Oz Priest, on the Christian Case for Gay Marriage

“Fr Dave” is yet another Australian arguing strongly in favour of legal recognition. His argument is that it the Christian thing to do: same sex marriage, like any other, contributes broadly to social stability, and provides a stable environment for raising children. (For those who dispute this on the grounds that children need a mother and a father, see the observation by cartoonist David Horsey, at Seattle PI:

Today, a couple of inebriated knuckleheads who happen to be boy and girl can impulsively get hitched any day of the week at a chapel in Las Vegas. A straight man or woman who has repeatedly failed at marriage can try, try again. The moral fiber of America will only be enhanced when two men or two women who have faithfully shared their lives for decades are finally allowed to do the same.

But back to Fr Dave, in Australia:

Why every Christian should be in favour of gay marriage.

Yes, I’m serious.

Yes, I realise that the majority of the world’s Christians are opposed to gay marriage and I recognise that many of those who most vocally oppose gay marriage do so in the name of Christ. Even so, this misunderstanding is easily resolved.

For Christians understand that marriage is an institution with a purpose. Others may believe that it was just a good idea that our forebears came up with on a lonely night, or that it evolved mystically out of our apparent need for soul-mates, but Christians believe that marriage is a God-given institution, designed to serve the good of the community, and this gives us a very straightforward way of assessing the validity of any proposed form of marriage.

Let’s be clear about this: from a Christian point of view, marriage is an institution designed to serve two social needs:

  1. marriage contributes broadly to social stability; and
  2. marriage provides a stable environment for the nurturing of children.

This may seem all very unromantic (as is the case with so much “biblical” thinking) but, in truth, I can’t see many people outside of the self-obsessed, chakra-balancing spiritualist fringe – Christian or otherwise – seriously contesting this, and a brief look at history confirms that it is the social purpose of marriage that is at the core of the institution.

The biblical record, certainly, is unambiguous in this regard. Sometimes marriage was monogamous while at other times multiple partners were involved. Sometimes marriages were arranged and at other times people were free to choose partners for themselves. The form of the institution varied, but the God-given role that marriage plays in the community has remained constant – increasing social stability and providing a safe environment for the nurturing of children.

If this is the case then the only questions Christians need to concern themselves with when it comes to the issue of gay marriage are these two:

  1. Would gay marriage lead to greater social stability?
  2. Would a married gay partnership be likely to provide a more secure environment for the nurturing of the children of a gay couple than an unmarried one?

I think the answer to both these questions has to be “yes”. If marriage entails faithfulness and long-term partnership, then allowing gay persons to marry will have to contribute something in both of these areas, even if the success rate of gay marriages turns out to be as dismal as heterosexual ones.

Now I appreciate that any number of Christian people will object at this point with words like “abomination” and “unnatural” – claiming that the Bible teaches clearly that all homosexual activity (including that between consenting adults) is an obscenity before God. My contention at this point is simply that even if this were true it wouldn’t detract from the value of gay marriage. For the issue here is not whether homosexual activity is desirable or undesirable or morally offensive or anything of the sort. The only questions that should concern Christian people are these two:

  1. Will this form of marriage serve social stability?
  2. Will it make things better or worse for the children involved?

If the answer to these two questions is positive then we Christians have no basis for objecting to gay people having access to the institution of marriage, regardless of how some of us might feel about such people and regardless of whether we judge such persons to be immoral or otherwise.

Personally I think we Christians need to get over what is going on in other people’s bedrooms, but if we are going to make pronouncements on what we deem best for the community, let’s do so on the basis of rational argument and biblical principle.

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2 Responses to “Oz Priest, on the Christian Case for Gay Marriage”

  1. Paul Robert Says:

    Your take on this is completely positive and I like it for that. It is a bit new to me. So far I have taken the position that we should not change the definition of marriage, which according to trational Catholic parlance has two equal purposes: the mutual support of the spouses and the begetting of children. When either of these objectives is lacking in the intentions of those getting married the marriage lacks validity. My approach so far has been to leave marriage as defined and consider it an exclusively heterosexual institution. In line with my general approach to all things gay, that you cannot philosophize or theologize on homosexuality in parallel with heterosexuality, I have said that homosexual unions undoubtedly have great positive value, but don’t call them marriage. Unions of any sort, “civil” for example, will quite do. I also see another aspect in the gay sphere. Though monogamy is not a dirty word homosexuals have other needs of sexual expression that are difficult to contain within the norms of monogamous relationships. I incline to the idea that we only need two rules for gaysex: 1. totally consensual, and, 2. nothing underage or taking advantage of the vulnerable. We do not want to re-invent for gay Christians a sexual ethic where sin abounds on every side as it does in the traditional heterosexual model currently imposed.

    • Terence Says:

      Thanks, Paul. Your observations on the distinction between standards for heterosexual and gay unions are important, but I don’t necessarily agree with them. (I don’t necessarily disagree with them, either). This entire issue desperately needs careful teasing out – which I hop to get to shortly.

      I my own life, I have move from a position of complete orthodoxy within marriage, to conscientious dissent on contraception (based on real world experience), to acknowledgement of my own gay identity and acceptance of its morality within a marriage – like committed and monogamous relationship, to arguing that homosexual relationships are acceptable if we keep as close as we can to the standards for heterosexual relationships — to the recognition that Catholic teaching on heterosexual relationships is equally disordered:

        Orthodox teaching on masturbation is a nonsense – and orientation is irrelevant.
        Teaching on contraception is contrary to Paul VI’s own professional expert advisors.
        Teaching on premarital sex may have made sense in biblical times when girls were married off young and pregnancy was a serious danger, but is entirely different when women mature earlier and marry later, and unwanted pregnancy is easily avoided.
        Teaching on divorce needs reconsideration – as even Pope Benedict appears to acknowledge, in “Light of the World”.

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