Friday, May 16, 2014

Provocative Words on Love and Marriage

I came across an old article by one of my seminary professors, Stanley Hauerwas.  He is always provocative, and this one does not let down:
...When couples come to ministers to talk about their marriage ceremonies, ministers think it is interesting to ask if they love one another.  What a stupid question!  How would they know? Christian marriage isn't about whether you're in love.  Christian marriage is giving you the practice of fidelity over a lifetime in which you can look back upon the marriage and call it love. The difficulty therefore [with talking about Christian marriage in a consistent and cohesive way], is that Christians, when they approach the issue, no longer know what marriage is....
 I find this a fascinating tangent amid the argument about how to define marriage and the high rate of divorce (Which is essentially equal among Christians and non-Christians).  Perhaps when it comes down to it, none of us really know what we are talking about.  I'd love to hear some reflections on Hauerwas' assessment.


  1. It's very interesting. I started reading a lot of romances a few years ago, and I think a lot of women look for storybook love. I also think this kind of love doesn't exist in real life. Too many people base their marriage on chemistry--physical attraction--without looking at values and personalities and long-term goals. Not that I think marriage should be strictly contractual. But there's a lot more to a lifelong commitment than chemistry.

  2. I agree with you that marriage as a contract is lacking as well. Hauerwas talked about the vast tradition of arranged marriage throughout history--not that it is necessarily better, but questions of chemistry and compatibility are far from central. Fundamentally, I think he is questioning the concept that marriage is even about self-fulfillment in any way. I think part of what he is saying is that marriage plays more a role in the community more than in personal self-actualization.

  3. I've always looked at marriage as a promise. You are sharing the most intimate part of yourself with someone else with the promise that what ever they find it is for better or worse. The institution or rules of marriage can be looked at as the vase that holds the flowers that bloom.