The quarterback fumbles the ball and the team loses 20 yards. Is he supposed to doubt and demean himself as he returns to the line? He is supposed to say to himself, “It is what it is.” That is, what has happened can’t be changed. Having said that he is to clear his mind for the next play.
The cliché is used properly when it describes some unalterable reality in life. An apple is an apple. It is what it is. That fact stands; it can’t be an orange even if there are those who would like to call it an orange.
Can this reality apply to marriage? I recently heard a politician stumping for votes while defending his pro-marriage stance. His argument was based on the long-accepted definition of marriage: the union of one man and one woman for life. In the flow of his speech he said of marriage: “It is what it is.” His unapologetic statement argued that as far back as human history can be known the view held virtually universally is the view he himself holds.
We regularly speak of the “institution” of marriage. That means that when a man and woman stand before a minister or a justice of the peace to exchange marital vows they are not there to create something new. They are entering into something that already has existed from time immemorial. Couples were married by committing to the same realities long before these two were born. That’s why we call marriage an “institution”. It is what it is.
Marriage is a covenanted relationship between two sexually complementary persons. It is an all-embracing, organic union, conjugal by very nature. There is no other human joining to compare with it. It is a connection intended to be fulfilled by the procreation of children and by the giving to those children the stability and strength of that union. Also, in doing so it is to add its strength to the cohesion and health of society and state. Marriage is what it is.
So, is it not arrogant to argue that this unique human connectedness should be violated by the unraveling of its natural boundaries to accommodate the inclusion of something in essence fundamentally unlike it?
This is not to say that same sex partnerships cannot be formed legally. In a democratic society same-sex couples are permitted to seal their commitments to each other in legal ways. Under these legal arrangements, they may be free to live together and share financial goals, or pursue joint social relationships. But same-sex couples cannot be conjugal nor bring forth children. In claiming to be married they are not redefining marriage; nor are they enlarging its boundaries; they are destroying its historical uniqueness. Marriage is what it is.
The time has come for Christians everywhere to get better hold on these truths and to be prepared to express them as opportunities present themselves. Marriage is under attack from several quarters.
On the one hand, the silence of millions of Christians would be a great aid to the enemies of marriage and to the disordering of marriage itself. On the other, speaking up to say that for the above reasons “marriage is what it is” gives believers a positive voice in the struggle. Only by widespread engagement will the battle now raging be won.