When I started this weblog, this subject was one I didn’t want to be writing about. It was one controversy I was happy to avoid. If I had to, I would try and skirt round it as best I could and leave it to the reader to work out where I stood, but things have changed. I feel continually pressed, corned and nagged into coming out and making clear what I believe is the truth of it.
I never liked and still don’t like talking about sex. It is something so precious and intimate and delicate, too much talk crushes the flower and smudges the image. At school you knew that the boys who were always talking about it were not doing it. But with the relentless battering from the media, from self-appointed pundits, celebrity clerics and experts, in almost every minute of every day, from almost every angle, having the thing shoved into your face with virtually no escape, and possibility of respite, there comes a time when you have to say “Enough is enough”. I can’t be silent any longer. I have been bullied and intimidated for too long. I am wearied to distraction at the constant bleatings of those who claim to speak for others, for those who are hurting because they are not able to find sexual fulfilment in the way that they want. Yes I know and don’t doubt that people are hurting, that always will be, but when you think of the world of suffering people out there, the people who have to face the rest of their lives with crushing disability, with unbearable loss, with unbelievable deprivation, or simply the desperate human longing for a partner or soul mate or for a child, a longing that will never be fulfilled, it barely registers on the scale.
So where am I?
I believe in God, who created this world and who keeps it going. I believe he has communicated with us and speaks to us. I believe he has been doing that from the beginning of time in different ways but especially by coming and being one of us. I believe he speaks to us: to me, now, today. I believe that all we need to know of him can be found in the Bible, if we listen to his voice speaking through it and allow his Spirit to make it clear. I believe that it contains the only truly good news, the only truly accurate assessment of our condition and situation and the only real and genuine hope.
In it the pattern: the design, the beauty of the relationship between man and women is clearly shown. It is a picture of his love for us. It is something so holy that any variant, anything less, any spoiling of that picture, he abhors. That is why idolatry, adultery, fornication, homosexual, bestial and incestual practices are condemned. It is the spoiling of the picture, like the misuse of his name, or the abuse of his children. That is the offence.
That is where I am, this is where I stand and that is why I will not be celebrating.
In outlining the worldview above, you have very clearly indicated where you stand on sexual morality. Undoubtedly your position runs counter to our contemporary moral mores. It speaks in a language that few now understand, and that many (even those who share your Christian faith) simply do not accept. It is one which has angered and ‘upset’ many sensibilities, and a belief you may be persecuted for holding sometime in the future.
Could it be that throughout the consultation and ensuing debates the rational arguments somehow were drowned out by emotions on both sides?
I too am not celebrating. However, it is not because I share all (or any) of your beliefs on sexual morality. For me it is because not one grounding principle for the redefinition marriage has ever been given. It is perhaps regrettable that few people have noticed that, as Christianity has retreated from the public sphere, the state is now assuming the role of arbiter of morality.
I agree with you that “not one grounding principle for the redefinition marriage has ever been given” I also accept that I am swimming well against the tide. Of the 130 (or so) followers of my weblog only 5 have indicated that they like or agree with the post. Thanks for commenting..
Instead of a society based on Christian morality we now have what can only be described as ‘liberal elite command theory’. Is it either or?
I don’t know. I am not clever enough. It will be interesting to see how it pads out. Setting aside sexual morality, if you can do that, I have a disturbing feeling in my gut when all the sworn political enemies, ready to cut each other’s throats, come together with today’s celebrities and agree on something like this. I tried to keep quiet but the video “it’s time”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p6FLflRYYE tipped me over the edge.
I suppose it depends where you are standing whether you see consensus among politicians and others on a particular issue positive or not. I find it disturbing to see the Labour party in bed with the Tories and the CBI over whether or not an independent Scotland should keep sterling (although I have no particular view on that issue) but I am glad to see consensus in the Scottish Parliament and elsewhere over equal marriage. I hadn’t seen the video until you pointed us to it, but I have now and I liked it. It presents a positive view of equal marriage, illustrated with the lives of real people.
I agree it is a positive view, as any piece of propaganda has to be, but it is not a view I share.
Propaganda is quite an emotive term, implying biased or possibly misleading information. I saw the video as being simply a celebration about people being legally permitted to do something that up till now they had not been able to do. They were happy that the law had changed, as were those that supported them. There was no attempt to denigrate anyone who did not agree.
I was pointed to this site this morning: http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2005/march/truth-about-yoga.html?start=1, which I do regard has having elements of propaganda as it contains lots of misleading information and is attempting to scare it’s readers so they take a particular stance.
I can certainly see how it might tip someone over the edge. Politics aside, it is truly nauseating to watch our elected representatives behave in such an undignified fashion.
Please can you illustrate what you mean by ‘undignified’, Beyond the Cave?
I would rather see our politicians participate in serious debate (I am not aware there was any on this particular issue) than watch them perform in political pop videos.
There was very serious debate that I witnessed both within the chamber and in committee. I don’t see the politicians as ‘performing’ on the video. They simply held up a notice and smiled.
I guess it’s alright as a wee jingle, but it doesn’t change the fact that throughout the ‘debate’ no grounding principle was given for the redefinition of marriage.
