ChristianForums: Defining marriage, part 1

2006-12-11 12:01

This one’s long enough to need to be a series.

There was recently a big fluff at CF over the “definition of marriage”. I’m going to start with a bit of an old-history overview. This applies to various things at the site, such as a user’s profile (where they can indicate whether or not they are married) or whether a given thing constitutes “extramarital” sex in a debate.

ChristianForums has often made use of a definition of the word marriage. In 2003, around the time of the great crash, a spectacularly stupid rule was put in place, that prohibited “promoting sin”. The language of the rule said that it was prohibited to “promote anything that may be considered sin according to the Bible” (a quote from memory, not an exact quote, but definitely not my own words). This convoluted wording was followed up by a specific list. As you might guess, everything on the list was sexual in nature, except abortion — and abortion, as understood by these people, is all about sexuality. Despite the in-theory sweeping nature of the rule, it was never once cited by staff in reference to usury or murder. It was not used in reference to torture, either. No, just sex. Lots and lots of sex.

The rule tried to capture the general sense of pseudo-Puritan sexual morality by banning all “promotion” of “extramarital sex”, and had a parenthetical stating that by “marriage” they mean “a marriage between a man and a woman”. This rule was used against gays, and it was used against unmarried straights.

During this (but unfortunately lost during the Great Crash, I believe) there was a discussion of how this rule determined marital status. I posed a specific example; imagine a couple who meet on a mission trip in a hypothetical country that does not recognize Christian marriages. They have a church ceremony but the government doesn’t recognize it. Are they “married”? Erwin’s official answer, and the site has never changed it, was “no, they are not.” That couple could not “promote” their sinful lifestyle by admitting that they have sex.

Now, some of you might be wondering why a Christian site would be more concerned with the dictates of a government that doesn’t recognize the Christian church than with the dictates of an actual Christian church. I sort of wonder too. I think it’s an inability to understand differing circumstances; in their own country, they’d assume that anyone without a civil marriage license was in some way invalid, so obviously, that must be true elsewhere. I have no idea. It’s sort of weirdly historical; the early Church considered marriage essentially a secular thing and mostly ignored it.

The “promoting sin” rule was unenforceable and ill-defined; no one could ever reach agreement on what constituted “promoting sin. The rule gradually migrated, and eventually this became a rule stating that discussions of those topics could occur only in specific forums. However, the marriage thing itself remained always a modifier of that particular rule. In the entire history of CF, up until late 2006, it was never, ever, enforced as a rule about user profiles. There is no evidence that anyone on staff ever thought that it was applied in this way, and there is not a single instance on the record of a staff member making any statements about who could or couldn’t identify as married.

In early 2006, the rules were massively revised. This definition was dropped. Some staff have claimed that this was an oversight, but the person who drafted the rules said it was intentional; it was not a useful thing to have, and it served no useful purpose.

In late 2006, we got the Marriage Icon Saga. More to come on that, but it’s large and will take a great deal of research.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. How sad to see such a biased approach to this. Funny when we argued the merits of this in the past, you said the government should be considered, yet in your hypothetical you claim the other way around. I'm sadden to see you do such a thin on this site of yours. Fight the good fight... this isn't it IMO.

    — A2J · 2006-12-12 12:36 · #

  2. How sad to see such a biased approach to this. Funny when we argued the merits of this in the past, you said the government should be considered, yet in your hypothetical you claim the other way around. I'm sadden to see you do such a thin on this site of yours. Fight the good fight... this isn't it IMO.

    — A2J · 2006-12-12 12:37 · #

  3. How sad to see such a biased approach to this. Funny when we argued the merits of this in the past, you said the government should be considered, yet in your hypothetical you claim the other way around. I'm sadden to see you do such a thin on this site of yours. Fight the good fight... this isn't it IMO.

    — A2J · 2006-12-12 12:38 · #

  4. I think you have misunderstood my argument.

    My argument is, if people who don't have a legal marriage are going to be told they aren't married, then people who do have a legal marriage should never be told they aren't married.

    But really, we should never tell anyone they aren't married.

    BTW, your posts on this issue absolutely scared me. Your comments about not wanting your marriage associated with gay marriages are among the scariest things I've ever read.

    When Jesus comes for the sinners, where will you be, having assured that no one will ever mistake you for them or associate you with them? When you state that you do not want your relationship mistaken for a lifetime's love and commitment, you go to a bad place. Repent.

    — seebs · 2006-12-12 18:47 · #

  5. Sorry bout the "spam" posts... it shoulda only posted once... net fart I guess. My dear friend. I do not wish to debate you on your own site... but if what you say is true an I grant you I wouldn't want my God ordained marriage associated wit that of a same sex union, then you freely admit one is sinful an the other is not. After all... if it's an either Or type thin, where will you be?

    — A2J · 2006-12-12 22:14 · #

  6. Hell, after reading that one paragraph (okay, the same paragraph three times), this sinner wants nothing to do wiht A2J.

    Mission accomplished, asshole. It's partially because of people like you that I'd rather die than become a xian ever again.


    — Goliath · 2006-12-13 00:57 · #

  7. No, A2J, I don't grant that one is sinful and the other is not.

    I merely point out that, if you are correct, and all these people are sinners, then when Jesus comes from them, you'll be as far away as you've been able to arrange.

    And that scares me, because it's the sinners who get saved; not the people who are carefully separating themselves from the sinners. I'm not worried about how God will treat the gays; I'm worried about how God will treat the people who think sin is something other people do.

    The marriage policy at CF was ultimately about denying grace; it was about claiming personal righteousness that eliminates any need for forgiveness, and that's not a good thing at all.

    You can debate me here if you want. Cool by me. We can't have a conversation like that at CF, after all.

    (BTW, if you want the other two copies of that post nuked, I can do that; I just take a while to approve posts sometimes.)

    — seebs · 2006-12-13 01:34 · #

  8. I don't know if I am missing the point here or not, but I do feel that what is described in the bible as 'marriage' bears absolutely no relationship to what is described as 'marriage' today. Legal and social implications apart - and yes, I know these exist and are part of life - my feeling is that 'true' marriage in the Christian sense is the permanent, loving and exclusive commitment of two people before God, which has nothing to with a venue, ceremony, or piece of legal paper. Personally, like Seebs (if I have understood correctly), I would find a purely civil marriage without that essential ingredient, just as hard to reconcile with the biblical ideal as no 'marriage' at all.

    Caro

    — Caro · 2006-12-17 08:22 · #

  9. You have noe clue, Caro!
    Why should you know anything about what a christian, biblic marriage are? You are not saved!

    — Christian wife · 2008-09-30 09:03 · #

 
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