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Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Muzungu is the word for white man in Luganda, the primary language in Uganda.  I do not suppose there are any places left where a white man has never been seen.  But I have been to places remote enough where I was the first one to be seen in the living memory of the younger children.  One young man was translated to me as having asked his father, “What’s wrong with that man?  He looks like a ghost!”  To be a white man in an African village is to be an instant celebrity with the children.  And so this little poem makes a good introduction to some of my experiences doing theological education by extension (pastoral training) in remote villages of Uganda and Kenya.  We’ll look a bit more closely at some of the actual ministry next week.

Children’s Choir

Celebrity

Muzungu!” cry the children,

And all then run to see

The ghost who walks in perfect health

Although this cannot be.

 

“Ooh!  Ooh!  Muzungu!  How ah you?”

“I’m fine,” I smile and say.

And then they giggle, hide their faces,

Grin, and run away.

Remember: for more poetry like this, order Dr. Williams’s collected poetry, Stars through the Clouds, 2nd edition (Lantern Hollow Press, 2020) at https://smile.amazon.com/dp/173286800X?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

WHY IS MARRIAGE DIFFERENT?

Why is marriage treated differently from all other relationships that people are free to enter into?  That is a question that has to be answered if we are to understand what is at stake in the current debates over Same-Sex Marriage.  Yet few seem to be asking it.

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Marriage is in fact treated very differently from other relationships. You don’t need the government’s permission or a license or its recognition to become best friends or even roommates with anyone you like, and you can change those arrangements at will and it’s nobody else’s business. (What those roommates do in private is also, from a secular standpoint, nobody else’s business–and this is the basis from which we are arguing here. SSM makes no sense even on a secular basis!)  So why do you need a license to get married?  Why is your spouse’s name registered with yours in the county courthouse but your BFF’s is not?

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Historically, marriage has been treated differently from other relationships for one reason and one reason supremely: It naturally tends to the creation of children and is normally the best context in which they can be reared to become productive citizens.  (While homosexual couples are now allowed to adopt children, their relationship has no natural tendency to produce children, while that of traditionally married couples does.  Traditionally married couples must normally go out of their way if they want to avoid having children.  Same-sex couples must go out of their way in order to have them.)  Because of this natural and biological connection between traditional marriage and the next generation, the state has a legitimate and compelling interest in supporting and promoting marriage, so understood, as an institution.  This is why it rightly defines parameters of eligibility and gives those who meet them and formally enter into that arrangement certain rights which people in other relationships do not have.

Courtroom

The fact that marriage serves other purposes too and the fact that all marriages are not fruitful in childbearing do nothing to change the state’s legitimate interest in marriage.  The facts that many marriages end in divorce and that many children are conceived out of wedlock are also irrelevant.  The fact that some people do something badly is no reason for the state not to support and encourage that thing done well.  Otherwise, the fact that some people with driver’s licenses drive while intoxicated or drive dangerously would mean that we should therefore give licenses to everyone whether they qualify or not or just get rid of driver’s licenses altogether.  The absurdity of that conclusion shows the absurdity of the arguments from  abuses of traditional marriage.

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Now, if we divorce (ahem) marriage from this historic family-oriented understanding, there no longer remains any reason to treat it differently from other relationships. Therefore, expanding it to include SSM does in fact change the definition of marriage and tends toward making marriage itself as an institution irrelevant.  Once its biological rootedness in childrearing is severed completely, then it is hard to see why other forms of relationships might not also be called “marriages”—polygamy, incest, bestiality.  Where will it end?  Anyone who says, “Oh, that will never happen” just has not been paying attention to recent history.

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Traditional marriage is under lots of pressures in the modern world, and the reconceptualization it is now suffering is not its only problem. But the state has no business adding to those pressures by changing the basic nature of the institution in a way that goes against the state’s own compelling interests. Note that this argument has nothing to do with religion or with the morality of homosexual acts in themselves. The reason we have given is why marriage is treated differently from other relationships in non-Christian countries as well as Christian ones. Faithful Christians agree with this case, as do Jews and Muslims, and they have additional reasons for opposing the change. But the case is not driven by their support alone.  So even secular people need to ask themselves why we ever had such an institution as marriage in the first place, and whether the answer to that question is really something they can afford to ignore in their passion for tolerance and “equality.”

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Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College.  For more of his writing, check out his books at Lantern Hollow Press:  Reflections from Plato’s Cave (on philosophy and apologetics), Stars Through the Clouds (his poetry), and Inklings of Reality (on a Christian philosophy of reading). Order at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.
A book that fights back against the encroaching darkness.

LXXXIX

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

If you think Nature is mysterious, you should try to raise a human being. If you think human beings are simply continuous with Nature, not uniquely created in the image of God, you either haven’t raised one or weren’t paying attention. I was raising one while studying linguistics at the same time, which forced me and enabled me to pay attention in certain very fruitful ways.

Portrait-DadMomHeather

The Poet to his Daughter at Eighteen Months

What a mystery, my little friend,
You are, what an enigma to me now!
Not all your forty words can tell me how
The least thing in this world appears to you.
And yet, the snatches that I apprehend:
A magic landscape now springs into view,
Now fades into the mist, and springs anew,
But leaves not one clear image in the end.
Oh, there will come a day when you can grope
About for metaphors that can let me
See through your eyes, and find them too, I hope.
But then, alas, the vision will not be
This bright one that I long so now to see.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Stars Through the Clouds