Has it not?
Some people in the Church (Catholic as well as non-Catholic) will talk of marriage as now being defined differently from its universal, divine establishment of a monogamous male-female pair order to each other for family life. It is as if suddenly, thanks to the Supreme Court, there has been a break from what everyone has always conceived of what marriage to be. I realize that several people speak of trends in Western society that have slowly been creeping away from what marriage really is (Such people will mention contraception, divorce, or even feminism). But the point is there is this idea that there is certain and historical view of marriage that is being abandoned.
When I look to the past, and even in the Biblical accounts, I find that the **one **underlying feature that makes the concept of marriage so similar from age to age or place to place is simply the male-female pairing. Now obviously, the man-woman component of marriage is the primary component to many people who adhere to the “traditional” view of marriage. But little else besides this has remained the same. From patriarchal views and the role of women to the purpose of pleasure in sex to polygamy and multiple other cultural situations, marriage has shifted around in meaning.
I think the historic or trans-cultural understanding of marriage that many pro-traditional marriage adherents promote is really a superficial glance at the fact that most people – now and in the past – have been attracted to members of the opposite sex. And this is simply how families formed. But beyond this, there is not a single “living out” of marriage that has been expressed across all times and places. Even in the New Testament, which assumes male-female marriage, there is an expression of such differences. Paul is noted in many places to express the headship of man over woman. However one wishes to interpret this, there is no doubt Paul lived in a patriarchal society. As much as he assumed man-woman marriage, he assumed the dominance and privilege of man compared to woman, husband over wife. Nowadays, the same Christians who uphold the “traditional” view of marriage will not explicitly live out this other concept of Paul’s – that the husband is the “man of the house.” Many times, wives make the decisions and take control as much as if not more than their husbands, but that does not make their marriages anything less than an authentic Christian marriage.
So shouldn’t we recognize that this “universal” or “trans-cultural” and historical idea of marriage is really a superficial and simplistic one that simply recognizes that most people for most of history have been attracted to the opposite sex?