Should The Church Begin Arranged Marriages?

I am, at the core of my being, a poet, a romantic, a real appreciator of the sentimental side of love (I will admit, I cried during The Notebook). However, the older I get, the more I realize that there is more to a relationship than the things that engage my heart, that there are some practical things that have entered my brain.

1. The person I will eventually marry will not be the person that I stay married to.
2. Just because I feel some emotional (or neurcochemical) connection to a person, doesn’t mean it will forever be that way.
3. Sometimes (and, I will especially speak on behalf of the younger men) it takes a while to know who you are, and, therefore, you don’t know what you will need in regards to a spouse.
4. The older I get, the more I realize that the world is not about me and that marriage can’t be healthy inside of a world that does revolve around me. Two egos butting up against one another every day is a recipe bound for disaster.

Recently, I have begun to consider (though I doubt it will ever happen), whether Christians should reconsider arranged marriages as they were practiced for most of Church history. While I agree that falling has led me to some of the most beautiful and transformative moments in my life, I also agree with Stanley Hauerwas when he of marriage, “The requirement of love in marriage is not correlative to the intrinsic nature of marriage but is based on the admonition for Christians to love one another. We do not love because we are married, but because we are Christian. We may, however, learn what such love is like within the context of marriage. For the Christian tradition claims that marriage helps to support an inclusive community of love by grounding it in a pattern of faithfulness toward another.” I think that arranged marriages (and their historical success rates) offer a shell for working out this lifetime of faithfulness with one another.

I also realize the practical value of this. With children hitting puberty earlier and earlier, and the level of sexual brokenness in our culture, having arranged marriages provides people with, hopefully, a healthier sexual outlet at a younger age. Also, with my generation growing up much more slowly, few things will cause a person to man up like having someone live in your close, intimate, proximity every day.

Lastly, the person I choose to marry someday will not be the same person that I remain married to through out my life. As Carl Jung reminds us, there is no universal path to transformation. So who we are at the moment of marriage is the not guaranteed to be the same person that we grow into. I think Hauerwas once again rightly notes, “We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”

While, I know that an arranged marriage will never happen, and there is a beautiful value to our ability to choose who we fall in love with before we get married, I also see a historical, and, practical rationale for arranged marriages. While I don’t think the Church would go for this (and I would understand why), I also wouldn’t be opposed to it if they decided to.

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11 thoughts on “Should The Church Begin Arranged Marriages?

  1. rgmill3 says:

    All of the guys my parents would have chosen to marry me off to ended up being the biggest losers. I could never have trusted my parents to make a good decision about the rest of my life. They couldn’t even manage their own lives or marriage, much less anyone else’s. Arranged marriages have historically taken place in cultures where divorce was not allowed, which is not the same thing as meaning that these marriages were successful. Also, the practice harkens back to the day when women were property to be bartered like livestock. I understand why you are pondering the question, but as a woman, the concept horrifies me.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I can understand that. Obviously, there would have to be some concessions. A. What is the state of your parents? B. What is the state of the person being chosen.

      I would equally be freaked out by a bartering system, there is infinite value on a human life (we see that on the Cross). Arranged marriage would only work if you are putting together the types of people who can love one another, be faithful to one another, and are dedicated to being a part of the community of the body of Christ and one another.

      I don’t blame you. Under the context in which you are explaining it, I would want that either.

  2. While of course I don’t think you’re necessarily suggesting this, I think there is the reality that many societies currently or formerly practicing arranged marriage ignore the oft forgotten sexuality… those who are just plain not interested. Arranged marriage as a cultural norm has rarely allowed for singleness.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Maggie,
      You’re right. As I commented before, and thank you for bringing up another point to it, there has to be concessions that would make arranged marriage a healthy ideal (which is why I don’t think arranged marriage will ever work, we don’t live in an ideal world). The child, or young adult, would have to have parents who understood them so well in order to make this healthy. If healthy parents understood that their child doesn’t want to be married, they would be evil to subject them to it.

  3. yshekster says:

    Mike, I agree with rgmill3! All the guy/s my Christian parents would have put me with… wow – lemme say that I would be a totally different person today. Not the better version. But the version where I would think that the ‘system’ has much to offer, that being part of the 99% is a privilege (Calvinist of course), and that I have to give the best that material has to offer to my kids, focusing on all the wrong hot-button issues, and perhaps still debating even if Mother Teresa is in heaven or hell. I kid you not. I am SO glad I looked to my Father in Heaven and not my earthly father – as wonderful as he is. And looked for a man that I thought reflected Jesus – the Jesus that I know from reading on my own – than from what all the voices around me were telling me at that time.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      I completely understand. Largely, I am in the same boat. I have a different theology than the one I was raised with. I hold to, in some parts, different ethical standards. I am completely a different person.

      Arranged marriage is an ideal system, that would have to be supported by ideal people (but we don’t live in an ideal world). I understand, and I feel it at some point to, the fear of being with someone who wouldn’t be “compatible.”

      • yshekster says:

        Mike, how about a loving Christian community around you? Maybe a tight circle of friends – some older – some peers – who really know you? And maybe can see your trajectory into the future? Some older folks can do that. It’s a bit uncanny – but they do. You might want to get your peeps working for you. 🙂 Interestingly, my parents did kind of match up my younger sister. It really worked out well for them. Just not me.

        My hubby is sitting here with me. He says it is tough and feels for you. We met on ChristianCafe actually.

        That got me thinking. It’s really ok to go out there and LOOK. Sometimes it requires work – or a quest. Before I met Ron, I thought the person was going to just cross my path. But clearly I was mistaken. A number of people around me, parents included, encouraged me to get out there and do some work. In fact, if I had not really looked, I would never have found Ron. My other sibling found her spouse in the mission field.

      • Mike Friesen says:

        That’s what I am writing about tomorrow, why it wouldn’t work (even though, I think it would be great in an ideal world).

    • yshekster you said: “But the version where I would think that the ‘system’ has much to offer, that being part of the 99% is a privilege (Calvinist of course)”

      What in the world does the “99%” and Calvinism have to do with each other? Also, are you suggesting that being a Calvinist is bad or wrong? Just curious.

      Travis (anotherchristianblog.org)

  4. […] blog is a follow up to one that I posted on Monday, in which I talked about the practicality of arranged marriages. Not that I necessarily agree with […]

  5. James says:

    I dont know. Sorry to say it but most women I know only want to go after the manly man tough guy jerks. Then whine when he is not mr romantic. I have been single for 6 years and not seen one worth dating that was interested in being with a decent guy. Arrenged marriages I think might be the only way to end divorce. I say parents whoose 10 guys and girl choose one from among them. You say your parents chose all loosers? In what ways?
    geek? not succesful enough (MONEY)?

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