Oh, church-tasting is fun. It was especially fun recently for me when, having heard a talk at one church that desperately angered and upset me, I went to church this week, to hear the same topic being preached upon, from the utterly opposite perspective.
The issue in question is same-sex marriage, and whether non-heterosexual couples should be allowed to call their union a marriage. In fact, it was agreed in the House of Commons today that they should be able to do so, so this is a timely piece.
So, a few weeks ago, I visited St. Aldate’s C. of. E. The guy who preached there based his entire sermon around why “gay marriage” (as he put it) should not be allowable in a Christian’s eyes. His argument hung on biblical interpretation and his own understanding of scientific research.
Namely, because Eve was created out of Adam’s rib, each man and woman has a soulmate out there, and these two beings need to come together as one flesh. In response, I argue that (a) interpretation of the creation myth is tricky, since it is a myth (even most Christians don’t believe in a six-day creation) and (b) to the extent that it is interpreted, to leap from “woman was created from man” to “woman and man need to join together again” and “as in marriage” is a very large leap indeed.
Second argument was that marriage is intended for children. Does that mean that if a couple don’t (or can’t) have children they shouldn’t get married? Why don’t we test their fertility in advance? Are they supposed to be able to see into the future or something? This is a ridiculous point to make, and one that nullifies quite a few “Christian marriages”.
Next, children fare better when they are in a two-parent, rather than a single parent family. And since there is too little research (and what little there is is questionable in quality) showing the impact of being brought up by a non-heterosexual couple on well-being, we must conclude that it would be damaging. I despair. Firstly, dismissing evidence because it doesn’t suit your claims is dodgy. Secondly, absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence (of positive impact on well-being). In other words, we don’t know what the impact is – that is not a basis for concluding that it would be damaging. Grrrr.
And the final point? If same-sex marriage were introduced, the words on birth certificates would need to change to make them gender neutral – parent 1 and 2, rather than mother and father, for example. How that is a reason why Christians should not be for same-sex marriage, I fail to see. Why we don’t have gender-neutral birth certificates anyway, I fail to see.
But it’s okay, and not homophobic to preach these points because he was not arguing that one cannot be homosexual (NB: denying non-heterosexual couples the same rights as others is homophobic since it is done solely on the basis of sexuality, same as denying Black people the same rights as others would be racist) and some of his friends and congregation are homosexual (so what?).
But then, then there was St Columba’s U.R.C. Where a much more sensible, sensitive and challenging message was preached.
Specifically, Jesus did not give us the gospel to keep to ourselves. We can see in Luke 4 that the people at the synagogue were perturbed by Jesus’ teaching; that He was driven from His home town, because He suggested that the gospel wasn’t just for the learned in the synagogue but also for the poor and the sick. In the same way, we must remember that the gospel and God’s promises are our privilege. They are not to be kept to ourselves, but to be shared with the marginalized, however uncomfortable that may make us feel. God’s unconditional love is for everyone; He accords love and privileges to all, not just to a chosen few, and that includes marriage and family-life.
Furthermore, and somewhat paradoxically given the protest against same-sex marriage, if the couple in question are Christian, their marriage does more to further the kingdom of god on Earth and to uphold Christian (yes, even family) values and traditions than that couple not getting married.
I am privileged. I will stand with the marginalized.