So, what about marriage?

30 Apr

I am going to begin this post with a caveat (that means I feel a bit nervous writing this one!) – I write this blog as honestly as I can. I don’t ever claim to be “right”. In fact, I could be “wrong”.

So, if you massively disagree with me on this post – that is ok. We don’t have to agree on everything. I don’t want to offend, but also I don’t want to say nothing – for fear of offence. So, here goes…

Gay marriage. What do you think? This issue seems incredibly divisive right now – with people passionately defending both sides of the debate. Some getting very angry about it. Others being more gracious.

What is it about sex that gets people so worked up? Particularly, it seems, those in the church. A friend of mine was told he couldn’t marry his fiancee in a church as she was divorced – so she would have to “repent publicly” before her wedding. They chose not to. For she had nothing to apologise for – young love had simply fizzled out. She wasn’t usually a church-goer but liked the idea of a church wedding. Is that really a crime?

Gay sex gets people even more worked up. Makes people angry. Livid. Moving beyond all the “is it natural?” debate, surely the more important question to ask the angry is: why are you so angry? Is it really moral piety? Are you really so blameless yourself? So happy (and qualified) to throw the first stone?

Why do same-sex relationships make some people so angry? An interesting article recently in the Times, by Matthew Parrish (himself a gay man) talked about a spectrum of sexuality. The polar opposites we use to box people in (“gay” or “straight”) are, he claims, a social construction. Humanity is far more messy. Which means the right/wrong dichotomy becomes harder to justify. Life is, after all, too messy to fit into neat boxes (we all know that by now, surely). Do people get angry because it touches on an insecurity or pain deep inside them – the issue maybe being in the eye of the beholder rather than the accused? Do people get angry because they are living along a “them” v. “us” divide? It is, after all, easier to dislike (or even hate) “them” if they remain “the other”. Once “they” are closer to “you” (as friend, colleague or relative) such black-and-white loathing is harder to sustain.

If gay marriage is only understood in terms of “them”, it remains an academic issue (even if it is dressed up in moral clothing). Once it is closer to home, it once again becomes messy/grey/harder to outright condemn.

So this is my question: is it really so bad if two people want to make a lifelong partnership official? If they want to publicly commit to each other, should they be excluded? Is it more “moral” to exclude or to embrace?

I write this as a Christian – who believes in the importance of marriage and tries to live my life in line with what I read in the Bible. I wouldn’t call myself a “liberal”, but neither am I a fundamentalist (sometimes it feels like life would be more straightforward if I was!). I often wrestle deeply with what it means to live a life of faith and hope in that I cannot see. I have doubts. And questions. And sometimes it seems there are no easy answers.

I find it hard to reconcile faith in a God of love and generosity with the attitude I see around me in many churches – a “morality” seemingly based on superiority and judgment. I find it hard to stomach some of the venom directed at those who are for gay marriage. It seems like hatred, not love. And that sits uncomfortably with me. For me, Jesus was a radical, an unconventional Messiah who shattered most expectations and frequently offended the “holy ones”. He didn’t like religious rules. He loved the unloved and embraced the broken and needy. He didn’t create petitions to “witness” to truth, instead he loved prostitutes, the mentally ill and the outcasts. And he often healed them in the process (but not always – another conundrum!).

Jesus seemed to accept people as they were. He didn’t bring easy answers. He seemed instead to generate more questions. And confusion.

And this is why I am a Christian – because faith is not about ticking boxes or living separate from the world. For Jesus did neither. I believe in a radical, loving, generous, outrageous, extravagant Messiah. One who embraced the misunderstood/the different/the outcast and asks me to do the same.

So I cannot, in integrity, sign any petition “against gay marriage”. Nor would I want to. I cannot stand on my moral perch and condemn. That would be ridiculous.

And I hope that, whatever the outcome, the church – this time – stops thinking in terms of “them” and “us”. And – this time – chooses love over hate.

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7 Responses to “So, what about marriage?”

  1. robryan65 30/04/2012 at 23:27 #

    Well written Becca šŸ™‚
    I agree – why condemn when you can embrace!

    • beccamcg 01/05/2012 at 09:51 #

      Rob – do you have any thoughts on Steph’s question? You are a man of theology after all (and far more qualified than I am on this!!)

  2. Cathers Pearson 30/04/2012 at 23:45 #

    hear, hear!! Well written Becca, you have put into words something I have been struggling to do for a while xx

  3. Wayward NZ 01/05/2012 at 00:58 #

    Becca, thank you so much for writing this. I completely agree with you. You’ve articulated so brilliantly, what I’ve been wrestling with for a long time. It’s important that we discuss this issue – thank you for being courageous:)

  4. Steph Johnston 01/05/2012 at 08:00 #

    Love that you had the courage to write this. I do have one wee question for you…but it must also come with my own caveat. I have very good friends who are gay, my own father is gay and I 100% agree with you that as a follower of Jesus we should be loving people no matter how “different” society deems them to be. With that, my questions.

    How do you address the fact that God says in the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman?

    Would love to know what your thoughts are, mainly so I can continue to form my own opinion!

    xx

    • beccamcg 01/05/2012 at 09:50 #

      Brilliant question Steph (Tim actually said the same thing). And not one I can answer straight away… Will get back to you – and would welcome others’ thoughts on this too

  5. robryan65 01/05/2012 at 10:46 #

    to be honest … I wish the church was less obsessed with this but people more scholarly than me have written well and I will add links below.

    Yes … that text does present difficulties. But … I believe so does any text taken in isolation. I don’t believe in a purely literal interpretation of scripture. I think it is important to embrace the apparent paradoxes and conflicts. For example, we have spoken above of scripture possibly saying marriage is between man and woman. We also have scripture telling us that there is now ‘no male, no female, no slave, no free, no jew no gentile’ …. how do we hold those in tension?

    I think personally (and I fully know could be wrong … I do not pretend to think I am right, this is just my opinion at this point in time from what I have currently studied … so my opinion could change …) that if we take the whole balance of scripture the overriding message is radical love and acceptance. Jesus, embodying the gospel, upset people as he pushed the boundaries of what the faith leaders of the time thought was acceptable. I think we are called to continue to embrace that radical call to acceptance and love.

    I’m not sure than answers the question but below I have linked to Jeffrey John and David Ison who speak much better than me:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9130171/Dr-David-Ison-new-Dean-of-St-Paul-backs-gay-marriage.html

    http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/005412.html#more

    I hope that is of some help

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