Friday, 24 May 2013

Redefining Marriage (1925)



30 comments:

Perpetua said...

Oh yes, absolutely!

Anonymous said...

Ahh, this didn't redefine marriage - it just remove an irrational legal restriction on marriage - which was still a life long sexual union between a man and a woman.

If God thought that marriage could equally involve two males or two females, wouldn't He have made it possible for two men or two women to have their own children... or at least given them mutually compatible sex organs!

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ah, but it did, as surely as turning women from property into voluntary partners redefined marriage, or requiring marriages to be registered with the state redefined marriage, or banning same sex marriages in the Code of Theodosius in 329 AD redefined marriage. The historical fact is, as the Dean of Worcester has said, “If marriage is an ‘institution’ at all, it is one with a built-in faculty for re-inventing itself.”

Erika Baker said...

Anon,
of course every redefinition means that marriage becomes something it wasn't before. That is the definition of redefinition! The only question is whether a particular redefinition is helpful or not.
As for the mechanics - people seem to be doing pretty well, you don't need to worry. In fact, it might make you calmer and less obsessed if you stopped thinking about that aspect completely. It's the smallest part of a marriage after all and certainly not what defines it.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you had to change the argument.. so it looks like I won that one. ;-)

Erika, changing legal restrictions on what kinds of male and female can marry, and how the law apportions power between them, were legal changes reflecting different societies' understandings. But saying that marriage can equally involve two men or two women is on the fundmental level of reality, not just law and culture.

Saying that marriage can equally involve two men or two women denies the biological nature of being human, because a sexual relationship between two men or two women can't fulfil all the Goods of marriage. In fact it sets up dissonances between the natural human desires for partnership, sex, children and societal inclusion. "Equal" marriage rejects these human realities and insists that the problem is in the "mechanics", in people's perceptions and in the structures of human family and society, rather than in the sexual attraction.

But the reverse is the fact: because we are whole people, not just minds trapped in bodies.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ah but if being gay is a phenomenon within nature that is true of a minority of people who are as completely human as anyone else, arising from who they are, not an offence against nature defined by external behaviour you judge to be wrong, your argument there unravels ;-)

Erika Baker said...

Anon,
- Marriage is between a man and a woman, therefore gay people cannot marry.
- Why does it have to be between a man and a woman?
- Because same sex couples cannot have children.
- Why does it matter if they cannot have children when there are many straight couples who cannot have them?
- Because they could have them if they could have them
- Why is having children so important and why do adoption, fostering and step parenting not count?
- Because of some biological kinship presumption that means we can ignore actual biology in favour of the idea of conferring biological kinship rights on straight couples and that just cannot be done for gay couples.
- Why can it not be done for gay couples?
- Because marriage is between a man and a woman.

This is about the level of this argument against same sex marriage and it is ridiculous.

There is no single characteristic that is shared by all straight couples but not by a single gay couple, there is nothing that sets all straight couples apart from all gay couples.

The difference you claim is nothing more than one of convention. There is nothing intrinsic about it.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but not necessarily Alan! On that basis you could argue that every human thought, desire or orientation is good because it is "within nature" - but in this world our "nature" is not perfectly good. Or, theologically, all human beings are made in the image of God, but only human being who was the perfect Image of God was Jesus. In the rest of us that image is damaged.

So "Who I am" is not a definition of what is good - only who I will be when I am restored in the perfect image of God:

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1John3:2)

Anonymous said...

Erika, the argument you put forward is ridiculous... but it was not the argument I made.

"The difference you claim is nothing more than one of convention." The flaw in this argument is that we are not just minds trapped in bodies - our bodies are intrinsic to us - we are whole people!

Would you like to address my previous points directly?

Erika Baker said...

Anon,
yes, what I had forgotten in my list of arguments is the "just because it's nature it's not good, we might as well legalise pedophilia and incest because some people want it."

Do we really have to go over this tired ground again?
The Christian principle here is "by their fruits shall you tell them". The fruits of raping children are wholly negative, as I'm sure we all agree.
The fruits of denying gay people the same opportunities to loving fulfilled lives are self disgust, shameful secrecy, no stability, a very high risk of suicide.
Whereas the fruits of encouraging stable gay relationships are the same as those of encouraging stable straight ones.

