Next of Kin in Modern Christianity

The evolution of marriage in the church

We are all told that humankind is well on its way towards evolving past primitive modes of thought for understanding life on planet, including a creator, ethnicity and the roles of the sexes. There a brave new world where equality and diversity and the universal identity of humanity will finally usher in much desired peace and harmony.

Now I can expect liberals and moderates to evoke such utopian ideas, but the orthodox side of the church seems to have its own version of utopia. The Kingdom of God sought by Christians seems very similar to the utopia that Marxist thought hungers for, a world where all differences are eliminated, all supposed sources of conflict and violence are wiped away for the greater good.

Often quoted is Galatians 3:28: There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (NLT). This single declaration of uniformity and unity has been the banner cry for the church and it happens to fit nicely with the idea that ethnic, sexual and economic differences are the cause of evil in the world and their elimination would sow the seeds for heaven on earth.

Maybe this thinking is right. Maybe, in some way, God is moving on a global scale to put into place the pieces needed for His Kingdom at the Second Coming of Christ.

However, I am left dissatisfied. The liberal churches I can see accepting it, but the conservative churches are fractured and seem confused on what to do or teach on such issues. It is plainly obvious from other writings in the Christian holy text that ethnicity seems a reality of this world (Jews are still God’s people), that the sexes are different and that difference makes them unequal (husbands have authority over their wives), and that economic differences are a fact of life (Proverbs teaches that poverty is a sign of laziness). The conservative churches seems to have a problem with this.

I understand when liberals declare that scripture is errant and archaic and that Christianity is something more. However, when I hear conservative churches attempt to piece together a blend of orthodoxy and compromise, it comes off as confusion. For example, the conservative church will oft declare that there is no Jew or Gentile (no ethnicity) and yet claim that there is male and female (traditional marriage). They hold to scripture as a book carrying divine authority without error and yet they work to apologize for what scriptures holds. While liberals denounce “racism” and “sexism” in the Bible and society, conservatives try to denounce “racism” and “sexism” is society while claiming the Bible has neither. The conservative compass seems rather scrambled.

Also, ethnicity may be as important a part to marriage as sexual differences. The main purpose of marriage in the past was for the sake of procreation, to produce generations to follow and preserve a nation’s survival. The ethnicity of the parents and the children was a protected fact of life and marriage was part of that protection. Ethnic groups protected their respective cultures by having children. When families stop having children, the ethnic group begins to decline along with its culture.

In the modern church, there is no need to protect and preserve ethnicity through progeny, since ethnicity is abandoned for a transcendent identity, that of a “Christian.” Procreation is moved from the biological realm to the spiritual realm, where any child can be the progeny of any Christian parents through adoption. Instead of biological children, there are now “spiritual” children. Older Christians function as spiritual parents, nurturing and raising newer Christians who are spiritual children.

This sounds fine and does right injustice from the past, but it also eliminates the need for traditional marriage and family. Since all Christians are spiritual “kin,” brothers and sisters, biological marriage becomes impractical as single Christians are free to dedicate their time to service and evangelism. They do not need to get married in order to form biological families as spiritual ties supersede biological ties. Family is God and His children and conversion into the church the main method of producing progeny. There is no need for marriage or sex. Even the apostle Paul recognized this when he wrote, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife (1 Corinthians 7:32-33 NLT). His only concession was that the pagan Corinthians turned Christian choose one marriage partner to have sex with, but celibacy was celebrated and encouraged, even within marriage.

With ethnicity eliminated and sexual differences homogenized into a common Christian identity there only remains economic differences and working to make sure no one in the church is either poor or rich. In fact, this state of affairs seems eerily similar to what the early church attempted right after the ascension of Christ.

Again, maybe I’m just not with the Jesus grand slam program to have a unified kingdom. Maybe, atheistic communism is closer to the biblical kingdom of God than I think. Then again, maybe the church is ignoring the practical realities of life here on earth, realities that God Himself instituted. Maybe.

For sure, I wouldn’t turn to my church for an answer as Christianity seems utterly lost without its pursuit of utopia.

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Author: M.W. Peak

Just a humble guy trying to make his way in the universe.

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