Jesus’ time, as it is to this day in Jewish families, and was confirmed as a Christian practice by Paul. Thus the history of marriage, whilst not of Christian origin, was and is continued in Christian circles in various forms, following on from pre-Torah Biblical patterns, into the New Testament Christian communities, from a basic promise made by a couple to one another in the early times, to a ceremonial sacrament in some churches in later times.

    But the statement in the header that God was not the instigator of marriage is a different matter altogether.

    Proof of this please.

  4. So tell me exactly what is wrong with this post…instead of arguing about me…pull the post apart! If it is so wrong it should be easy for you to dissect and destroy its premise.

  5. The greatest threat to marriage today is the gay lobby.

    what a pathetic fearmongering comment. Divorcee is a great enemy of marriage. Domestic violence is a great enemy of marriage. The gay lobby can no more destroy marriage than the vegetarian lobby can destroy the butchery industry.

  6. The reason it is a threat to marriage is that the traditional understanding and hstory of marriage is here, before our very eyes, being rewritten to suit the lobby. Theology, as I said, is also being rewritten for their purposes, ad you are a chief promoter of it.

    I did take as much of the biased article apart as I can be bothered with. It had no bearing on the previous post you attempted to hijack with this straw man, so it doesn’t warrant my attention.

    You just don’t have the capacity to understand why the piece is so US oriented, historically prejudiced and legislatively inaccurate.

    If the definition and historical significance of marriage is changed, of course it comes under threat.

    Just as Christianity, when liberals like you denounce Scripture and doctrine, comes under threat.

  7. “First of all, the understanding I had was that this was predominantly a Christian opinion site and not a gay propaganda site.”

    You disappoint me Steve. I thought you were a really clever guy till that statement!

  8. What God did was invent sex…and since time immemorial that alone has been the standard if when two people are joined…not the ceremony, not the self important pompous Pentecostal minister blabbing on about how marriage is a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the church! Geez Louise, the imagery came after the event…it isn’t a cause of the event. Nobody should need to bother with a ceremony, but anyone who wants one should be brought into the circle and have their marriage recognized.

  9. ” not the self important pompous Pentecostal minister blabbing on about how marriage is a symbol of Christ’s relationship with the church!”

    It’s not babbling. And maybe you could do with studying marriage and Christ’s relationship with the church.

    “Nobody should need to bother with a ceremony”
    True. But there’s nothing wrong with it. Most people see it as a beautiful thing. Actually, I’ve even heard of people wanting the babies prayed for and other stuff like that.

    “but anyone who wants one should be brought into the circle and have their marriage recognized.”

    Anyone who wants one??

    Okay… heard it here first. Two men? Two women? Two six years olds? Bones and a Taiwanese ghost? Two bisexual women and a man working as a prostitute.
    Yep, Greg says bring them all into the the “circle”.

    Circle of life?

    Maybe Elton can sing a song and some fruitcake can marry a lion in Greg’s new church.
    They can walk down to the Circle of Life song with naked bridesmaids. And maybe they can all consummate after because Greg also has said that God doesn’t care what people do with their genitals.

    Anything goes in Greg and Bone’s world.

    Except for high salaries for Pastors…..

    1300 children killed in Syria and still Uni students in Sydney are more concerned with having their vaginas on magazine covers, and those two rich fa…fa….fairly rich homosexuals are still crying about missing out on a lavish church wedding.

    Send them to Pope Gregory. He’ll let anyone in the circle….

  10. “What God did was invent sex”

    Well does your fanboy Bones agree with that? You are talking about mammalian reproduction millions of years ago or ….

    But anyway, I’ll accept that. So Greg is saying that God invented sex. Great. So tell us more about this invention. Why do you believe that? Because of the physicality?

    God invented sex? Okay. Between a man and a woman. Not between two men. Not between two women. Not between a woman and an animal.

    “God invented sex” Great quote from Greg. Now if you say that God invented homosexual sex, I’ll know that you are beyond help.

  11. ………………

    what a totally irrelevant post with no meaning.

    But maybe you have a point. Actually I’ve met cross eyed cats with more biblical understand than liberal Christians.

  12. Yes it would be above your head. The fact that animals have committed relationships show it is not a divine, human only thing. (Cept there better at it – cos we weren’t monogamous until recently)

  13. ……..
    i think you mean “some” animals Bones.

    Now go and find the animals that have life long committed gay thexual relationthipth – you know, the type that makes your heart flutter….

    And God’s intention was always for monogamy.
    If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand God, man, the church.

    Geez, never get anywhere near my kids!

    Man up and tell your church what you believe. And tell your wife about your drooling over Ian Roberts videos while you’re at it!

    man, I need a bucket when I come to this site.

  14. Hilarious! Q is on a roll! Well said sir!

    Greg admits God invented sex.

    Now we’re getting somewhere. Of course, having lost his ally, Bones has to attempt an obfuscation and introduced animal fidelity!

    Animals don’t sin either. Nor are they held accountable for sin before God. But there you go.

    So now that we have reached agreement that God invented sex, by which we take it you mean sexual intercourse, can you define which sexual intercourse he invented?

