There is ample evidence that marriage and family are sick, which is detrimental to children. Today approximately forty percent of children in the United States are born to unmarried mothers. About half of all first marriages end in divorce. Such divorces take a heavy toll on children. Less than 10 percent of married couples with children are poor, while around 40 percent of single parent households are poor. Children who grow up in single parent families are three times more likely to have learning and behavioral problems. Simply growing up with two parents does not guarantee a pleasant and caring childhood, but it also brings great advantages after the income has been corrected.
Many factors underlie the current state of marriage in the United States. I believe one of the most important is a change in our understanding of the nature of marriage. Do we see marriage simply as a contract or a covenant? To get married today, all you need to do is get a license and celebrate the union in front of a licensed official. No waiting time is required, no public statement or celebration is required, and there is no need even to notify others, including the parents and families of the bride and groom. If the parties want to protect their property, they can enter into a marriage agreement and use the no-fault divorce laws to terminate the contract, through which a court ensures an appropriate division of the marital property.
Once marriage is viewed primarily as a contract, its fate is sealed. Contract law is based on principles such as offer and acceptance, consideration in the form of goods and services, and mutual intention. For this reason, marriage can largely be viewed as a piece of paper, the terms of which the parties will only comply with as long as both are getting sufficient benefit from the other. As a potential contractor considering getting married, I might consider some extremely practical considerations, such as: B: Would my prospective spouse enrich my bank account, career, reputation, health, and bed enough to justify the sacrifice? of freedom would it bring?
In one of the greatest short stories ever composed, Leo Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, the title character, a successful judge, weighs up the decision whether to marry exactly like this:
Ivan Ilyich said to himself: “Really, why shouldn’t I get married?” [She] came from a good family, didn’t look bad, and had a little bit of property. Ivan Ilyich might have gone for a more brilliant game, but that was good too. He had his salary and she hoped she would have an equal income. She was well connected and a sweet, pretty, and thoroughly correct young woman. To say that Ivan Ilyich married because he fell in love with him [her] and found that she sympathized with his views on life would be as wrong as to say he got married because his social circle approved the match. Both considerations influenced him: marriage gave him personal satisfaction, and at the same time it was viewed as the right thing by the most senior of his associates. So Ivan Ilyich married.
As one might expect from such a prologue, Ivan Ilyich’s marriage is not going well. He sees marriage as a matter of his own joy and comfort. His focus is not on what he would bring to the union or how he and his spouse could grow together, but on how marriage could advance his own goals. He has no desire to see things from his wife’s perspective, to enter into her experience of their life together, or to sacrifice any part of his life for her well-being. He expects her to act as an appendage to himself, and if that doesn’t happen, trouble begins to brew. Soon Ivan Ilyich and his wife spend most of their time avoiding and despising each other.
Of course, changing the laws and customs relating to marriage would not necessarily prevent or eliminate such bad unions. People are people, after all, and just as people fall in love, they can fall out of love. Some marriages are undoubtedly real mismatches and do nothing to a person’s happiness or prosperity. However, the way we understand marriage, how we prepare for it, and how we conduct it after we get married, has a strong impact on who, where, when, how, and most importantly, why we marry and stay. Ignorance and misunderstandings can take a heavy toll. To reduce the chances of failure and promote better marriages, we need a better vision of marriage as a contract.
The federal government is one such vision. It differs from the contract in several important ways. For one, the treaty comes from Latin roots, which means to draw together. A contract means that two or more people are bound by something without which they would not necessarily join. The contract itself could be thought of as a rope or string tying them together. In contrast, the covenant etymology comes from roots, which mean to come together. In other words, Covenant suggests that the two parties belong together, that it is in their nature, or in a larger context, that it is appropriate for them to join. A contract implies that both parties can get along separately, but a contract implies that they are made for each other.
The contract requires some thought and incentive to complete the agreement. In addition to goods and services, such measures can also include measures such as protecting and caring for another person. But each party expects something from another, which is why they make the arrangement. In contrast, a covenant does not imply a specific benefit. Alliances are fundamentally invaluable. Furthermore, a covenant is not about compensation for property or property accumulated in the past, but rather the promise of a future transformative good that could not be realized if the two parties were kept separate.
Contracts assume that the parties can remain as they adhere to their terms in the future. However, one covenant assumes that they will experience growth and development. The covenant will provide the context for a transformation of their identity through the relationship. For example, one of the covenants in the book of Genesis provides that humanity will be fertile and reproductive, and invokes the responsibility of marriage and parenting to which each spouse and parent is called to grow. Another, to take control of the earth, means to take on the responsibility of a steward, not only to exploit, but to care for and care for the creation.
Those who make a covenant do so not just for a period of time, but for their entire lives, as well as for the lives of their predecessors and descendants.
No one can make a covenant without experiencing the reputation to grow and develop into another person. We could say that contracts are performative while covenants are both formative and transformative. We grow up in part by taking on adult responsibility, and so is marriage and parenting. To marry or become parents without changing who you are or what you aspire to is to find yourself in the plight of Ivan Ilyich, whose lack of growth and development as a person is a kind of death.
Those who make a covenant do so not just for a period of time, but for their entire lives, as well as for the lives of their predecessors and descendants. This helps explain why the book of Genesis contains so much genealogy – what happened in the time of Adam and Eve, Noah and Abraham, and Sarah includes their parents and grandparents, their children and grandchildren. In other words, a covenant is bigger than a person. It would be truer to say that all human life has meaning and meaning through the covenants in which it is found than to say that a person chooses to make a covenant.
These characteristics of covenants help explain the qualitative difference between marriage as a contract and marriage as a covenant. For one thing, men and women are naturally drawn to each other. We don’t need an incentive to get people to care about each other. These interests range from the joy of looking at each other to imagining what it would be like to talk to each other, hug each other, and maybe even live a life together. In the biblical context, God created humanity male and female, which implies that two different types of people are necessary to complete the picture. Our longings testify to this complementarity.
Indeed, by abandoning their parents and “becoming one flesh”, people achieve a new level of wholeness, reminiscent of the representation of love in Plato’s “Symposium”. There Aristophanes describes halved creatures that desperately long to reunite with their counterparts. Basic biological functions such as reproduction and survival of the species are not possible if men and women do not join, but neither are alliances such as marriage and parenting. We need such alliances not only to survive, but also to flourish, because not only to keep but also to make promises we become fully conscious and responsible.
Imagine another story of marriage that has been badly misunderstood: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Today it is customary to consider the two lovers with the star crossings as one of the highest expressions of romantic love. The title characters are teenagers who only knew each other for one night. You experience life in the immediacy of the moment over hours and days, in contrast to more mature perspectives that think in terms of years and lifetimes. They don’t think about what would be good for their families, their community, or their beliefs, but solely about their own passions and the storybook life they envision. In order to commit to each other, they will probably have to forego everything.
“Romeo and Juliet” has long and rightly been known as a tragedy, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. The central problem is not that social conditions prevent the happy union of the two lovers. Instead, the two lovers seem to have no serious understanding of the covenant nature of marriage. They think marriage is all about them, provided they are in the center of the orbit of the universe and can somehow break away from other responsibilities. In fact, however, their youthful understanding of love is both imperfect and immature. They do not understand that marriage is less about the fulfillment of desire than about its upbringing, and in this they betray their fundamental covenant character.