Last week I invited friends to go “On the Road with the Rector” to the Humphrey School of Public Affairs on the campus of the University of Minnesota. There we were part of a live audience for a special episode of On Being with Krista Tippet called “The Future of Marriage.” It was a conversation between two individuals, Jonathan Rauch and David Blankenhorn, who became unlikely friends amid some harsh words and intense debates over the subject of same-sex marriage.
Rauch is the author of a book entitled Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America. Counterintuitively, he also wrote the preface to Blankenhorn’s book The Future of Marriage, in which he describes Blankenhorn as “an articulate, humane, and fair-minded opponent of same-sex marriage.” Blankenhorn recanted that strong opposition over the summer.
What I found so interesting is the fact that both of them talk about the institution of marriage on a much higher level than a lot of the heterosexual couples who come to the church for a wedding. Rauch, lamenting that depressing reality, said:
. . . this is not just a private contract between two individuals. When I talk to young people on college campuses, they all think marriage is, you know, it’s a thing two people do and, if they need a piece of paper from the state, that’s just a convenience. I tell them, no, no, no, no. . . . this is an institution.
This is a commitment that two people make not just with each other, but with their community. And that commitment is to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness to health, till death do we part. That’s a promise you as a couple are giving to care for each other and your children forever to your whole community and the community has a stake in it.
Blankenhorn mentioned another sad reality that has increasingly bothered me:
You know, we’re in this funny situation. We’ve got . . . a tiny number of Americans, who are sincerely saying let us in this institution. This means everything to us. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans are exiting the institution quickly. If you go to Middle America now, blue-collar America, working-class America, you will find marriage in shambles.
So it’s weird. It’s like the people that want in, we say no, and the people that are already in, like we are, just rushing out.
During the question and answer period at the end, Krista Tippet, who moderated the conversation, made an observation that many people think but don’t voice:
I sometimes think we should just pause, all of us, wherever we are on the issue and just dwell on the fact that this is a very big deal, the civilizational shift to say we are reconsidering the definition of marriage and just let that sink in.
It’s worth setting aside an hour to listen to the entire conversation, including the response to Tippet’s observation and interesting thoughts about civility in public discourse. I hope that you will consider those thoughts and take them to heart.
You can listen to the whole conversation here.
You can read all of the reflections in this series here.