It is actually quite shocking that this point still has to be made these days!

As for the other point you made about same sex marriage denying some kind of human reality - that comes under the "why are adoption, fostering and step parenting acceptable for straights but not for gay people" nonsense.

The only argument you are making is "they've having the wrong kind of sex and it doesn't matter how stable, loving, caring and self giving those relationships are, if you have the wrong kind of sex you're out".
Please do not expect me to consider that as anything but the most shallow argument possible that is only aimed at keeping gays in their place.

If the essence of marriage is one single act of straight sex, then yes, gays cannot get married.
But what a terribly low view of marriage that is!

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

"you could argue that every human thought, desire or orientation is good because it is "within nature" - but in this world our "nature" is not perfectly good." You could, but I wasn't, I didn't and I wouldn't. Partly because a thought is different from a desire, which is very different from an orientation. Jesus suggested we measure things by their fruits. The concept that jesus had a different kind of humanity from the rest of the human race and does not eternally share our humanity is called Monophysitism, and was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. I do not believe it to be true, but subscribe to the Creed in its Western form.

Anonymous said...

Erika, well you would say that, wouldn't you?!

But to be human is to be male or female - that is how we are, it is how society is constructed, it is how intergenerational families are constructed it is how children are procreated and it is how our bodies are designed for sexual intercourse.

To insist that marriage can equally between two people of the same sex as between a male and a female is to ignore all those aspect and reduce marriage to something just between the individuals.

Mind you, I do absolutely believe that we are all equal - and we will all be remade in the image of Christ, if we persist in faith and obedience.. And the argument is rather irrelevant in the face of eternity, because as Jesus himself said:

"At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." (Matt 22:30)

PHEW!

Anonymous said...

Err, Alan, well maybe I was falsely assuming that you weren't arguing that every "phenomenon found within nature" is good: sex without commitment, males with "harems" of females, sex between siblings - sex for food etc etc.

And I know that there are different levels of inherence of thoughts, desires and orientation (which is why I listed them) but that does not mean that any is necessarily good , or morally neutral. We all have all sorts of essentially fixed characteristics that we may see as damaged rather than the perfect image of God.

ps I didn't suggest that Jesus had a different kind of humanity but that He was the only perfect, unblemished example of humanity in the image of God: "The Son is the image of the invisible God ..." (1Cor1:15) "The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, ..." (Hebrews 1:3) AND THEREFORE "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself *unblemished* to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)

Alan, humankind are not the reference point or the arbiters of Christian morality: "Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves." (Romans 14:22)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Your assumption was indeed false. If I believed casual sex was a good idea, why would I be promoting marriage??! If you assume that gayness could not be part of humanity in the image of God then, of course you will argue (with perfect circularity, which is why it never convinces anyone who didn't agree with you in the first place), surprise surprise that it isn't. If, however you open your mind to the possibility that God made people the way he made them, in all their diversity including a few sharing the universal phenomenon of gayness, for a good and loving purpose, and that he knew what he was doing when he did it, your problem disappears, as it has done in the past for black people and left handed people, also in the past assumed to be cursed in some way by God for being the way they are.

Erika Baker said...

Anon,
but why do people keep citing Genesis yet ignore science?
Most of us were created male and female but a fair number of us was created transgender or intersex. That is just a scientific fact.

The other fact is that I was created female, there is no doubt about that. So was my wife.
The biological fact of our femaleness says nothing about our sexual orientation, far less about the morality of that orientation.

As for needing men and women to produce babies - yes.
Or, rather, needing sperm and an egg.
That is not going to change and 95% of all couples will remain one man and one woman and the human race will not die out.

What you have to explain is why straights who do not want children (and are presumably only married because the 2 individuals want to be) are lawfully married, why infertile straights people are lawfully married, why disabled people who cannot have sexual intercourse are lawfully married and why asexual people who have no intention of ever having sex are lawfully married - yet gay couples who don't want children or who have children from a previous relationship and step parent or who adopt or who have children with the aid of assisted conception whereby the children are the biological offspring of one of the couple should be any less lawfully married than straights in the same boat.

