Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Happily married

In the way of these things I am inclined to think that the road towards same-sex marriages is one of inevitability. That is, I think we will all look round in a hundred years time and wonder what the fuss was about.
For the life of me I cannot understand why some people seem to think that gay-marriage will bring about the end of civilisation as we know it. I do have some sympathy with the argument that what ever else a committed same-sex relationship might be it is not marriage.
I have sympathy with that argument but in the end I am les and less persuaded by it.
Even if I were to accept the view that sectional interest groups, like churches, are at liberty to define marriage theologically as they see fit...I do not think that idea should go uncritiqued by rational thought and by sociological change.
The key dynamic that has changed in society in the last fifty years is our understanding of the nature and origin of homosexuality. Most would accept that homosexuality is not a choice but an orientation. We do not choose to be homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual rather we are as we are.
Most of those who speak out against homosexuality seem to do so out of a sense that some how a person has to apologise for being as they are.
There is logically no difference between that state of affairs and requiring people to apologise for their racial origins or their gender.
There are two things that are offensive about such an idea. First is the offensiveness that we recognise of assuming that race, gender, or sexual orientation renders us superior or inferior. Second is the offensiveness that people should be impugned for something that lies outside their control. There can be no moral responsibility for that which we cannot freely change.
I want, and I have said before, people to live in responsible relationships with each other. I think it is preferable that we not treat sexual relationships as though they were of no value, and just some sort of recreation. To my mind, sex is so powerful a human motivator that it cannot have no meaning.
Even 'consenting adults' who conspire together to say this is 'just sex' are I think kidding themselves. We don't like it when our partners sleep around!
So I think taking this important stuff, sex, seriously means it should happen in the context of the committed relationship.
I want to do what ever I can to encourage commitment. It seems better to me that sexually active people should be committed to each other. If for same sex couples that commitment can be marriage-like (monogamous, exclusive, life-long) then why can that commitment not be honoured.
Is it not better to have commitment than promiscuity? I would have thought so.
I am not against chastity, I am against people being forced to be celibate who don't believe that is their particular vocation.
We need, I suggest, to encourage mature relationships. Not discourage them.


Anonymous said...

Well said, now can you convince your congregation and peers?

How did you come to such a conclusion when so many in your position or of your faith can not?

stephen clark said...

I suspect more are convinced than we imagine.
And many more have reached that conclusion than we imagine. I do not deny that I am probably holding what is at presnent a minority view in the church, but (as I say) I think things will change.

trevor said...

It's hard to know what is the "silent majority"'s view - but then I remind myself that the Church is a theocracy, not a democracy, and the views of the majority, however silent, are not the final views, in theory.

The Uniting Church continues to pull itself apart on this issue. Accusations of apostasy, denials of schism, demands for "firm leadership" of the sexuality issue, admonitions to the flock "to invite people practicing homosexuality to experience Christ's freedom by abandoning behaviour which is contrary ..." etc.

I wonder what is supposed to happen to someone who declines the above "invitation"?

stephen clark said...

I would have thought it is quite clear what is supposed to happen to someone who declines the above "invitation" they are traditionally sent to the stake!

trevor said...

It can raise some interesting problems. If the congregation which I attend (or the ruling elite in that congregation) signs up with the "evangelical" wing of the Uniting Church and thus subscribes to its "unrepentant homosexuals cannot have positions of leadership in the congregation", then what could someone like me do.

I employee at least 2 people who I know are in long-term gay relationships (faithful and monogamous relationships, as far as I know), and 2 of our friends, incluing one of our dearest and beloved female friends, are in long term, living together, lesbian relationships. Am I then a hypocrite if I remain with my present congregation, even if they have explicitly affitmed that anyone in an homosexual relationship is outside the accepted behaviour of the congregation?

The Law says that I cannot fire someone because they are gay. My sense of "good" says that being gay and an employee of mine is (a) none of my business and (b) I rejoice in someone loving and being loved that intensely. And as for abandoning friends because they have happy gay relationships ...

This is a minefield ...

stephen clark said...

I guess you have to be clear about what you believe.
I struggle, because I don't like being disliked, or being in conflicts which I lose ( I am pretty pathetic!). I often lack the energy to fight battles about this sort of stuff which others think is so important and bring so much energy to.
But what to do, do you let really nasty bigots continue to propagate their bigotry in the name of 'being faithful'....too many conservatives want to punish gay people for me to believe that they are really serious about loving as Christ loves.
Doesn't make it any easier Trevor, but I really appreciate your comments when you offer them,and that you continue to journey with me.
Our local UCA minister is in a same-sex relationship. The congreation is dealing with this well, the neighbouring parish is an EMU stronghold I think they don't deal with it well.
As for the Anglican church, I think if we got rid of all clergy who were same sex shall we say 'sympathetic' there wouldn't be many left.