Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meandering Manifesto, Part 4: Stability

This is part four of my Meandering Manifesto series.

Last year, Grace and I went to a second wedding in Michigan. It was much more pleasant than the first one. This time the priest didn't say anything that made me apoplectic with rage. But he did say something that got me thinking.

He began with a statistic that something like one in two marriages end in divorce, then worked his way down a line of increasing religious context of the marriage. I don't remember the following numbers exactly, but that's not the point.

  • Of the couples who were married in a church ceremony, about one in fifty get divorced.
  • Of the couples who were married in a church ceremony and who attend church regularly, one in several hundred get divorced.
  • Of the couples who were married in a church ceremony, who attend church regularly, and who pray together at home, one in about twelve hundred get divorced.

As a left-leaning agnostic this made me squirm a bit. Those numbers made me uncomfortable. I found myself wanting to read up on the research to see if they were skewed.

Later, I realized that the degree of accuracy didn't matter. Because whether those numbers were spot on, or off by an order of magnitude, there's no doubt in my mind that he's right.

He's right.

A religiously involved marriage brings stability to the married couple and to their society.

Just stop for a minute. Don't react. Just breathe.

Now. Hear what I'm saying. We are adults. Not only can we hold contradictory ideas in our heads, we can also parse wildly disparate ideas that at first seem as inseparable as the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water.

We can admit that folks on the other side of the political divide are right to call the bathwater dirty. That admission in no way implies that we favor throwing out the baby.

I admit that religion, marriage, and the potent combination thereof bring stability to our society. I do not, however, agree that the stable structure that we gain is worth the cost. I believe that the foundation stones of that structure rest on the backs of my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends.

Stability always demands unity. Unity always eschews variance. People don't like what is different. Communities and societies and countries develop a collective animus against the unusual. This animus may well have served a vital purpose in primitive marginal communities which could have gone extinct if members had strayed from the norm. But today we are no longer primitive, or so we flatter ourselves. Today our hard-wired animus against sex and gender variance is out of all proportion to any conceivable harm that such variance could cause.

Traditional religious marriages bring valuable stability to my country, my community, and my life. I admit that freely.

And I don't care.

I don't want that much stability. I don't want stability at the cost of hatred. I don't want a life so stable that, while I'm hiking with my good friend Mel, we have to worry that someone might overhear her talking about her girlfriend. I'm not so ravening after peace and quiet that I want Vikrant to be anything less than himself, because I find Vikrant's himself to be quite a delightful one. And I sure as hell ain't willing to pretend that another person's sex life is any of my damned business, let alone that it could somehow threaten my wobbly-ass secular marriage.

Keep your stability. It's covered in blood and lies. My hands ain't the cleanest, but I'll be damned if I'll dip 'em in shit.


  1. Nice post. Provocative. Thanks.

  2. Thank you Jason.

    It was actually a lot more provocative than I meant it to be. After I published it, I re-read it a few times and I realized that there's a problem: the reader could easily take it as a "fuck you" to Christian marriage in general. And that is not how I feel. As a matter of fact, what I'm railing against isn't at all limited to Christians or even religious people. I am saying "fuck you" to that measure of stability that demands silence and shame from variant individuals. I am saying "fuck you" to stable structures that reach outside to find people to hate, when they should be hoeing their own rows.

    I plan to re-write this entry, and to make the process of re-writing it the subject of another entry.