And the only answer to that is the nonsensical "straights could have children if they could have them, gays can't because.... they have the wrong kind of sex."
And here we are again!
A shallow, reductionist view of marriage that, if taken seriously and not just as a reason to exclude gays, would also invalidate a fair number of existing straight marriages.

When something it THAT illogical it deserves to be dismissed.

Anonymous said...

But Alan, I gave several reasoned arguments why same-sex attraction is not fully in the image of God.

You, on the other hand seem to be arguing that homosexuality must be in the image of God because it exists in people you believe to be in the image of God.

The circularity is all yours.

Anonymous said...

Hi Erika, we obviously aren't going to agree. People choose to share their lives with whoever they want to (though I do think that many ways people live are unholy, unrighteous and unjust) but I do object to reducing marriage to just a label people can choose, if they want it.

Feelings and choice are not enough. That we are normally male or female, how society is constructed, how intergenerational families are constructed, how children are procreated and how our bodies are designed for sexual intercourse, are all aspects of being human too.

Retaining marriage as a male-female institution shows how much we value *all* aspects of being human.

Erika Baker said...

Anon,
you still talk of intergenerational families and the procreation of children as if they were something that was true for all straight marriages and therefore the one yardstick by which to measure marriage.
I really wish you had engaged with my questions and given a considered answer.

As for being designed for sexual intercourse - I don't think we need to go into the mechanics of it all, other than to say that it clearly works very well for lgbt people in all aspects apart from being able to have children together, and that there is not a single aspect of gay sex that is not also a staple of straight relationships.

You are so terribly sex focused, it defines everything for you, it justifies any exclusion... as I said, I find that sadly limiting. My marriage is much richer than that.

Fortunately, we do not have to agree. Your view has no impact on my life and will have even less when I can convert my Civil Partnership into a marriage. My view has no impact on your life.

So I hope we can agree to live together in the same society, side by side, agreeing about some things (I'm sure we would, if we ever met) and disagreeing about others, each just continuing to live our God given lives, knowing that we will eventually be answerable for them - not to each other, but to God alone.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Well, the way it works for me is this. We know as axiomatic that all people are created by God in his image. When he made people he saw they were good. This does not mean everything they do is good, but everything they are is his will, not a mistake. As is said in other contexts, God does not make rubbish. If gay = a behaviour, then plainly it may be good or bad. If it is an aspect of how we are made that is found in some people, like left-handedness (just to take another characteristic the Church used to stigmatise, over which people usually had little or no control, that occurs in the natural order about as frequently as gayness), then it is not part of the order of creation.

Anonymous said...

Erika, I didn't answer questions about abuse within marriage and the virtues within same-sex relationships because the issue is whether two males or two females should be said to be marriage, not whether every marriage is perfect or every other relationship has no virtue. [for the same reason you would probably object to people trying to broaden the question to pedophilia, zoophilia and polygamy].

I'm very happy to live in the same society as you and lots of other people living in all sorts of sinful and immoral relationships. Given Jesus' absolute moral standards - even lust is equivalent to adultery - none of us has never sinned in God's eyes in the area of sex and marriage. But we do need to repent!

What I object to is being legally obliged to act and speak as if a sexual relationship between two males of two females is equal to a marriage between a male and a female. It isn't true factually - however "discriminatory" nature might seem in the world of ideological "rights".

In fact, it's a bit rich calling me reductionist! It's people who think that two males or two females can be married who are reductionist: they want to reduce the definition of marriage to eliminate the parts that two men or two women can't fulfil. But they will always be faced with the facts: two people of the same sex don't have compatible sex organs, can't have their own family, so can't form intergenerational families and can't relate to society as the "basic building block of society".

Regarding sexual intercourse(or "mechanics" as you rather derogatively refer to it): mutual masturbation, penetration with alternative body parts, or use of alternative orifices, may be good foreplay but they are not sexual intercourse using the mutually compatible sex organs that a male and a female have, and that can produce children (if there is no problem).

Two women or two men may love and commit to live in partnership, but if God had thought that *marriage* could equally involve two males or two females, He would have made it possible for two men or two women to have their own children... or at least have given them mutually compatible sex organs!

Anonymous said...

