How our culture messed up marriage

So, I’m at a ballgame, a Pittsburgh Pirates ballgame, and things aren’t going well for the home team. As usual. 

The Pirates are not good and have not been good for a long time. They now own the record in any U.S. major league sport for the most seasons failing to reach .500 — meaning that for 17 consecutive years they have not won as many games as they have lost. The 18 th year is a lock. Even mediocrity escapes them. 

My wife joins me at a game every so often. We talk about all matter of things while I try to explain that there is value in coming to the ballpark since it is still baseball. 

This game, the Pirates were trailing by three runs. We were putting in time as the innings passed when she asked if I would get her an ice cream cone from the concession stand. 

I stood in line on the concourse. The game may be bad, but Midwestern appetites do not dim in the face of tragedy. It was a long queue as the woman behind the counter was intent on chatting up every customer in line. 

A mom and her son were the last in front of me. The kid wanted a vanilla milkshake. It took forever. The guy in back of me just said that she must have milked the cow personally, when the crowd went absolutely nuts. 

A Pirate had managed to smack a three-run homer to tie the game. But I didn’t see a thing. I was standing in line getting my wife an ice cream. 

When I got back, my wife asked me what took so long. 

“Midwestern solicitousness,” I mumbled. 

“Some fellow on the Pirates hit a home run,” she said. “The crowd got very excited.” 

“I heard about it,” I responded, with a touch of sarcasm. 

She laughed as she sampled her ice cream. “If you had been here it would have been just another home run that you’d forget by the time we got to the parking lot. Now you’ve got a story to tell in your old age.” 

After all these years of married life, she can read me like a book. 

A few weeks back a Judge of Great Hubris in California discovered a constitutional right to gay marriage that no one else had noticed before. That decision will now wend its way through the courts to what final end is anyone’s guess. 

I don’t know exactly where we lost marriage. Though always far from perfect, society recognized the permanency of marriage between man and woman to build a family as the best hope for community, the best hope for humanity. A protective wall was built around it. 

Marriage was embraced as something sacred. 

Then we started to chip it away bit by bit — everything from 19 th -century nation states taking marriage away from the churches, to no-fault divorce laws in the 1970s, to the culture of artificial birth control that severed procreation from two becoming one in the flesh. 

Now marriage has become… well, become what exactly? Any relationship, or no relationship at all. Vows are empty words. Procreation an option. An infant is as likely to be born outside of marriage as within. 

So-called gay marriage symbolizes what we have all been afraid to say. That marriage has been judged essentially meaningless by secular society — a ceremony without grace that brings a handful of tax benefits for as long as it lasts. 

Gay marriage is greeted with a shrug by a culture where marriage itself just isn’t that important any more. 

Despite the home run I missed, the Pirates eventually lost the game. 

We headed for the parking lot, two old souls married a couple of decades longer than the Pirates’ streak of mediocrity. 

But it wasn’t a complete loss. I left with a story to tell the kids. And the grandkids. 

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.