I just read your blog post of April 22, and what you said got me thinking. Too many thoughts for a comment box, but I suppose my blog is the perfect place to speak my mind without worry about overstepping the boundaries of “elegant sufficiency.” Here is a quote from your post:
“That said [comment on the bizarre matchmaking and marriage en masse of the Church of Unification], I have no doubt that—due to the earnest commitment and efforts of both parties—many of these marriages end up happy. After all, as C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:
‘Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go… But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love”—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriage) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. . . . “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.’
In the case of Unification Church members, even if the relationship lacked an emotional stage of “being in love,” it doesn’t mean that it is destined to fail. Far from it, since, as Lewis wisely points out, true love isn’t about feelings.”
That quote from CS Lewis is such a great vision of the right idea of love and the foundation of a good marriage; that once we are committed to do a good, we sometimes need to call on a deeper love (or faith) to get us through the times when we don’t feel like doing the right thing. And (thankfully) I think you are right; with good will and effort on both parts, even an arranged marriage can work out in the end, and be successful. I think I would just add the clarification that comes to mind; which is that based on several of his works and commentaries on marriage elsewhere, I don’t get the idea that Lewis is downplaying sensuous pleasures (like romantic love), as much as reminding us to know their right place. And I feel it is a difference that is worth outlining, lest we carry with us the wrong impression. Christianity is not pessimistic because it must endure hardships sometimes; it endures hardships if needed because it is hopeful; it has a vision of a better world.
Many times in life a person might choose to do something for what he considers to be a higher reason or “good;” and so he might choose to deny emotions or physical desires like “romantic love,” personal preferences and tastes. But I think it’s important to remember that while there will be plenty of moments during which sacrifices will need to be made, the proper ideal by which to judge marriage as a whole is not its sacrificial aspect. When you change the order of priorities, then your outlook, modus operandi and your results will necessarily change. It may be right or good for me to live and do the best I can within the circumstances in which I find myself, even if the circumstances are not to my liking; a stage of marriage that has less or no “romantic/in love” feelings, an arranged marriage, slavery, poverty, etc. That is, as Lewis put it, “My Story;” what I ought to be concerned with is doing what is right for me, in my situation. But that does not mean it would be right for someone (anyone) to make another person a slave, to force others into poverty, or to force or even induce other people to marry for their reasons. (Not even a “church”.)
For marriage, says Chesterton, like most important things in life, is one of those things that “…We want a man to do for himself, even if he does [it] badly… In short, the democratic faith is this: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves–the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state. This is democracy; and in this I have always believed.”(GKC, Orthodoxy) Why? Because life is about the man, not the man about the life. (“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27) And the reason for that is in its essence, that we are children of God, growing up into “sons of God.” In our youth we must be shown the way; and sometimes good must be imposed upon a child, so that by doing, eventually he can grasp the concept his parent is trying to teach him. But in the end, what the parent really wants is for that child to grow into a man – a man who understands the value of good, and who wants to do what is right and will be good for him and his life. And it’s the same with God. He wants us to come to understand what life is really about, what is important, and what is not, and to be able to choose good for ourselves. From a Christian perspective, life (and everything in it, including marriage and all that it entails) is for our good – the good of each and every man. But part of that good comes of and through having made the choice freely, lovingly and willingly; this is a part of what will in the end actually be able to induce us to be strong, constant and honor our word.
It has been truly said that marriage is a vehicle that will help men and women grow immensely, and if we choose to open ourselves up to the experience, we will learn how to do good, be strong, and grow in our courage and love; we will reap the precious rewards of relationship. Especially if we do it – as we ought in any thing we do – as unto The Lord, and with a whole heart to our best ability. And yet, like other good things, our Father made marriage a good thing which was meant to be enjoyed as well; the sexes are naturally attracted to each other, they fall in love, and can give each other delight, comfort, strength, and so many wonderful, beautiful and amazing things. But simply because those beauties are not always present in marriage, or because there is an aspect of utility in marriage, or food, or any other thing, does not mean we should now be solely utilitarian in their application – that would be to become less, not more. And (like the Tardis) we are bigger on the inside; we are not just flesh or spirit, but both – and probably incredibly more than we have so far imagined. As Lewis says in his beautiful essay, The Weight Of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses… It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit….”
But because we are not mere mortals and have free will, we can go both ways; every day we are becoming as Lewis puts it, “A creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.” I think this is why we are inclined to be cautious (if overly so at times) about certain things (especially the sensual pleasures), because we know from experience that even a “good thing,” i.e. food, work, rest or sex, when followed utterly and unchecked, very quickly ceases to be a good. But while a Christian might decide to sacrifice a “lesser” good for a “higher” good sometimes, he is not also applying a “sour grapes” philosophy; that since sometimes certain things must be done without, we should lessen our natural desire for those things and learn to see those things as less important or “not good.” What we should do, is be willing to go without, if needed (Phil. 4:11). George MacDonald says, “Let me, if I may, be ever welcomed to my room in winter by a glowing hearth, in summer by a vase of flowers; if I may not, let me think how nice they would be, and bury myself in my work. I do not think that the road to contentment lies in despising what we have not got [or, as the Buddhist, by learning not to desire what we have not got]. Let us acknowledge all good, all delight that the world holds, and [yet] be content without it.”
Romantic feelings may disappear, tend to be dangerous, and are not the main thing on which to build a marriage and life partnership. So are we as Christians to disregard or downplay “romantic love” when seeking marriage? Lewis says in his poem “Five Sonnets,”
“Pitch your demand heaven-high and they’ll be met.
Ask for the Morning Star and take (thrown in)
Your earthly love.”
Michael Ward sheds light on Lewis’ works on the subject in Planet Narnia, and points to the idea that if we have our first principles in place, as when a Father is watching over his children, then secondary things have room to come in, find their place, and be “Blessed by Jove” as Lewis says. The Pevensie children (in Lewis’ Prince Caspian) can enjoy the company of pagan festivities and even wine, while Aslan is there to oversee them, and to keep everything in its good or perfect place. “As we learn from one of Lewis’s Poems, ‘The Small Man Orders His Wedding,’ it is in
‘Jove’s monarchal presence bright’ that ‘Aphrodite’s saffron light’ may shine. Venus, more than any of the other planets, can properly operate only under Jupiter’s sovereign and cynosural influence.”
~Michael Ward, Planet Narnia
But in the end, The Small Man must order his own wedding – Why? Because it is his wedding; it is a promise he must make, and be accountable to keep. And interestingly, the things that men decide to do on their own are larger in scale by far than the things one man can coerce another man to do. Given free will, a man invariably sets out to do the most difficult or impossible task imaginable: conquer the world, scale the highest peak, cross the oceans in a raft or the skies in a balloon, discover things no one has ever discovered before, or even save a life, devote themselves to love a small furry animal, raise children, and bind themselves to love, honor, and protect that one special person; in sickness, and in health… for as long as they both shall live. As Lewis pointed out, “Being in love was the explosion that started it… ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity [-and it is that amazing peak of emotion that leads the soul to make promises]; this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.” There are times in the best of marriages (or enterprises) when, as Lewis said, those feelings of being “in love” will not be as strong, or even seem to be there at all. And that would be the time to look to that deeper, quieter and enduring love, and choose to grow from small men into bigger men, that we may fulfill our promises. And in attempting to keep that incredible promise, we become more than we were yesterday; repeated again, and again, and again, until the small man sheds his skin, and steps out into the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)
The Small Man Orders His Wedding
With tambourines of amber, queens
In rose and lily garlanded
Shall go beside my noble bride
With dance and din and harmony,
And sabre clash and tabor crash
And lantern-light and torches flash
On shield and helmet, plume and sash,
The flower of all my armoury;
Till drawn at length by tawny strength
Of lions, lo! her chariot;
Their pride will brook no bridle – look,
No bit they bear, no farrier
Ere shod those feet that plod the street
Silent as ghosts; their savage heat
Is gentled as they draw my sweet,
New tamed herself, to marry me.
New swell from all the belfries tall,
Till towers reel, the revelry
Of iron tongue untiring swung
To booms and clangs of merriment!
While some prepare with trumpet blare
Before my gates to greet us there
When home we come; and everywhere
Let drum be rumbled steadily.
Once in, the roar and din no more
Are heard. The hot festivity
And blazing dies; from gazing eyes
These shadowy halls deliver her.
Yet neither flute nor blither lute
With pluck of amorous string be mute
Where happy maids their queen salute
And candle flames are quivering.
What flame before our chamber door
Shines in on love’s security?
Fiercer than day, its piercing ray
Pours round us unendurably.
It’s Aphrodite’s saffron light,
And Jove’s monarchal presence bright
And Genius burning through the night
The torch of man’s futurity.
For her the swords of furthest lords
Have flashed in fields ethereal;
The dynasts seven incline from heaven
With glad regard and serious,
And ponder there beyond our air
The infinite unborn, and care
For history, while the mortal pair
Lie drowned in dreaming weariness.
~ C.S Lewis.