Well, Alan that is where you start to go wrong: we are not perfectly in God's image otherwise, like Jesus, we would not sin. But we do sin and we all have propensities to sin in different areas - but that doesn't make us "rubbish" or a "mistake" - God loves us despite our sins!

Similarly, when someone is born without legs or with an extra chromosome, or with something else that handicaps them, they are not "rubbish" or a "mistake" - they are fully human - but the image of God is marred in a way that we can see.

So much of the rest of what you say is just a rerun of the usual polemic parallels that liberals trot out, and for which there are obvious replies: "left-handedness" is unusual but not unnatural in that the hands are still used as hands, wheras you are trying to argue that that same-sex sexual desire makes sex between them "natural" even though nature hasn't provided them with compatible sex organs... There is a problem - is it the body parts or the desire?

Similarly accusing the Church of "stigmatising" people is a neat way try to silence debate, but I bet you would not express such concerns on things that you thought were not moral - is it "stigmatisation" to call sex between adult siblings "incest" or multiple marriages "polygamous".... or critics of gay marriage "homophobic"?

Just because some people develop certain desires, does not mean that those desires are good. Even if the desires are very strong and fixed, that of itself does not mean that it is good, permissible or beneficial to act on those desires. Indeed, many sexual preferences are strong and fixed - not just the ones we label "sexual orientation".

If someone were inclined to sexual desires that you considered inappropriate to act on you would advise them to refrain and to develop a personal discipline.

Finally, same-sex orientation is not "God-given" or even a strongly predetermined characteristic; there seem to be strong elements of nurture or experience affecting how children's sexual orientation develops. Even the concordance for homosexuality between monozygotic twins is only about 11%- innate characteristics like eye colour or intelligence are up near 100%, and even reading disability (70%) developing Alzheiners (60%) and alcoholism (30-40%) are way more innate than sexuality.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I'm interested by your assertion that the image of God is marred in someone with an extra chromosome or other birth exceptionality. I had assumed this not to be the case. I would think the Biblical Man Born Blind to be as much in God's image as anyone else, and Jesus' healing him wouldn't make him any more human than he had been, just the same human able to see. I suppose I haven't seen it operating on the level you do. I also think it is a mistake to define people in terms of their desires. All aspects of orientation operate on scales within which there are lots of possibilities, some more fluid than others. This is part of the mechanism that produces the next generation of people. One thing, however, is pragmatically simple. Stigmatising people as you do was and basing a whole psychiatry on it was what we used to do, and its evil results led people to see the folly of behaving this way. You can control your prejudice much more than a gay person can stop being gay, as the manifest failure of various gay straightening ministries proves again and again. All the law is increasingly requiring you to do is to make the attempt to control your desire to sitgmatise others — it is taking nothing away from you at all except a position of assumed superiority based on the way you read your sexual desires and those of the majority.

Erika Baker said...

"What I object to is being legally obliged to act and speak as if a sexual relationship between two males of two females is equal to a marriage between a male and a female."

There are a lot of things I object to that are nevertheless law in this country. That is how parliamentary democracy works and, I'm afraid, both you and I are bound by its outcomes.

You are, however, not required to "speak" against your belief. You will still be entitled to tell everyone what you really think of them. Even if you are a teacher responsible for teaching sex ed or general studies you will still be able to say that "according to the laws of this country people of the same sex are legally married" while distancing yourself personally from this view.

The only thing you really will have to do is treat gay married couples the same way you treat straight married ones.

And unless you are a registrar or run a hotel or a B&B or offer wedding related services that should not have a major impact on your life.

I expect the impact of the legislation on you will be minimal.
Certainly not worth all the fuss.

Anonymous said...

What I am about to say will be judged immediately as controversial. Gay marriage is born out of the instinct of jealousy. Take away time, social culture and legislation, and ask the question: "When there was no such thing as marriage at all, would it have been devised and created purely for the purposes of same-sex relationships?". Admit it. The answer is "no". We all have an instinct to better ourselves - that is our survival instinct. People do not like to admit when that becomes jealousy and covetousness. Gay marriage is that.

