One of the most contentious issues of our time, marriage has been “claimed” by Christians (and others) as an unchanging “institution”, “sacrament”, “contract”, etc. This is far from historically accurate. Author and- I would argue- theologian Anne Rice weighs in with a recommendation from her Facebook page yesterday:
The nation’s talking about marriage, Same Sex Marriage, definitions of marriage, who owns marriage, etc. Well, here is a link to an excellent History of Marriage written by Stephanie Coontz that I reviewed for Amazon a while back. I recommend this book to all who have strong feelings about the institution of marriage and how it has been viewed over the millennia. Comments welcome. (I’ve linked to my review, but there are a lot of others posted on the site).
From the book description: Marriage has never been more fragile. But the same things that have made it so have also made a good marriage more fulfilling than ever before. In this enlightening and hugely entertaining book, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the sexual torments of Victorian couples to demonstrate how recent the idea of marrying for love is-and how absurd it would have seemed to most of our ancestors. It was only 200 years ago that marriage began to be about love and emotional commitment, and since then the very things that have strengthened marriage as a personal relationship have steadily weakened it as a social institution. Marriage, A History brings intelligence, wit, and some badly needed perspective to today’s marital debates and dilemmas.
Her Review: This is an extremely well researched investigation of the institution of marriage from earliest times to the present. It may prove shocking to some readers to discover how recent our concept of “traditional marriage” may be. But information such as this book provides is essential for those concerned about marital values. History provides us with immensely important lessons regarding the attitudes and feelings of human beings over the centuries; and we must not shrink from the observations made here as we seek to understand the social and economic and even religious crises of our times. The scope of the book is incredibly ambitious yet it is clearly and at times entertainingly written, and always inviting. It can point the way for further research in many areas. On all counts, a fine and important book.
Agreed. To have this information in one place is important- and the scholarship is undeniable. Click book to see more reviews on Amazon and get a sample of the book.
- Gay Marriage – A Mystery – Church History (dgsmith.org)
- The Transformation Of Marriage (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- There Is No Such Thing As “Traditional Marriage” (outsidethebeltway.com)
- Guest Post: An Authentic, Catholic History Of Marriage (dgsmith.org)