If you can forgive me for looking past the part where the data cited is as old as I am, this little news story actually provides me with a useful prompt to talk about my suggestion in a previous post (it was a long time ago, I know) regarding the various “standards of excellence” involved in marriage: if marriage is to be regarded as a particularly worthwhile practice, the standards involved should prove in combination to be worth more than the sum of the parts.
But before I get to the point I want to make, I have to admit to one important assumption that the data itself gives me no strong reason to believe: I am assuming that the most religious segment of the population is also the least likely to practice contraception. Revolutionary assumption, I know, but it’s important for me to make the point I want to make.
The point in question is related to the so-called unitive and procreative elements of sex. My assertion is that, if the religious married couples in question had “better” sex, it may have had something to do with the way in which these elements in combination contribute more to the loving bond between spouses more than either child-rearing or sexual-emotional intimacy do on their own. The theory is that there are some added effects from combining both elements not only in the same lifestyle, but in the same act.
Here we wander into the (small-s) sacramentality of marriage, which I can use to justify the use of religious models in the defense of what I want to call a secular institution: religious interpretations of marriage deepen the meaning of the practice (and therefore the participants’ commitment to it) without substantially changing its shape. Secular marriage acknowledges that married love does not only refresh husband and wife for their shared life, but can result in an entirely new human life. Marriage may be regarded as sacramental in that sex, the intimate act of self-gift between husband and wife, is a participation in the perpetuation of creation.
Love gives life: the divine love that gave life to the universe is echoed in married love that is, like the Trinity, naturally and eternally open to welcoming new life into their community.
P.S. There is a further point to be made here with regard to Christian friendship: enjoying the company of my friends ought to ultimately make me better-suited to respond to the needs of those around me. Sharing in Christian love and fellowship with my friends, if I am doing it correctly, ought to open me up to sharing that love with even more people in both the long and short run. The more I love my neighbor whom I like (at that moment, at least), the easier it ought to become to love the neighbor whom I do not particularly like (again, if only at that moment).