Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gay Sex and Marriage

Well since Obama "came out" in support of Gay marriage blogs have been abuzz with the urge to let everyone else know what their opinion is on the matter. I thought the world would be a better place if I too shared my opinion on this important but controversial topic. firstly I agree that whatever your personal beliefs everyone just needs to get a grip and realise that with the US and western society in general this is just the way it is going to go, the laws are just staring to catch up with public opinion the "battle" was lost or won a long time ago. I also agree that this discussion has never really been had mainly because anyone who has ever approached the issue allready had their minds made up and has felt free to arrange the evidence to fit their case. I agree the Old Testament law doesn't clear things up for Christians either way and that people will say just about anything to make their case. I don't agree this is comparable to the issue of slavery but that wont stop others making that unhelpful comparison. I wish more people would listen to Jennifer Knapp just as I wish more would listen to Erik Raymond. I agree that Christians are not called to culture war and that it takes two to tango. And I agree that if Christians are acting out of fear on this issue or any other then their grasp of the gospel is very poor indeed.

Most of all I agree with Bob Hyatt about the only way forward where everyone is happy. Which is good because it saves me having to explain it all to you and I can just go to bed now. A snippet:

The State needs to get out of the “marriage” business. It should recognize that as long as it uses that term, and continues to privilege certain types of relationships over others this issue is going to divide us as a nation, and is only going to become more and more contentious. We need to move towards the system used in many European countries where the State issues nothing but civil unions to anyone who wants them, and then those who desire it may seek a marriage from the Church. When I pastored in the Netherlands, this was the system- you got a civil union certificate at the courthouse and then a Marriage ceremony at the church. This division largely negated the culture war aspect, and allowed those churches who objected to same sex marriage on biblical grounds to not only opt out, but to be able to continue to teach their biblical view of marriage, uncontradicted by the State.

Having presented the solution I now just have one passing question to conservative America, how come you get so uptight about legislating social morality (e.g. health care, welfare system, etc) but so rabid about legislating sexual morality? What should the goverment be more interested in, that people are healthy and fed or that they aren't putting their ding dongs in the wrong orifice? Just a question.

12 comments:

  1. Jonathan,

    Excellent thoughts.

    JB

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  2. Jonathan, I think the reason same-sex marriage legislation may pass is that people think there is more support for it than there is. For example, in Australia the MP's were asked to canvas their electorates about the issue, and at the most three electorates (can't remember the exact no.) came back in support of gay marriage - and that after the "ballot box stuffing" was on the part of gay marriage supporters was recognised and decried.

    "But," people say, "the polls show something different!" Yes, but I've checked out some of the questions used, and there is a clever amount of framing that leads answers in certain directions.

    Does that mean there is no support for gay marriage? Of course not. But I do think that there are many, many, many people who reluctantly support it because they don't know how to oppose it without sounding like or just being called a right wing facist.

    As for your distinction between civil and religious, why are you making the division that you say should not be made in the OT law? Jesus will come again regardless of the outcome re. gay marriage, and our primary motivation is to preach the gospel and humbly love and serve, but loving people extends to our democratic responsibility to save people and society as a whole from heaping more sin upon themselves and messing themselves up.

    Further to the civil vs. religious issue: surely it is a sin for Christians to take part in legitimating a sin through legislation. Do you make the same distinction for abortion, prostitution (well, perhaps you do), tax injustice, laws based on racism, etc?

    I think you are just giving up here. There is a way to present this that makes sense to the secular mind, but even if there wasn't, I really don't agree with you on this.

    But I still like you ;)

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  3. Hi Ali, thanks for your comment,

    In our societies sex and marriage were separated a long time ago. legal marriage is really just recognizing an adult's right to choose their next of kin. church marriage on the other hand is still about who you are allowed to have sex with, etc. but the whole thing is a mess, why am I allowed to marry people but get no say as to whether they divorce?

    You cannot make the distinction between ritual and moral law in the OT because such a distinction is alien to the text and totally arbitrary. It is also describing a theocratic community. We live in a society where the church and the state are different entities, I am not advocating for homosexuality, but I do think any adults (whether they are having sex or not) should be allowed to legally change their next of kin.

    This has nothing to do with "legitimating sin" these relationships already exist are legal and are promoted by the entertainment industry. The real issue is not those poor souls who might be led into sin by the legalising of gay marriage (if they are at the stage of wanting to get married i'm not sure there can be much still left to do) but what campaigning on this issue is doing to the mission and character of the church.

    I haven't given up on anything because this was never a battle I was interested in fighting.

    Hope that helps.

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  4. Hi Jonathan,
    Yes, that helps me see where you are coming from. It also leads me to affirm my point that you have given up, just perhaps further back than I thought.

    "Legal marriage is really just recognising an adult's right to choose their next of kin"? I don't agree with that, but even if you are right, what the same-sex marriage issue is about is not just redefining marriage legally, but also within the community. I don't think you can divorce the legal and the community understanding so strictly. No proponent of same-sex marriage that I've listened to is arguing merely for the right to choose their next of kin. They are arguing for the legitimising of a sexual relationship and with that the redefinition of marriage as a historical institution through legal avenues.

    As for the OT Law, while it may not be easy to divide it into moral, civil and ceremonial law, it would be difficult to argue that the Law doesn't reveal God's view on morality in some areas that continue into the NT. The writers of the NT themselves appeal to the OT to inform their understanding of God's will in the new covenant age. Merely to say there is no distinction between laws in the OT and therefore anything the law has to say about homosexuality is not applicable is as bad as transfering OT Laws straight across to today. It's just not that simplistic.

