A Pro-Marriage Amendment to the Constitution
By R. Hal Ritter, Jr., Ph.D.
Licensed Professional Counselor, Waco, TX
In the last hundred or so years, the United States has been strangled by sexual issues. In the first half of the twentieth century, decent folks were taught to speak in sexual euphemisms. As a post-war child growing up in the 1950s, I inherited this propensity from my southern culture.
I remember the first time I used the word "pregnant." I was quickly told not to use that word, but to say the girl was "p-g." If someone filed for divorce because of an adulterous spouse, we said that the person had "biblical reasons" for divorcing. It was a very self-righteous and self-justifying to be "biblically" correct about one's divorce.
In the 1960s, our country went the other way with the "sexual revolution" and "free love," which meant that people now talked openly about what had, in fact, been going on for millennia.
In the 1970s, a Frenchman named Michel Foucault wrote a book titled, "The History of Sexuality." Foucault is a rhetorician, and in this work he describes the Victorian influence in culture, and how language promoted the attempted elimination of all sexual discourse from society.
One Victorian example that comes to mind is the high collar, long sleeve, full length dresses that women wore. Looking more like something dictated by the Taliban, women covered themselves as completely as possible. And they also wore hats to cover their heads.
I recall my mother telling me how, as a girl growing up in rural Georgia, she went swimming in a dress. Girls did not wear shorts or swimsuits.
As a teenager in Colorado, I remember attending church youth camp where the boys and girls had separate times for swimming. It was a rule that youth were to have "no mixed bathing."
So now we have an era in the twenty-first century that continues to be dominated by sexual issues as a culture. It is not Victorian euphemism, but neither is it free love and sex. However, the public discourse is interesting; sexual themes continue to dominate. The list is quite complex.
For example, the current sexual interest is in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as heterosexual-a euphemism for banning gay marriage. Then there is the interest in having the Supreme Court reverse the Roe v. Wade decision, which grants a woman the right to an abortion.
And there is the issue of sex education in schools, where students can be taught all about AIDS and STDs and pregnancy, but never taught protection and prevention-other than abstinence.
If we give our fine young people birth control information, they will use it, immediately. If we withhold the information, they will never need it.
Many people object to sex education in the schools. They say sex education belongs in the home and in the churches and synagogues and temples and mosques. However, I do not know how many religious organizations are currently teaching a sex education curriculum to their teenagers. And in my work with teens, I do not find many who have "had the conversation" with mom or dad.
And there is the issue of pornography in the media and on the internet. We are outraged by Janet Jackson's costume malfunction at the Super Bowl. Congress needs to act now to limit such things on television.
So what do all of these sexual issues say about us as a people? I am concerned that we become so focused on sex and sexual issues, that we ignore some other vital concerns in our country such as poverty and civil rights and health care and corporate governance and education.
Somehow, we seem to feel that the moral climate of the country is sliding downward, and that a constitutional amendment will fix the problem.
Family values have been so redefined and compromised, that we need a constitutional amendment to get us back on track. In the leftover euphemistic language of the Victorians, we need to "define marriage." Like alcohol prohibition, we think if we pass an amendment, people will do the right thing and stop what they are doing.
Family values in the United States have not changed because there are homosexual people who want to get married. Family values have changed because heterosexual people now take such a casual attitude toward marriage-and divorce.
With half of first marriages ending in divorce, and two thirds of second marriages ending in divorce, and numerous children being reared by single parents, what's the point of getting married? Some say they will "give it try," but if it "doesn't work out," they'll just quit.
Our concepts of marriage and family have been seriously infected by our instant gratification, microwave mindset. For many people, if they get married at all, it seems to be little more than an advanced level of "going steady" and "breaking up." It is a junior high school approach to marriage commitment. It's like getting a job. If you do not like it, you can quit and do something else.
So, if we really want to take a biblical stand for righteousness and define what marriage is for all people in the United States, then I propose that we have an amendment which says that marriage is between a man and a woman, till death do us part. No exceptions, unless one has proven, documented, "biblical reasons!"
Incompatible? Then you work hard and figure it out.
Conflict? Then you learn some basic skills about being a human being and living with others.
Intimacy? You learn how to manage closeness-and anger.
For us to continue to hammer on one limited part of the biblical text for a marriage amendment, and not use the full textual discourse, is a disservice to marriage and an affront to scripture.
If we are going to do it, then let's do it right! No exceptions-except, of course, for "biblical reasons."