Against the Government’s Divorce Reforms | Joel Clough
The millennial generation has deemed marriage and sexual morality as relics of the past. An outdated practice and trivial taboos which bare no consequence when not abided by. Lifelong relationships of previous generations are viewed as a romanticised myth. A notion which can be looked back on with nostalgia but never grasped in reality. Marriage and sexual morality have been under attack since the sixties by successive governments; and Boris Johnson continues this legacy, shown by his determination to introduce ‘quickie’ no fault divorces.
Yet devotion, commitment, and love are not only real, but the beating heart of our society. The very ideals which bind us together in family and community. If we continue to allow marriage and the family to be undermined and slowly corroded, then we will also see society decay. Over the years, many have sought to change the institution of marriage and yet simultaneously avoided any significant debate over the role, purpose and value that marriage has within our society. The majority of commentators have bypassed these questions and instead focussed on the changes to the institution without ever even considering what marriage actually is.
Phillip Blond once described weddings as a rite of passage as two individuals enter into a union; something greater than themselves. The act is to enter into a new social condition. The conjugal aspect of marriage reveals a great truth about human life. We are separated by sex and when babies are born, as the result of such differences colliding, they on average do better with their mother and father cooperating and supporting one another. Primarily marriage produces, protects, and nurtures the next generation. The mutually agreed division of roles and responsibilities allows this team to be more effective than any single individual. This is an agreement to live together and share all parts of life together.
In traditional Christian marriages, the vow ‘till death do us part’ recognises a lifelong price and commitment not only to a husband or wife, but a responsibility to one’s newly formed family. Parents mould values and social norms onto their children. These children will one day define our communities. A child’s socialisation is therefore of concern for the whole community – as the old saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”. The preservation of marriage is therefore paramount if we wish to preserve the values which underpin Britain. For society to continue, marriage must also continue.
The responsibilities and commitments within marriage reinforce a key message. Marriage is not a contract, but a vow. Rousseau and others argued that society is a contract among the living. Marriage provides us with staunch response. Our responsibility is not only to ourselves and our contemporaries, but to the future. One of our key responsibilities is to pass on the values we have inherited. Without marriage, we do not have the family. Without the family we cannot pass on moral knowledge.
Successive governments have continually allowed commitments, obligations, and responsibilities to be dodged and agreements to be annulled. This attack on marriage has given no social distinctions between marriage and cohabitation. Short term commitments are now a social norm. Marriage has been diminished to a contract and rendered meaningless as a result. With freedom from responsibility, divorce has been viewed as virtually effortless.
This has been explicit with the introduction of the prenuptial agreement. In this, divorce is prepared for and commitment abandoned before marriage has even begun. The secularisation of marriage has condemned it to be nothing more than bureaucratic stamp of state approval. Douglas Allen pointed out how the introduction of no-fault divorce steered a six-fold increase in just two years in some American states. The commitment of till death do us part is one which has sadly been forgotten by many. No fault divorces, or ‘quickie divorces’, further diminish the significance of marriage.
The inability to distinguish marriage from other forms of relations is nothing short of a tragedy. Marriage has a specific purpose and precise roles within it, and the elimination of this institution threatens destroy our social consciousness. Radicals and revolutionaries have sought to do this throughout the twentieth and the twenty first century, with disastrous consequences.
The removal of marriage would disintegrate every social relation we have. Monogamous marriage has placed women on equal terms to men. This recognition fills us with revulsion when women are treated as nothing but a mere possession. As Roger Scruton put it, monogamous marriage allows women to be ‘neither veiled nor concealed but competing on equal terms and entitled to equal respect’. The removal of marriage can threaten women’s place within society and the children who will remain untutored and alien to the worldly knowledge which parents are responsible for passing on.
Peter Hitchens once reflected upon the effect of divorce on children. It is a reflection that is worth consideration ‘Every statistical measure shows that the breaking of marriage harms them. But they have no voice. It is the adults, liberated from their responsibilities, who write articles in the papers, make the programmes on the radio and TV, and the speeches in Parliament, which claim everything will be fine’. My own thoughts are reflected in this, and I fail to comprehend how untutored children will learn the ways of the world.
The Conservative Party has often been regarded as the protector of marriage and family within our political landscape. The party has not taken this role seriously. Instead of protecting one of our most treasured institutions, successive “Conservative” governments have bent the knee and surrendered to any challenge without attempting to put up any fight.
The Cameron and Johnson governments have not only surrendered to every challenge but, have often instigated the challenge. The Conservative Party must ask itself, what exactly is it trying to conserve? If this inability to defend essential social bonds continues, Britain as we know it will be disunited, lost, and eventually forgotten. I fear that we may have fallen too far down this slope and that we still have a long way to go before we hit rock bottom. This is why it is more important than ever to take a stand.
Photo by Nicholas Copernicus on Flickr.