Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Christians should tell the truth about marriage

Firstly, let me state that I write this as a Christian and a practicing Roman Catholic. I believe that above all this compells me to tell the truth and deal with issues of morality with honesty and dignity.

I have been listening to the radio this morning and the subject of gay marriage is being discussed. The presenters have been reading message after message from people claiming that the purpose of marriage is solely to allow procreation of the species. This is not true from a biblical sense. Let me explain the reasons.

1. There is not and has never been a ban on marriage of people above childbearing age.

2. There is not and has never been a ban on marriage for people who are incapable of having children.

Whatever you may or may not think of marriage, its purpose is not to make people have children. When you marry in a Christian service, you are not asked to have children. Many people do, but this is not required to validate a marriage. In some cases quite the opposite is true. I remember one case where there was a well loved local policeman who was dying of cancer. He had a live in partner, who was not Catholic. He wanted to marry her to ensure she got her entitlements as a widow. The local parish priest was a sensible and pragmatic man. He performed the ceremony and assisted the family in sorting out the civil side. The policeman died the next day, but the widow received her entitlement. Everyone I knew thought it was the right thing to do and there was no criticism of the priest for bending the rules, quite the contrary. It was an act of human compassion.

In fact the church rules on marriage are in some ways designed to prevent procreation. Whilst women pass their childbearing years in their 40's, men can make babies until they die. The main reason for the church banning divorce was to stop men dumping their wives for younger women and starting new families. The purpose of marriage is to ensure social cohesion and prevent women from being abandoned, in the days when they were reliant on men for their livilihood. It is even stated in the bible that if your brother dies, you should marry his wife, so that she is looked after. The implication is not that you should make babies, it is that you should make sure she is financially secure.

I have no doubt that many people have genuine issues with the concept of gay marriage. In a free society, everyone has a right to express their views and they are quite right to point out that this measure was not contained in any party manifesto. I wish that it had and I wish that candidates had been compelled to state their intention to support the measure. Then there could be no doubt and no arguments as to the legitimacy of the policy. It is up to both sides to make their case and to state the relevant facts as they see it. Whatever the rights and wrongs, people should be honest and the truth is that marriage is about protecting families financial rights and ensuring that people are treated fairly. It is not about creating unions to have babies, people are quite good at that without marriage. I am a firm believer in anything which strengthens society and makes people face up to their responsibilities. If same sex marriage becomes legal tonight, it will in no way change my attitude towards my wife or the strength of our union. It will not make a single person who is not gay suddenly decide to marry someone of the same sex. I suspect that no one who is in a loving marriage will feel in any way threatened. Will it improve the lot of the members of our society who are gay? I haven't got a clue if it will or it won't, only time will tell. What I do know is that in a free and tolerant society, I don't think I should have the right to deny people rights, simply because the thought of what they do in the bedroom makes me think "yuk". It is time for us to grow up as a society and address issues of inequality and injustice. I belong to the church and take part in activities it runs such as feeding the homeless because I believe this does some good. I am really struggling with the fact that such good work is being undermined and we are being made to look like extremists by people who haven't even bothered to read the book properly.

No comments: