The metaphysics of misogyny prt. II: sacrament & anarchy

by jdavidcharles

In the first part of this post I briefly sketched why the sacramentality of marriage is anarchical—that is grounded in submission to the other that is rightly a decomposition of all boundaries and hierarchy. There is no hierarchy in humility, no metaphysical chain in marriage. Sacramental marriage is to be the context in which one most learns submission and humility, not as a means to other one’s relation to the world, but to be reciprocally bound up with the world. Sacraments are not microcosms opposed to the cosmos but rather liturgize you towards the cosmos. This is why the Eucharist is not opposed to eating but a sacramentalizing of all eating—it is in the Eucharist one learns how to receive all things; the posture man is to take to the divine. The grace of marriage then is not inclusive, but reciprocal, and should interpenetrate all relationships with its grace.

State marriage is a certain making-sense-of the sacramentality of marriage—a pulling of a hierarchy out of the anarchy of marriage. Simply because we live according to the spirit and the freedom of charity does not mean the law is done away with per se. The law is still a helpful “about-which,” a way of talking about that which is always beyond our language. Law is an abstraction of existence. It is this way we can make a law, “do not call your brother a fool,” and yet, in an appropriate situation, i.e. for his own over-coming of his foolery, still call one a fool. The law reflects a meaning beyond its literal content—in order to follow the spirit of the law, the literal content of the law at times must be broken. In the same way Christ broke the Sabbath to fulfill the Sabbath. The law is the language the spirit often takes—the arche of anarchy, the making-sense-of what is rightly non-sense.

I make this distinction simply to show that the law is a mere sketch, a making-sense-of that which is beyond totalizing, namely existence. The law fundamentally must disregard situation, it feigns transcendence, and disregards time and location. The more the law fools itself into being transcendent or ethical the more particular and reified its form, the greater a totality is formed out of anarchy. Christianity is directly opposed to such totalization; it is precisely the gospel of charity that overturns the tables of hierarchy by its very submission. Thus the more inclusive the law is of the spirit, the more charity flourishes—the more exclusive then the more submission leads to charity. To commodify a Pauline trope, to flourish in the spirit is to incarnate Christ to the world; to submit and suffer by the law is to gain it. The latter points towards the co-existence that is the former.

What then to say of Proposition 8? To grant the government the right to “define” marriage as exclusively any relation is to create a totality out of humility, to trick the law into thinking itself the spirit. It seems to me a non-exclusive state-marriage allows for the most flourishing of Christ to the world. And who has divine enough language to declare where and when the mystery of the sacraments starts and stops? Is not granting the state the right to define the “who” (and therefore, at least in part, the “what”) of marriage a giving away of the mystery to the state? If any have this right, and I doubt any does, shouldn’t it be the right of the church itself? Is not the disavowal of a definition of marriage by the state a placing-it-in-the-hands of the church?

By way of caveat I would like to have a short digression on freedom and co-existence. The first objections to my argument I imagine are the question of polygamy and underage marriage, both of which seem to still fall under this sketch of sacramentology. In response to the argument of polygamy I would respond that there is a sacramental submission in polygamous relationships albeit of a differing sort. Marriage elicits such meaning due to its radical particularity, a complete letting over of one perspective unto one other, and vice versa to the creation of a third mediating world between the two (it is here where filioque language may prove helpful). This complete resignation of one person to another stretches beyond the self and other, and, a la Kierkegaard, into the realm of the infinite. Where three are gathered this phenomena still occurs to an extent but enters a sort of reciprocity and finitude more exemplary of a world-schema than resignation.

As regards underage marriage this gets back to the exclusivity of marriage. Marriage, as a sacrament and thus a rite, is a strong force of personal narration and therefore projects a certain mode of being into the future. Although many societies are grounded upon a belonging to a rite (arranged marriages, child baptism, circumcision, etc.) rather than a “willing,” a polarity perhaps warranting deconstruction, ours often has the meaning and revelation resting on the yonder side of “maturation.” In this way the narrating property of the rite in our context tends to garner a greater sense of revelation and individual resignation when framed by personal freedom. Perhaps this caveat warrants a future post on freedom, co-existence, and rites of passage–we shall have to see.