The Sanctity of Marriage, Part 2
Red Tory denounces marriage as a pointless institution with only a scant few hundred years of history, going back only to medieval times. As a student of history and someone who believes in an organic evolution of society and values, I must respectfully disagree.
It's true that human beings are polygamous animals. It's also true, however, that we crave partnership and togetherness. It is true that the divorce rate is over 50%, but to me, this is not so much proof that marriage is unnatural. Rather, I would say that this is proof that far too many people get married to early in life, before they are ready, and before they truly understand the ramifications of their decision. I have no current intent to get married, and certainly won't even consider it for at least ten years. Many younger people (ie: under 40) seem to have much more idealistic and incredibly naive ideas about love and marriage, and are willing to jump into marriages with people who may not be their best match. Whenever I hear about people getting married in their early, mid, and even late twenties, I will offer congratulations, of course, but I will regard the marriage with a sense of trepidation, knowing that odds are it will end in divorce. Also, many people marry for religious reasons, and then realize that it was a mistake to do so. This is especially true in extremely fundamentalist areas, where young people marry early so that they can have sex without having to worry about going to Hell.
As to the claim that marriage has no social history before the middle ages, I couldn't disagree more. I spent a good part of the early months of this year researching a paper on homosexuality in the middle ages, and in so doing I came upon examples of many pre-medieval institutions which were essentially marriages. The word "marriage" was not used, as it was not yet a word in common parlance, but that is essentially what these pair-bonds were. Moreover, these bonds were - and I know social conservatives will refuse to admit this until their dying breath - quite often between two people of the same sex. It is plainly evident in most of the cultures I studied - the Celts and the Greeks especially, but also the Germans, the Romans, even the medieval Byzantines. The middle ages, or more specifically the high middle ages (1000-1300) saw the hardening of social attitudes against gay people. And while the high middle ages may have been the beginning of marriage being considered an exclusively heterosexual institution, the idea of bonds for life between human beings most certainly predates the middle ages. These bonds are, in fact, as old as society itself, probably older. And, yes, in the majority of cultures before the middle ages, they were often homosexual.