“My marriages, they’ve been very successful,”
… starts Jennifer Aniston. That’s marriages, plural! She did an interview with eNews and was asked about her marriages and how she views them. In a few sentences, she manages to upend the sanctity of marriage and promote a self-centered version of marriage for all of eNews’s eager audiences to absorb.
After congratulating herself on her terminated marriages, she continues…
“And when they came to an end, it was a choice that was made because we chose to be happy, and sometimes happiness didn’t exist within that arrangement anymore,”
I won’t pretend to know what went on within Aniston’s marriages, but as a summary, “we chose to be happy” sounds like self-centered rationalization for ending a marriage. Think about it; is that the advice you would want your spouse to receive if your marriage was hitting a rough patch? “Choose to be happy“? It sounds like they successfully steered the happiness train; although they each had a train and ended up in separate directions.
“Sure, there were bumps, and not every moment felt fantastic, obviously, but at the end of it, this is our one life and I would not stay in a situation out of fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of not being able to survive. To stay in a marriage based on fear feels like you’re doing your one life a disservice”
This makes me wonder just how far YOLO works as an argument in the minds of some people. Also, is wanting to be married even though it sometimes leads to unhappiness the same as fear of being alone? Many of the married couples I know don’t persist in marriage — though it sometimes leads to unhappiness — because they are afraid, but because they recognize that marriage is good for a great many reasons; more than just making one happy.
And even if one does have a “fear of being alone”, is that necessarily a bad thing? I understand mature adults must have a certain level of independence and responsibility, but we are also social creatures. We were designed to crave relationship. Even introverts long for friendships and relationships, just not in the same way as extroverts. Doesn’t all the social and psychological sciences support these basic claims of our humanity? It seems perfectly logical to curb one’s own appetite for happiness so as to maintain having a partner to navigate life with?
Now, here’s the important stuff:
“When the work has been put in and it doesn’t seem that there’s an option of it working, that’s okay. That’s not a failure. We have these clichés around all of this that need to be reworked and retooled, you know? Because it’s very narrow-minded thinking.”
The crux of the matter for Ms. Aniston is the idea of a life-long marriage. In her words, its “cliché”.
Marriage in a Post Christian Era
Do you get that? Dear Brother or Sister in Christ, do you understand what she thinks of our faith? Do you see her contempt for God’s instruction that a husband and wife become “one flesh”1, and the Lord’s admonishment that “what God has joined together, let no man separate”2? Your sacred vows “until death do us part” are at best kitsch; at worst, narrow-minded.
For Jennifer Aniston, our views on marriage should be updated, “retooled”, for modern people who don’t want to admit to a failure, but can with a straight face say that their marriages were successful because they chose to be happy. Look, I get that marriages sometimes end for good reasons; violence, abuse, unfaithfulness, etc. But it is truly a modern notion to be able to define success however one likes. It seems to be a matter of simply not wanting to admit to failure. Although I have not walked away from my marriage, I will admit there are days when I am wildly unsuccessful in it. I have been ignorant, selfish, and sometimes outright cruel. But I can’t just label everything a “success” because I feel like it.
More than just being a celebrity tabloid story, Jennifer Aniston’s diatribe on marriage should be an alarm to the Christian faithful. The alarm should remind us that the world in which our communities exist in and our children will grow up in is one that opposes the tenets of the Christian faith more and more each day. And popular media will relay these anti-Christian messages without so much as a “but..?”
The Cost of Profane Marriages
If marriage is viewed as a loose agreement in our culture, it is no longer sacred, but profane. It’s no secret what the cost is when marriages don’t consider their vows sacred and binding. My wife is an elementary school teacher, and sees first-hand the effects that broken marriages have on children. The data also agrees that single-parent families increase the likelihood of mental health issues for their children.
And if marriage is seen as a very loose agreement that one can terminate at-will, how likely is it that a marriage will persist through difficult times? Or if marriage is as flippant as Ms. Aniston makes it seem, will marriages even be pursued? The data seems to suggest not.
But there are greater costs to Profane Marriages. Marriage is a key institution on which the Christian faith is built upon. It is a motivation for maturation and working. It teaches one how to love another in a way that is difficult, if not impossible, outside of marriage. It is the most appropriate settings for procreation and raising children. It is a vehicle for strengthening and passing down the Faith that is essential for communities to maintain their identity and their existence.
For example, this article from the Christian Science Monitor asks why Israel’s birth rates are higher than many other countries in the developed world. The answers have to do with the family’s role in maintaining the Jewish identity and existence. In a post-Holocaust era, Orna Donath, a sociologist who researches motherhood, says what drives births is:
“the collective fear of annihilation. It continues to haunt us, and children are seen as symbolizing a continuance of life, of survival.”
The article also mentions families having a feeling of wanting to supply soldiers for the constant potential for war. But more important, the whole of Jewish society is familial, where even the metaphors for their country regard the nation as one body and one family. They understand that family is a raft that holds people together; especially in crisis. And it is perhaps the strongest vehicle for maintaining a culture that is conducive to living out religious faith.
Christians today must see the value of marriage and how destructive Profane Marriages are to the entirety of the Church. If there were ever a reason to boycott celebrity and tabloid media, it should be for their ridiculous counsel.
Like Israeli Jews, we should be aware that the weaker the family is, the less chance we have at survival as a group. This is by far the biggest impact that the sexual revolution and new sexual ethics and identity politics have on the Church maintaining its dedication to spiritual living. And Ms. Aniston’s reckless sentiments weaken the family by encouraging people to chase their happiness; even to the divorce attorney’s office.