Monday, 10 December 2012

Gay Marriage and religion

I get very upset when the government or the council make stupid decisions which impact on my life. But what about when they make decisions that have no effect at all on my life, but which I may have an irrational dislike of (or not). Take gay marriage. Now I'm involved in a non gay marriage and I'm very happy with it. I rather hope my wife is as well. I go to Church and the Church I belong to has actively campaigned against gay marriage. This has posed a moral dilemma to me. You see, I very much respect many of the things the Church I belong to does. For instance I volunteer at a homeless shelter they run every week. The work we do is needed and much appreciated. No one is discriminated against when they walk in.  When it comes to gay marriage, the Church has failed to persuade me that they have got it right, either morally or theologically. I am not a theologian, but the one guiding principle I apply when I look at other peoples behaviour is the saying "Don't criticise your brother for the splinter in his eye, when you have a plank in your own eye".

So before I start worrying about other peoples personal arrangements, I look at my own. Am I as nice as I can be to my family? Do I give my wife and children the time I should? Do I set the best example I possibly could to my children? Do I follow the teachings to which I subscribe with regards to forgiving my neighbours and enemies? Do I work as hard as I can for those who are in need? If someone in my street is lonely, hungry or depressed do I give them to eat? Do I offer my support? Do I cross the road when I see the batty old lady who lives up the road who just wants someone to talk to because she's lonely? Do I let my children see this and do I pass this off as acceptable behaviour? If I'm having a nice fry up breakfast in Cafe Buzz and a homeless person walks by outside, do I invite him in and buy him breakfast.

Well I'm sorry to say, I fail the test miserably. I have no right to criticise the way anyone lives their lives and I'd be a hypocrite if I did. When I see people quoting the bible and what is normal, I see hypocrites who don't put any of the teachings which don't suit them into practice. Today Hendon MP Matthew Offord compared gay marriage to polygamy. There are two issues. Firstly Polygamy was acceptable in old testament times. King Soloman had many wives. Attitudes towards it changed. According to the bible he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He is described as the wisest man in the bible. This is the problem with using the bible. Many things have changed. Jesus didn't mention homosexuality.  He did however speak on many occasions about being tolerant and non judgemental in issues of relationships. Many fundamentalist Christians cite the destruction of Sodom as proof of Gods dislike of Homosexuality. This is a theologically incorrect viewpoint. God destroyed Sodom because the residents did not respect his messengers and raped them. This is a totally different situation to a consensual and non abusive gay marriage without coercion. In our society, we'd jail a group of people who raped and murdered someone, which was the cause of the destruction of that city.

This is my position. I believe that the attitudes prevalent in society have moved on and the law should reflect the consensus of society, rather than the views of a small subset. I assume that the only people who will take advantage of gay marriages are people who are gay and want to formalise their relationship. They presumably want a nice day and to ensure that property rights and important decisions about inheritence are seen to. Does this affect me? I don't think it does. Does the fact that two men or two women can get married devalue my marriage? Not at all. What would devalue my marriage is if I treated my wife or my children badly. Sadly there are many heterosexual marriages where one or both partners behaviour devalues marriage. Is there a single Christian person who will feel the ties of their marriage have been weakened by Bob and Jeff next door having a wedding ceremony? I would suggest if there is, then there is a problem with the marriage anyway. 

Where the argument becomes difficult is the question of whether a Priest should have to marry two people of the same sex, if they feel that it is morally wrong. Should they be able to say "I am not going to participate in this ceremony". I happen to believe that in a democratic country we have to follow the law of the land. I believe a Priest has to cater for everyone if they are doing their job properly. Everyone they marry is a sinner. The answer is quite simple. The Pope can say "We disagree with this proposal for Theological reasons, but as we respect the law of the land, we will conform with the law." If a Gay couple seeks a theological explanation as to whether the marriage is in compliance with the view of the priest or the view of the Church, then the Priest and the Church should have the right to give that view. I believe in free speech, but the Church should not be able to defy the law and should perform a service.

Ultimately it is of each of us as an individual to follow our conscience. I don't think it will be the end of religion or the church if gay marriages are legally sanctioned. As I said, I'm no theologian. There may well be all manner of nuances I've missed when I've read the good book. I'll listen to any point of view, but when  it comes to respecting peoples views on matters religious, I only really tend to give much weight to people who work tirelessly and selflessly for those people at the bottom rungs of society. I am never going to run around condemning anyone. My advice to anyone who does want to do that. Look at yourself first. Have you lived a  blameless life without sin, which allows you to cast the first stone? One thing I will say to anyone who is gay and is planning to get married. I believe that marriage is important and it is a serious commitment.  I would not begrudge anyone companionship of someone they love, but it should never be taken lightly or just seen as a nice day and a Church seen as a "good location". I got married in a registry office because my wife does not believe and I felt that the commitment we made was between us. I believe that God accepts a marriage if it is made with honest intent, whatever its form and wherever it is held.

At the end of the day a marriage is not a day, it is a shared life and that is what really needs to be remembered.


valblog said...

I'd watch the s**t out of "Gay Divorce Court"! On a serious note, in US, spousal & health care benefits are a big economic factor. A 3 hour ER visit I had last year cost $35,000. (It was fortunately covered by employer's health insurance). My employers also cover my husband's meds and MD visits, etc. Many people I know are 1 pay-check away from destitution and don't have sick-pay or retirement benefits. Gay people should have the same marital benefits as straight ones. If a sacrament was so important of itself, wouldn't people attach more significance to baptism etc? It is hypocritical to discriminate in this instance because it's economics, not moral principles which are the underlying factor in legislating this issue.

Mrs Angry said...

I just cannot understand why anyone thinks it is their business how other people choose to define their relationships. And how ridiculous it is for a Tory, belonging to a party which claims to want to bring more 'choice' to citizens, should seek to interfere in this way in someone's life. To seek to belittle an issue of such sensitivity in the way Offord did today is yet another example of his total lack of judgement. He will be kicked out at the next election, and good riddance to him.

Dave-ros said...

Hear hear -- I agree that churches shouldn't be forced to do this, but if they see their congregations leaving for more tolerant churches, maybe they'll mend their ways. Then again, it depends on whether a church is "public" or "private", because if the former, they shouldn't have the choice, and if the latter, there's taxation issues to consider...

rithompson said...

Thank you. There is someone who has a similar experience to me. I too belong to a church that is campaigning against gay marriage, while I'm still unconvinced about their argument again. There's far too many holes and unanswered questions on the "traditionalist" side. But mostly I can't understand why God would make some people gay, but then insist they spend their lives alone.