Tony Jones' false distinction about marriage

Whether or not little old me got him blogging on his current series on sacramental marriage, Dr. Tony Jones continues to draw a line that isn't there between legal and sacramental marriage. His latest post, part 4, he makes an assertion that he won't follow to its end. His assertion is "A church is a semi-private organization, and as such, it has a vested interest in how its members treat one another." The church is also a voluntary association. Thus, if a member wants to mistreat their spouse, and doesn't give a fig what the church thinks of his behavior, there is little the church can do. However, the state can step in if a spouse is abusive and remove the offender from the home and even imprison him. Thankfully, we live in a society where the church and state are separated, which means the church can't go to that level of enforcement. In the same way, if the marriage dissolves, the church is not given authority to set alimony, or child support, or property separation, all things divorcing parents, such as Dr. Jones, have to deal with. Since he is in a sacramental-only union, if he and his second wife separate, there is no recourse for alimony or property separation. Their church can guide them, if they choose to submit to it, but it can't enforce anything. This is all ironic in light of his earlier thoughts on this, which I quoted previously. He wrote,
And most problematic, from my perspective, is that the clergyperson, with the stroke of a pen, makes legal a contract that s/he has no ability or potential to end. And, having gone through a divorce, I can tell you that extricating oneself from the legal contract that is marriage in our society is no mean feat. And the clergyman who married us was, understandably, not around to help unravel what he had helped establish.
The church gets to be part of the celebration, but why would anyone want them involved in the legal nitty-gritty and enforcement of the funeral? Most clergy want to help keep the marriage en-raveled, not help with the unraveling. Sometimes, this is when more enforcement authority is really attractive to the church. But it really can't force couples to be less sinful. Does he really want the church to decide how much of his paycheck should be garnished for child support? It's not the church's specialty or ability. But, as Jones says, the church "has a vested interest in how its members treat one another." This is exactly why the church wants their people legally married, so that their people are provided during the marriage and if it ends, either by divorce or death. It's an application of Paul's strong exhortation to Timothy, But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

As I wrote before, my hope is that Dr. Jones reconsiders his position on this.

update Sept 15, 2011; Even Lisa Miller at Newsweek thinks Dr. Jones is being ridiculous. With a quote from his ex-wife:
“It is a total cop out to have just a sacramental marriage,” Julie McMahon wrote in an email. “I am old school and I think that loving someone wholly is to share in legal property and assets as well.”

It would be hard to find a gay-marriage advocate who believes otherwise.

update Sept 27, 2011: a quote not given in relation to this topic specifically but the benefits of legal marriage in general by Lynne Marie Kohm, John Brown McCarty Professor of Family Law, Regent University School of Law in Christianity Today,
Under most state law, cohabitating couples have no legal protection from such things as abandonment, adultery, property protection, or financial support, so marriage is clearly the best legal option to protect the person you love. So if a pastor refuses to marry the couple based on moral grounds, the couple is robbed of the benefits of marriage in a sense. However, social science research shows that cohabitating couples actually sabotage their chances for a lifetime of happiness by their premarital cohabitation.


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