A Christian Musing Over The Gay Marriage Debate – Does It Really Matter?
So the ‘no’s’ have lost in another country (20 now) and the gay marriage push gathers confidence and fresh hope here in Australia. On the other side opponents cry out with alarm and urgency for the stemming of the tide; the tide of changing public opinion.
Does it really matter? After all what two other people do in the privacy of their own bedroom doesn’t seem to affect me as I live out my own life by long held convention and beliefs. And after all, I have lived a peaceful life living alongside and among all sorts of different people in my long life. (well, 60+ years, it seems long)
What is marriage really anyway, other than some curious social construct that celebrates a couple’s joy at committing their lives to each other. I always thought the fuss and bother, the outrageously priced white dress, the silly buttoniers for the men, the obligatory ‘old cars’ (what’s with that anyway?), the cake and so on was some kind of cultural trapping that confused the meaning of the day. That has proven to be true. People today marry and expend vast sums and energy on the ‘day’ without any serious thought to exactly what marriage is.
So what is it? Is it a privilege discriminating unnecessarily against a portion of the population? Or is it something more?
Clarity and a look back is in order. What were the defining characteristics of marriage all along? Well there are three major ones (apart from all the bells and whistles as noted above), the first of which we all know as we are currently in a major cultural battle over that – man and woman. One man and one woman to be exact.
The others, just to be clear, are ‘for life,’ and ‘to the exclusion of all others.’ Why exactly did we, across the globe and for all of human history up till this present generation, keep coming back so consistently in pretty much every major civilisation, to this social model?
Two reasons really, social stability, and the survival of the society/community. Namely, having and raising children who would in turn replicate that model. Otherwise civilisations would shrivel up and die out by virtue of diminishing population.
This raises the question – to what purpose does modern society move to legalise gay marriage? Granted, some gays are already marrying abroad (NZ being popular), adopting and fostering families. However these are a minority of an already small minority of our population. We are talking under 10% of under 3% of the total population, so 0.3%. Of these very few are interested in having large families. Indeed, few heterosexual couples are interested in having large families today.
The actual purpose seems very much to be that society must approve of and celebrate the union of gays and lesbians equally with heterosexuals. This is understandable on their part.
So where will the social trends go? No doubt at some time in the next decade public opinion will shift enough that gay marriage will be legalised in Australia. So apart from the ensuing pushes for other ‘kinds’ of marriage what else? I will leave that to others to postulate.
No doubt the churches will respond in two predominant ways. Some will embrace, some will react negatively. It is likely that the latter group will formulate constitutional changes to protect themselves from ‘Government intrusion’ as they see it. Will that work?
That is unlikely, because the push by the gay lobby is actually not solely about legal rights. It is as much, perhaps more, about affirmation and approval. So long as any major denomination resists the growing legal juggernaut supporting gay marriage it will inevitably turn its attention to those denominations. It will take just one person who in entering into a same sex union desires to marry in his/her local church, just like all his family and friends. This is inevitable. It cannot be discounted by mocking the ‘slippery slope’ arguments, because the slippery slope is already proving to be accurate thus far with polyamorous couples now crying ‘me too.’ In any case several such attempts have been made already in the UK and USA, thus far without success.
On the surface the future for churches who hold fast to the traditional Biblical view is not rosy. But hold some will. New arenas of social conflict will no doubt arise and eclipse the present prominence of the gay marriage issue too. No doubt these will revolve around a range of challenges such as sanctity of life, euthanasia, abortion, perhaps broadly encompassed by the question, ‘what does it mean to be human?’
And while all this is happening, what of the future of marriage, of our societies? One thing we need to realise is that the gay marriage debate is but a small part of a seismic shift in morals and social conventions that will radically change us. In short we no longer live for our community, we live for ourselves, for ME, for my own pleasures, my own enjoyment. This to me is the defining characteristic of the postmodern generation.
Whereas once a couple stayed married even through some tough conflicts and disappointments of life, today we not only separate more easily, we actually celebrate separations and the breakdown of a marriage (in some countries we are already seeing the evolution of ceremonies to mark such milestones), even when that breakup impacts children.
Sociologists no doubt will be attempting to predict where this will take us, but will the people listen?
History says no. History is in fact a record of the rise and fall of civilisations as they move from young and vigorous and cohesive to old and flaccid and fragmented, thence to make way for another more vigorous one. The real church of Jesus Christ however has survived now for 2,000 years, oft diminished and persecuted because it stood fast against the tide, but always rising again to be an influence for common good. I have confidence this will again prove to be the case in the 21st Century.
Rather than obsessing with what gains the gay community are making we should be looking in the mirror – are we living like Jesus? Are we truly loving those who disagree with us even if they are angry at us and hating us? Only if we are will we begin to influence the community around us.