Rainbows are awe-inspiring. Whenever they appear, they make you take notice. Why is that? Put simply, it’s because they’re beautiful. They’re beautiful not because they blend or match their surroundings, but beautiful because of their contrast with their surroundings. Their differentness draws us in.
A few weeks ago, my family was eating dinner together and my oldest daughter began discussing her art class with us. She told us that she had learned about how the colors of the rainbow can be used to create something beautiful in art. Her teacher had explained that when you want to create something vibrant and beautiful, you utilize complementary colors – colors from opposite ends of the color spectrum. Their differences create something new and different. You might say this method is “life-giving.” One art website refers to this as offering “maximum contrast and maximum stability.” That’s an interesting phrase – one that’s instructive more than we may at first realize.
She added that colors that are too close to each other in the spectrum don’t offer such vitality. Although they can be visually “comfortable,” they provide “sameness,” rather than this complementary beauty. That immediately got me to wondering – perhaps there’s an intriguing lesson in sociology contained in that art lesson? There’s something harmonious with nature in pursuing that which is different from ourselves. Might there be something we can learn about marriage from a rainbow?
To start with, we should recognize that from the very beginning, marriage has had a twofold purpose – the procreative and the unitive (more informally known as “babies and bonding”). Both are being undermined in 2 distinct and related ways – via an acceptance of contraception and the confusion over how one defines “marriage.” In accepting contraception (i.e., removing the procreative aspect of marriage), we set the stage for “gay marriage” decades ago. This was the inevitable conclusion. To paraphrase a certain Methodist minister on this subject, if sterile heterosexual sex is okay within marriage, why not sterile homosexual sex?
Additionally, couples who contracept have a much higher divorce rate than those who don’t. In fact, the divorce rate only started increasing as contraception became widely available from the early 60s to the mid-70s. So, the unitive aspect is also weakened by contraception. (For some additional insight on contraception overall versus NFP – Natural Family Planning – and how this relates to stability of marriages, read this.)
Why would contracepting marriages be weaker? Believe it or not, that art lesson incorporating the rainbow may provide some insight. Clearly, the most common form of contraception is hormonal – “the pill.” A few years ago, a study was done in the U.K. to test which men women were attracted to by their smell. You see, women have a natural ability to detect men who are genetically dissimilar to them. Their sense of smell is the key to this “superpower.” They are naturally more attracted to men who are more genetically dissimilar. Why would women have this ability? It has a lot to do with offspring. When a baby is the fruit of gene pools that are significantly different, they tend to have stronger immune systems and are generally healthier. So, this “complementarity” helps create something vibrant – more vibrant relationships and healthier children. (Remember “babies and bonding”?)
So, in this study a wide variety of women smelled t-shirts worn by men for two days. The first group of these women were on birth control pills at the time. They consistently were drawn to the scent of the t-shirts worn by men who were genetically more similar to them. Those who were not on birth control pills were drawn to the scent of those who were dissimilar.
In a related study (from the U.S.), it was found that women who were genetically similar to their partners reported having a less sexually satisfying relationship and sought more sexual partners than those with partners who were genetically more different. What did the rainbow teach us? Those differences – that complementarity – brings about “maximum contrast and maximum stability.”
At this point, you probably have already figured out how this might relate to homosexual relationships. In seeking that which is similar, the person is looking for something that is comfortable – not that which is vibrant and contrasting. New life (literally) cannot be the result of such a relationship. (There is substantial research on why this sameness is sought. I don’t claim to be anything close to an expert on it, but I’d highly recommend the book discussed in this article. I attended the conference referenced in it, and the perspectives from those who ARE experts were incredibly insightful.) Additionally, this article provides a thought-provoking view, though not scientific.
So, let’s go back to that twofold purpose of marriage – the unitive and the procreative. Just because “gay marriage” isn’t procreative, isn’t it still unitive? Well, depending on the study you look at, gay couples have a rate of unfaithfulness of over 80 percent. Does that sound unitive? (Heterosexual unfaithfulness runs at about 22 percent.)
Rates of all forms of abuse are higher within homosexual relationships, as well. For example, emotional abuse is reported at just under 50 percent for both men and women in heterosexual relationships. In homosexual relationships, it’s just over 80 percent. In heterosexual relationships, physical abuse is 14 percent for men and 24 percent for women. Those in homosexual relationships report 44 percent and 56 percent, respectively. (Yes – amazing as it may seem, women in lesbian relationships are far more likely to be physically abused than when their partner is a man.) Sexual abuse in heterosexual relationships is 2 percent for men and 9 percent for women, as opposed to 13 percent for both men and women in homosexual relationships (Brieding, Chen and Black, “Intimate Partner Violence” and Turell, “A Descriptive Analysis of Same-Sex Relationship Violence”). Does that sound like a strong case for the unitive aspect?
This is not an attempt to cast stones. Quite the opposite. Our society has been selling us all a narrative for decades on contraception that is false, and is now selling us one on homosexuality that is equally false. This is an enormous struggle for people in both situations. Therefore, they need – they deserve – a truthful narrative for a change. By the same token, a loving, compassionate means of doing so is vital. This is not a contest to see who can be right – to see who can get the most “votes” in the court of public opinion. It is a challenge for all of us to rise to the occasion of what being a Christian really means – to love as Christ loves. That means stating Truth from a position of love.
Marriage doesn’t work when either the unitive or the procreative is set aside. Nature tells us this. Empirical data tells us this. Even the rainbow gives us some insight on this. Just because marriage has struggled in our society for decades doesn’t mean we should go even further in ignoring the truth. (It has struggled largely because contraception began to mask this truth 50 years ago.) This is a golden opportunity to share this holistic view of marriage with everyone. For most, it will be the first time this authentic picture of marriage has been revealed to them.