The Original Question
From the first post in the series:
“So you don’t believe in the institution of Marriage, do you?”
“No, not the Institution of Marriage that the Church teaches. What changed my perspective? Believe it or not, the beginning of the improvement of my marriage was the trigger.”
This must seem to be a real conundrum. Four years ago, I was a miserable old coot, praying to die, but holding the idea that “God hates divorce.” Now, I am an extremely happy man, ecstatic in his marriage, who believes that the Church is making people miserable by its rigid worship of Marriage. That just seems so incongruous. Doesn’t it seem like it would be the other way around, that the miserable man would have the “low view” of marriage and not the other way round?
Be that as it may, reading, researching and discussion with other Christians have caused me to re-think almost everything I believed about “The Institution of Marriage.”
One of the first cracks in the foundation came about through listening to Mark Gungor’s podcasts. Gungor, a Green Bay pastor and marriage speaker, is a very funny man, but can be very bombastic. His program deals with marital problems, and since everything is anonymous on his show, he pulls no punches. When I heard him tell wives and/or husbands to separate, and when I heard his reasoning, it started me thinking and reading.
Discovering marriage forums and interacting with hundreds of Christians in differing states of marital bliss or crisis was enlightening. It was a crash course in counseling and relationships, and it could be heart-rending.
I read the story of a man who, in eight years of marriage, had never had sex with his wife. I read the story of a man whose wife slept with their son in order to not have to sleep in the same bed as her husband, and who once told him that she just wished he would die. I was heart-broken when I read the story of two different wives whose husbands never, ever wanted sex, and each was languishing in 25+ years of sexless marriage, believing themselves to be repulsive, since not even their husbands wanted to have sex with them.
There recently was a man who had me beat in massive misunderstanding: 35 years since he and his wife had sex. After joining this one discussion board and originally telling refused husbands that they should just suck it up and praise God through their clenched teeth, he approached his wife about why they hadn’t had sex in three decades, and she told him that he didn’t seem to want it. They immediately restarted their marriage bed.
And then there are stories bait-and-switch wives who were promiscuous before marriage, pushing for pre-marital sex, but after the marriage, said, “I’m a wife now, I don’t have to have sex with you.” One, when confronted about her insistence on pre-marital sex, admitted that she pushed the pre-marital sex because shedidn’t want to lose him.
I could go on, but you get my drift. I began to read story after story from men and women who were miserable in their marriages.
And then there was the readings….
In addition to these stories of marital woe, there were long theoretical discussions, about sex, desire, marriage and divorce, Biblical aspects, etc. And there were a myriad of opinions. I was no longer getting a unanimous “God hates divorce” message, but reading differing ideas. And these different posters referred to books, articles and writings by Christians scholars and writers, like William Luck and David Instone-Brewer. I even found Martin Luther’s The Estate of Marriage, in which he gives three reasons for separation and divorce.
Recently, my readings have taken me to Jewish resources. I realized that, after all, Jesus was a Jew speaking to the Jewish people in a Jewish context. His hearers weren’t Midwestern Lutherans or Southern Baptists, but first century Jews, and so His teachings had to have relevance to them, first of all. He wasn’t delivering theological sermons to 20th century hearers. Instead, when He spoke on marriage, His words had to convey meaning to His immediate audience. And so now I’m looking at ancient Jewish teachings about marriage and divorce. And guess what? They don’t line up with our common Christian shibboleths.
So, to answer the question, Why did I change my view on Marriage? My marriage changed as my wife and I learned to re-connect, and my understanding of marriage changed as I stopped relying on what I was told, and did my own study.
And as time permits, I will be sharing some of that in the future.