    But more to the point, despite the fact that we are not in a theocracy, our faith does have an impact on the laws of the land. If we were in a country where we had no say in our government (such as Rome in the NT), your position may have more weight. However, we are in a democracy where we are given a part in the governing and making of laws of the state, and so it is part of our responsibility as Christians to act accordingly. Should the state be about to pass a law allowing for the physical discipline of wives by husbands, would you still say we should not try to affect the laws? Would you say, "The real issue is not those poor souls who might be led into sin by the legalising of wife abuse but what campaigning on this issue is doing to the mission and character of the church"?

    I think you have given up. That saddens me greatly. When you say that people getting married is merely legally changing their next of kin I think you have given up on the ability of secular society to see marriage as anything but that. The fact is, people do see it as much more, and that is why they are going to such lengths to push it.

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  5. yes you are right that many people do see it as more, but that is why the two strands needs teasing apart. civil unions should be a civil right for anyone, Christian marriage should only be administered by and according to the beliefs of Christian churches. at the moment the government tells me who I can and can't marry and how should do it, but also has control over the dissolution of those marriages and the church gets no say or input whatsoever.

    I'm sorry to make you sad, and I agree that as salt and light we should be doing our part to make society better, I just don't agree that campaigning on this issue will achieve anything positive whatsoever and takes our energies away from the fundamental gospel imperatives.

    Hopefully it will cheer you up to realise what I think makes very little difference to anyone's actual actions, except my own, and everyone who reads this post made their mind up a long time ago. :-)

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  6. As second point that needs making on this is that such campaigning assumes a position of democratic strength for the church, but in the west we are losing not gaining ground in this area, if the boundaries between church and state are not properly drawn now, in the future we may find that churches lose the right to discriminate on these issues. if we have the right to try and legislate our morality for others, they have the right to try and do the same to us. if you are willing to fight a culture war you also have to be willing to lose that war.

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  7. Hi Jonathan,

    I hope you are enjoying exchanging views. I'm finding it helpful.

    I may be wrong, but I suspect you have adopted the "secular is best" position, which to my mind is a version of the myth of objectivity. What I mean is that the secular state is not without it's own morality, a morality that has already been legislated for others and will continue to be in the future. The spanking laws, anti-vilification laws (Western Australia), abortion laws. Whatever your stance on the issues represented by those laws, you have to admit they are legislating a specific moral stance. To take the church to task for trying to "legislate our morality for others" without identifying the same moves from the secular worldview indicates to me that you may well be blind to the fact that secularism is a moral worldview as much as Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism.

    Which brings me to a second mistake I think you are making: the fallacy of the excluded middle. The options you have outlined are "legislating our morality/fighting a culture war" or "non-engagement with the state on moral issues". Democracy invites all-comers to the table and it would be tragic if a Christian voice were not heard. Yes, the church is no longer in a position of strength - neither were Wilberforce and his friends - and to try to fight in order to regain that position is counter-productive and sinful (in my view). The Lord does not call us to lord it over others or demand our way, but to humbly seek the good of others by seeking to persuade. This does not mean there will be no abuse. Nor does it mean every fight will be won. But it does mean that Christians will be unashamedly putting their distinctive position forward for the good of all people. Surely that is something that pleases the Lord.

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  8. Hi Ali, it is always good to talk, although time consuming with my slow typing and slow thinking!

    No, I realise that all legislation promotes morality and part of my argument is that if we wish to have a case for resisting the legislation of those who want to restrict our religious freedom then we need to be careful to not restrict the religious freedom of others. Secularism is not objective neutral morality, however it is a concept that serves those who want freedom to practice their religion in peace, in fact we baptists invented it for that very purpose.

    And yes christian voices should be heard in a democracy, but what should they be heard to be saying. It is not just what we think we are saying that matters but what we hear when we speak. The issue of sexuality is so controversial because our society has made sexual identity (for straights as well as queers) the defining characteristic of our existence. Most Christian rhetoric on sexuality only reinforces that, so when you suggest something contrary to the queer agenda it is not like you are simply debating a point of abstract morality but like you are assaulting the human dignity and worth of the queer person. I agree that is not what you are trying to do but that becomes the effect. Christians should be putting more energy into showing that we are not first and foremost defined by being straight or queer but by our relationship to Christ. But we don't and so all the world sees is a bunch of bigotted straight people who don't care about or respect them, I'd rather they saw Jesus and then let the Holy Spirit sort out the rest of their issues just like we hope he does for us.

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  9. I'm wanting to continue by responding to your comment above when I can. In the meantime, I found these two articles that relate to this discussion. I'd be interested in what you think of them.

    1. An Open Letter to Young, “Post-Partisan” Evangelicals @ http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frenchrevolution/2012/05/23/an-open-letter-to-young-post-partisan-evangelicals/

    2. I Was Wrong About Marriage. @ http://blog.speakupmovement.org/university/uncategorized/i-was-wrong-about-marriage/

    The second in particular (written in 2010) relates how the passing of same-sex marriage legislation in Massachusetts led to "legisalting morality" against Christians, something you are keen to avoid by not protesting against same-sex marriage.

    Anyway, I'll try to respond to your comment soon.

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  10. Egalitarians that complain about Gay marriage are just hilarious!!!

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  11. Hi Akash, welcome to the blog. I'm glad to have provided some hilarity, although in the interests of you not appearing to be a troll you should probably give some reason why this tickles your funny bone so much. it may be blindingly obvious to you, but take pity on the rest of us mere mortals and expose your reasons, i promise not to ridicule them or you if I find it unconvincing.

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