Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book - "First Comes Love?"

TITLE: First Comes Love? - the ever changing face of marriage
AUTHOR: John C Morris
PUBLISHER: OH: Pilgrim Press, 2007.
First Comes Love?: The Ever-Changing Face of Marriage

BEWARE: This book is a veiled attempt to attack the traditional marriage between one-man-one-woman.

This book attempts to outline the history of marriage, and to highlight how marriage 'changes' its face according to the era and the contexts people are in. The constant refrain by the author is that marriage 'has changed and changed and changed again' (9). By exploring 21 different 'layers and traditions,' Morris attempts to change us, in particular, those who hold to the 'traditional marriage' of one man and one woman.

Under the guise of an objective, scientific, factual, and a rationale explanation of marriage customs and traditions throughout the ages, Morris is essentially telling us not to be too defensive about the traditional one-man-one-woman form of marriage. Here is why Morris insists that marriages are ever changing.

  • Marriages Within One's Crowd: Different cultures portray different marriage relationships. For example, Isaac has to marry someone within his clan, thus his father sent his servant to look for a girl within the family circle. Their marriage is endogamy. Jacob and his many wives and concubines represent polygamy.
  • Marriages Outside One's Crowd: Using Solomon's many foreign wives as an example, Morris suggests that marriage changed again.
  • Marriage for Procreation & Political Purposes: Morris then delves into history to highlight how marriages have evolved to include the purposes of having children and for political alliances.

He then talks about the 4 'revolutionary marriage traditions from the church.'

  • where slaves and citizens can marry (under Roman times)
  • Celibacy (Medieval monks)
  • Women equal to men;
  • Lifelong commitment.
He goes on to list how modern marriages look like; for love, for property, from basis of woman's free choice, for happiness, and a legitimate end in marriage through divorce.

The 21 Reasons Why People Marry
The author painstakingly lists the reasons as follows:

My Critique
This book lays out the facts with a clear determination to change the mind of the reader. It is written to attack the traditional marriage society has adhered to for many years, namely marriage is between one man and one woman. Morris attacks traditional marriage using selective data, and biased interpretation of Scripture. He makes a conscious hermeneutical decision to read gay-sympathy into the Bible, instead of allowing the Bible to speak into the issue.

At first, the book seems like a respectable, scientific and neutral way to address the 'changing face of marriage.' After all, who can fault one for listing the 'facts.' Toward the end, I see the real reason behind Morris's attempt to address how marriage traditions have changed.
"In my vision, the important thing is the 'twoness,' not the 'maleness and femaleness,' that matters. When it comes to leaning on each other and two people's relationship to each other and to God, the key is not gender but truthfulness, mutuality, and faithfulness. Two men or two women can make that commitment to each other just as well as a man and a woman can." (112)
There you have it. Marriage that is ordained by God is about two persons becoming one flesh. What kind of a theology is Morris talking about? A 'twoness?' A book that started so innocently under the guise navigating through the history of marriage, ends up as another tool to justify gay marriages. What troubles me is the appalling liberal interpretations of the Bible. Morris seems to be using the Bible, and all other data to justify and to authorize the free marriage between two persons, regardless of sex.

I had initially thought of not reviewing this book. However, given the dangerous way that Scripture has been used to attack the traditional institution of marriage, I want to put this warning label for all wanting to read this book.

I caution the reader against fully embracing all the ideas recommended inside the book. One does not need to attack traditional marriage by projecting a need to change it. Just because there are problems in traditional marriage, does not mean we abandon the marriage institution altogether. Morris's use of statistics of high divorces among Christians to justify gay marriage indirectly is done in poor taste.


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