Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why even the children of evangelicals don't understand traditional marriage.

There is an excellent article in the new issue of First Things magazine by a Christian college professor, Abigail Rine, who relates her experience in her "gender theory" class. Exactly why anyone at an Christian college would think it necessary to have a "gender theory" class at all is not mentioned. Maybe alchemy is also taught there too. Or astrology. In any case, her account is interesting:
A few weeks ago, I assigned the article “What is Marriage?” to the students in my gender theory class, which I teach at an evangelical university. This article presents an in-depth defense of the conjugal view of marriage, and I included it on the reading list as part of my efforts to expose students to a range of viewpoints—religious and secular, progressive and conservative. The goal is to create robust civil dialogue, and, ideally, to pave the way for thoughtful Christian contributions to cultural understandings of sex and gender. The one promise I make to my students at the beginning of the course is that they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive.
I'm not sure whether to feel good or not about the fact that Christians have made "contributions" to this alleged academic discipline, but she goes on:

When I first began teaching this course, my students were certainly curious about questions of gender, sexuality, feminism—the various “hot button” issues of our cultural moment—but they were nonetheless devout, and demonstrated, more or less, a Christian orientation to these topics. It wasn’t hard to find readings that challenged students’ shared values and assumptions, considering the secular bent of contemporary gender studies. 
In just five years, however, this has changed. Students now arrive in my class thoroughly versed in the language and categories of identity politics; they are reticent to disagree with anything for fear of seeming intolerant—except, of course, what they perceive to be intolerant. Like, for example, “What is Marriage?” 
My students hated it, as I suspected they would. They also seemed unable to fully understand the argument. As I tried to explain the reasoning behind the conjugal view of marriage and its attitude toward sex, I received dubious stares in response. I realized, as I listened to the discussion, that the idea of “redefining” marriage was nonsensical to them, because they had never encountered the philosophy behind the conjugal view of marriage. To them, the Christian argument against same-sex marriage is an appeal to the authority of a few disparate Bible verses, and therefore compelling only to those with a literalist hermeneutic. What the article names as a “revisionist” idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem “new” to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.
This is what happens when the teaching in our Sunday Schools and our Christian education institutions at the elementary and secondary level goes little beyond informing us that sex outside marriage is bad and chastity is bliss (rather than a sacrifice or a hard discipline, which is what it really is for anyone who not delusional).

The problem, in other words, is us:
As I consider my own upbringing and the various “sex talks” I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist. While the ideal of raising a family is ever-present in evangelical culture, discussions about sex itself focused almost exclusively on purity, as well as the intense spiritual bond that sexual intimacy brings to a married couple. Pregnancy was mentioned only in passing and often in negative terms, paraded alongside sexually transmitted diseases as a possible punishment for those who succumb to temptation. But for those who wait, ah! Pleasures abound! 
There was little attempt to cultivate an attitude toward sexuality that celebrates its full telos: the bonding of the couple and the incarnation of new life. And there was certainly no discussion of a married couple learning to be responsive to their fertility, even as a guiding principle. To the contrary, the narrative implied that once the “waiting” was over, self-discipline would no longer be necessary. Marriage would be a lifelong pleasure romp. Sex was routinely praised as God’s gift to married couples—a “gift” largely due to its orgasmic, unitive properties, rather than its intrinsic capacity to create life.
Same-sex marriage is the result not only of bad teaching in our Christian schools and churches, but of the de-coupling of sex from procreation which happened with the acquiescence of Protestants (and many lay Catholics, although not the Church itself) since the 1930s.

The consequences of not knowing why we believe what we believe is to find ourselves eventually not believing it anymore.

Of course, the other problem is that many Christians continue to send their children to public schools where the silly teachings of "gender theory" are now taught as dogma. When we let our children be trained by the enemy, we shouldn't be surprised when we find that their loyalties have shifted away from us.

Read the rest of Rine's article here.


KyCobb said...

This is interesting, because it appears that you are beginning to realize that you have lost this battle permanently. Even the Irish Catholic Church barely put up a fight against same-sex marriage which was overwhelmingly approved by Irish voters yesterday.

Galaxy said...

"Same-sex marriage is the result not only of bad teaching in our Christian schools and churches, but of the de-coupling of sex from procreation which happened with the acquiescence of Protestants (and many lay Catholics, although not the Church itself) since the 1930s."

There are many legal benefits to being married, which same-sex couples are entitled to. Like getting to see your spouse if they're in a horrible accident and they say "family only"? Or insurance. Marriage is not only about christianity or sex. Times are different now and I hope you stop blaming logic on "the enemy" and see reality.

Martin Cothran said...


Why does it require redefining marriage to address the issues you just raised?

Rob Mattheu said...

Curious what you think of the homeschooling, anti-gay marriage Duggars.

Martin Cothran said...


The only problem I have with them is that they consented to do a reality show. Now they are reaping the consequences.