Yesterday something truly strange happened; I found myself agreeing with Jeb Bush!
Now, hold your fire! I agreed with one small utterance only:
‘I believe in traditional marriage.’
I too believe in traditional marriage because I have for the last 24 years lived in one, inhabited one, experienced one. In fact the 29th June, St. Peter and Paul’s day, is my wedding anniversary. Next year I will have been married for half of my life. Yes, I believe in marriage; traditional marriage.
And, my belief is based on the joy of living through good times and difficult times, in times of relative security and insecurity, in a monogamous, faithful and covenant relationship with someone I love, deeply.
Mysteriously, majestically, materially, spiritually, marriage makes me far more that the sum of my individual parts. It seems as though the Preface to the C of E’s marriage liturgy provides a really good description of what marriage, traditionally, is all about!
But, this is where I disagree with Jeb, and all who use the word tradition as a restrictive and prohibitive linguistic trick. For unlike Jeb I think ‘good’ traditions live, breathe and expand. They do so as the Spirit leads us into ever deeper truths, as light is shed into darkness.
Yesterday in the U.S. the decision was made to legalise Same Sex Marriage (how I long for the day when we can all just talk about marriage without binary, gender specific, adjectives). President Obama suggested that America had become a little bit more perfect.
But, I suspect that Obama, like countless others, realises that one of the truly amazing things about human beings, perhaps the most amazing thing, is that we are capable of making, and keeping to, life-long monogamous and faithful relationships based on that most wonderful of all virtues: love.
The great thing is that Obama hasn’t had to rely on speculation, or intuition, to arrive at his conclusion. Like Jeb Bush he has been presented with some pretty conclusive evidence, derived from a longitudinal study of the tradition or institution.
He – Obama – perhaps also recognises the importance of liturgical rites as signs of God’s covenant love? ‘No rights and responsibilities,without rites.’ I just hope that the Church of England also comes to the same conclusion. I strongly believe that we need to re-discover the dynamic relationship between rites, rights, and responsibilities. Marriage keeps me responsible!
So let’s ask what is it that marriage truly celebrates? If it is truly about love, fidelity, monogamy, faith (in each other and, for some people, in God), stability, reciprocity and productivity (in the wider sense of the term), then we should build on the tradition. Shouldn’t we?
Building on the tradition does not erode the tradition, instead it makes it stronger. In marriage we should surely celebrate virtue and not binary, gender specific, distinctions? That’s what I have come to believe. So like Jeb Bush I too believe in ‘traditional marriage.’
Now I must go and buy my wife a card and an anniversary present (or two)!