People will be reading that and jumping to the conclusion (yes, admit that too) that I am homophobic. We are all so often guided by 'waves of opinion' and fear of being labelled. I admit to the latter, pure and simple. I have many gay friends, and the ones I admire most are those whose principal subject of conversation is not being gay, or their sexual relationship. Why on earth would mine be the same as a heterosexual?

Civil Partnerships provide exactly what gays once wanted, and there was great rejoicing. Now, it is not enough - marriage is on the target board. Underlying it is financial equality. I have no problem with altering C.P. to achieve that, but do NOT hijack marriage, which I entered into for very precious reasons over 20 years ago.

I will not open the children debate, my wife having lost our child - which makes it doubly upsetting to see 2 fathers or 2 mothers now able to 'acquire' children.

The overlying reason for gay marriage is supposed equality. Such a principal will never exist until I, as a heterosexual singer, am allowed to join the London Gay Mens Chorus, or set up the London Heterosexual Mens Chorus, wihtou fear of angry protest at every concert.

It is all an uncomfortable truth that people are truly afraid to admit.

Erika Baker said...

Anonymous,
I cannot challenge your understanding of the motivation of gay people for wanting marriage and of your reasons to oppose it - you are clearly absolutely convinced so nothing I can say will make any difference.

But wrong statements do have to be challenged. I'm really really sorry that you have lost your child, and I know that there is nothing worse than having lost a baby and seeing happy families all around you. It is a deep wound that takes a long long time to heal.

But it is not true to say that 2 fathers or 2 mothers will "now" be able to acquire children.

Gay people have had their own children with straight partners since the beginning of time.

Lesbian couples have long used friends' sperm to have a child together.

And gay people have been able to adopt and foster on equal terms since the Adoption and Children Act in 2002, 4 years even before the Civil Partnership Act came into force.

Some 8000 gay parents already parent or step parent underage children in this country.

Gay marriage will not change anything in that respect for a single gay person or their children.

Protecting children or stopping people from "acquiring" them is not a good reason for opposing equal marriage.
On the contrary, if you are genuinely concerned about protecting children you should join us in supporting gay marriage - because we all know that marriage is a better place in which to bring up children than other social constellations.

Anonymous said...

Bishop m Alans reference to the healing of the man born blind undermines his whole argument. Jesus healed the man born blind because he was born handicapped - not less human - Therefore by comparing homosexuals to the man born blind clearly implies that Bish. Alan agrees that the homosexual is as much in need of healing as the blind man therefore by extension the homosexual was either born handicapped or has, which is nearer the truth chosen to be as he is. his whole argument is deeply flawed, but it has to be if he is going to be able to excuse same sex relationhships.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Just to clarify I do not believe gay people are born with a disability. the cause of homosexuality is exactly the same as the cause of heterosexuality, or indeed of any placement on the various scales that define sexual orientation and its associated characteristics. Although there is an acquired element about some of these scales, and some people's sexuality does exhibit fluidity, the whole idea gay people simply choose to be so is demonstrably complete tosh. Even when UK society bought into the concept it was simply a behaviour, it proved almost completely impossible to change for the vast majority of people.

Anonymous said...

of course it is almost imopossible to change the vast majority of gay people. Why would they want to change they enjoy their un-natural activity, goodness knows why. If homosexuality was natural God would have created male and female and then a gay and a lesbian - he didn't.

Interpretor24 said...

It's a good thing God invented Bishops, or we'd all be left floundering (anonymously,of course)!
I wish the idea of "Civil/Equal/Same-Sex_Marriage" had been left where it first emerged, in a blog (sorry,Bog).
Strangled sacrificial "#Man-in-a-Bog"
probably was too opinionated for his own good? (Science Museum exhibit).
The only sad thing about 'homosexuality' is that it derives from a duo aping conjugal relations; or plain fakery. The Apostolic injunction to marry rather than 'burn with desire' follows some (or all) of the Ten Commandments; spiced up on the lines of Jesus' perceptive insight on "when a man lusts on a woman".
Why pretend that Man has evolved ?

Erika Baker said...

"If homosexuality was natural God would have created male and female and then a gay and a lesbian"

Oh that made me giggle, thank you. As in gays and lesbians aren't also male and female?
With that level of biological awareness....

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