Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn

One Marriage, the State and God

March 3, AD2015

Chelsea - wedding

There have been perhaps a gazillion or two marriages since God ordained the Sacrament, as well as time and space and everything else He created. However, I could be wrong about the time aspect. According to Penny of The Big Bang Theory when asked if she knew who Stephen Hawking was she responded, “The wheelchair dude who invented time”. But, this story is about marriage and not about a very perceptive individual named Penny.

My marriage has been only one of those gazillion or two marriages. For me, there has been only one, not a second or a third marriage. Don’t get the idea that I am against another marriage. (I know I am preventing the telling of many really good jokes here.) It is just that the opportunity has not risen since my wife’s death. I did not say that no opportunity has presented itself, just the right situation.

Did the Government introduce you to your spouse?

My wife and I meet accidentally in a restaurant. Then about three months later, I asked her to marry me on a Halloween night. Not because of any particular connection with the holiday, but I happened to be at her apartment at the time showing her children  how to carve pumpkins. She lived with her mother, was divorced from an abusive 2nd husband, and had three preschool children to take care of without the ex-husband helping in any way.

I was a little nervous as the thought came into my mind. She did say “yes” and the kids cheered. Although, I am still unclear as whether my version is correct. She often corrected me in the retelling of the story, saying that I actually asked the kids and not her.

It was 1971. We both were baptized Christians, but not active, or even interested in church at all. We were in our late twenties and in the midst of the Social Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.

So, did you worry that the Government would not approve of your Marriage?

My stepfather was a retired Episcopal priest who had married my mother when I was in my early twenties. I was never really a preacher’s kid like my stepbrother. My stepfather never talked to me about religion unless I brought it up and that was not very often. I tell people that he probably thought that I was a lost cause. Yet, I just think that he was the kind of person who knew not to push too hard. Being young, just mentioning the subject of “religion” can be perceived as “pushing too hard”.

Even as inactive church members, the only greater meaning that marriage had to us both at this point in our lives was a spiritual one. The only teacher of spirituality in the world we had any respect for was the Christian church. Her family wanted us to get married in a private commercial wedding chapel, quite common to Nevada. (A good revenue for County Clerks that are close to the California border.) Despite our love for Nevada, nothing could be more demeaning to a marriage than some guy dressed in an Elvis costume (Elvis was still alive back then), or office attire, officiating our wedding. We wanted my stepfather to marry us. He represented a connection to God. We wanted the vows we would be saying to be the two of us making a promise to God.

Did the Government offer to help you both with your Marriage?

I am now a Catholic convert. Due to the fact that I have experience with other religions, I have a great respect for some of the people and their diverse religions that I have come to know over the years. That experience is the reason that I profess to follow Christ.

One person who influenced me was Reverend Engleseth. He was the Episcopal Chaplain of our then very small County Hospital. It was this hospital where my middle child was born. He had a birth defect that required head surgery. My wife first met the reverend while living without the missing previous husband. The reverend counseled her, and helped her to get through that hard time. Little did we know that Rev. Engleseth would be helping us out of another difficult time.

Impulsive me. We had exactly five working days to prepare and leave for this wedding due to Chapel availability. To compound our efforts, my stepfather, who was suppose to marry us, was in a California hospital having knee surgery, not to mention that we had to take time off from our jobs, her mother had to leave work early to ride with us, and the kids had to be taken care of by someone available and reliable. Oh, and then there was the biggest problem. We needed to obtain a blood test and a license for California.

So, when my soon-to-be wife suggested we seek advice from Rev. Engleseth who had helped her three years before, he was available.

Were you ignoring the Government at this important time of your life?

When we met with Rev. Engleseth, he only confirmed our fear that we could not make our timetable with all of the problems to solve in such a short time. He just puffed on his cigarette and listened. His calm advice was to not worry, and just try to make it work, if it was what whe wanted to do. And if our plans didn’t work, just make plans again. Sounded simple enough, but then we were young.

