Tony Jones and there are two marriages

"Tony Jones & Two Marriages" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Tony Jones & Two Marriages” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

(*** DISCLAIMER: I want to offer a little explanation about my cartoons and posts. When I do a cartoon or a post, I always imagine running into the person I may have critiqued in a coffee shop later that day and being able to sit over a cup of coffee. Always fair and never mean. This might be a hopeless hope, but I do hope the people I critique will be able to say, “I can see your point even though I still stick by mine!” I hope I’ll get a chuckle or at least a smile out of them. Like today’s. I think it’s funny. But what kind of sicko laughs at his own jokes? Right?)

Okay, I’ve read Tony Jones There Are Two Marriages: A Manifesto on Marriage.

Actually, I agree with Jones in places. But I don’t think marriage is a holy, sacred thing any more than anything else is. I believe we live in a sacramental world. So for me, marriage is a human, social agreement, contract and event recognizing a committed relationship. I think it should be only legal. The church of those getting married can be present to bless it or not. I think this is an elegant solution that would solve a lot of problems.

There aren’t two marriages. There’s only one! There’s only one relationship. How different institutions or entities consider it is another issue. But these various considerations don’t divide a relationship. The relationship is still one. There’s one marriage, many opinions.

My concern about this document is what it opens the door for. As I wrote in my blog post Tony Jones on Mark Driscoll: What Came First, the Thug or the Theology that started this whole thing,

“Theology is our creation. It is a reflection of our drives and desires. Then, not satisfied to only be the product of our drives and desires, it also becomes the producer of them. Theology is a vicious cycle of our desperate need to understand and control our universe.”

It’s not so much about our theology as it is our pathology. We may create theologies that bring out the best in us. Or, sadly, we may create theologies that not only validate but encourage the worst in us. We can form theologies that may encourage inappropriate emotional attachments to another person. We can even create theologies that endorse affairs and adulteries. It is only human to theologize our way into exactly what we desire. Like Jones makes clear in his marriage manifesto: it’s so much easier to get into a sacramental marriage than to get out of a legal one. So let’s create sacramental marriage. Problem solved!

Here’s an analogous parallel:

Do we really believe the prosperity gospel created rich pastors?
Or did rich pastors create the prosperity gospel?

I’m not judging people because they have money or affairs. What I’m analyzing is how we develop theologies that always magically put ourselves in the best light.


28 Replies to “Tony Jones and there are two marriages”

  1. I agree 100% when you said, “marriage is a human, social agreement, contract and event recognizing a committed relationship.” And as a contract, it should contain conditions that should stipulate what to do when the contract is broken (penalties or actions). These contracts are enforced by the state.

    But I disagree strongly when you said, “I think it should only be performed by a legal, state authority.”

    Who the hell cares who performs the ceremony. The state only stamps the contract and registers it for possible future enforcement.

    Meanwhile, a priest, a mayor, your plumber or anyone can perform the ceremony. The ceremony — the way we choose to color our lives — is not business of the damn state!

    But maybe you meant something different.

  2. Ah!

    Then maybe instead of:

    “I think it[marriage] should only be performed by a legal, state authority.”

    you meant:

    “I think the only the state should enforce personal contracts, not religious institutions.”

  3. Damn straight! Sabio. 😉

    If I could choose one person to preform my marriage ceremony again it would have to be Jimmy Fallon, yay that’s it, Jimmy Fallon.

    Love that you think about meeting the person of critique, in your drawing, in a coffee shop, David. I do that kind of thing too. 🙂

  4. Hmmmm, you said, ” I think it should be only legal.”

    From the rest of what you wrote, I assume you mean:
    “I think marriage should only be a simple legal agreement, if there are other layers, those are personal and not for religious institutions to demand or enforce.”


  5. While I love the cartoon and entire article, I especially love the last line: “What I’m analyzing is how we develop theologies that always magically put ourselves in the best light.”

  6. The entirety of religion/theology is ALL about using a deity to legitimize our own desires/intentions. We want to live forever so we make up an avenue for eternal life and so as not to exclude, we allow those we dislike to burn forever. Get married, unless you’re gay of course. Kill others, invade territories, blah blah, yadda ya ya… What a bunch of hogwash crap!

  7. I agree with all that’s been said so far. I raised my 2 kids in the UMC. My daughter was married in her aunt’s Lutheran church due to size of the sanctuary. But much to the dismay of her Southern Baptist mother-in-law they have never been to church since or had my grandson baptized. He knows nothing of the “traditional” Christmas story. My son was married last year on the beach with some nice non-religious readings by the “interfaith minister” who officiated. The bride had a RC upbringing. They are expecting a child, we’ll see… Also, I was reminded of the tv show “Sister Wives” that I have seen on occasion. Some religions support multiple wives. I don’t get it, but that’s their choice. Never seen multiple husbands though… LOL

  8. Given that one person can create a theology that puts themselves in the best light (*raises hand*), that makes a strong(er) case for the wider Church to be cross-checking one another’s theologies and even determining what’s right or wrong or contextual rather than true-for-all-time-regardless. Oh wait, that sounds like what the Church did in the first couple of centuries….

