A new paper has been presented by Helen Goltz for discussion. In this paper she proposes (pun intended) that the term of marriage contracts should be shortened from lifetime down to either five or ten years.
Immediately, Bible-thumping Christians such as myself will quote Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (ESV) The Bible is unmistakeably clear on the issue, one man, one woman, one lifetime. And, just as Jesus and Paul let us know, besides death, there are only two ways for this contract to be dissolved, unfaithfulness and abandonment. And even in those cases we should seek restoration first. Divorce is always the very last option.
However, there is more to Helen’s paper than just an attack on the duration of marriage. The objectives would be;
1) A fixed-term to the marriage which could be renewed by choice.
2) Mutual renewing of vows and for the celebration of this act.
3) Remove the shame and stigma associated with the failure of marriage by divorce.
4) Encourage partners to work towards maintaining a good relationship.
While two of the objectives are admirable, the renewing of vows, or at the very least a reviewing of marriage vows every few years would be healthy for couples, and encouraging couples to work towards making their marriage last, the other two would not be very helpful at all.
Why is renewing the contract by choice more desirable than understanding the concept of a commitment for life? In a sense, every day that a man gets out of bed to go to work to love, protect, and provide for his wife and family, and a woman wakes to provide her husband with all the things that women do (caring for the children, caring for the house, loving her husband, putting her hands to work to bring in extra money), we are renewing our commitment to one another daily. And, what better motivation is there for maintaining a healthy relationship than the lifetime commitment?
But the third objective gets us to the root of the matter, Goltz wants to remove the shame and stigma of the failure of marriage. I, too, see this as my goal, but the path to my goal is through the strengthening of the lifetime commitment so that divorce itself becomes obsolete, not by making marriage easier to get out of. Goltz’s plan would require no action at all on the part of couples seeking to dissolve their marriage. At the end of the five or ten year term the contract expires. The only requirements in her plan puts the burden on committed couples who want to renew their contract.
Finally, and most disturbing, is that Goltz’s plan assumes that children are negotiables in marriage, citing research from Families in Australia: 2008 she says,
“By 2026, couples without children are projected by the ABS to be the most common type of family in Australia (44% of all families);”
Children are becoming increasingly viewed as a burden, a burden to parents, to the environment, to the health-care system, and now to the health and vitality of marriage. Yes, it is true, children do burden us in many social situations, but at the same time, children are a gift to be treasured. “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 NASB)
If we are to live in a society that values the propagation of human life, and the sanctity of marriage, then we must not entertain ideas such as Goltz’s. We must not make marriage easier to get out of, but harder in many cases. Children must be viewed not only as integral and necessary parts of marriage, but also as gifts from God, who gives life to all things, and who has created man and woman for one another.