Thought that title would catch your attention! One thing which annoys me about the whole furore surrounding the government’s proposals to redefine marriage (which I’ve blogged about before) is the careless way people use words like ‘bigoted’ and ‘homophobic’. Particularly the first one: these days, if you are opposed to anything which society in general seems to be for, you are ‘bigoted’. For example, Marcus Brigstocke tweeted about a month ago, “Hey The Church – heres a thought – man up and own your bigotry.” Is that fair?
Let me borrow the definition of ‘bigot’ from the online dictionary:
a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.
Many say that because the church don’t want the government to redefine marriage, they are bigots. So they are ‘utterly intolerant of a different belief or opinion.’ The problem is… the idea that marriage should be a lifelong partnership between one man and one woman is an opinion – a belief. But the idea that marriage should be ‘egalitarian’ and allowed between any two consenting adults is also a belief or opinion. Unfortunately, the two opinions cannot co-exist legally – in a country such as the UK, it’s up to the government to pick a position and enforce it. In the past, such opinions have largely been drawn from a Christian view of the world (or at least, quasi-Christian). And many people still have that Christian moral framework in place, even if some of the distinctives have slipped out.
Let me twist the example slightly to illustrate. I’m sure there are plenty of people in the country who would like to legitimise polygamous marriage. Why, after all, should marriage be limited to two people? It’s true that ‘traditional’ marriage isn’t owned by the Church (although I think it is owned by God), but there are other religions which do permit polygamous marriage. And if more than two consenting adults want to enter into a marriage commitment, why prevent them? From a naturalistic point of view, surely – whatever they want to do, right? So is it consistent to call people ‘bigoted’ for being against gay marriage, while at the same time being opposed to polygamous marriage? I haven’t gone round and asked the people who have been throwing around the ‘B’ word if they’re against polygamous marriage, so I might be doing them an injustice (they might be all for it), but I don’t think that’s the case.
The point I’m trying to make, in a somewhat roundabout way, is that everybody has a framework by which they judge right and wrong. The church has the Bible, which – as I have argued before – is the only coherent and rational way to make a moral framework. Society – or at least certain parts of it – seems to have decided that it’s absolutely correct to allow gay marriage, it’s so obvious that anyone opposed to it is just doing it because they cannot tolerate other opinions (there is an irony there, by the way).
Everyone has a worldview by which they judge the world and form opinions about it. Things which are ‘obvious’ to one person will not be ‘obvious’ to another person. Rather than calling everyone who disagrees with us ‘bigoted’, why don’t we actually try to discern which worldview is the correct one, if any? I’d rather raise the question about how we decide what is right before looking at specific decisions: this is a matter which will have much greater ramifications than the definition of marriage.