Matt Redman
Forthcoming Films ...

Can marriage mend a broken society?

Stuart blogs about marriage and family in response to the Conservative's Social Justice Policy Group report called Breakthrough Britain. First of all I like the way that Iain Duncan Smith has set up the Centre for Social Justice to explore these issues, although I'm not sure I agree with all the conclusions the Report reaches. Get married for a better tax breaks seems to be not the best reason for getting married. I think the intention, or I hope it is, is to value marriage, I'm not sure tax breaks are the way to do that. Stuart says he is pro-marriage. pro-family and pro-children. This seems to me to be right, although I'm wondering whether I would want to be pro-church before anything else. I think the response of the church to marriage, family and children is witness: to demonstrate the possibility of marriage until death do us part, of being family, of having children. Marriage often gets the short straw in public. Hauerwas says marriage is a deeply subversive act. I don't think we present it as such. Sam Wells say this about marriage (which I think is the message the church should bring):

Marriage is the great proclamation of abundance. All is focused on a single other - but the truth is that, far from not being enough, that one person is more than enough. Here is the mystery of another person - another mind, another imagination, another myriad of experiences and energies and enthusiasms and enjoyments. Could one ever exhaust that person? ...

Marriage is not zero-sum game, where one person sacrifices their career, or their friends, or their creativity, or their deepest needs, so that other can be the hero, or be the star, of never have to lose the argument. It is an adventure, in which the new body can be together what neither of them could have been apart, and the only thing that might stop them would be any sense that they could somehow get their on their own. One other person is always more than enough, when you believe that that person will listen to you until you run out of things to say, when you trust that that person will wait as long as it takes for you to understand why you are the way you are, when you realize that that person will always impute the best of motives to your actions however clumsy you feel inside.

(God's Companions, 2006, 96)



I think my answer to the question in your title is 'no... but...'

I think we need to be pro-communion, which is to be pro-church as you say; not pro-marriage or pro-family per se.

Neither Jesus nor Paul seem to be pro-marriage. Jesus didn't marry (did his disciples?) and Paul says it's better to be single unless you 'burn with desire.' A lot of the Fathers of the Church were single people who lived lives of poverty, and even now in the Older Traditions clergy (certainly bishops) are single (perhaps widowed in some traditions).

If we are pro-communion, then we are relational, we are pro-community. Marriage, and the family are both good, wholesome expressions of this, as is church (all, of course, in an ideal world).

I think the Church can sometimes ignore single people, and people called to live lives of celebacy, and make them feel under-valued. This especially in younger church communities where lots of people are marrying and having children.

So I am hesitant to encourage the Church to use the language of Marriage any more than it already does. I think that misses the bigger picture, and can make Marriage an end in itself, rather than one of several appropriate manifestations of communion-in-action.


A bit off topic but... it seems like Hauerwas thinks EVERYTHING is a deeply subversive act.

Andy Goodliff

I think for Hauerwas any christian practice is, or should be, a deeply subversive act, because its come from different set of convictions to the world. After christendom (incidently a title of one hauerwas book) we need to recover the subversive of the politics of Jesus

The comments to this entry are closed.