What would constitute a ‘grounding principle’?
A sound reason for redefining the political institution of marriage.
Ah, Beyond the Cave, thanks for clarifying that.
I think the ‘sound reason’ is equality. There was a time when marriage was defined in such a way that wives had no rights over their own children, no rights to own property and men had the legal right to beat and/or rape their wives. There were also times when marriage was polygamous, leaving the wives with even less rights. I’m glad those aspects of marriage were redefined. Until a few weeks ago, we denied the advantages of marriage to some people on the basis of their sexual orientation. That seems to me to be a very sound reason for the change in the law.
On equality being a grounding reason
I do not think that the issue is “equality” and I do not necessarily accept the term “sexual orientation”. I would challenge the former and find the later too vague and undefined a term, overlaid as it is with political baggage. It makes assumptions and is not neutral in the argument.
While it was roundly mocked and ridiculed during the parliamentary debate as being “plain silly”, it is nevertheless a fact that all adults have had an equal right to get married with certain restrictions on age and family relationships. The new thing is that this should include people of the same gender. I accept that marriage law has changed over the years, but what has now been passed is a redefinition away from one woman and one man to two women or two men. Having made this move there can be no logical reason to redefine it further and to claim that it is in the interest of equality. There are some people who could claim that this new law is unequal.
The term, which is a relatively new concept and has been adopted and generally accepted without challenge, appears to be the driving factor. While I recognise there may be value in classifying people in this way, I do not accept the subtext and the assumptions that it brings to the argument. It opens up a whole range of possibilities and implications that have not, I believe, been properly thought through.
You are right propaganda can sound an emotive term but that was what I saw it as. It wasn’t cerebrating something that was passed but making an emotive case to encourage folk to get on side and back it. It was prepared long before the final vote. The message was “its time”. I too listened to the debates on committee and in the chamber and I found them very shallow and superficial.. But I guess, as has has already been said, it depends on where you are standing.
I have just reread the transcripts of all 3 debates in the chamber and can’t see them as being shallow or superficial, which certainly backs up your point above about varying perspectives.
I am still struggling to understand your issue with the use of the word equality, Crawford. You say that all adults have had an equal right to be married, but I can’t accept that this was the case. If someone wished to have legally recognised and celebrated their union with someone of the same sex by marriage, they could not do so. That means that one section of the population could marry, and another was denied the status, rights and opportunities open to the everyone else. It really is not so long ago since this lack of opportunity was also applied to women. And yes, I understand that equality does not mean everyone is the same. Women are different from men in many aspects, but if we believe in equality, we will not deny them status, rights and opportunities which men have.
I have just spent two days with a wheelchair user. I was reflecting what a different world this is today compared to twenty years ago, when life in a wheelchair was severely limiting. Wheelchair users had little status, very few rights and very limited opportunities. I guess many wheelchair users would say we still have a long way to go, but as I went about a town that was strange to both of us I was glad to find accessible hotel rooms, ramps, level access, accessible toilets etc everywhere we went, along with unobtrusive but respectful and thoughtful support from staff in restaurants and offices. It has taken time to shift public attitudes towards access for people with disability, and time for the infrastructure to catch up. It seems to me this is what is happening now with sexual orientation and we will all be wondering in time what all the unnecessary fuss was about. But more about the term ‘sexual orientation’ in another post.
Oh dear! I knew I shouldn’t have gotten into this and kept my mouth shut instead, but here goes…
I have thought long and hard about this. If equality means having the same rights as everyone else, yes, obviously then I can see why the argument for same sex marriage can be said to be on the grounds of equality. So I concede, in name at least, that equality could be a reason for redefining marriage. But that presupposes that to marry someone of the same sex is right. If you believe, as I do, that same sex relationships are wrong it is a moral issue not an issue of equality. I could also argue that the law, as passed, only gives partial equality, although I would be reluctant to go down that road. It could be said that that those who want to have more than one partner in a marriage or those who want to marry their sibling or those who want to remove the age restriction so that they can marry younger are currently denied that opportunity. I guess that some years down the line, in a more enlightened age, when science has overcome some of the problems, when children reach puberty much earlier and when proper safeguards are put in place, this will become the norm. As I say, I don’t want to go there, but it is a perfectly reasonable argument. One of the reasons I would not want to go there is that it suggests that behind it all there is a conspiracy to destroy marriage and society. While there are strong reasons to think there is, I would like to believe that there is not.
I appreciate those concerns and I certainly would not wish this issue to be morally neutral. One of the reasons I would support the rights of homosexuals to marry a partner of the same sex is that the commitment of marriage, although it can never fully protect or sustain, does offer a solemn occasion to make one’s vows in public, with the support of one’s family and friends (and faith community if you have one). It offers an opportunity for the celebrant to speak of the importance of that commitment and how it can be supported by the community. Excluding homosexuals from such status, rights and opportunities denies the same support for their partnership.
