Single Sex Marriage….

Well, you know what they say about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread….here I go. ¬†Normally I don’t post too much on social issues, but this grew out of a Facebook post I made on a friend’s wall, and it seemed to be sensible just to put it here as well.

On the practical side, this is a badly thought out piece of legislation (next up will need to be changes in the law on divorce, (the current definitions of adultery and non-consummation as grounds are meaningless, for example, with regard to gay couples). I’m also concerned that the area protecting vicars / priests against possibly being sued for not wishing to conduct a same sex marriage is not watertight. And until the ‘civil partnership’ arrangement is made available to straight couples, we don’t have true equality – just a change in the law. As an aside, equality does not necessarily mean identity. I believe in fairness, but believe that being fair in society doesn’t mean everything has to be the
same for everybody. That ends up in a form of totalitarianism.

On a personal side, and from my Godbothering perspective, I’m one of these folks who believe that the ‘New Covenant’ between Christ and mankind superseded quite a bit of the ‘lifestyle’ sections of the Old testament, particularly Leviticus, so I have less hangups than some of my bretheren about homosexuality. I’ve pondered this issue for a long time, using the three pillars of the Church of England; scripture, faith and reason. And PLEASE don’t conflate this argument with women Bishops, as many have done. Different issues. I’m a big supporter on all levels of Women Bishops, less so of the way that the SSM issue has been handled….

My faith, based on a loving God and the redemption offered by faith in His son, is not affected on a personal level by this.

Scripturally, ‘the jury’s out’ and will be forever and a day. As is often pointed out we shouldn’t necessarily be using a text written in the Bronze Age (OT) and Roman times (NT) to determine the in depth rules of society today; we’re not a theocracy, after all. However, for those of us who do have faith the books are there and we take on board what’s in there as central to our beliefs. Unfortunately, as someone said the other day, ‘Jesus didn’t say anything about same sex marriage; then again, he didn’t comment on space travel either….’

My reasoning powers try and make some sense of this. As I’ve said, it’s a half arsed piece of legislation that will need some tuning before it’s put in place. Years ago there was a significant difference in society’s attitude to Church and Civil weddings – to the degree that many people didn’t regard people married in Civil Ceremonies as married. The issues here are going to be similar. Whatever is said in the eyes of the law, it may be decades before many people in society regard SSM Cermonies as ‘proper’ marriages.

The ‘straw man’ arguments about divorce rates, celebrity marriages, etc. are not an issue. Saying that a social and cultural institution is invalid to force a change to it that does nothing to address those problems is not an argument in favour of change. The religious argument here in the UK is purely because of the interconnected nature of Church and State; if the Anglican Church wasn’t the established religion, I doubt that there would have been a lot of the outcry. As it is, I personally feel that there are likely to be wider repercussions from this apparently civil legal change that will impact on the position of the Church in ecumenical terms with other Christian faith groups.

Bottom line is that I’m in favour of fairness and equality, but not in favour of the way that this whole thing has been done. It’s poorly formulated law, put in to being at a time when there are massive social problems on the horizon that really need to engage our body politic rather than this. The question of ensuring that those churches who do not wish to conduct SSM don’t have to is wide open; someone, somewhere, will push the case, I’m sure. It will have an impact on the relationship between the Anglican Church and State (I’m in favour of reducing ties, btw) and with the position of the Anglican Church with its relationships with other Churches, purely due to it being the Established Religion.
On a religious / scriptural level I can’t yet determine a view point, but on a social and cultural level – bad move at this time, in this way.

The word ‘marriage’ is a culturally loaded word, and the nature of the institution harks back to a time when it was effectively a means of ensuring property rights, inheritance rights, child care and social cohesion. These issues are less significant today in the West. This whole business seems to have been fought over the use of a word.

I have no intention of getting in to a debate / argument about this as I think that no words I say will change other minds, and other folks won’t change my mind as I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and study in recent months. I appreciate that some folks may regard me as a bigoted homophobe, and if so, well, just un-friend me in the most appropriate manner and I won’t be upset.

So…congratulations to all who’ve fought hard for this change, and to anyone whose life will be enriched by it. But on a personal level, I think it ill-advised and potentially massively divisive, and my conscience prevents me from embracing it.

As Martin Luther said “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. ” I think that sort of sums me up on this issue.