This article was adapted from a post I made in a WhatsApp group chat. The issue of marriage formed the cause of disagreement. The combatants could not agree on whether marriage is merely physical (Side 1) or both physical and spiritual (Side 2). After observing the discussion for a while, I decided to contribute to the discussion. This is my viewpoint.
I’ll put it this way: Marriage is physical, and marriage is spiritual. It’s just a function of one’s viewpoint. In this regard, both sides are correct. The key to any discussion is to find out WHAT is right, unlike in an argument where the goal is to prove WHO is right.
To an agnostic or an atheist, marriage is merely a physical concept, an agreement between two consenting parties, similar to a legal contract that has gone through the stages of intention, offer, consideration and acceptance. To the Christian or any other theist, marriage is spiritual, and also physical. Arguing about which side is right is irrelevant, unhelpful, similar to chasing a tornado. Such arguments forget that there is a basic difference that has not been settled. That difference is what triggers all other arguments about various topics that concern both sides of the divide.
The agnostic (or atheist) says marriage is purely physical because that person has no belief in the existence of anything beyond the physical realm. In line with his/her basic stand, this opinion about marriage is definitely in order. On the other hand, the Christian believes in the existence of a spiritual realm that has influence on the physical world. In line with this belief, it is also in order to expect such person to believe in the dual nature of marriage. Whether such belief system spiritualizes or “over-spiritualizes” issues is a discourse for another day.
On my own part, I am a Christian, and believe that marriage is fully spiritual, and fully physical. This belief is predicated on several biblical passages where marriage was either alluded to as being a creation of God, or used in a descriptive sense to represent the relationship between Christ and the Church. Thus, I believe that since God is interested in the affairs of men, he would not suddenly stay off marriage. However, I believe that many persons have “over-spiritualized” marriage. Leke Alder has an interesting read on this subject matter. He grouped criteria for marriage into the spiritual, social, cultural, and economic. The physical category subsumes the last three. There obviously has to be physical attraction in marriage for it to work, and not seem as burdensome hard labour.
However, humanity appears split between two extremes—the physical, and the spiritual. I believe that both extremes are responsible for the alarming divorce rates being experienced globally. For example, a guy is enchanted by the physical graces of a lady. He “falls in love” without his brain. He neither considers issues of compatibility, nor financial strength, nor character. They rush into marriage, and rush out a while later. On the other hand, the “spiritual ones” ignore the physical requirements, expecting God to fill in any missing pieces, and end up in a sad illusion—a marriage only in societal nomenclature.
I believe that there has to be a balance between various criteria for marriage.
Since the atheist and agnostic does not acknowledge the concept of the spiritual, I would discount any spiritual criteria for such an individual. However, I would point to the increasing divorce rates, and boldly assert that the treatment of marriage as a mere social construct, a contract of sorts, is what makes many couples unwilling to work out differences in their marriages. Marriages are entered with eyes on an exit plan. Pre-nups signed before the marriage stipulate the terms for ending such marriage. At the earliest sign of a disagreement, lawyers are called in to wrangle on alimony issues. Sociologists and psychologists are better enlightened to educate us about the impact of such broken homes on children.
The spiritual component however provides couples with a higher calling, sort of a higher authority to whom they feel accountable. Marriages entered with consideration of spiritual criteria could still break up. The point I’m making is that the spiritual consideration provides a driving force in many cases to work out differences. No matter the number of Christian marriages that fail, I can boldly say that if couples follow biblical instructions to live by a policy of selfless love, their marriages have a better chance of being lifelong devoid of drama and acrimony.
Let me conclude by saying that the jury is still out on this purely physical versus dual nature (should I say physico-spiritual nature) of marriage. We can choose to continue an endless argument on this issue, but I should warn that the argument would take us nowhere. The fundamental differences are too strong to be pushed aside.
PS: You can read Leke Alder’s Parameters of Choice
Image source: www.differencebetween.info