I appreciate your concerns about where this might end, but I think, as I said it an earlier post, the dividing line is easily drawn around issues of power and and abuse. A child, a sibling and an animal can never be said to be truly giving their informed consent, and therefore the protection of law is already there. Polygamy is a bit hazier, I agree, but as throughout history it has almost always been polygamy that has been condoned and hardly ever polyandry, I think we can safely identify this also as an issue of power and abuse.
Marriage appears to be enduringly popular and I see no evidence of some dark conspiracy to destroy it. Rather one section of our population are simply requesting the right to marry, not to be left outside.
I struggled with your rejection of the term ‘equality’, Crawford, but maybe more so with your rejection of the term ‘sexual orientation’. I wonder what you think the ‘subtext and assumptions’ are? Could it be that you reject the term because, unlike ‘sexual preference’, it implies the enduring nature of homosexuality? I’d like to know what you believe are the implications and possibilities that have not been properly thought through.
I don’t think I said I rejected it, but I felt it was vague and undefined. I am not convinced of the phenomenon although there may well be scientific consensus on it. I think it suggests a spectrum and we are all on that line somewhere. I think it is loaded because the unsaid implications are that it is a matter of what you are what you have been given and there is no moral element to that. It is taken as “a given” and not only, are we unable to do anything about it, but it cannot be bad and therefore it must be good and we should welcome and encourage the celebration and fulfilment of these desires whatever they may be. The fact that, in most arguments, sexual orientation is likened to race, or gender or disability (which you did) bears that out. There can be no moral element to these things. It is what you are. And here is my problem.
The word “orientation” suggests that you are pointing in a direction of which there are many. There is no suggestion that it might be the wrong direction. The idea is new. In the past there was no question about orientation as it was assumed there was only one way and any other way was simply a perversion and deviant from the proper natural way. This was taken as self-evident. This changed, however, so that now scientific consensus is that homosexuality is not a disorder than can be rectified or an illness that can be cured. There is also the consensus that it is not a choice and consequently not a moral issue. I don’t myself accept these assumptions. Now instead of one direction there are three hetro, bi and homo and a spectrum between. A fourth A (A sexual) has also been included. There is a glaring flaw and logical inconsistency in this position. The inevitable extension of is spectrum is to include other “orientations” not thought of so kindly like sibling, paedophile, and bestial as well as all the other darker ones necrophilia sadomasochism etc etc. So that that on the top there is a spectrum of acceptable orientation while underneath is the darker unacceptable orientations but no logical reason for making this distinction.
So if this is true and we are somewhere on that spectrum or on that chart pointing somewhere with an orientation or a leaning, an attraction and if it is something we have been given and have no choice over it, that in itself is morally neutral. Even it is towards necrophilia. What you do with or how you express that leaning, however, does have moral implications; because that is something you chose. Now I can’t see morals in a vacuum and inevitably it comes down to the moral law which I believe God has given and has made plain to us. It is crystal clear and plain to me, despite the continuing attempts of theologians and clerics of all kinds to muddle it and twist the bible to suit their agenda. Marriage between a man and a woman is where, I believe, it is fulfilled.
So I find the term “sexual orientation” loaded and leaning towards a particular view and I would question its presuppositions
I am unclear about this sentence in your post; ‘In the past there was no question about orientation as it was assumed there was only one way and any other way was simply a perversion and deviant from the proper natural way.’ There are many instances of society where homosexuality was considered natural, valuable and was catered for in terms of institution and law. There are hints in the OT that love between men was of a somewhat higher order than that between a man and a woman. As late as the middle ages, the church in France carried out marriages between people of the same sex. And there are instances within our own church where sexual relationships between men were permitted, albeit not explicitly.
I do believe we all have the capacity to choose whether or not to act upon sexual attraction or not. The same moral responsibilities that apply to heterosexuals also apply to homosexuals. So I am not sure why allowing committed homosexual couples to marry presents a moral vacuum.
I would defend the rights of those who believe that homosexuality is wrong because of their interpretation of the bible even though I could not possibly agree. But no-one is being forced to engage in homosexuality, nor forced to marry homosexuals.
I am glad that you would defend my right to believe what I believe but without trying to be smug or clever I think I am ok and could probably defend myself. The whole thing is of course much bigger than me in any case and I don’t think needs defending.
I never felt or said that I, or anyone, was being forced to engage in homosexuality or being forced to marry homosexuals. My weblog which started this thread was in response to an unsolicited appeal to join in the celebration. All I was saying was that I could not be part of that celebration and tried to explain, as best I could, why.
I think we disagree fundamentally on this and we are poles apart but, sincerely, thanks for engaging. You are one of only two out of the 145 followers of my weblog who felt it important enough to respond so I am grateful for that.
Can you clarify what you mean when you say that you would ‘defend the rights of those who believe that homosexuality is wrong’?
Yes, my apologies, beyond the cave, that was badly phrased and not at all what I intended to say. I meant that if within a faith community people hold certain things are against their beliefs (e.g working on a Sunday, drinking alcohol, celebrating same sex marriage) then I would defend their rights to practice according to these beliefs. However, I would NOT defend any faith group who used their beliefs to discriminate against gay people, to harass them and and incite violence. Sadly, there have been too many instances of Christians doing just that.