Man as a social animal has grown in leaps and bounds over the last century and millenium. He has learnt civility and society, he has learnt morality and interdependence among so many other things that make him stand out. He stands out now as an intelligent being, not just as a social being. In the course of his growth and development he has been influenced by a lot of factors. Factors that has played both a positive and a negative role in getting him to become who he is today. Chief among these factors is religion. From traditionalism to Christianity, from Buddhism to Hinduism, from Islam to the Nordic religions. All have had considerable influence in shaping humanity and his society.
In prehistoric times or precivilisation, marriage was as foreign to man as walking on four legs is to a kangaroo. Men and women came together due to various reasons principal among which is the need to procreate, to keep the next generation going. Other reasons included cementing alliances and expanding family territories. It was not a choice the individual made rather it was made for him/her by either family needs, kindred proclivities or some other circumstances beyond his/her control. It was a contract, a covenant, an agreement, a union, a payment and so many other things but it was not marriage.
Now came religion, which defined and institutionalised marriage. Elevating what was in existence before then into a more worthy and acceptable way of life with regards to religious beliefs. Religion gave rules and created norms for what a union should be like before it is termed marriage. It gave expectations on what the roles of the individuals are and what they are not and made marriage a symbol of Gods relationship with human beings. Religion gave marriage its responsibilities which includes but is not limited to raising children in line with the moral code so that when they become adults they will raise their children the same way. All this was geared towards having a self sustaining society in terms of its morals and responsibilities. So from a duly constituted marriage under any religion issues forth a family which is a microcosm of the soceity. No wonder the Catholic church teaches its faithful that the home is the domestic church.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States in attempting to settle the lingering question of the right of gays to marry ruled that its their legal right to do so if they desire. While I am convinced that this ruling has no bearing to the institution of marriage I wish to state that the Supreme Court as an agent of State cannot define a religious institution.
The ruling of the Court will have effect in deciding civil unions and partnerships not marriages. Marriage as I understand it is much more than signing the dotted lines or saying the vows or even mouthing the “I do”. It is a spiritual exercise that only religion can allow you experience in its fullness. Every religion has its own rituals with regards to marriage, the do’s and dont’s. The requirements to make a marriage valid. Civil Unions on the other hand is a State affair and they can decide how they want to handle it and how they want to define it,its their prerogative to do so.
Not too long ago the need to separate Church and State was evident to the whole world. This was because of the overbearing influence of the Church on State affairs while failing in its core responsibilities of spiritual salvation. Today I dare say the reverse is the case where the State is attempting to define religious institutions in the light of changing definitions of what is right and what is wrong. A task it is too incompetent to undertake.
Religion still stands as the only true beacon to guide man to morality, laws and penal codes have so far failed in doing that. As the contemporary soceity continues to try to redefine religious truths to meet the dynamic needs of today’s people, the marriage I know from my Catholic Christian roots is the marriage I subscribe to and the marriage I believe in.