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Modern Marriage

Posted Friday, August 31, 2012, at 9:00 AM

How many of us remember the movie, "Future Shock?"

Among the shocking things predicted by this movie are things like group marriages. If you don't know what that is, you are just going to have to ask your mom, I'm not going to explain it here.

As it turns out, humans just aren't wired for many of the things experimented with in the 1970s. That prediction of the future appears to be clearly wrong. That said, there just might be a new trend in marriage. This trend, however, is quite retro.

The traditional modern marriage has two components. First and foremost it the legally binding contract registered and recorded by the state. Secondly is the covenant between man and wife before God.

In places like Germany, if you want a church wedding, you have to get married twice; once in "city hall" and again in the church.

Here in the U.S., not only are many public servants charged with the power to officiate a marriage ceremony, but all recognized religious figures are empowered by the state to officiate marriages.

There are a lot of drawbacks to getting married. Of course, we all know about being stuck with the same woman forever. The other side of that coin is the horror of divorce. (Socrates told a young follower; Stay single or get married. Either is a path of suffering good for the philosopher).

But modern society has added a few extra stumbling blocks to marriage. There is the "marriage penalty" in the tax code. The marriage penalty effectively means that there are tax advantages to having children outside of wedlock. But the government "benefits" adds a whole new layer of incentives to stay unmarried. Everything from poor relief to Pell grants, to social security, is negatively affected by marriage.

Ah, but humans are ever resourceful. The latest advancement in marriage is the "church only" marriage.

We have all heard people who are shacked up say, "We are not legally married, but we are married in the eyes of God." Now, people are taking that thought to the logical conclusion.

That's right. Going to the church, entering into the covenant of marriage in the eyes of God, having a marriage ceremony officiated by the minister or priest, and never getting a marriage license. While they may be truly married in the eyes of God, they are shacked up in the eyes of the state.

Hallelujah. Finally, a way to suck up maximum government payouts without the guilty conscience or nagging relatives. After all, the relatives don't need to know that you never visited the county clerk.

For those who have done the church only marriage and decided that they are just another statistic, how do they get divorced? In some cultures, the man simply announces that he is divorcing his wife three times in the public square and it is done.

This is even easier. Someone just moves out and takes all their stuff with them. Bingo-Bango, they're divorced. (Holy cats. That may cut into attorney fees).

Only with the advent of the personal income tax in 1913 did marriage become more than a passing interest of civil government. Which, incidentally, is what precipitated the abolition of "common law marriage" in most states. The primary interest of civil law in marriage was inheritance.

For virtually all of human history, marriage was the Province of church alone. As a culture, we may be doing the ultimate throwback. The shocking future is that the circle of history may now be complete.



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