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MARRIAGE: Puritans believed marriage to be a civil contract

Letter by Sally I. Sharrard, Tacoma on Feb. 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm with 30 Comments »
February 28, 2012 5:38 pm

Re: “Don’t trample religious rights” (letter, 2-28).

Apparently, the letter writer would like Americans to go back to the early 1600s England when the English church, as part of the government, conducted most, but not all, marriages.

The Puritan founders of our country specifically did not consider marriage as a religious action but instead considered it as a civil contract under law and the authority of the government. They followed many of the religious customs of the East Anglian Congregationalists. They were very specific about this and wished to include divorce as a possibility.

Perhaps, the writer has not thoroughly studied or understood our American beginnings. The Puritans chose to make a new start out from under the mixed church and government rule. They were “Separatists,” after all.

I would rather pay homage to the belief of my country’s founders than to some church established by a government in England or, for that matter, the pope. My ancestors came over on the Mayflower, and I honor them for bringing an enlightened view.

Leave a comment Comments → 30
  1. sandblower says:

    Sally, I don’t have time to check on what you wrote, but if it is correct I congratulate you for your insight.
    The whole marriage kerfuffle is nonsense mostly from the extreme right.

  2. I agree. Get the government out of marriage (and other things) and only have it enforce contract law and protect our rights like they were supposed too.

  3. to*

  4. nylandce says:

    Puritans were not Separatists.

  5. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Keep in mind that marriage has significant legal ramifications. If you do believe me, ask anyone who has been divorced.

  6. bobcat1a says:

    OK, nylandce, be a nitpicker; the PILGRIMS were Separatists, and they were extreme Puritans. Sort of like the Tea Party claims to not be Republican.

  7. bobcat1a says:

    BSRichard, “marriage has significant legal ramifications” only in its CIVIL CONTRACT ramifications.

  8. And it is also possible to be LEGALLY divorced but still be religiously married.

  9. old_benjamin says:

    How many Puritan marriages do you suppose were between people of the same sex?

  10. rational1 says:

    How about we move on to issues that actually affect our daily lives.

  11. SandHills says:

    old Ben – you won’t get an answer to that question. The whole gay marriage argument is based upon the idea that cross- wired individuals have a civil right for marriage between the same sex. So once you buy into to this preposterous reasoning you defend it with arguments that it was the Pilgrims who would also argue for them, or that there are Biblical scriptures that support them.
    But once you shine the light on how aberrant homosexual behavior is, well you are called a bigot. And heaven forbid you are too blunt in decribing what homosexuality is – it is too vile to put in words, even for those who practice it.

    No, Ben – all you can expect from the gay agenda crowd is more sidestepping doublespeak. And whenever you call them on it, well then their Brownshirts come out in force .

  12. old_benjamin says:

    Another question I never get an answer to is “Where did the right to gay marriage come from?” If that is among the fundamental rights we all have, why don’t I also have a fundamental right to a vacation on the French Riviera? I can’t afford it, but it falls under “the pursuit of happiness,” so the government must guarantee it to me.

    Sometimes there really is a slippery slope.

  13. If you look to the Bible for what Jesus said on the subject you will find that he did not wipe out the Old Testament laws. He modified social laws and he fulfilled the law that a sacrifice must be made for sin when HE became that sacrifice for all.

    Those of you who wish to hold on to the Bible as reasonable MUST deal with passages like this one…

    “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.”

    Now, he want on to point out that you shouldn’t do as they were doing because they themselves had corrupted the law of God…but he said that the LAW THAT WAS written was meant to be obeyed. This is all in Matt. 23:2-7

    So, Puritan-Schmuritan…if you want input from Judeo/Christian scripture on the subject, it’s all there for you.

  14. aislander says:

    To me, this argument has never been about religious v civil marriage, but about rather questioning the state’s interest in equating same-sex “marriage” with that between a man and a woman.

    The state has no such interest, other than feel-good meddling, and these days when, for many, the state has religious significance, we ARE talking about religion–just not in the way that many people believe we are…

  15. old_benjamin says:

    If you want to understand the Statist mentality that expresses itself in advocacy of gay marriage, get a copy of mark Levin’s latest book “Ameritopia.” Never has the disease of liberalism been so well documented.

  16. sozo, My Bible seems to give a different interpretation to the passages in Matthew in which you say “the LAW THAT WAS written was meant to be obeyed. This is all in Matt. 23:2-7″

    Here is the verbatim quote from The Living Bible, for Matthew 23:1-4

    “THEN JESUS SAID to the crowds, and to his disciples, “You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws! And of course you should obey their every whim! It may be all right to do what they say, but above anything else, don’t follow their example. For they don’t do what they tell you to do. They load you up with impossible demands that they themselves don’t even try to keep.”

