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.