reading about gay marriage

A motion passed the Australian House of Representatives around two weeks ago calling on parliamentarians to gauge their consituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

I’ve been looking for a few things to read on “gay marriage”, and had some recommendations, the longer ones I still need to wade through.

The Christian response (where there is one: I haven’t found much coverage of this) might be caricatured mentioning Hitler, atheists having no morality, and criticising other Christians for their lacklustre responses.

The argument on the other side can be similarly lacking in civility in places, though not always.

The best presentation of the Christian case I’ve read so far is an ABC Unleashed piece by Rev Murray Campbell which is still not flawless, but is more articulate than most (thanks Nathan for linking to it).

On the other side of the debate was a TEDxSydney talk from former High Court Justice Michael Kirby (thanks Renae).

His topic is to protect society from the “god botherers”. His thesis: “only by secularism will we maintain respect for every belief, and for people who have no belief: for the people of the here and now”.

I’m not sure that he makes the case in this talk for secularism as maintaining respect for every belief – he is no fan of the Protestant missionaries, for example. It might be fairer to say that secularism will maintain the right for everyone to practice their own faith, as long as that faith doesn’t impact others.

He closes with this quote: “…the churches have to look at the scriptures and learn the lesson that text is ambiguous. Holy text is a metaphor and a poem, and you have to look at it and text cannot be inconsistent with science. They’ve got to look again.”

I think that any part of a holy text needs to be read as the literary type that it is – I wouldn’t say that all holy text is a metaphor. Given that science continues to refine its understanding of the world as new discoveries present themselves, I would think that there’s some danger in trying to read holy text as consistent with science, but I’m being distracted from the task at hand.

We spent some time at bible study tonight looking at a few short bible passages, and trying to think through the issues involved.

It’s dangerous to look at bible passages out of their context, and try to apply them directly to the modern day, as this West Wing clip points out.

But what parts of the bible should we read to try and understand the Christian idea of marriage? Here are three to start you thinking.

  • Matthew 19:1-12 (where Genesis 2:24 is quoted as a part of understanding marriage.
  • 1 Cor 7:25-40, where the apostle Paul talks about reasons why you might not want to get married and
  • Rev 19:6-9apocalyptic literature, yes, but it shows the importance of the idea of marriage in the way that it represents the nature of the relationship between Jesus and Christians – it’s described as a marriage relationship.

The idea of marriage as two Christians making a public declaration of their voluntary, intended life-long, male/female, exclusive sexual relationship is one that is important to a large group of Christians (though not all Christians).

But what does that mean in Australian society, where the Marriage Act 1961 (which I still need to read in its entirety) covers the marriages of peoples from a variety of faiths (or no faith at all)?

Indeed, most Christian weddings I’ve been to have a series of vows, and Christian things in them, and then the signing and witnessing of two copies of a legal document.

It seems to me that the majority of Christians are upset at the alteration of the former, when in reality it’s the latter that’s at stake. Yes, to ease confusion we probably need some clarification on the language of these two things, but perhaps if we can acknowledge that two different things are happening in the one ceremony we’ll be in a better place to have a discussion about what the Marriage Act should say.

I realise that this is only the discussion of a few thoughts, and not the last word on the subject, and that I have a lot more reading to do: I’d welcome your comments, or suggestions on things to read next.

Still in the queue: Robert Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Kids” (thanks danielle – anyone have a copy?) and an Ursula Le Guin book.

3 thoughts on “reading about gay marriage”

  1. “It seems to me that the majority of Christians are upset at the alteration of the former, when in reality it’s the latter that’s at stake. Yes, to ease confusion we probably need some clarification on the language of these two things, but perhaps if we can acknowledge that two different things are happening in the one ceremony we’ll be in a better place to have a discussion about what the Marriage Act should say.”

    That quote for me nails why I don’t think gay marriage is a hill I want to stand and fight on, let alone die on, as a Christian. I’m much more keen to ensure that Christian celebrants can refuse to conduct gay ceremonies without being charged for discrimination.

  2. It would be good to talk about this some time Dave. My question to the disapproving Christians is ‘so what do you offer gay couples to support them to have happy, strong and supportive relationships’?

    You quote Murray Campbell, who seems to offer ‘disapproval and love’ instead of the usual ‘disapproval and hate’. No thanks.

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