Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Notes from the Culture Wars -2

Will wonders never cease? I am constantly amazed out the backward thinking that cohabitation and serious long-term dating is more committed and more faithful than a serious commitment to marriage in such sacred covenant.

So for example, I found this report of an interview between Cameron Diaz and Bill Maher. I trust the report is accurate, although I haven't verified the details. The account goes like this:

Cameron basically proclaimed that she’s glad that she’d never gotten married because she “definitely would have been divorced (multiple times).” She just needed to do what was right for her and that that was constantly changing. Maher, of course, agreed and praised Cameron in her wisdom for having learned to put herself first and foremost, before all others in her life...

Diaz then went on to say, “Anyone will tell you that like, when I’m in a relationship I’m committed like… a thousand percent!”
My point is not to harp on one particular person but it does seem a bit disingenuous, to put it mildly, to say that one is 'a thousand percent committed' at least until one isn't committed at all.

Here's the thing about relationships: they don't grow if you don't learn to constantly set aside your own selfishness and give sacrificially too them. One of my pet peeves is the debates about how young is to young to get married when the debate degenerates into a 'wait until you are older and you have 'found yourself''. Marriage and relationships are about growing with people and growing in community. To quote Spock: "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one". Or better: the old Sunday School song: "Jesus and Others and You", the way we sang it the last line was "put yourself last and spell 'JOY'".

The Christian ethic has always been about the denial of self and the giving of self to others. It was and should be a hallmark of virtue. It was of course the very thing that Nietzsche railed against. It makes us weak and feeble.

With respect to marriage and commitment: commitment is tested in the tough time. It is something that is forged in the not slipped on the convenience of a Hollywood romance. Simple: if one is 'a thousand percent committed' to a relationship then it wouldn't have ended. This is why dating done right has never been about extensive commitment but limited commitment since it is about building, testing and ascertaining. One asks the questions is this the kind of person I can be with? Am I the kind of person who can give myself sacrificially?

It is no secret that even 'Christian' marriages, and I use the term lightly, are in shambles. But that is precisely because to often we also reflect a Diaz-like attitude: I am committed until I am not. Don't worry, I'm wholly committed--at least until I'm tired and bored. Conveniently, we one suddenly 'does not meet my needs', which is a bit like saying 'It's not you, its me'--it's the kind of line that no one should buy. Call it what it is:selfishness. Of course, now days being selfish is chic.

Of course, if we took our cue from the archtypes, we'd see that love is about covenant commitments. This makes love about bonds, oaths, self-given and yes, even sacrifice. Sadly today, we must add this doesn't entail a wife become a punching bag. No where is the self-giving of marital love more obvious than in the covenants God makes with His people, ultimate in Christ. Christ doesn't marry his bride just to be happy. He gives Himself to a people for their sake and the glory of God not for a momentary pleasure but for a weighted value--a glory that exceeds the temporal. But in our highly psychologized culture, I become number one. Like the song says: "if it makes you happy". Marriage often times doesn't "make me happy" but it cultivates a deeper joy. Happiness is transitory, it lives for the moment. Joy is transcendent, it extends beyond momentary pleasures.

What a cheap notion of pleasure, happiness, and commitment if we can 'be a thousand percent commitment' at least until we are not.

1 comment:

E Venturini said...

Very nicely stated.

The lines between dating, engagement, and marriage certainly have become blurred in our culture. I like your clarification of "dating done correctly."

And how true (and sad): to be selfish is "chic."

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...