Marriage: A History Lesson

From the UK’s Guardian, Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge offers a history lesson to those who claim marriage as a right (or rite) that belongs only to them.

Those who shout, “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” and claim the creation story as their basis for a religious, heterosexuals-only, marriage rite, need to brush up on their history. …

Adam and Eve is but one story of creation – all religions have one and not one of them comes from an eyewitness who was there taking notes. Marriage is read back into the story of Adam and Eve, but marriage was occurring long before the story was finally written down. That means society created marriage – not God. The original purpose of marriage has changed over the millennia. The one thing it didn’t have originally? Religion.

Marriage was invented for the proper distribution of property – meaning land and other chattel which included the women involved in the marriage. … Marriages were arranged to enlarge property holdings – to join two or more families who wanted to enlarge their wealth. Love had little, if anything, to do with these unions. …

The early church knew that marriage was a man-made, civil institution and wanted little to do with it, according to EJ Graff in What is Marriage For? (p 195):

When asked, some priests might come by and say a blessing as a favour, just as they’d say a blessing over a child’s first haircut. No one considered marriage sacred, as celibacy was: marriage was one of those secular and earthbound forms rendered unto Caesar.

It wasn’t until 1215 that the church declared marriage a sacrament and set up a system of canon law around it. So don’t be fooled by those who claim God invented marriage – it took centuries for the church to put its claim on it.

Rev. Chellew-Hodge is associate pastor at Garden of Grace UCC in Columbia, SC and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians.

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