We did make our timetable. My stepfather was wheeled into the hospital chapel with his leg straight out in front of him and performed the ceremony. Afterwards, we attended a simple reception given by friends, and then we were off on a week’s trip of a honeymoon –  cut short because she got weepy when she missed the kids.

Rev. Engleseth came into our lives again when a few years later he helped us put my 90+ year old grandmother in a convalescent facility, after we had to accept that we could not care for her at home. The reverend died probably 30 years ago now and was remembered by the local Piute Indians and other citizens of Northern Nevada as a caring person. He gave of himself. He represented God well.

So what exactly did the Government do for your Marriage?

For 36 years, our Local and Federal governments had nothing to do with our marriage. Oh sure, an occasional parking ticket, the public school attempting to interfere in our home life, as it tried to become dominate in the raising of our children, and legal documents of one kind or another. But as far as the government was concerned, marriage was only a tax status and two holidays of the year – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Any tax break we got by being married was eaten up by the kids – literally. We never had much money until the kids left home. We got accustomed to saying, “we can’t afford that”, or me working a second job occasionally. I can’t remember a luxurious item that we shared, but I can remember many, many times together, especially camping. We had our few fights and few misunderstandings, decades of illness,  teen hell, a few months of separation to sort out problems. She and I grew in maturity and slowly moved towards the realization that the Church, the Catholic Church, needed to be paramount in our lives.

Government serves a valuable purpose. That purpose serves everyone regardless of marital status. As an approving entity in our marriage from the beginning to the end, it never actually meant anything to us except as an initial complication. The marriage license signing was only a hurried act after the actual meaningful ceremony. The only meaningful factors that came into our lives were people and not titles. Those friends, relatives, and strangers dedicated to morality, spirituality, service and friendship.

You mean that Government was useless as to Marriage?

At the end of my wife’s life, we were again visited by the government. The Sheriff’s Deputy who helped me give her CPR behaved in a very desirable human way during this personal trial. Moments later, his governmental duty required him to ask me for her purse, so he could confiscate her drivers license. Meanwhile, I waited for the funeral home to arrive. He said that the license belonged to the State. He also took the opportunity to confiscate all of her prescription drugs. Oddly enough, unless you are familiar with the strangeness of government, he didn’t seem care about confiscating her handicap parking placard. I would have gladly relinquished any government property, but I was not in the mood to address those issues at the time. Later, reverting to a behavior we hope to see in those we come across, he very thoughtfully removed her wedding ring and gave it to me. I had not given her ring a thought.

When I went to the Social Security office to settle matters, I wanted to verify with the clerk that her last check would be actually be the last check I would receive. She advised that it would be the last. (Not entirely untrue as we had actually received it in a direct deposit earlier.) Then a few days later checks were bouncing and overdraft charges were piling up, because the government reversed that last check – without any notice whatsoever. (I learned much later that in order to keep a check you had live out the month to the day.) They did not prorate. They did not consider that maybe the person had to eat for the days they were actually alive. Even one day before the end of the month, the check is yanked back using the power of the state in secret.

So, what is your conclusion about Marriage?

So, based on my experience, you might say my question is, “What is the state doing getting involved in marriage anyway by issuing a license?”

Government is an impersonal institution that tends to protect its own interests. Any contractual features of marriage can be satisfied by personal contracts and permission forms. Marriage itself is being abandoned by a young secular-minded generation, as they embrace easy divorce when the excitement or interest fades.

The remnants of a discarded non-religious state-sanctioned marriage is being handed out to same-sex couples and soon multiple parties, because it has become unimportant. To the state, it has lost it’s traditional purpose of encouraging family life and has opted for revenue, buying political support, and furthering the agenda of the social liberals. Shortsighted homosexuals who currently thrill at the belief that they will now be socially accepted, do not realize that they are merely pawns in this dangerous game of social engineering. For without the restraint of Christianity in place, will lead to an engineered world that can only favor the powerful with no guarantee that their group will be a part.