    Now, this sure seems to me that Jesus is describing a bunch of fakes who are passing themselves off to be religious leaders. And when Jesus says, ” And of course you should obey their every whim!” he’s really being sarcastic, is he not?

    And going on with Matthew 23:5-7

    “Everything they do is done for show. They act holy by wearing on their arms little prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and by lengthening the memorial fringes of their robes. And how they love to sit at the head of the table at banquets, and in the reserved pews in the synagogue! How they enjoy the deference paid to them on the streets, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ and ‘Master’!”

    Jesus continues to describe these people as fakes and frauds and not as true religious leaders who should be followed.

    How is it that the verbatim text of The Living Bible disagrees so much with your view of these same passages?

  17. BlaineCGarver says:

    LMAO: “Keep the Gubment OUT of marriage, womens bodies, and the bedroom) (unless you support Gay marriage, then legally boil the conservatives in oil)

  18. alindasue says:


    I prefer to use the King James version wording (which is not quite so “liberal”)- but your point is well made.

    Although… I think the issue here is not how any particular religion views marriage; it is how the law is to treat marriage in a land where there are many different religions. The Constitution very clearly states that there shall be no state religion. That means not Puritan, not Catholic, not LDS… not even Atheist. Were the law to start favoring or denying the standards of any one religion, the right for any of us in this country to worship freely is threatened.

    Some laws should and do coincide with religious tenets like some of The 10 Commandments, but only because those religious laws also deal with situations where the rights of others are impeded by someone’s actions. Examples of this would be laws against theft, killing, or forcing someone to work on his Sabbath day.

    Other good laws are not religion based but serve the common public good. Examples of those laws would be laws against reckless or drunk driving, helmet and seat belt laws, laws that regulate commerce or safe food preparation, and so forth.

    However, laws about marriage fall into neither category. I personally consider homosexual behavior to be sinful, BUT if my neighbor on one side decides to marry his boyfriend and my neighbor on the other side decides to marry her first cousin, it is not going to have any effect whatsoever on the strength of the church based marriage of my husband and I.

    Outside of property transfer issues that arise when families combine, who a person marries and how they choose to marry does not impact the rights or safety of others – so that’s where the government level of the law should end. Religious law is a different matter – but that’s not for the government to decide.

  19. Sozo ,
    If you look at the Bible you will also find that Paul changed the Christian faith from being just another Jewish Sect to a Religion open to all.
    In other words, .
    Pre-Paul one had to be a Jew before one could be a Christian.
    After Paul did not have to be a Jew but only had to profess faith in the Lord and accept Jesus as your savoir.

    Among Bible Scholars the King James Version is generally considered to be the least accurate mainly because the translators put more emphasis on the lyrical qualities of the verse than on the actual meanings of the words.

    At best only 4 of the 10 Commandments are part of our legal codes:
    Thou shall not murder, comment adultery, steal, nor bare false witness.

  20. aislander says:

    xring: I don’t have the slightest idea of what you’re referring to, unless statolatry is mentioned in that version…

  21. Puritans also didn’t celebrate Christmas as they felt the pagan origins were an abomination to Christian practice…..I guess the “war” on Christmas folks don’t feel the need to refer back to our founders…..

  22. Aislander – why am I not surprised that you don’t have any idea.
    Try looking at your 1:16pm post “I prefer the King James Version”

  23. BeerBoy – Purtians (and others) also believed that because the Date was not given in the bible it would offend God/Jesus to celebrate on the wrong day.

  24. xing, check yourself. aislander and alindasue are not the same.

  25. time for new glasses.

  26. aislander says:

    sozo: As it happens I DO prefer the King James version, but I’d be surprised if the Elizabethan translators purposely sacrificed accuracy for lyricism.

    Although there is poetry in Shakespeare’s plays, their prose is lyrical simply due to his genius and the brand of English spoken at the time, and I believe the King James Bible benefited similarly from its authors.

    But, I prefer to read the Democrat Party platform in the original Russian…

  27. … and the Republican Party Platform in its original Klingon.

  28. “I prefer to read the Democrat Party platform in the original Russian…”

    In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response. — Wikipedia

  29. aislander says:

    Sum-one seems not to be able to think of a comeback, therefore the personal attack…

  30. “personal attack”?

    How about: hab sosli’ Quch

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