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Running Head: Perspectives on Marriage: by Kieran Scott, Michael Warren

Perspectives on Marriage: by Kieran Scott, Michael Warren

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Thoroughly revised and updated in this second edition, Perspectives on Marriage is an ideal text for courses in the theology and spirituality of marriage. The new edition of this multidisciplinary reader features twenty new articles and represents the best of contemporary perspectives on marriage and sexuality. It is comprehensive and flexibly designed to accommodate a variety of approaches, from the strictly historical and canonical to the sociological, psychological, and ministerial. Striking a balance between solid theological material and stimulating readings on current issues, the essays explore marriage in its historical context; the meanings and transitions of marriage; attitudes toward sexuality; communication, conflict, and change; overcoming stereotypes; divorce and annulment; the spirituality of marriage; and interreligious perspectives on marriage.

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The majority of young Americans today look ahead to the time when they can get married and begin a family. In other words, they expect to find that particular person of the opposite sex who will make keep them content for life and with whom they can share the delight of parenthood in a home of their own. All of these opportunities seem so normal, easy, and reasonable, that it may be difficult to believe that young individuals of other times and other backgrounds have repeatedly felt rather differently. Nonetheless, as we can find out from historians and anthropologists, our own current forms of marriage and family are comparatively new and by no means worldwide. For instance, in some cultures people may marry a person of the similar sex or more than one partner of the other sex, the marriage may be quite unrelated to happiness, love, sexual intercourse, or reproduction, it may not lead to setting up a new family, and it may, from the very beginning, be planned only as a brief agreement.  By the same symbol, in a few cultures of history, a family did not comprise only of parents and their children, but incorporated numerous other close and far-away relatives as well as servants, acquaintances, and permanent guests. Conversely, occasionally the children's father or mother were barred from the family and continued to be an unrecognized "stranger". Indeed, in some cases the "official" husbands or wives were themselves children and younger than their lawful children.

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These little explanations may be sufficient to show that it makes slight sense to talk about marriage and family in the theory, as if they had the similar connotation for everybody. There are basically numerous diverse forms of marriage and numerous diverse kinds of families worldwide. In brief, there are a lot of exceptions for any regulation that we may set up. Marriage and family are in fact very tricky to describe and even more tricky to clarify. However, academics have frequently attempted to define marriage and family by pointing to a few of their noticeable functions. In spite of everything, it is a natural truth that sexual intercourse between men and women can create children, and that these children require grown-up care and safety for a lot of years before they can fend for themselves. Thus, it has been suggested that, with all of their possible variations, marriage and family are natural and inevitable institutions which provide for the proper raising of children, i.e., in the end for the endurance of the human species. Certainly, the two establishments have been discovered to provide many supplementary helpful functions, such as providing sexual pleasure and camaraderie for the spouses and financial cooperation involving all family members. The bigger society has also been said to benefit from the agreement since matrimony tends to limit, control, and purify human sexual actions which may otherwise become immoral and barbaric. By the same symbol, a steady family life has frequently been seen as the most excellent assurance of social peace.

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So far, upon closer assessment, it becomes apparent that all of these commendable objectives can also be achieved without marriages and families. Children do not have to rely on their parents, but can very well be raised by other adults in specialized nurseries, daycare centers, schools, and related institutions. Sexual pleasure and camaraderie can be found outside of marriage, and financial cooperation can be accomplished in all types of ways among all types of people. Sexual activities can be controlled by holy and secular establishments, and communal peace can be conserved even in cultures which demote the family as an organization and subject everyone directly to some authoritarian power. Conversely, as previously hinted above, in some parts of the world the establishment of marriage has shown such puzzling features that, for a very long time, modern Western observers could not make sense out of them. For instance, the speculation that marriage always guarantees the raising of children by their own parents is opposed in some cultures by a number of very strange rules of shaping "fatherhood".

By the same token, revolutionaries, reformers, and social visionary often lose patience with it. Family ties tend to get in the way of unexpected communal change, even if it is meant to be for the better. Conversely, any larger social change sooner or later also affects the family; this truth is demonstrated these days by the well-publicized "catastrophes" of matrimony and family in our own culture.

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erspectives on Marriage: by Kieran Scott, Michael Warren  Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 2 edition (July 20, 2000)


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