That is not to say that the institution of marriage is unimportant. It is to say that marriage only takes on an importance by those who enter into it and understand that God has not changed his mind about what He instituted.

What did government do for my marriage?

Absolutely nothing – really.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

H.L. Duncan is a senior citizen widower in his 8th decade of life (70s) who was married for 36 years to his only wife Jill. He lives on 40 acres of the Great Basin Desert in an owner built solar powered home. He has three children who have left the nest and are now too far away. After an Episcopalian childhood, his teen years brought on the disease of agnosticism with occasional bouts of atheism. He entered the Church in 2010 and says he has felt at home ever since. His working life included Forest Fire Truck Driver, Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa building schools, Motion Picture Cameraman in industrial films and while in the U.S. Army, production assistant to a Producer in Hollywood, Professional Still Photographer, Photo Lab Technician, Postal Service Letter Carrier, Computer Systems Analyst in business and government, Computer Consulting, Owner of an Internet business, Web site creation. His educational background is mostly self directed reading and experiential but does include; A graduate of the London School of Film Technique, London, England, AA degree in Business Data Processing with an additional course in accounting, Seminars and technical classes. He now spends his days in local parish church work and Right to Life groups, Internet conversations with new friends and old enemies of the Church.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive a daily digest of all our essays.

Thank you for supporting us!

  • Pingback: U.S. Supreme Court's Same-Sex 'Marriage' Saga - Big Pulpit()

  • james

    “ That is not to say that the institution of marriage is unimportant. It is to say that marriage only
    takes on an importance by those who enter into it “

    In truth, marriage takes on integrity ONLY when “death does them part.” Anything less is not a marriage. In this new world of social engineering that is well on its way to changing the very
    nature of humanity – it will take a century – a very smart move would be for the CC to treat the Sacrament of Matrimony the same way it does Holy Orders – a long, solid, practical test of
    formation. When I recall Rosie Ruiz, the runner who cheated her way to the laurel crown in the
    1980 Boston marathon, its easy to see a profound analog in her ploy. Two people set off to run
    the race of their lives with only a handful of pre-Cana sessions that are no more than theoretical guidelines. Think of how long and hard one has to train to run just over 26 miles in two hours – that is if you want to win. In a run of that length, wind, weather, temperature, humidity and the stress of the pack collude to highlight those who should be in the race. By the time you get to Heartbreak Hill only the strongest are still hard at it for the laurel crown. The two souls starting out with the big party
    and a solemn promise on the other hand have already donned the wreath, presumed to have won. They can’t even imagine the unique pitfalls for which that race is lost time and again ; the legion of
    humps and trials that have a very high chance of straining nuptials to the yield point – where it never regains its original shape again. How many marriages that do make it – are for show, with wan smiles at their 25th , with sad secrets kept well hidden ? In theory, if two people presented them-selves to the CC for the Matrimony after a marathon of life and family experience and relentless renewals of commitment that resulted in their win-win, zero chance to lose the crown in sight, what
    a happy celebration that marriage would be.

    • Well James I’m breathless after reading about the race you describe. But I can say that many times in my marriage we were faced with incredible tests almost as strenuous as a marathon run, at least emotionally – some with each other, some with outside forces. Maybe it was the hardship of illness, or just hardships of any kind that kept us together along with faith in the rightness and personal benefits of the married state. She said many times over the years that we were best friends as well as husband and wife and I agreed. That closeness existed to her last exhalation in my arms.

    • james

      Yes, Howard, it does work the traditional way. Today, far too many imagine the cost of
      that sacrifice and are not willing to take it on society’s terms. Robert Louis Stevenson said it best. “Time is changed for him who marries; there are no more by-path meadows where you may innocently linger, but the road lies long and straight and dusty to the grave.”

