The traditional gender roles associated with the Christian marriage have long been established, but are now withering along with a closed-minded mentality that has plagued society since the uprising of Christianity after the fall of the Roman Empire. Christianity has had and would continue to confine women to the home. These wives are supposed to take care of the husband, children and household, while men bring home the financial means necessary to sustain or improve the family’s well-being. But much of that has changed since the development of gender equality and respect for alternative lifestyles lived by gay, lesbian and transgendered people. In this essay, I will outline some of the traditional Christian views about gender roles in marriage, and present the Christian-right contemporary view. I will then discuss the ways in which society can move past the irrational views expressed by Christianity and that have unfortunately helped shape our society – though the age of rationality has improved the outlook and there are more equal rights now. It is also important in this essay to establish the ideas surrounding new forms of marriage, such as gay marriage, which is becoming more mainstream and accepted on the state level. The Christian definition of marriage has long been associated with an old-fashioned, washed-out form of partnership that is making way to new gender roles that are inclusive and fair.
According to Carrie A. Miles in her book “The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World,” she analyzes traditional Christian marriage from the standpoint of a socioeconomics. She uses this standpoint to investigate what she believes to be a problem today with marriage and gender norms as they move past the traditional concept of the wife tending her husband, children and the home while the husband earns a living for the family. “The age of wealth in the industrialized world turns the value of the marriage relationship and children into that of consumption rather than production, since the necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter, education – can be purchased more economically than produced at home,” (Havens, n.d.). She is saying that contemporary means have withered away at traditional marriage, and women are now driven to also earn a living. However, as Rebecca A. Havens of Point Lorna Nazarene University, who reviewed the book, says, Miles makes “wide sweeping” statements that touch on several societal problems, but never really get to the heart of the changing gender roles in marriage. The traditional views presented by Miles, and eventually debunked by the more rational views of Havens, are deteriorating. “ideas about roles and responsibilities of the husband and wife now vary considerably on a continuum between the long-held male-dominant/female-submission view and a growing shift toward equality (without sameness) of the woman and the man,” (Christian, n.d.).
Moving Away from Blind Confines
As women begin to enjoy more equal opportunity as men in the marriage, there is another storm brewing in the eyes of Christian conformists: Society is gradually accepting people who believe in views outside of Biblical confines. Gay marriage is one of the most widespread debates on the political agenda today, and it is something that many consider to deteriorate the traditional roles of men and women in marriage.
Whether or not to sanction gay marriage has become an intense political debate, especially over the last decade. In his essay “Gay Marriages: Make Them Legal,” Thomas B. Stoddard argues in favor of gay marriages – saying it is a fundamental personal freedom, not one that should be controlled by the government. In Lisa Schiffren’s “Gay Marriage, an Oxymoron,” she argues that same-sex marriage can’t be understood by society. She says marriage needs to keep with the tradition of being between a man and women. I believe this way if thinking is backwards and simpleminded. Generally, the public is becoming more accepting of people’s sexual orientation. As the blind dominance of Christianity has waned over the years, there has become a greater culture of accepting those with differences. Christianity, as the reader likely knows, has been in steady opposition of homosexuals since the religion really took a stranglehold on society around the fall of the Roman Empire around 500AD. But, gradually, Realism has taken hold as the dominant way of thinking, and society has become more practical in its way of contemplating the acceptance of whether homosexuals should not only be welcomed in society, but be allowed to marry each other. Instead of condemning homosexuals to burn for eternity in the “hot oils of hell,” as Christianity would condone, they should be given the same freedoms as heterosexuals because it is in line with evolutionary logical thinking, it preserves an evolutionary trend towards acceptance and it doesn’t go against any fundamental reasoning from which marriage was designed.
As Stoddard points out, all 50 states outlaw gay marriages; however, it should be noted that since his writing, six states have legalized gay marriage. These include, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and two Native American tribal jurisdictions. California briefly allowed same-sex marriage in 2008. The steady progress is a sign that areas of the United States is evolving. Just as laws that condemned people to torture for blasphemy have been ruled out, so too will laws distaining the practice of gay marriage. Furthermore, “If tradition were the only measure, most states would still limit matrimony to partners of the same race,” (Stoddard, 2009).
On the irrational side of the equation, Schiffren argues that “’Same-sex marriage” is inherently incompatible with our culture’s understanding of the institution,” (Schiffren, 2007). I believe that this “culture” to which Schiffren refers is made up of racist, prejudice, unintelligent, irrational, discriminatory people who are likely Christians, as Schiffren likely is. The culture I come from consists of loving, accepting, rational, intelligent people who use logical thinking as their guiding force.
Schiffren claims that marriage is “a lifelong compact between a man and woman committed to sexual exclusivity and the creation and nurture of offspring,” (Shiffren, 2007). However, as our friend Stoddard points out, “states would forbid marriage between those who, by reason of age or infertility, cannot have children, as well as those who elect not to,” (Stoddard, 2009). In pointing out that marriage is not designed for the purpose of procreation, Stoddard completely refutes Schiffren’s claim that marriage is designed to nurture offspring.
