Love, no matter what…

The Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking in the House of Lords, appears to believe that the new Gay Marriage Bill will undermine family life.

Welby told peers the bill had created confusion, adding: “Marriage is abolished, redefined and recreated – being different and unequal for different categories. The new marriage of the bill is an awkward shape with same gender and different gender categories scrunched into it – neither fitting well.

“The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense predating the state and as our base community of society is weakened.

“For these and many other reasons those of us in the churches and faith groups, who are extremely hesitant about the bill in many cases, hold that view because we think that traditional marriage is a cornerstone of society and rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective.”

Welby said that his concerns did not stem from faith but from what he believes is the best for society. He said: “And so with much regret, but entire conviction, I cannot support the bill as it stands.”

I have never really understood this argument. How does allowing same sex couples to marry undermine or devalue marriage for the rest (the majority) of us? How does it create confusion? Am I less committed to love and to my children because same sex couples also are able to formally cement life long relationships? I say this with respect to the archbishop and to friends of mine who have the same views, but your argument does not make sense to me.

I am forced to conclude that the real issue is not really the ‘sanctity of marriage’ (which is a highly confused concept all on its own) but rather a pervasive discomfort with the morality, theology and physiology of homosexuality itself. People I speak to who take this view, when pushed, often reveal a conviction that being gay is not ‘natural’, and marriage needs protection from some kind of creeping militant homosexual liberalism. I DO understand this argument. Change of what we hold to be right and true is always tough- particularly when deeply held religious beliefs are involved. Our culture has been on a journey of change over the past decades in relation to homosexuality and this kind of change takes time, conversation and mutual exchange on all sides.

I have made my contributions to this debate already on this blog, but as the vote in the House of Lords draws close, I will add this thought- are there higher considerations? Is not the greatest thing that we celebrate as humans love? 

Michaela and I watched this last night- grab a cuppa and watch;

 

Biblical marriage- but not as we know it…

In response to my previous post on gay marriage,  Sam Dawlatly (who has a book of poetry out on Proost soon by the way!) had this to say;

So here’s another point of view: the Bible doesn’t advocate monogamy… David had 8 wives and Solomon had more. Then at some point between then and a time perhaps before Jesus it was decided that marriage was between one man and one woman. Now the Law was given to Moses, so as far as I can make out there are no Laws that state explicitly that marriage is for one man and one woman. I am prepared to be corrected, as I am not a theologian. However monogamous marriage seems to be the norm in the New Testament.

What led to this change? It seems to me that “Christian monogamous marriage” as we accept it to be is not, in fact, biblical, but more cultural. I’m not advocating polygamy, but if the basis of marriage is more cultural then perhaps we shouldn’t use the Bible to define it and criticise those who seek to alter the definition according to modern culture?

He has a point you know. Deuteronomy is the scourge of all fundamentalists, who have to resort to immediate dispensationalist contortions every time. Check out chapter 22 for a case in point.

Or (with tongue in cheek) I offer you this;

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On marriage…

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On the drive round to Inveraray yesterday, I stopped the car and climbed a gate to go and check out the Gypsy ring overlooking a rain and windswept Loch Fyne. I have mentioned this place before- a mythical, and slightly neglected place which is half covered by tarmac from the old road, and is protected by a flimsy wire fence from the substantial herd of Highland Cattle that roam the fields thereabouts.

What this place is all about is lost in folklore. But one person told me that this was the site of Gypsy wedding ceremonies. The place where the Romany people who used to live in some numbers hereabouts would make a commitment to one another.

I have tried to find out more about these traditions, but so far have failed to find much from a Scottish context- and certainly nothing about this Gypsy ring. however, there is a very interesting account of Romany wedding rituals here. Romany culture has been persecuted and battered into the margins of society, perhaps now more than ever in these so called enlightened times. It has flourished still however, and I hope it may long continue to do so. There is room for all in this wonderful humanity of ours…

I have often wondered about the use of this dramatic site- high over the Loch, with panoramic views over towards Kintyre. Exposed as it is to the constantly changing weather. There is a whiff of magic about the place.

It clearly still has meaning to some folk. There are always a few coins scattered onto the circle, seeking some kind of luck or superstitious blessing.

One of the more adventurous young calves is often to be seen inside the fence. I hope he or she has been careful about what intonations they mooed out, lest they found themselves accidentally married…

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I am a person who would describe himself as happily blessed through marriage.

For those who are on the outside of such a union, this is definitely not the same thing as living in blissful joyful togetherness all the time- although we have had our moments. But after almost 19 years together, I feel I have given it enough of a road test to be able to make a firm recommendation of the concept.

Marriage has been in the news lately. Check out this report from the BBC last month.

Or this one from last year.

To summarise- the statistics seem to show a decline in numbers of folk marrying, an increase in civil ceremonies as opposed to religious ones (up from 47% in 1990 to 67% in 1997), and people are getting married later in life for the first time.

Paradoxically, and perhaps related to economic concerns, the divorce rate is thought to be at it’s lowest for 26 years (See here.)

Does all this matter? To some, particularly Christian family groups, it is vital. These groups tend to see nuclear families as God-given building blocks, and to seek to defend this idealised way of living at all costs- campaigning against any aspect of government policy, or ‘alternative lifestyle’ that seems to challenge the centrality of marriage. I will not mention any names, but some of these groups scare me, and I feel I have more in common with the Romanies than them at times!

Is the nuclear family a Judeo-Christian thing that can be distilled from the Bible as the way to be? It has always puzzled me to hear people claim this. It seems clear that family structures were very different in the different cultures and contexts that can be inferred from Biblical stories.

Some random thoughts about marriage-

  • Marriage is a partnership of two people who bring all sorts of baggage with them. Some relationships are toxic and damaging to all that come into contact with them.
  • Many do not survive. My pull is towards the broken people- not because of their failure, but rather because that is where Jesus would be.
  • Social Policy based on idealistic moral stances is dangerous.
  • We live in a post-Christian country. Things are changing.
  • All the central institutions of society are under challenge and review.
  • Marriage may well mean different things to different people within this new context.

But despite this, I believe in marriage. But then, this is easy for me to say, because I am married to Michaela- so I had an advantage.

The fact remains that study after study shows that kids born into stable loving family environments with strong parental role models have won the whole life lottery, in terms of psychology, emotionality, education, health- just about about every other measure. You can strip these statistics back and dig into what exactly was helpful about these situations, and whether they might be available through other social constructs, but the value of traditional family structures at their best are simply undeniable.

As can be shown from the Romany marriage circle- this model is not restricted to Christian tradition. The nuclear family remains the main social unit in Communist China also.

Perhaps we are going through change. But I have a feeling that marriage is here to stay…

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