    • Part of our modern existence taken for granted as a good is the lust for success. Just as God expects us to repent when we fail, we cannot achieve perfection by only wanting it. We have to follow his will and recognize what marriage is. That prepares us properly to progress through marriage or anything else; and both persons must be receptive. It is that faith in a divine creation, in this case the sacrament of marriage, that allows one to follow the creator’s plan. Jim Hawkins may not want to relive his experience again, but every young boy who reads about it can’t resist the adventure with it’s hardships that produce such marvelous stories to tell.

    • james

      Maybe its not a lust but a need to succeed as the price for failure is too high. Look at the CC and this obtuse divide over the issue of divorced receiving communion. Take a contemporary Christian and give them a choice of …
      a road too narrow (?) or one not too wide – and say, if you follow our version of the creator’s plan, unless your marriage does succeed you’ll be forbidden the Real Presence should you even get into a kissing mode with a prospective candidate. Take this person and a conservative Catholic and put them in a grocery line one behind the other. If the latter so much as glides his eyes
      over the checkout girl and walks outside and gets run over by a bus he will technically go straight to hell – while if the other does it, it’s just a flirt with no intent. It is these distinctions that make being a true Catholic as difficult as winning a marathon as opposed to just running the race. Once again, I’m playing the DA card for this young generation of Americans as cohabitation and pre-nups play important roles is handling defeat. And not every Catholic who says “ I do” has the ability to make it, sacrament not withstanding. You have shared a very sensitive part of your life, Howard and for that we are all very appreciative. Thank you.

    • Good conversation James. Here is my take on marriage aside the issue of governments bumbling involvement.

      My wife never made it to become a confirmed Catholic. What was holding her back was the issue of her two previous marriages. The worry of not being able to produce proofs for annulments because they were so long ago.
      She said many times that she didn’t want anything to affect our marriage now. I understand very well the secular view, it is this: I don’t agree, I don’t want, I don’t believe.

      We were moving closer however to trusting the Church and further from what we thought was best. That is the key, that is conversion. Either you have trust in Christ and His Church or you do not. Either you have trust in creation and conform yourself to how you were made, or you do not.

      Marriage is settled doctrine and will not be changed. If it is difficult to adhere to I would answer that life itself is very difficult, especially without a grounding of some kind. The major problems in my life came from other people. For some it comes from themselves. That is what we face today nationally and internationally. Wasn’t Nam very difficult for you? I don’t know if you were enlisted or not so don’t take offense. How many officers did you really trust willingly? The civilian authorities were hard enough to trust, and difficult to trust now.

      To take the apparently easy way, may not be the best way. We are encouraged to suppress pain, effort, and by doing that forgo real possible
      success – success in God’s judgment. No true churchman will declare that any one individual is going to hell. All he can do is recite Christ’s words about
      any matter.

  • eddie too

    mr. Duncan, thanks for an informative essay.
    it is sad that our country has decided to create an institution for mere human friendship that allows those who enter it to lawfully take money from others, for no other reason than that the government has decided to force others to support this particular friendship (after all, in this new government institution of “formal friendship” sexual activity is irrelevant, any two friends can job the taxpayer).
    interestingly enough, the government (actually five unelected judges) while establishing friendship as a new civil entitlement is eliminating the institution it created to encourage and support the male-female relationship that is the sole source of society and children.
    how these justices have concluded that sound law requires the elimination of government support and encouragement for the procreation and care of children and, ALSO requires the government to recognize nothing more than friendship as some important civil institution is very difficult to understand. one is almost forced to conclude that the justices are either being malevolent or they simply are not smart enough to see the reality in which they are acting.

    • This will play out in the next two months in the Supreme Court. I see a very clear logic in law to bounce the entire question back to the states bypassing the judicial activism that has taken place. Is this court a wise court or is it nothing more than a political court? We shall see.

  • Pingback: TUESDAY AFTERNOON EDITION - BigPulpit.com()

  • John Darrouzet

    Excellent post, my friend! Well-written, on point, and offered with unfailing hope! Thanks for your example of how to live “in Christ.”