Room Enough in Bag End

When all was at last ready Frodo said: “When are you going to join me, Sam?”

Sam looked a bit awkward.

There is no need to come yet, if you don’t want to,” said Frodo. But you know the Gaffer is close at hand, and he will be very well looked after by Widow Rumble.”

“It’s not that, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, and he was very red.

“Well, what is it?”

“It’s Rosie, Rose Cotton,” said Sam. “It seems she didn’t like my going abroad at all, poor lass; but as I hadn’t spoken, she couldn’t say so.  And I didn’t speak, because I had a job to do first.  But now I have spoken, and she says: “Well, you’ve wasted a year, so why wait longer?” “Wasted?” I says. “I wouldn’t call it that.” Still I see what she means.  I feel torn in two, as you might say.”

“I see,” said Frodo: “you want to get married, and yet you want to live with me in Bag End too? But my dear Sam, how easy! Get married as soon as you can, and then move in with Rosie.  There’s room enough in Bag End for as big a family as you could wish for.”

It’s been so long since I read Lord of the Rings, that I had forgotten Rosie was in the book at all.  I had taken her as one of Peter Jackson’s additions, specifically for the point of demonstrating that Sam and Frodo weren’t gay.  I do remember reading that Jackson felt obliged to play her up a bit, and I think the difference is in our culture, rather than the needs of the plot.  Today the assumption is, that if a man isn’t think a certain way about a woman, then he is most certainly thinking womanly thoughts about another man.  Tolkien’s assumption, that he puts in Sam’s mouth is that, if a man isn’t thinking about a woman, it’s because he has some more urgent business to attend to, and that it isn’t nice to burden a lady with commitments and then forbid her to fulfill them because of other requirements.

So Claudio says:

O my lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I looked upon her with a soldier’s eye,
That liked but had a rougher task in hand
Than to drive liking to the name of love.
But now I am returned and that war thoughts
Have left their places vacant, in their rooms
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
Saying I liked her ere I went to wars.
Today, of course, we think both more and less of the cornerstone act of making families.  The act itself is sacred: nothing more important, to be fulfilled on earliest occasion.  But the commitment, the promise, the house itself, is fleeting, unimportant, effervescent.

Tongues and Interpretation

I’m not sure what brought it to mind, but I’ve been thinking lately about the best example I ever saw of tongues and interpretation in a church setting.

In the church I went to in high school, we usually had a few pauses in the worship service that were sort of designed for an interruption from the congregation.  I’m pretty sure they were put there on purpose, but they always seemed like a natural selah in the singing.  That was the designated time for prophecy.  Sometimes it would be the pastor, or another elder, sometimes a member of the youth.  They would speak, the elders would lead the congregation in response if it was necessary, and the music would resume.

Occasionally, from the last or second to last row, this couple would rise, holding hands.  It was very striking, because he was a black man, with great bright eyes and a beaming smile, and she looked as though she might have been a combination of Inuit and Welsh.  First she would speak, in a tongue that sounded something like Chinese, her closed eyes rapidly fluttering, her hand clamped hard on her husband’s.  When she was done, there would wait a second or two, and then her husband would open his eyes and begin to give the interpretation, always comfort and encouragement, with a voice on the verge of rejoicing.

I always thought how convenient it must be, to always bring your interpreter along with you.  Paul doesn’t give the prophets any favors in his passage about decency and order.  If a person prophesies and another person interrupts him, the one who was interrupted should give ground to the person who so rudely interrupted.  The one who speaks in tongues, apparently, has the responsibility of ensuring that an interpreter is there.  No interpreter?  He should keep it to himself.

I think this places an even greater burden of charity on the congregation (and thereby on the elders as well) to plan ahead.  Do you believe that these Spirit-led utterances are supposed to be a normal part of the service?  You do well to set parameters and practice.  Without parameters, you will get chaos, and your primary means of guiding the church in these things will be stamping out the disorder.  Without practice, having stamped out the disorder, you get… nothing.  Your service will be identical to our brothers in the cessationist camp, broken up by six-month swings into Pentecostal hysteria.

Christians and “Amazing Sex”

I thought this article was helpful, if still a little bit off.

It’s true that putting a lot of emphasis on “sexual compatibility” by trying out a lot of partners before marriage will probably result a more interesting time in the bedroom after marriage.  And, as a corollary, is no method at all for ensuring a long-lasting marriage, or preventing divorce.  Similarly, It should be obvious as the day that people who pick up tips and tricks from multiple partners will acquire more skill in the physical act than people who abstain until marriage, and never wander after.

Rachel Pietka’s answer is 100% correct, if only half-way there.  She points out that not having sex like a pro isn’t a bug, but a feature of marriage, because marriage isn’t primarily about the quality of your sex life.  It’s about honoring God by making a family.  Good sex isn’t God, and it shouldn’t be an idol in your life.  So Christian marriage says something by not placing sex first.

