Honestly. It feels like the news has gone a bit crazy recently, what with the ASA ruling that God cannot heal people, then the whole fracas about ‘militant secularism’, and now this: people going a bit crazy over whether the definition of marriage should be changed to include same-sex marriages.
It seemed to kick off a few days ago when Keith O’Brien wrote an article entitled, “We cannot afford to defend this madness“. After that, the atheist brigade on Twitter seemed to go mad; I saw a number of comments along the lines of “he believes in <x> (e.g. sky fairies) and yet he doesn’t believe in gay marriage”, etc. Most of what I saw written went way beyond what he actually said and ended up in ad hominem attacks or more general attacks on Christianity.
I don’t want to defend O’Brien’s piece because I don’t agree with all of it; although I do agree that redefining marriage would be a bad thing: the idea that marriage is between one man and one woman is an orthodox Christian belief.
That said, I do want to make a couple of points about people’s responses, one of which will seem oddly familiar if you’ve been reading my blog of late.
Firstly, the people who seem to be most vocal in their criticism of O’Brien (and the like) seem to be taking a ‘moral high ground’ position by claiming that it’s obviously right for marriage to be extended to homosexual couples. I would like to pose the challenge (similarly to my previous post on secularism): to what are you appealing when saying that one thing is more moral than another?
Secondly, I got thinking about marriage (as one does), and why it’s defined like it is. What is the point of marriage? Is it strictly a civil thing, or is there some deeper meaning to it? Why, indeed, does the government have to get involved in pronouncing people man and wife?
In fact, why should the government really be legislating on any kind of sexual activity (beyond, perhaps, sexual activity with minors and incest)? Come to think about it, why should polygamous marriages be disallowed?
It seems to me that the legal definition of marriage makes a few (generally Christian) assumptions about what is right and wrong in terms of sexual behaviour. If we start changing one of those assumptions, we may as well reconsider the others. Once again, it seems that secularism may well lead us down a path here where I don’t think we want to go.
Finally, Peter Ould has blogged some very good questions on “Gender Neutral Marriage” which I would recommend reading to get an idea of the scope of the issues.
This whole move by the government smacks of “Yes Prime Minister” – doing something to prove that the government is trendy and not the ‘old Tories’, rather than actually doing something because they’ve thought it through and believe in the principles.