Ryan Anderson – What is Marriage?


Ryan Anderson gives a fantastic talk on What is Marriage. He does not talk about marriage on a moral basis, or theological basis, or historical basis, but focuses on a political/philosophical viewpoint.

Everyone is for marriage equality. But what is marriage? This is the question you have to answer before you determine equality.

What sort of a relationship is a marriage? And what sort of relationships are non-marital?

Why would government be in the marriage business? Why can’t we take the state out of the bedroom? Why is marriage a distinct government policy?

3 Questions:

1. What is marriage?

Aristotle analyze a community with 3:

1. action community engages in
2. good communities seek –  are oriented towards the good of truth
3. norms of commitment –

What makes the marriage community different than other communities?

1. Action – Procreation results from the union of man and woman. A two in one flesh. An act unites them so completely that the love-making act makes it a life-giving act. Man and woman can become father and mother.

2. The good – sexual exclusivity. The sexual act transforms the ordinary friendship in hearts and minds into the comprehensive union of hearts minds and bodies.

3. Commitment – requires an open-ended commitment. Exclusive forsaking all others. Comprehensive throughout time.

There is something about the human good of marriage that the theological, philosophical, and political communities have been trying to articulate with greater or lesser success – all grappling with the same humanity reality of marriage – what is the type of good and commitment marriage requires.

 2. Why does marriage matter?

Marriage exists to unite man and woman to be equipped as father and mother. Children deserve both a mother and a father. Mother will always be close by at the birth, but how about the father? When the father isn’t close by, social costs are very high.

The state has an interest in promoting marriage precisely to max the likelihood that every child has the opportunity to be raised by a father and a mother.

40% of all americans are born outside of marriage today. Much tougher chance in life now.

If you care about the poor and about freedom, a strong marriage culture is important.

3. What are the consequences of redefining marriage?

Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have bad consequences.

1st reason – Redefine marriage to eliminate sexual complementary – no institution left in civil society and public life that every child deserves a mother and father. It would say that two moms and two dads are same as a mom and dad. Much more about the desires of adults rather than needs of children. Centers marriage on emotional needs of adults rather than needs of children

No-fault divorce lead to more than doubling of divorce rates. People had ability to leave marriage for no reason anymore. Law taught that marriage need not aspire to be permanent. Law shapes culture, culture shapes beliefs, beliefs shape actions. Law functions are teacher.
So marriage more about adult romance rather than procreation and rearing children.

2nd reason – No reason to think that redefining marriage would stop here. Once you get rid of male-female aspect, it can lead to thruple. A three-person couple. So all three couples married to each other. If marriage is just about an intense emotional union where people pledge to take care about each other and co-mingle assets, live with each other, enjoy economies of scale, and love one another – so why isn’t the thruple in the same battle as same sex marriage? Or the opposite sex quartet?  What is the principle reason to deny marriage equality to threes, fours, and more. What’s so special about two?

Monogamish – a play on the term monogamy. Getting rid of the sexual exclusivity. Saying its what’s wrong with heterosexual couples. And that for same sex marriages this will enhance their emotional bond. To get rid of the unrealistic view of exclusivity.

Wed-lease – wedlock = something strong and permanent. Wed-lease = get rid of unrealistic expectation of living and loving one person for rest of life. Wed lease = 5 or 10 year marriage license to get renewed, or else sunset clause set up to result in no harm no foul. This is a logical result of viewing marriage as consenting adult romance.

The child deserves a mother and a father. The government needs to vindicate and protect rights of children and minimize harm to the community (keep social costs low). The government is not a sucker for romance. Children are the primary victim.

3rd reason – consequence for religious liberty. Catholic and evangelical adoption agencies have had to shut down because political pressure to give to same sex couples instead. People are being forced to violate their consciences. Religious liberty has gone down to only freedom to worship. But once you step out into the marketplace – you have to live your faith at home. This is one of the first main consequences of redefinition of marriage.

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