If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?

by Andrea Elizabeth

The above is a longstanding childish retort when someone says they love something. Therefore, since even before the gay activists pushed gay marriage acceptance, the idea that if you love something you should marry it seemed like a natural response.

Yesterday I heard a new one; a London woman wants to marry herself. Others said they’ve heard of people following the pandora’s box and wondering what’s to stop people from marrying their cars and such? In fact I heard someone joke that their new car restoration was their new spouse.

Perhaps all of this is a natural progression from people’s obsession with categorizing and idealizing all love as romantic. Brotherly, friendly, and artistic love then get lumped together and become redefined as passionate romance. Indeed there is overlap. People’s heart rates can go up, and they prioritize objects of their affection, among other symptoms of all types of love.

In addition, the words describing sinful “passions” also take on characteristics of romantic or physical engagement, such as “coupling”.

“Hesychios the Priest sets forth the path which passion follows. The provocation comes first. Then follows our coupling follows with it when our own thoughts mingle with those of the devil. Then comes our assent, and after that “the concrete action – that is, the sin itself’[52]. And when the sin is repeated many times, a passion comes into being.

St. Gregory Palamas, in the Orthodox tradition of ther­apeutic treatment, writes that self-indulgence is the beginning of the bodily passions and a sickness of the soul. In these “the first to suffer is the nous” – that is to say, the nous is assailed first. It sets evil passions in motion. Through the senses it brings the imagination of sensory things into the soul and it is disposed towards these sins. The imprint of these images is mainly through the eyes…[53].

St. John of the Ladder describes analytically how this thought develops until it becomes a passion. Provocation, cou­pling, assent, captivity, struggle, and passion are all different things. Analysing them, he writes that provocation is a word or simple chance image which appears in the heart for the first time. This is not sinful. Coupling is communion with what has appeared either with or without passion. Still this state is sometimes not blameworthy. Assent is the delighted yielding of the soul to what it has encountered. This is bad or good according to the condition of the ascetic. Captivity is a “forcible and unwilling abduction of the heart, a permanent lingering with what we have encountered”. Captivity is judged differently, depending on whether it happens at the time of prayer or at some other time. ‘Struggle’ means force equal to that which is leading the attack, that is, the soul’s struggle and battle not to let sin be committed. This battle can earn a crown or punishment. Finally comes passion, which, as we have said, is something that “lies hidden in the soul for a long time” and from long habit has prevailed on the soul to surrender to it. This passion requires appropriate repentance or future punishment[54].” (from here)

I’ve been thinking lately that what saves us from wrongful prioritization and activities that are to be exclusive between one sanctioned man and one sanctioned woman, is a sense of obedience to hierarchy and authority. I’ll not list these authorities, but definitions from these authorities can either leave the impression or state that marriage is arbitrarily ordained between a man and woman, with an emphasis on their equality without distinctions, or as an institution that exists for procreation, don’t really satisfy me. They leave the door open for rationalizations for expansion or evolution into new capabilities, usually through technology, for there to be almost no functional difference between men and women so that a jury of your peers can come up with alternative situations that can produce children and other “equal” spouses.

But what the two above definitions do do is define marriage as something other than a commitment between two people, or a person and a thing, that is based on a passionate feeling. An alternative definition regards the marriage in a more hierarchical way as including a position of leadership of a man over a woman. There is a modern balking to this type of authoritarian position that I do not think is totally unjustified, especially totalitarian experiences that nullify or reduce a woman’s contributions. Also, being too rigid about mental, emotional, or financial superiority misses the boat. Some situations, like having an ill, incapacitated, careless, foolish, or otherwise sinful husband results, or should result, in certain role reversals that don’t suit tidy, black and white categories. The sticklers will say that if the wife had enough faith in God, she should accept anything a man dishes at her and quietly trust God to take care of her anyway. I have a certain respect for that, but I wont say that women who can’t abide all situations are more at fault for taking the reigns than the man is for either dropping or for some other reason is not able to hold them.

Dysfunction between particular men and women is probably the number one reason that alternative lifestyles are promoted. But all the above examples point to particular situations. I think there is a different way to deal with particular dysfunctions without inventing new universal categories. I suppose it is through the universal method of confession and repentance.