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Monday, November 29, 2010

Undocumented Marriages

When it comes to supporting stable, lasting, loving marriages, you can put me down as a compassionate conservative. Here's a letter I had published in the September, 2010, issue of the Mennonite which suggested a more positive approach to dealing with cohabiting couples:

Editor, the Mennonite:

    Thanks for publishing Sandra Fribley's timely article on "Love, Sex and Marriage."

    Without condoning cohabitation in any way, what if congregations respectfully confronted couples who are living together as having already entered into a marital bond, as follows:

    "Whenever you a) 'leave father and mother' (form a separate social unit and become publicly recognized partners), b) 'cleave to each other' (are an exclusive couple committed to fidelity), and c) 'become one flesh' (are sexually intimate), we will hold you to the same standard of lifelong faithfulness we expect of legally married couples. While we acknowledge that the Genesis 2:24 text quoted by both Jesus and Paul predates mandates like a marriage license or a ceremony, we nevertheless believe you should take the step of registering and solemnizing the de facto ('common law') marriage you have entered into.

    "We understand you might see this step as a mere formality involving 'just a piece of paper,' but we consider it at least as important as having a baptismal certificate, a passport, a vehicle registration, or a deed to a new house. But whether documented or not, we see your joining together in the manner described above as a profound and emotionally bonding form of 'marriage.' And were you to terminate your undocumented union, we would consider it a de facto divorce, as implied in the German word for infidelity: 'ehebruch,' or 'union-breaking'.

    "We pray you will choose to have your union blessed by God and by a caring community of believers, and so will be able to celebrate a truly joyful and faithful life until 'death do you part'."
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