Marriage: Defining it properly to help get a handle on the debate

What do we say marriage is? Defenders of traditional and gay marriage could perhaps speak a lot more positively to one another if we at least shared a definition. (Let’s leave out legal questions for now, since laws don’t make morality).

Is marriage just two people agreeing to commit to live together and love each other for their whole lives?

Now, let’s really take this seriously part by part. It’s not that simple. Why two people? Cannot three love? And I guess we really mean something sexual by “love” because a group of friends agreeing to live together and love (platonically) isn’t marriage—even if it’s one man and one woman, for instance in the case of a brother and sister.

I think most people would admit that marriage carries with it the promise of sexual exclusivity, so let’s include that. Sexuality is actually very helpful in defining marriage because it rules out platonic relationships, friendships, and arrangements between elderly siblings.

So marriage is an agreement to live, love, and be sexually exclusive for life. But how explicit does this agreement have to be? Ie: what about couples who do not marry in a ceremony or through vows, but nonetheless live together for life as exclusive partners?

Yet, most people distinguish between such cohabitation and marriage on the level of commitment. So let’s add a vow to the definition, a vow being more serious and intentional than an agreement of any other kind.

Marriage is then a relationship between two people, designated by a specific vow, to live, love and be exclusive for life.

But why for life? Why not for ten years? And for that matter, we still haven’t been able to defend why only two should be part of this.

The answer to these remaining questions is tied up in our addition of sexuality to the definition. Continue reading

8 Principles for Using Facebook Well

Following on the heels of my post how facebook has changed our perception of success to a standard that often leaves us feeling inadequate, I have some guidelines to contribute to help one use facebook happily and well.

[This is actually something I’ve thought a lot about because I had a very destructive relationship with the site a lot during college, then spent years barely using it, and now have returned to better results.]

1. Be friends with only your real friends.

It isn’t necessary to “friend” everyone you meet. Close friends and family members are the real people you want to stay in touch with, so resist the urge to keep tabs on random people from high school and college. Stick to following people you actually care about; this makes it more fun to share things (since the people are actually close to you), and it makes updates more interesting since you care about them too.

For me, I do this through purging my friend list a few times a year. I never un-friend because of an argument or anger. It’s just an acknowledgement that I don’t really know the person anymore (if I ever did) and thus my goal is that the person not even notice our digital disconnect.

If this is too extreme for you, consider making a list of close friends or contacts to share more with. Facebook has lots of privacy and group options. Use them!

Also, there are other sites for cultivating more of a public following…like Twitter or WordPress. Or, if you really must facebook for publicity, make yourself a “page” and keep it separate from your profile.

2. Don’t use friendship as a weapon

This follows from the first one, but seriously, don’t un-friend people just because you are mad at them. That’s being really passive/aggressive online. And it also means that there is way too much emotion invested that is being expressed over screens and not between persons. If something is that big a deal to you, find a way to resolve it. Friendship vengeance is not a solution.

3. Keep it positive. Continue reading

The Problem with Facebook & “Success”

No one needs to be told how popular facebook has become. It’s where I post my blogs so that people actually see them, and it’s a great way to share pictures and interact with friends.

But there is also a dark side. Lots of digital ink has detailed the facebook-depression effect. We hop online, and it seems like everyone else’s life is so much better, funner, and more accomplished. Of course, most people only update when they’re doing something good, fun, or accomplished. So it naturally creates the perception that Sally from high school has an amaaaazing life, and as we scroll down the newsfeed in the darkness of our basements, it’s easy to feel inadequate.

This is simply the nature of facebook. But there is something else too. Facebook harnesses the internet for social purposes, and that’s actually a really big deal. 20 years ago, people lived where they lived and knew about the lives of the people in their physical communities.

Now, facebook brings us information about anyone we’ve ever met. Gone is the standard of locality. All of a sudden, we can see the best and the brightest things anyone does anywhere. Our standard shifts from our homes to the entire country or even the world. And the bigger the pond, the smaller the fish…or so it seems. Continue reading

5 Principles for Interpreting Scripture Catholic-ly (and what literal interpretation really means)

For everyone who has read or tried to read the Bible, it’s not always easy. Often times, the word of God is an enigma and we can end up more confused than before beginning. Sometimes things don’t seem to fit together.

Fortunately, the Second Vatican Council outlined a few principles to help us out in interpreting the Scriptures.

These are 1) that Scripture must be read as whole, in light of both the Old and New Testaments; 2) that Scripture should be read in light of the Church’s constant Tradition; and 3) the Scripture should be read with a mind to the analogy of Faith, which is the coherence of the Catholic Faith as a whole.

1)  Reading Scripture as a whole means reading it with a mind to the unity of the testaments. For instance, when we read the Levitical laws about sacrifices in the temple, the Catholic should understand that we are no longer under the old law. Jesus instituted the new covenant which supersedes it. St. Paul goes to pains the letter to the Galatians to explain that we are under the new law. He writes “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’’” (Gal. 5:14). We still read the Old Testament with respect and we see the Old Law with an eye to how God was preparing his people for reception of His Son and the New Law, but we understand that we are not required to offer physical, animal sacrifices in the temple anymore. Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross is the sacrifice to end all others, and now we follow Him and His new covenant as the definitive revelation of God.

2)   Second, Scripture is to be read in light of the Church’s constant tradition. Continue reading