"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Monday, 18 June 2012

Gay Marriage: I agree with the C of E

The Church of England has been on the offensive recently over the government’s proposals to extend the right to civil marriage to gay couples, suggesting that it is contrary to canon law and that such a change may cause a split between the state and the established church.
I think they are right. Not morally right of course, but on the substantive point that the Christian religion is at root; homophobic, exclusive, antithetical to equal rights on gender grounds and this is enshrined in canon law, they are spot on.
I also think they are probably correct when they say that exclusions protecting the church from being forced to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies will be vulnerable to legal challenges ultimately ending up in the European Court of Human Rights. In fact I would predict that someone will force such a challenge at the earliest opportunity and rightly so. The Anglican Church is an arm of the state with representation in the House of Lords and statutory rights and duties, one of which is to marry couples in the church of the diocese in which they reside, regardless of their religious affiliation. I do not see how this can be squared with an exception for gay partners once the married status of their union is recognised.
None of which is a reason for not doing it. The limits of marriage are not there to be defined by the Church, if that were the case different religions would be free to deny that status to anyone not married within their own tradition. Marriage is a legal contract defined by the state and while I do not blame the Church for arguing its corner, it should be just one of the voices in the mix and not a specifically privileged one.
I have heard several liberal Christians arguing that the Anglican Church is misguided and that Jesus’ message was about “love and inclusively” or that he never specifically spoke against homosexuality. But, unfortunately they are indulging in wishful thinking and wilful ignorance. The Gospels do not stand apart from the Leviticus laws: they are built upon them. Jesus was explicit in saying:
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5/17)
Insofar as Mosaic laws were subsequently overturned, St Paul did that as he tried to make the Christian religion more palatable to the Romans, but even he reiterated the prohibitions on homosexuality. That some people who think of themselves as Christian are in step with the rest of us on LGBTQ issues of equality and human rights is encouraging and welcome, but to claim such views are compatible with Christianity is false.
I think the Anglican Church will have to make a decision sooner or later on this issue. They must either admit that scripture is largely outdated and no longer a reliable guide to morality or take a stand and make the inevitable split with secular society.
Some may see this as a problem; I see an opportunity in the making.

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