June 29, 2007

The Redemption of Love

For all you non-Christians, this book isn't for you. It's basic premise -- Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World -- rests upon a belief in the Bible and in the words of Jesus. Without that, there really isn't any point in reading this book. Oh, and this is going to be a long post because there's a lot to say. Feel free to skip it. :)
For the rest of us, this book, by Carrie A. Miles, is an interesting look into the history of male-female relationships, marriage, and th expectations laid out in the Bible for both. Her basic assertion is that God never intended marriage to be "man rules and works and woman stays at home", but rather God created male and female to be complete in each other.
The reason given in Genesis 2 for woman's existence in no way implies her inferiority, but neither does it support the notion that she is complete in herself. Woman is not creation's all in all any more than the man is. ... Rather, sexuality in creation belongs not to the individual but to the relationship. Female and male exist only for the sake of the other. Power has nothing to do with it.

It's only because of the Fall that the historical pattern of marriage emerged.

Miles spends a lot of time on the economic history of marriage. She asserts that it's because man had to work for his bread that what we've come to view as "traditional" marriage emerged. And then, only because the woman had an asset that man didn't: the ability to give birth. Because she could do that, and because children were essential to the economy of the pre-industrial world, she was by necessity tied to the house. If she worked hard in the fields, she ran the chance of miscarrying. Having given birth, she was tied to the house to nurse and then raise the child. Miles writes, "Eve was told that she would bring forth children in sorrow-- sorrow because they would be valued not for their individuality or for their relationship with God but for what they could produce."

Miles goes on to write that Jesus (and even Paul) asserted that this was not the way relationships between man and women were supposed to be.
Jesus opened the door not only to female discipleship but to the possibility of men and women interacting without reference to sex. Further, in shifting the blame for lust from the woman to the man, Jesus removed the assumption of sinfulness that adhered to women's very existence as female.

(There's even a chapter on the Song of Songs -- or the Song of Solomon, as I know it -- and how it's a blueprint for a true and lasting relationship. Very interesting.)

She goes on to assert that what Christians believe is a decline in morals in today's society is a result of the Industrial Revolution. Marriage, in the last 100 years, has essentially become a luxury, not a necessity. We marry for love, for sexual attraction, not because we need someone to bear our children so that we have people to work the farm. "Feminism," she writes, "did not cause the breakdown of the family; rather, the breakdown of the historic functions of the family caused feminism."

She goes on to write:
With the forces sustaining the sexual cartel gone, young women in the 1960s discovered that they had little restraint on their sexual behavior. Casting away the old morality once inculcated through shame and obligation, young women began asking themselves the same question that importunate young men had been askig forever: Why not? Why not enjoy the same "sexual prerogatives" that men enjoyed? Economically dependent on neither man nor child, tehy armed themselves with reliable birth control, the right to abortion should birth control prove not to be so reliable, and, if all else failed, the knowledge that a good job, welfare, or child support would sustain them. While far from every woman personally embraced the sexual revolution, middle-class women increasingly took it as their right to join the wealthy in behaving as they pleased.

So, what do we, as Christians, do with this? If what has been historically the traditional marriage relationship is not supported by the Bible, then what? Unfortunately, here is where the book breaks down. It's not that she doesn't make the book relevant to 21st-century relationships; she does. But she doesn't do it with the same passion and assertion that she talks about the historical relationships and Biblical expectations. I'm not sure what I was expecting; this isn't a marriage-help book. But, I think I was expecting some sort of light: Ah, THIS is how I can make my marriage work better. Or, THIS is what I can do to survive in this world. There is a lot of talk about "in the world of thorns", and I suppose the assumption is that if we didn't want to live in the world of thorns, we wouldn't do that. Perhaps, I may have been expecting something Miles felt wasn't necessary. In fact, her last paragraph reads:
The Bible offers a single, simple ideal for marriage: a union of two souls that is romantic, poetic, and by worldly standards completely impractical. But God did not create sexuality and marriage to be practical. Practicality is for those who live outside the garden. redeemed as Christians and as lovers, we keep the fruit of our own vineyards.

In the end, then I figure this book is just an extended study on how the Bible interprets marriage. Whether or not anyone gets anything out of it is completely up to them.Which, I guess, is a lot like religion and our relationship with God. We can learn all we can but if we don't do anything about it, there's really no point to the knowledge we have. We need to be constantly progressing and changing, and if that means reconsidering our relationship to our spouse (and children) then this book can be a good catalyst for doing that.

9 comments:

Booklogged said...

Sounds great. Pretty much what I've believed all along.

Melissa said...

Yeah, I think that's why -- in the end -- that I had such a blase reaction to it. I guess it could be pretty radical to someone who doesn't believe that a marriage-relationship is on equal terms. But for me, I was pretty much thinking, "Yeah, I agree with that" the whole way through.

Bookfool said...

I guess I'll skip it for the same reason you just noted - it sounds like everything I already believe.

Cami said...

sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out. It's often the subtleties of a book that change the way I think about it. I'd be interested to hear the whole philosophy.

Dewey said...

This post was of great interest to this non-Christian. And the book might be, too.

Dewey said...

Oh, and I wanted to tell you something funny! You transposed some of your letters in my comments so that part of your url was blogpost instead of blogspot, and it kept taking me to a different site. And I was so confused! :)

Melissa said...

Too funny, Dewey. I really need to remember to edit my posts before hitting the submit button. Especially when I'm writing fast. :) Glad you got here anyway.

Tammy said...

This book sounds very interesting, I'll be sure to read it.

If you are interested in reading another Christian book I'm sure you will enjoy "This Present Darkness" by Frank E. Pereitti.
Its a wonderful book and talks about the importance of prayer and how much power it has. Its one of those books that you simply cannot put down. I hope you will read it.

Enjoy.

A.D. said...

Interesting. I'd like to read the book. I just wrote a short blog post with a similar theme on the "wife of noble character" in proverbs. You may be interested: http://www.godmammon.com