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The tag currently reads:

a lifelong covenant between man and woman

Use this tag to ask questions about Christian attitudes and doctrines regarding marriage

I think this is inaccurate. Particularly when I was trying to use it to ask my What is the case in favour of adelphopoiesis as a relationship akin to marriage? question. I'd say something like this is more appropriate:

A union between spouses

The formally recognized union of a man and a woman (or according to some denominations additionally between two people of the same sex) as partners in a relationship intended to last until the death of a spouse dies. It is sometimes considered to be a sacrament.

Use this tag to ask questions about Christian attitudes and doctrines regarding marriage"

I've not edited a tag previously or anything like that before and I am aware that this is a sensitive topic and don't want to kick a hornets nest. Would this be a sensible idea or not?

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Tags go to the review queue where it has to be approved by I think at least two others over 3000 rep.

I have made the following suggested edit to the excerpt:

The formally recognized union of a man and a woman as partners in a relationship intended to last until the death of a spouse. It is sometimes considered to be a sacrament. Some denominations recognize unions between two people of the same sex.

I left the description as it is. If someone is willing to start out a short essay on the various views of marriage within Christianity then that would be more appropriate there.

  • Why mention "man and woman" at all? Questions about gay marriage and polygamy within the the context of Christianity also deserve that tag. – Flimzy Oct 13 '14 at 21:28
  • @Flimzy That's a good point, and I would suggest another edit, but it seems that the SE staff doesn't want us using the except for defining the term. See Jon's answer. – 3961 Oct 13 '14 at 22:15
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    I'm not suggesting a tag that defines the term... I'm actually suggesting we remove the definition. "Questions about marriage as it relates to the church and Christianity" would probably be fine. – Flimzy Oct 13 '14 at 22:21
  • @Flimzy I guess, but then the except is pretty useless, imo. I think that it is obvious that any tag is meant for "questions about [tag name] as it relates to ..." That's pretty much what a tag is. It notes that a page is about a particular topic, despite how the term of that topic is defined. So I naturally thought the tag should be used for something else. The convention you and Jon are supporting is no different than a tool tip, meant to steer along the really ignorant. – 3961 Oct 13 '14 at 22:26
  • Well, the marriage tag isn't in special need of a wiki in the first place. Everyone, even most ESL speakers, will know what marriage is. 'Transubstantiation'--that's a different matter. I think using Webster's definition of marriage (or an abbreviated form) would be reasonable in the tag. I think Jon's point is not to make any sort of religious/political statement about what "we" believe is the "correct" definition--not that the tag shouldn't contain an (existing) definition. But maybe he can elaborate. – Flimzy Oct 13 '14 at 22:38
  • @Flimzy: There's nothing wrong with defining tags, as you say. The primary use of a tag isn't to clone the dictionary, but to explain how the tag should be used. For a topic like marriage in 2014, the tag wiki excerpt is probably too limited to give a neutral definition. That's why I swapped the body with the except. fredsbend: nothing is stopping you from improving on (or even reverting) my wiki edit to define the term. But remember folks can't vote on it, so it's best to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. – Jon Ericson Oct 13 '14 at 23:30
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Please do not use tag wikis to define terms. That's not what the feature for. The blog post introducing the feature explains:

Tag wikis help introduce newcomers to the tag. They contain frequently asked questions about the tag and guidelines on its usage.

The "frequently asked questions" portion is best illustrated by large Stack Overflow tags such as C++ and PHP. More commonly, tag wikis explain how the tag should be used. A good example is on this site:

Use this tag for all questions about the organization of the Catholic church, its structures and practices and teachings specific to it, and of any other churches that fall within this definition.

Notice that the definition of Catholicism is for the purposes of organizing questions. The only reason to dive into controversial definitions is to help users decide if they are applying the proper tag(s).

Tag wikis should not be used as battlefields for controversial issues such as the definition of marriage. The current excerpt is more appropriate as the beginning of body of the tag and the body is more appropriate as the excerpt. So I've switched them up and expanded on the body. Please feel free to add additional details to the tag wiki, but please keep the excerpt focused on who the tag should be used on this site.


One of the great things about tags as organization tools is they usually don't need much explanation. When I use the or tags, I can feel pretty confident it will help my question be properly categorized. This is true even though I mildly disagree with the tag wiki excerpts on this site. Folksonomies rely on people having the same idea of what terms mean as everyone else. Tags rarely require wikis to be used.

On occasion (especially on technical sites) terms mean something inscrutable to the average person not invested in the site's topic. (On this site, is a great example.) For those tags, the tag wiki is incredibly useful for helping people find the proper tag:

sal... soteriology. Yeah. That's the ticket.

So is marriage such an easily defined term that we don't need a tag wiki? Or is it a technical term that needs to be defined explicitly? It's not as easy a question as you might think. On Saturdays, I go down to one of LA County's jails for men to teach a class on marriage and parenting. (This week, I'm going to be bringing the first lesson on marriage to the large group, as it turns out.) We stress the importance of making a life-long commitment to the mother of your children. Invariably, we get the question: "Which one?" because many of these men have children with multiple women. It's a question we simply cannot answer, so we politely decline to answer. (We suggest they take the question up with God in prayer.)

In terms of this site, if you think your question is about marriage, is probably an appropriate tag. Since it's impossible to vote on tag wikis, they should strive for something like Wikipedia's neutral point of view.

  • I don't see how this convention is useful. By this metric, all tag excepts should simply be the form "use this tag for questions about it." However, plenty of the tags we currently have actually do define the term, and some of them not generically so as to capture the various beliefs. – 3961 Oct 13 '14 at 22:13
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    With this convention, we need tags for all the kinds of marriage out there, so that they are self explanatory. That's fine and doable, but I still don't see how the excerpt is useful. Why implement the feature at all? – 3961 Oct 13 '14 at 22:29
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    'Use this tag for....' in a tag wiki is meaningless and redundant. Tags wikis are only useful if they contain a definition, IMO. – Flimzy Oct 13 '14 at 23:02
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    @fredsbend: I expanded on my reasoning in my answer. I actually think most tag wikis are superfluous all around the network. – Jon Ericson Oct 13 '14 at 23:06
  • I still disagree with the general convention that you support at first, but I do agree that marriage has permeated societies well enough that the simple excerpt is enough. We do still have the question if we are going to have gay-marriage, polygamy, and others tags or make them synonyms of the broader marriage tag. I think separate is better in this case. – 3961 Oct 13 '14 at 23:32
  • @fredsbend: I largely think the existing usage of the tag is spot on. I do recall seeing the original wiki of the tag way back when and thinking it would need changing eventually. At the time, I figured changing the definition would incite needless controversy. And I still do. But now that we are addressing the issue, let's try to make this tag useful for newcomers and not a stumbling block. – Jon Ericson Oct 13 '14 at 23:40
  • @JonEricson Apparently you don't have to be a new user to stumble over this as one post here shows. – 3961 Oct 13 '14 at 23:49
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    In practice, excerpts for commonly-understood tags often do contain brief definitions - although rarely is any effort made to be thorough unless some amount of confusion has arisen in practice. For such tags, the excerpt is more of a vanity-plate than anything - which does no harm. In this case however, there is confusion: which questions should the marriage tag be used for? That should be settled here, on meta, and the wiki updated to reflect it. – Shog9 Oct 14 '14 at 0:24
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