Speak Now, or Forever Hold Your Peace

Although I've witnessed several horrible marriages in my lifetime, there was really only one time I ever felt forced to attend a wedding, and it involved a woman I very much adore marrying a man I never fully trusted.  I spoke at the wedding, and I did a damn good job at it.  I even bought a gift for this couple despite the fact that I knew he'd ruin everything and I'd be out a good chunk of money.  At the very best, the wedding cost me my dignity and my money; at the very worst, it caused the poor bride a broken heart and a divorce.  And there was nothing any of us could do, shy of shoving her fiancé off a cliff, to stop it.

Alongside the other horrible weddings I've attended, this has brought me to realize that marriages have always been very personal things – things we disagree about just as often as we agree.  Fathers have been known to begrudgingly watch their daughters marry men who aren't "good enough"; past lovers have been known to watch with broken hearts.  And throughout the process we've always learned that love, being oftentimes unreasonable, has given us many reasons to be upset at lovers.  We simply disagree that whatever they see in someone else actually exists at all.  Which is why we are not trying to marry that someone else ourselves.

We can be thankful this is the case.  If our distaste for other marriages leads us to think distasteful things, it is the reason we're all here today.  Were everyone to have an unreasonable prejudice in favor of the same person (or what's otherwise known as a crush), love would more closely resemble a war.  The whole world can barely contain themselves over gasoline, and so it isn't so difficult to imagine much worse if we all fell in love with the same woman.  And so we find that if there's anything we can agree upon, it's that nearly everyone else's marital decisions are disagreeable.  If we were any more oblivious to the permanent things of human nature (heaven forbid), we could almost be led to forget that a hundred years ago, our great-grandparents were all fiercely debating the concept of eugenics – or, to put it in the most easily digestible form, they debated whether anyone should be in marriages we don't personally approve of.

The outcome of eugenics became plainer than daylight, at first to sensible men like Chesterton, and thanks to Hitler soon to everyone else.  The "we" everyone always assumed was himself suddenly began to look like everyone else, because everyone suddenly became interested in keeping the opposite party from breeding.  We simply began labeling the people we thought less educated than us, less pleasant than us, less attractive than us – less wealthy than us – undesirable, and if undesirable, then unfit for reproduction.  And the uncomfortable truth of the matter is that, lying deep beneath each and every one of us, we found a little tyrant, displeased with our neighbors and their displeasing choices, ready – if we can't overpower them by coercion or persuasion – to simply rob them of the only thing the poor, the outcast, and the intellectually undeveloped can lean upon when everything else seems to have gone completely wrong.  And that is to have a lover and a family.

This proves that marriages are controversial in themselves.  A marriage is an acquisition of a lover so honorable in theory and so fragile in the face of so many differing interests and opinions that it requires backing by law.  Old lovers will return in fits of nostalgia.  New aspiring lovers are around every corner.  Daughters and sons make terrible decisions, and mothers and fathers are forced to watch them make them.  And through all of this, we hear that single statement, that speak now, or forever hold your peace – a formality steeped in the recognition not only of the momentousness of the moment and the necessity of an exit, but of the possibility and likelihood of controversy.  A recognition that any man or woman may object for any reason (and I mean for literally any reason at all) – and that he has a right to do so, because our reasons are as varied as our interests, and lovers are frequently making terrible decisions.

That the plain fact of marital controversy has been so widely accepted and thus almost entirely forgotten for centuries is of little consequence to the uncivil champion of gay marriage.  Claiming an interest in equal rights, he bullied for more than any straight man or Christian ever bargained for: that his marriage should be beyond the reach of criticism, beyond the right of refusal – not even of the passive bystander or of the parent or of the past lover, but of the man who marries us; not in the houses of our friends, but in the churches of the priests and parishioners we personally offend.  To some men this may be titled equality, just as some men in Lincoln's time referred to the cause of slavery as liberty.

And we are quick to misuse our words, because we love to misuse our neighbors.  Romance has always been responsible for bringing the best and the worst out in all of us, and we have often been led by the left (despite the fact that they stole the idea from Christians) to believe that love wins.  But let the leftist remember that if our affections are capable of making us do kind things, they are equally capable of making us do evil.  We may almost say that the only time we can be hateful is when we are loving.  It was Hitler's love of Germans that caused him to trample Jews.  It was the Roman's love of Rome that made him enslave the Greek.  The communist's affection for the distraught took the last of what the distraught had and threw them into gulags.  Romantic affection caused Amnon to rape his sister Tamar, and brotherly affection for Tamar caused Absalom to try to kill his father, King David.  Our affections cause us to ruin our neighbors and countrymen, drive some men to incest, others to patricide – still others to acts of war and atrocity and robbery and tyranny.  And it is our love for gays – sometimes righteous, and other times backward – that leads us to be hateful of and tyrannical toward men who would otherwise only be fellow citizens with a passive opinion.   

To clarify my position, there can be no man harmed in America because two men choose to marry.  But there can be much damage done to people and to principle when two can men can force others not only to accept their romance, but to marry them.  There is a way for both Christians and gay men to live in harmony, and it is for Christians, beyond the walls of their own churches, not to be able to obstruct a marriage between two members of the same sex, and for two members of the same sex to never force Christians to facilitate their marriages. And this is because marriage always has been, and always will be, controversial.

Jeremy Egerer is the editor of the troublesome philosophical website known as Letters to Hannah, and he welcomes followers on Twitter and Facebook.