Marriage is not a Contract, it is a Covenant

The question of whether or not the marriages of same-sex couples should be recognized by the state or whether or not marriage should be recognized by the state at all has been discussed intensely over the past few weeks. Recently, the headlines read that the civil rights organization turned Democratic Party apparatus called the NAACP has endorsed same-sex marriage. Some might wonder what marital behavior has to do with the color of one’s skin, but obviously the NAACP has decided to expand their activism to backing whatever the President says.

With so many insisting on using the progressive argument that homosexual marriage is an inevitability that we all must accept, it is necessary to ask the right questions so that the right answers can be attained.

One fundamental question that should be asked at the beginning of any discussion regarding the future of the state’s approach to marriage is simply this:

What is marriage?

The most common answer that I hear to this question is that marriage is a form of contract between two people. However, marriage is not really that simple. I work for a company, I have a contract with that company, I provide them a service and they provide me with money. We have come to an agreement and both sides of that agreement are intended to keep to their end of the bargain. Contracts involve services rendered and services received. Marriage is not an exchange of services.

A contract can also be agreed upon by two people in secret. I can make a confidential contract with someone that only becomes available to the public if and when that person infringes upon that contract and I involve the legal authorities. Mine and his or her signatures will be the evidence that such a confidential contract was made. Marriage cannot be conducted in secrecy, even an elopement cannot consist only of a man, a woman, and a judge, there must also be witnesses. A public oath must be taken for a marriage to be entered.

Marriage does not rest within the criteria of a contract but rather that of a covenant. A fundamental difference between a contract and a covenant is that a contract is cut between two human parties and agreed upon as a matter of honor, and legal proceedings are in place to enforce such private agreements. The covenant of marriage is different in that it is cut between three parties, namely a man, a woman, and God. Now certainly there are people who get married who do not believe in God, and yet they follow the prescriptions traditionally associated with a covenant and not a contract. A covenant rests on the concept of a power higher than Man which gives proper authority to carry out any particular end that the covenant is seeking to attain.

So what is the result of a marriage covenant?

It is the complete union of two people. When a couple is married, they are not simply “allies” or “friends,” they are joined together as one and society is obliged to recognize that they are one.

In order for marriage to be a complete union, those entering into the union must engage in a complete spiritual, emotional, legal, and physical union. Marriage is not exclusive to a man and a woman because society is bigoted or hateful; the truth is that only a man in his distinctiveness and a woman in her distinctiveness can form a complete union.

Robert George of Princeton University has participated in an effort to give an extensive legal and philosophical analysis of this question regarding specifically what marriage is. He and his co-authors have done a very good job of articulating, from a legal and scientific standpoint, the fact that only a man and a woman can make this complete union.

What the social engineers within the LGBT activist orbit are demanding is that the government change the definition of what constitutes a marriage in order for homosexual couples to participate. But the covenant of marriage does not derive its legitimacy from the government, if the Commonwealth of Virginia were to be dissolved tomorrow, no one’s marriage would be any less legitimate. Because the government merely recognizes the covenant of marriage for legal purposes, it does not have the authority to change the parameters of marriage.

The goal of those who understand marriage to be a covenant should be not only to prevent its being redefined from a legal standpoint, but also to address the other challenges that face the institution. Too many in our society today view marriage as a contractual relationship with services rendered and services attained. There is much “me” and not a lot of “we.” The answer to changing society’s sometimes degraded view of marriage is not ultimately political; it requires something much more fundamental, a changing of the human heart.