All to the good.  But may I point out that “like a porn star” is probably a pretty awful definition of “good sex” to begin with.  In a Christian marriage, part of the loyalty of love that you show there is in caring for someone who is very much different from you, tending to their needs especially when it isn’t convenient, and when it goes against all your own preferences.  If that kind of love can’t be demonstrated in the marriage bed, what good is it at all?

Yes, Virginia, there really is a line

See my previous post for thoughts on books that needn’t bother to be books. Nevertheless, I agree wholeheartedly with Tim Challies’ review of Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach. There is no Biblical category for “girlfriend.” A girlfriend is a practice wife, and the only reason to practice being married without actually getting married is so you can practice getting divorced.

BUT (wanting to justify himself, he said) is there a Biblical category for betrothed? I’m looking at you, Song of Solomon.

Husband and Wife

For some time now, there has been a trend to take perfectly good words and tweak them into meaning something subtly, if not completely different. This has been a matter of some distress to those who are fond of the terms that have been tweaked. With the definition altered, it actually becomes difficult to express the original meaning of the term. This has certainly been the case with the word “marriage.” The meaning of marriage has been shifting for 50 years at least, to the point that it has apparently become necessary to flee to courts and ballot boxes, in order to conscript the statutory system itself as a kind of Académie française on marriage.

I don’t particularly blame the homosexual community, although there is a tendency there to steal words and make them their own. (A gay divorcée means something entirely different from what it meant when Ginger Rogers was one with Fred Astaire, and “camp” has come to mean something very different from the silliness and joy that goes on at camp meeting revival.) I suppose that, when you are creating a new culture from whole cloth, based on no commonality other than similarly unconstrained sexual urges, you’ve got to grab what words you can.

No, long before we had “homosexual marriage,” we had “open marriage” and “marriage of convenience,” and (good heavens!) “amicable” and “no-fault” divorce. But for the longest time, these other kinds of marriages were considered aberrations, and the stuff of dynasties and patriarchy was looked on as the real deal. No more! The culture is shifting, and I foresee a day not long off when, government regulation notwithstanding, the colloquial idea of marriage will be nothing more than a collection of persons who are known to have sexual relations with one another, and sign each other’s insurance documents.

I think that’s a great loss. It’s almost certainly a loss to the culture at large, but without a doubt it is a loss to those of us who still live according to the old ways. The relationship that I have with my wife is something very different from any kind of sexual union defined by the pleasures and benefits that accrue to “I, the undersigned.” Stiff financial penalties and the promise of endless heartache could not have kept me from marrying her. Nor did we agree to create a new way of living, just the two of us. Instead, we took on roles and responsibilities handed down from the foundations of history. As a husband I lead, provide, and protect. As a wife, she submits, nurtures, and supports. In private times, she calls me ‘lord’ (as Sarah did her husband), and twists my heart with a glance. I guard her from all the troubles of the world, and she guards me from all the troubles of my heart. The commitment is for a lifetime, and is regulated by laws far stronger than human government.

I submit that marriage in many minds has already been redefined, that the paragraph above is strange and frightening, perhaps offensive, to a vast number of people in the western world. THAT is what used to be called a marriage, but now it hasn’t got a name, because marriage means so many other things.

So here’s what I propose: I don’t want to give up on marriage yet, but these mindless modifiers have got to stop.

“Are you married?”

“Yes, traditional.”




It isn’t clear enough, and doesn’t have the moral heft it needs. After all, marriage is the stuff of civilization. So I propose we merely use the terms “husband and wife” as often as possible.

“Hey, I got married last week, husband and wife!”

This has several advantages, the first of which is that it’s clear, because “husband and wife” refers to specific roles. A homosexual marriage could be “man and man” or “woman and woman”; it could even be “dom and sub,” but never “husband and wife.” Witness the Massachusetts marriage application. You will see “Subject A” and “Subject B”, but never husband and wife. Another advantage is that it has these nice churchy, Shakespearean undertones, which will of course, be avoided by people who don’t want to sound churchy or traditional. The third advantage is that it fits naturally into conversation in such a way as to hang on to the “M” word, but without sounding too awfully awkward.

But it’s really more than that. “Husband and wife” is the pronouncement that they make when the wedding ceremony is over, or maybe “Man and wife.” In other words, “husband and wife” already means marriage. When I say that I’m married, husband and wife, I’m not selecting one out of an array of types of marriage. I’m repeating myself, like a man with an ontological stutter. Every time I say “man and wife,” everybody knows I mean marriage, and nothing else, and yet, saying those words is somehow also an assertion that marriage means man and wife, and nothing else.