It is important, for the overall well-being of each member of society, to embrace differences as long as they don’t hinder the happiness of a logical person. I say “logical” because some people are harmed by gay marriage – but these people believe, for illogical reasons that may or may not be controlled by the inaccurate garbage that is spewed by the Bible, that same-sex marriage is somehow harmful to society. I have yet to see why the love between two people shouldn’t supersede the grief a person causes themselves because of their blind hatred. Discrimination against gay marriage is only the remnants of the dwindling Christian belief system that is falling to the wayside of rational acceptance.
In the New York Times article “Gender roles getting blurred or reversed,” Tara Parker-Pope discusses the same material that is mentioned in Veronica Tichenor’s “Maintaining Men’s Dominance: Negotiating Identity and Power When She Earns More.” Both texts discuss, thoroughly, the role that money plays in the dynamics of marriage and how that is related to gender roles.
Traditionally, of course, men were the bacon-carrying breadwinners of the household, and women tended to the home duties such as talking care of the kids, cooking dinner and doing laundry. But all that has changed since Better Friedan encouraged women to step outside their homes and search for careers. Recent research shows that in one-third of households, the woman is more educated than her husband, and in 22 per cent of marriages, it is the wife who brings home the cash. That is an increase of about 15 percentage points from 1970, (Parker-Pope, 2013).
Interestingly, the same research found that the shift in money-making dynamics has had a positive result in marriages. Men taking on more work in the house has a positive effect on marriag (Parker-Pope, 2013). According to Stephanie Coontz, the reason marriages have been more successful is because instead of women looking to marry up into a more educated or economically stable household, they are now choosing to marry men who are interested in an egalitarian relationship. This is an interesting fact, because it implies that the role traditionally associated with men, which is dominance in the household, was causing the problems with the marriages. These views are also reflected in Tichenor’s piece, which says that when men earned the money, they had the right to control it, and this control echoed into other areas of the household.
In LZ Granderson’s “The Myth of the Gay Agenda,” he talks about the “gay agenda.” The gay agenda that Granderson describes is meant to be facetious, because gay people don’t have an agenda. They are just like everyone else. When they get up in the morning, they usually drink coffee, get stuck in traffic, get stuck in lines at airports, cleanup and they cook, for example. According to Granderson, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community is seeking to be treated equal to everyone else in society. Currently, there are many states where gay people don’t have the same rights as heterosexual people. For example, they can be fired from a job because they are gay, even if they are doing a good job and have been at that job for a long time. Landlords are also allowed to kick people out of apartments because they are gay.
Granderson is responding to hate such as this: Homosexuals steal children and destry Christian marriage (The Homosexual Agenda, 2011). The presentation raises the issue about how minority groups have been treated due to institutions inspired by Christianity and its traditional views about the roles of men and women in marriage. Black people were once oppressed, and so were people of other races. Women were also oppressed at a certain point. But, eventually, they were given equal rights to everyone else. Even though there has been throughout history the repeated process of amending rules that oppressed people who belonged to certain demographics, the ignorance of GLBT people’s rights is another installment of the discrimination. All the GLBT community is seeking from society is the same rights that everyone else has. And obeying these rights would be adhering to what is required by the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution is supposed to establish the equal treatment of every American resident.
I think the traditional constraints on marriage, which were introduced by the Catholic Church, are narrow-minded and elitist. Christianity has long been a nemesis of mine, and for various reasons. As an individual who would conform to the Christian definition of an allowable marriage, I provide an objective view on the situation that is faced by women and those with alternative lifestyles, and I still see a tremendous problem with how unfair the traditional gender roles of marriage are as it relates to Christianity. Fortunately, the old-fashioned principles associated with marriage and the roles of each gender in those unions are withering away. That gives me hope that the collective intelligence of people on this Earth is improving, and it makes me grateful that I didn’t live in a time when Christianity had the final word.
“Christian views of marriage.” (n.d.). Princeton University.
“Evolving Gender Roles Explored at Anne Roe Lecture.” (2008, Nov. 24). Harvard Graduate
School of Education.
“Gender Roles in Family Life.” (n.d.). Campbell University.
Granderson, LZ. (2012). The Myth of the Gay Agenda. TED.
Havens, R. (n.d.). The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the
Economics of the. Fallen World. Point Lorna Nazarene University.
“Heterosexism.” (1997). James Madison University.
Parker-Pope, T. (2013). Gender roles getting blurred or reversed. The New York Times.
“The Homosexual Agenda.” (1999). Betty Bowers. Retrieved from
Stoddard, T (2007). Gay Marriage: Make them Legal. New York. Southern Illinois University
Schiffren, L. (2009). Gay Marriage, an Oxymoron. New York. Process, Inc. Print.