    Was it heterosexual intercourse he had in mind or homosexual? Can you demonstrate your case for or against both?

    Greg also makes the point that sexual intercourse is the means by which marriage is consummated. He didn’t use these words, but that is the gist of his argument. When a man has sexual intercourse with a woman they are married in Gd’s sight.

    I would generally concur with this. However God does make some provisos for this, doesn’t he, because he recommends that man, that is, a Christian man, should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, and secondly, a Christian man should not be sexually engaged with a prostitute, or, as the Scripture has it, a harlot, that would be a woman or man, (pornos is a masculine Greek noun) who sells their body for sexual intercourse, and thus, joins themselves to many.

    Which brings us to another issue, that o multiple partners. If a man has sexual intercourse with one woman, he is, as Greg admits, married to that person through the act, but what if he joins himself to another, and then another, is he not, then, joined to multi-partners?

    If I were the father of, say, three virgins, and a man was approaching one of them who I knew had been intimately involved sexually with another woman, and was, as greg confesses, married through sexual intercourse to that woman, I might have something to say about it in a social context.

    I might, in fact, firmly interfere with his desire to continue his philanderous approaches to my daughters and demand, at the very least, some kind of commitment or evidence that he was free and single and able to approach my daughters with such intent.

    An entire community might, at some juncture, demand a signed contract of matrimony in such cases, and evidence of the fidelity of the couple about to be joined through sexual intercourse in a lifelong relationship and the definite prospect of offspring to be cared for and a wife to be provided for.

    We might ultimately come to an arrangement not unlike the present marriage laws which are very strict and binding on individuals seeking to enter lifelong relationships, with all of the responsibilities and benefits thus ensuing.

    We might call it something. Like perhaps a marriage contract. Yes. A contract of matrimony whereby all parties are made responsible for one another.

    Even de factos in Australia have some kind of contractual arrangements especially once children come into.

    But we are getting somewhere with greg, at least.

  15. So God invented something He once called an abomination? It wasn’t a corruption of what he actually ordained for a man and a woman?

  16. By which, of course, I mean homosexual intercourse which leads to one or more partners reaching orgasm?

  17. So God invented something He once called an abomination

    Yes, he invented shellfish and crustaceans, squid and the yummy octopus

    Leviticus 11:10-19 – (6) “But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is an abomination to you.

    Oh dear, I’ve been a naughty boy.

  18. Are you saying that God created the crustaceans as an abomination, wazza, or that God was saying, under the Old Covenant, that they should not be eaten by Israelites?

    I think the crustaceans themselves were very good, but, being God’s clean up system, much like pigs on the earth, he warned Israel against eating them. he also set a number of boundaries around israel which kept them in line.

    e changed the order on eating what he called unclean things, but I do not see where he changed the instruction about anal sex.

    How do you compare eating laws to anal sex today. Is it now clean and acceptable? Here’s the litmus test: would you recommend that a male couple engage in anal sex without a condom on a regular basis? Is it safe? How safe? Was the anus created by God for sex, because that is what Greg is saying. _Lease explain the function of the anus, since the muscles are directed only for pushing out excreta, not for receiving a male penis.

    But, here you are, happy to leap into your concordance to prove a nonsense, but not to seek the truth.

    Greg, you’re so far from being even close to truth it’s a wonder you do call yourself a Christian. Really!

    As predicted, though, when Scripture is put before you, you challenge its authenticity every time.

    I suppose you actually think you are being clever with your systematic evasion of truth. But you an’t make it go away. It is still in your face.

  19. God never gave instructions to anyone. Its all linguistic prose added for effect, like the ten commandments.

  20. Yes, well, one reason I continue talking to you is to allow you to go further and further into just how removed you are from true Christian values and confirm your antagonism towards the Word.

    Now that you and Greg have completely abandoned the Bible, Scripture, and any kind of reference to God’s Word, we can see you for who you really are.

  21. Now that you and Greg have completely abandoned the Bible, Scripture, and any kind of reference to God’s Word, we can see you for who you really are.

    that’s right, you can see us for the Christians we are as opposed to the biblearian that you are.

  22. ‘Biblearian’?

    That’s not even a word! You made it up, base on your own imagination, like your theology.

    By the way, the claim that Signposts02 is ‘Theology for the Road’ is false advertising. It’s more like ‘Liberal Activism on the Run’.

    You can’t answer anything I ask you Biblically, so you attack the Word itself. Brilliant!

  23. ‘Biblearian’?

    That’s not even a word! You made it up, base on your own imagination, like your theology.

    Excuse me, but biblearian is a perfectly cromulent word thank you very much!

  24. Oh yeah, Simpson theology! Says it all! LOL!

    So you do believe in fables and old wives tales!

    Hardy har har!

  25. To state that God did not create (invent) marriage is a lie! Only one woman (Eve) was made for man (Adam). I believe that if God intended for a man to have more than one wife, then He would have done so. Since mankind continues to do what is “right” in his own eyes, we will continue to go in a downward spiral. We have had nothing but problems because we will not go about life in God’s way. The cross is the solution!!

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