The practice of marriage existed long before Christianity was ever created. Before Judaism was ever created, and before Zoroastrianism, and most all religious systems. Marriage was created by Pagans. It's not a Christian religious institution. So, in theory, the "author" or "authorized" practice of marriage belongs to the ancient Pagan cultures. This presents quite a dilemma for modern Christianity and for those who stand by "the Word of God" as to what is or is not "allowed." It also provides an open window for permissive requirements, restrictions, rituals, allowances, and who or what may marry who or what.
The concept of marriage predates Christianity and the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Islam which share a common origin and common values. Marriage is very ancient dating back beyond recorded history and was practiced by all people of many cultures, ethnicities and belief systems across all continents. The prevalence of the concept of marriage derived from a time when culture among humankind evolved from early man -hunter gatherer - to agriculture and pastoralism, which occured about 10,000 years ago.
Originally "marriage" was a private, binding contract between clans/tribes (families) to form an alliance, thereby increasing the tribe's chances for survival in war against their rivals. A "dowry" was given by each clan to "seal the deal". Marriage was contractual, considered a passing of "property" between these clans as a symbol of intention to honor the agreement being sealed. Property took many forms: cattle, land, children, and whatever may have been considered to be of great value in those times. In the United Kingdom, a requirement for a public announcement in a Christian parish (banns of marriage) was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in 1215. This set the precident for marriage as is recognized by the Christian community.
The origins of marriage is NOT a religious one, nor does it have anything to do with the God of the Abrahamic based faith systems. It existed long before organized religion ... which by "Christian standards" means that it is PAGAN. In fact, Christianity "borrowed" and incorporated into their ceremonies, rituals, beliefs, and teachings many Pagan rites and rituals so that Pagans would convert more readily and easily to Christianity. Of course, if they did not, they were forced by torture, and other means of extracting misery and suffering, or just simply killed.
In modern times in the United States, before a legal marriage ceremony can be performed, one must obtain a marraige license from "government authorities." When a legally married couple seeks a divorce they must go before a judge to have the marriage annulled. Ministers and priests do not issue legally binding marriage licenses, nor do they have the legal authority to grant a divorce. The religious concept of marriage has nothing to do with the legal concept. Church and State are completely separate in the case of the institution of marriage.
Early marriage was borne of ancient societies' need to secure a safe environment in which to breed, handle the granting of property rights, and protect their bloodlines. In fact, ancient Hebrew law required a man to become the husband of a deceased brother's widow. But even in these early days, marriage was much about love and desire as it was social and economic stability. In its roundness, the engagement ring, a custom dating back to the Ancient Rome (representing the ring around the God Saturn), is also believed to represent eternity and everlasting union. The circle (360 degrees) represents a never-ending eternity. In some ancient art you will find a snake eating it's tail. Again, symbolism for transformation and eternity, never-ending. Also, It was once believed a vein or nerve ran directly from the 'ring' finger of the left hand to the heart.
Many other modern day marriage traditions have their origins in these ancient times. Newly-weds are said to have aided fertility by drinking a brew made from honey during certain lunar phases and it is this tradition from which we derive the origins of the word 'honeymoon'. There is much that we will not KNOW, unless we research and learn. We are here in "Earth School" to attain knowledge (Gnosis) and to evolve and involve as a spiritual being having a physical experience.
So, why should Christians be allowed to say gay marriage is a sin? The process and origin of marriage does not belong to them. It wasn't created by any of the Abrahamic faiths or the God of Abraham. In it's basic form, it is a legally binding contractual agreement between two parties who have accepted the terms and conditions contained therein. That being said, if these Abrahamic religions are opposed to gay marriage within their closed religious dogma and doctrinal systems, then that is their choice ... providing they are working within the context of governmental law. But if two same-sex people choose to unite in a ceremonial marriage through an authorized entity outside of their church, then they should have no say so whatsoever. The origins of the separation of Church and State were not to protect the Church from the state, this ruling was to protect the state from the church. Let us not forget the history of the Roman Church and the havoc it created through the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the very source of the Dark Ages. Our Founding Fathers knew this history, and were designing this country so that situation would never have a chance to occur ever again.
Just a thought ...
Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.