My recent post on Some Good that Could Come Out of Legalizing “Homosexual Marriage” drew quite a few responses, most of which were quite favorable to the idea of using and emphasizing the more complete and more meaningful Sacramental Marriage to describe what true marriage is, especially in the public arena.
Nevertheless, some commentators do not accept my contention that the use of Sacramental Marriage is not caving into the secular world, and they express the view that we should continue to fight to use marriage as the shorthand for true or Sacramental Marriage. This motivation is understandable, but the notion that using a more complete and accurate term is a concession to the secular world is simply wrong, and it reflects a misunderstanding of history and current reality regarding the better use of terminology. It also fails to appreciate the opportunity for renewed catechesis on the true meaning of marriage, which is, essentially, a Sacramental Marriage.
To be sure, it would be nice if everyone in the world understood and accepted the true meaning of marriage, but this is not the case, and, sadly, the trend is moving toward fewer and fewer people accepting the true and more traditional meaning of marriage. As a result, the lone term marriage is also no longer being used as a shorthand for true marriage by much of the world. This is the reality that we must confront and overcome; not simply whine about a misappropriated shorthand and all that goes with it.
So instead of crying about the darkness involved in the abuse of a particular term, we can shed greater light by using more precise terminology that cannot be so easily abused. Moreover, whenever people of Christian faith have used the shorthand marriage in the traditional sense, it is understood that this pertains to Sacramental Marriage, so by using this more explicit term to defend and promote a proper understanding throughout the world as the world is today, we can counter the secular misunderstandings and enhance overall catechesis. Not a bad result, that.
For some historical perspective in support of making changes in terminology to enhance clarity and understanding, consider how the term Christian referred to all members of the faith (with some exceptions) prior to the Reformation in the 16th Century. Afterwards, to make a proper distinction, the more precise term Catholic or even Roman Catholic eventually became necessary to distinguish between members of the Catholic faith and other Christian denominations. The shorthand Christian was no longer adequate because it no longer pertained to Catholics alone.
Now, did we lose some meaning or understaning by no longer being able to use the shorthand Christian to refer only to all members of the Catholic faith? Could it not be argued that the appropriation of the term Christian by other denominations was unjustified? Perhaps, but what is the reality today? Does not the leadership of the Catholic church recognize and refer to some denominations as Christian even though they are not Catholic? Also, the term used by leaders and general members alike when referring to our church is almost exclusively Catholic. Indeed, this is more precise terminology that encompasses and goes beyond the shorthand Christian, and the greater precision also provides a greater understanding.
To reiterate, it is indeed unfortunate that the shorthand term marriage has been appropriated for improper use, but such is the reality. However, this reality can also be an opportunity to better explain to the world what true marriage is by using more precise terminology that cannot be wrongly appropriated by secular forces.