I know that we all have more than enough to think about what with the economy going to hell and what with having to drag the Middle East problem around with us on account of it having its teeth firmly implanted in our left butt cheek. Yet life continues, and occasionally I read something that does not have to do with money or war (at least not directly) and still manages to be of importance.
The BBC ran an article of a legal battle going on in the courts in Dubai. In short, the issue revolves around an English woman who met and married an Egyptian guy, moved to Dubai, had two kids, eventually found she didn't like the Egyptian guy, and then, and here's the point of contention, is accused by the hubby of having an affair with a British guy of her acquaintance. She denies that there was an affair, and had this been in England or the US, they could have gone about divvying up the assets, carving out weekend visitation rights with the kids, and visiting the local meat markets in pursuit of the next life-long commitment.
But this wasn't the West, this was Dubai, and the woman now finds herself convicted of adultery and sentenced to a jail term of six months (reduced to three months on appeal), after which she will be deported, thus losing her kids.
I have no idea if the woman is telling the truth, and I know there are a lot of misogynistic loons in the Middle East male populace, so I can make no judgment on the particulars of this situation. I was however intrigued by a statement made by Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock who in defense of the woman said, "The sex lives of consenting adults shouldn't be a criminal matter in the first place."
Why not, Mr. Hancock? Yes, yes, Mr. Hancock, I know that we in the West have matured, we've done away with the stocks and the scarlet letters, but we still do put people in jail for violations of agreements, like footballer Matt Jones who was jailed because he had been drinking, a violation of the terms of an agreement he had with the courts in an unrelated matter . Imagine that, he did something he agreed not to do, and as a result, was sent to jail. Also, doing business fraudulently with the State of California can result in fines or jail time.
It is my opinion, (and I hear the chorus of "who really cares, Bernie?") that we in the West have in the span of time from Mickey Rooney to the present, managed to pretty much destroy the meaning of marriage as a social contract. We have by our actions indicated that sexual license and personal freedom are a far greater good than fidelity and commitment.
And so be it. We need to establish a new social contract regarding marriage. We need to have as a society some kind of common agreement as to what this process is so that when two of us step up to the plate and get married, we have a reasonable expectation that the other person has the same general concept of what's happening. Securing rights to financial interdependence, legal authority to be involved in decision making concerning the other's health and welfare, defining the hierarchy of inheritance? Yes. Securing or otherwise limiting the reproductive or sexual rights of the other, or in anyway dictating a time limit on the agreement? No.
I believe that we need to say this up front instead of mouthing the "until death do us part" type platitudes. And since I believe that this approach is more the reality of marriage in our culture, I think it is time for the Church to voluntarily back away from its customary role in our culture of being legal "officiants" at weddings. Any ceremony carried out by the Church should have no legal status what so ever. The Church needs to take a stand and say what y'all think of marriage is not what we think of marriage.
If you want to get married, go see you Justice of the Peace.
If you think the platitudes are important and you want to make them mean something, go to Church, listen to what they have to say, and if you believe that, sidle up to your honey and in front of your community tell him/her (depending on if you are a her or a him, and that is part of the equation by the way) that as God is your witness, you're theirs, exclusively, for life.
And while you're at it, make sure you read the print about what the Church says about God. It's complicated and convoluted, but it says that if you knowingly violate your agreement, thereby having taken God's name in vain (since you swore an oath in his name), there exists the possibility of burning in hell.
I know, it's a bit provincial and all, but it makes three months in a Dubai jail seem reasonable, don't you think?