Mere Christianity Part 17

Since I wasn’t able to do any posts on Mere Christianity last weekend, I have four that I ill be doing this weekend. I know I need to catch up with my Bible posts too, but school has been hectic. At this point I’m just hoping to get back into my Bible posts before December, but no promises.

So, without further ado, here is chapter 6, “Christian Marriage,” of book 3:

C.S. Lewis begins by stating “The inventor of the human machine will tell us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined.” This is a statement requiring a great deal of evidence. First, prove that their is an inventor who created humans. Second, prove that every man requires a wife to be complete and every woman needs a husband to be complete. What about people who have not interest in marriage?  Must they be viewed as incomplete? What does it even mean to be complete? How do we test this?

Lewis goes on to compare marriage to eating. He claims that “It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.” Note to self: I must not chew gum.

He then states that “It is a great pity that Christians should disagree about such questions; but for an ordinary layman the thing to notice is that the Churches all agree with one another about marriage a great deal more than any of them agrees with the outside world. I mean, they all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases.” Does anybody actually see marriage as anything other than the last possible option? Who get’s married (other than a very small minority of people who view money as their only reason for marriage) with the plan in mind to get divorced? Do most Christians actually view marriage any differently than mainstream society?

Lewis discusses the idea of love ‘s place in marriage next. He argues that “The idea that ‘being in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all.” I sort of agree with this. If love is your only reason for getting married, why bother? You don’t need a legal document to tell you who you love. But I’d also advise someone to divorce their spouse if they told me they didn’t love them anymore. Why? Because things get very bad when you find yourself tied to someone you don’t love. Are the fights and the pain really necessary because marriage isn’t about “being in love”? Withteeth and I are planning to get married for one reason: we want kids. If something bad happens to one of us, or to our children, marriage will offer us the necessary legal protection to overcome the situation. Without the legal protection of marriage, we could find ourselves dealing with unnecessary legal battles.  Marriage isn’t about love for us, because we don’t need the government to recognize our love, it’s about protecting our future family.

He continues the sentiment by stating “A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling a certain way.” Which is exactly why “till death do us part” is silly. You can’t know if you will love your partner forever. Whether you’ve just began dating, have been together for 10 years, or are about to celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary, feelings can change. You may not always love the person that you love right now. Which is exactly why divorce is necessary.

He goes on to say “But what, it may be asked, is the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound, social reasons; to provide a home for children, to protect the woman (who has probably sacrificed or damaged her own career by getting married) from being dropped whenever the man is tired of her.” My parents got divorced when I was 12. They should have got divorced when I was 8. They stayed together for 4 years because they thought it was best for my brother and me. It wasn’t. If they wanted to do what was best for their children, they really should have gotten divorced when I was 8. We never went without a home. As for protecting women, I have a better solution: create a society where a woman is not dependent on her husband. This is still a problem today. Women who get married are seen as a liability by their employers. It is assumed that they will have children, so, even if they don’t, they are held back. This shouldn’t be the case. Women shouldn’t have to stay in bad marriages for financial support, they should be able to support themselves well enough to feel secure in leaving.

Lewis discusses the importance of a “Christian marriage,” then he goes on to discuss his views on enforcing Christian beliefs on non-Christians. He says that “The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question-how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone. I do not think that.” Here I agree with Lewis. I was born in Canada. I deserve the same legal rights as every other citizen. I am not a Christian. Implementing Christian laws infringes on my rights because I have not consented to be forced to follow laws that I not only don’t necessarily agree with, but that may actually go against my own personal beliefs. I shouldn’t be treated as a second class citizen because you feel your beliefs are more important than mine. If you don’t want to get a divorce, you have that option. But you can’t make me stay married because you think divorce is wrong. The same argument goes for abortion.

He goes on to say “My own view is that Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives.” While I agree with the sentiment that non-Christians shouldn’t be forced to accept Christian doctrine, surveys would indicate that most British people were Christians when Lewis wrote this, and that, if Christianity actually has lost its standing as the majority belief system (the stats are unclear as to whether this has actually happened), it has only very recently happened.

Lewis then decides to discuss gender within marriage (which, of course, annoys me greatly). He argues that “The need for some head follows from the idea that marriage is permanent.” So a leader is necessary for anything to be permanent? “Of course, as long as the husband and wife are agreed, no question of a head need arise; and we may hope that this will be the normal state of affairs in a Christian marriage. But when there is a real disagreement, what is to happen?…Surely only one or other of two things can happen: either they must separate and go their own ways or else one or other of them must have a casting vote.” Because compromising wasn’t (and isn’t) an option? Because either one party had to win or both had to lose? Marriage is a partnership not a dictatorship. If you can’t agree you compromise. One party does not force their will on the other party.

He goes on to say of who should be the head of the household “Well, firstly is there any very serious with that it should be the woman.” Sexism. And he says that any woman would look down upon a woman who headed her own household: “She is much more likely to say ‘Poor Mr.X! Why he allows that appalling woman to boss him about the way she does is more than I can imagine.'” More sexism. Also, this is why the Ban Bossy movement got started. When a man tells his wife what to do he’s “being a man.” When a woman tells her husband what to do she’s “bossy and appalling.” In modern terms, a man who does what his wife/girlfriend wants is “whipped.” When was the last time you heard a woman described the same way for the same behaviour?

Lewis then argues “There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives and husbands, because the wives themselves are half ashamed of it despite the husband whom they rule.” Because these beliefs can’t possibly simply be engrained into our society. If we accept a common behaviour as acceptable, it must be because nature made us that way. Society (nurture) has no influence on us at all.

Lewis finishes the chapter by discussing the husband and wife’s relationship to the outside world. He claims that “The relations of the family to the outer world-what might be called its foreign policy-must depend, in the last resort, upon the man, because he always out to be, and usually is, much more just to the outsiders.” What? He also says of the husband “He has the last word in order to protect other people from the intense family patriotism of the wife.” Seriously, what?

2 responses to “Mere Christianity Part 17

  • Tree Hugging Humanist

    I will say this about love in marriage, if it is gone, I recommending waiting around a while to see if it returns before opting for divorce.

    The proponents of female submission like to ignore compromise and insist that the husband and wife will always disagree and never be able to come to any sort of deal. If were talking about home repairs, my husband is going to be better able to make choices on how they should be done. If were trying to choose a large appliance, I’m the one who would know best about what we need and so we rely on my knowledge. This isn’t rocket science.

    Of course, there may come a time when a couple absolutely can’t seem to compromise. They can choose to wait, give it up or separate. But the first two may solve the problem before things get so far as the last.


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