  9. Long ago I did some research on polygamy. I had been asked to do so by a man in a rural village in Kenya.
    To make a long story short, I ran across the story of a woman who said to her husband: “Don’t you love me? Why haven’t you gotten a second wife?” In the cultural context (she had to do certain type of work, so this was a plea for some help with that workload) it was easier to understand.

    As far as multiple wives were concerned, conservative churches were clear: pick and wife and get rid of all the rest, if you wish to be a Christian. Many cast off wives were forced into prostitution in order to survive in that economy. How Christian was that?

    The more humane position (be it liberal or otherwise) was “Take care of the wives you have and don’t marry anymore”. Following that style, the issue would take care of itself in one generation or so.

    Another person caught in polygamy asked this question: “What is more Christian, having several wives all at once or the common practice in America of having one wife after another in a serial fashion?” Life is not as simple as some would like it to be.

  10. So David, are you saying you are against multiple wives or multiple husbands in supportive, loving relationships (no matter what the sexes?). Are you saying you think people should only live as a pair?

  11. The fact that theology is a representation of ourselves and our selfish desires is the basis of something I’ve said since I left ministry nearly two decades ago: “If given the choice between discussing theology and getting punched in the dick, I’ll take the punch in the dick. Every time.” I’m most certainly biased in this matter. I’ll own that fact. Still, I find theology to be virtually useless beyond offering us a chance to see the deepest desires of those who would control others.

  12. I, on the other hand, enjoy discussing theology. I don’t know much about the alternative you prefer.
    Some of my best stories come from discussing theology. I remember with pleasure, visiting a home in Moose Pass, Alaska, where the occupant declared that I was welcome to come into his home as long as we didn’t discuss theology. Within 30 seconds of sitting at his table with the always offered cup of coffee, he was launched into a discussion (believe it or not) of theology.

    Another great experience of that era (I am writing some of my history) was visiting in a home of a couple who shared the story of their experience with an ultra-fundamentalist preacher who had been in their home (this story told after they discovered that I was safe and non-judgmental) and after some discussion, he declared that they were going to hell and made a dramatic exit of their home. A few seconds later, he reopened the door to a closet and exited through the proper door. I have smiled over that image many times. And I have never made THAT mistake.

  13. John J. Shaffer wrote:
    ‘The more humane position (be it liberal or otherwise) was “Take care of the wives you have and don’t marry anymore”. Following that style, the issue would take care of itself in one generation or so.’

    John, that is actually the literal, biblical position, believe it or not!

    “appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife” — Titus 1:5-6 (ESV)

    The logical implication is that for those who are not elders, having multiple wives is permissible.
    And there are other passages which imply the same thing.

    However, the contemporary church has taken this recommendation about desirable qualities for “leadership candidates”, and turned it into a commandment for all Christians (and society) to follow. This is not a literal (or even conservative) interpretation by any stretch of the imagination.

  14. I remember seeing the comedian David Brenner on a talk show years ago and he said that in order to get married you should have to take three years of classes and in order to get divorce all you should have to do is lean out your window and shout, “Divorce, divorce divorce!”

  15. The clearest you get about the theology of marriage is that it is not holy. I agree. That then ties in with what Jesus said about the Sabbath that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. I take that to mean the designation of holiness should never override the health and safety of the partners. Marriage, then, serves God’s purposes to give life. Do not cling to it if it is creating or perpetuating death. Institutions are not more important that individuals.

  16. I find it rather arrogant that he has “created” a theology of sacramental marriage when the Catholic Church has already thoroughly outlined the stipulations as far back as the 10th century. You can read them here:
    So yes, there is a separation between a sacramental marriage and a legal marriage (any canon lawyer can tell you that), but to twist and wield this theology in order to undermine his marriage to his first wife is completely inappropriate, which I believe is a gross understatement. According to Catholic theology of sacramental marriage (you know the one that has been refined for thousands of years), his first marriage might be just as sacramental as the second. If that is true, then his second “marriage” was a violation of the sacramentality of the original marriage and nothing more than an affair (which most people have already pointed out).

  17. There’s a word in the English for Tony Jones: He’s called “a bum”! The bum left his wife and three young children so he could go off and have an affair with another woman. The bum abandoned his wife and children! The bum wants us to feel sorry for him as he has a ‘pity party’ as they call it in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. The bum had an affair with a woman who was also married (imagine the pain her now ex-husband was put through and the betrayal?).

    Tony Jones needs to man-up and grow-up and QUIT BEING A BUM! He needs to make real amends to ALL of the people that he has harmed. He needs to make a LIVING AMENDS by stopping all of his crass, awful abusive behavior toward his ex-wife.

    He needs to make an amends to her, his children, family, friends, and even Courtney’s ex-husband. These two selfish people – Tony and Courtney – thought nothing of destroying countless lives around them! Bums both of them!!!

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