Posted May 1, 2012
Recapturing the Eloquence of Marriage and the Family
Are you tired of soap operas that portray marriages as nothing but anxiety ridden seedy relationships? Do you feel family life constantly is ridiculed?
When did you last hear marriage and family life described in positive terms?
What, in other words, are you being persuaded to believe about marriage and family life?
There are several forms of persuasion. Under one definition, eloquence is the art of persuasion through pleasing or positive speech.
Then there is persuasion through fear. This kind of persuasion suggests, for example, that marriage can't possible survive in a culture where both husbands and wives have careers, or that there is little hope for the family when so many services families once provided now can be provided by other social institutions.
Persuasion through consensual validation also concerns me in current portrayals of marriage and family I experience. What happens is that we are persuaded to accept a viewpoint simple because so many voices claim it is correct.
You might ask what people are to believe when movies and TV series so often portray family life and marriage in disarray. The accent is on the negative, and many people --- duly persuaded --- think of family and marriage in negative terms.
Eloquence is different. It accents the positive --- what works, is effective and good. I am led to ask what might improve in marriage and family life if we looked at their best sides.
Some might say "eloquence" as I am using the term is sweet talk, while others would contend that it speaks to what is innately good in us. Let's try to speak eloquently of marriage and the family and see how it sounds.
Erasmus of Rotterdam was one of the best humanists of all times, a priest who taught others how to make the best of life. Here are his thoughts on marriage.
"What is more sweet than to live with her with whom you are united in body and soul, who talks with you in secret affection, to whom you have committed all your faith and your fortune? What in nature is lovelier? You are bound to friends in affection. How much more to a wife in the highest love, with union of body, the bond of the sacrament and the sharing of your goods? Friends fit like swallows, few continue to the end. But a wife is faithful and only death dissolves a marriage, if indeed it does."
Robert Bellah, a 20th-century social observer, said, "Each divorce is the death of a small civilization." Translated eloquently, it reads, "Each marriage is the beginning of a small civilization."
In Scripture's Song of Songs we read: "You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!"
With continuous affronts on marriage and family life, I wonder if we haven't somehow lost our ability to envision them eloquently. Could it be we need a new generation to recapture the art of speaking eloquently about the most precious things in life?