This posting is handling some volatile subjects. Its purpose is to discuss the institution of marriage in our culture as it relates to government and politics. Nothing in this posting should be taken as a personal comment or criticism about any individual marriage.
There is much division, anger and social turmoil due to proposed and demanded changes to the institution of marriage. The major changes in the forefront of the discussion is whether to legalize a marriage between homosexuals, or not.
In a society which entertains the fantasy that there is complete separation between Church and State, the previous sentence regarding legality and marriage should have caused some alarm. The reason that the concept of legality and marriage is commonly accepted, is that marriage is an institution that exists in society where both religion and government coexist; there is no separation.
Frankly, the institution of marriage, as practiced today in the western culture, is an anachronistic European remnant from the past when the Church and State were one and the same. The institution of marriage that we are familiar with is basically a Roman Catholic religious institution. Since the religious institution of marriage has been assimilated into secular society, it is difficult to discern its background and nature as a religious institution. This is the cause of much of the difficulty and turmoil that surrounds the issue of marriage today.
The federal government regulates and taxes commerce. The State and local government dictate and regulate various social relationships and activities between people. This is done with a view towards elimination of criminal activities and the abuse of the citizenry. Today the State finds itself in the awkward position of attempting to regulate and promote the religious institution of marriage, against its own interests and the interests of the citizenry.
If this society has outgrown the current union of Church and State in the institution of marriage, then it is time for those two entities to separate. The State can easily promote and enforce the relationship of marriage as a secular, civil contract between people. The State is very able to do so as it is designed to function in this manner. It can cease from recognizing, certifying and authorizing religious officials as marriage agents of the State. The State can determine the qualifications of those who can enter into a civil union without regards to religious influences and preferences. Instead, the qualifications which are in the best interest of the citizens and the State can be codified and enforced. The "bottom line" of this proposal is that the State will only recognize the civil union as a marriage; it will not and cannot recognize the religious unions as a marriage.
The religious institutions can continue with the traditional religious institution of marriage without interference from the State. If they wish to exclude some from their religious institution of marriage, so be it. This is a religious matter, not a civil matter.
In this manner the vast majority of the citizens of this country can freely enjoy the civil and secular benefits of a State recognized marriage, a civil institution of marriage. Those who have religious preferences can continue their practices unmolested, without hindering others who do not share the same religious beliefs. The religious institutions can be free of fear since they cannot be forced to accept the State sanctioned marriage.
Many find the experience of change to be challenging, unsavory and unsettling. There will be those who will be influenced to become very angry and outraged at such a radical proposal. In spite of this, it is my hope that this proposal can be considered as a positive, sane way in which we can overcome the divisions and turmoil which has accompanied this issue.
(C)2012 Keith S. Radcliffe