Friday, June 29, 2012

Gay marriage talk notes.. please comment/tear to bits

ok, so I've been convinced that we need to do this at church.
This are my initial thoughts. Just scribbles, stealing mostly from O'Donovans fulcrum sermon 'Good news for Gays' and Hauerwas' 'Sex in public'

The issue has been presented as though there is one group of people who wants everyone to be treated equally, and another small group of people who think they can define marriage.
This is true, but not in the way you think.

(Christians can't help but argue from Christianity.. which we think is the best for everybody)

Christians want people to be treated equally
The churches position is that all people find their true identity in Christ. There is one christ and one gospel.
That gospel is a word of comfort and a word of challenging transformation. You can't have one without the other. The comfort is that God is powerful to transform us.
The desires of all disciples of Jesus are challenged when they truly walk after him.
We are all equally challenged by the gospel, sometimes to suffer for the sake of the kingdom.
Yet this is worked out in different ways. Something which has traditionally been called 'vocation'.
The one gospel is preached to a banker, a politician and a soldier. But when they recieve it, there are different aspects of their lives that are impacted in different ways. The banker needs to know (and obey!) God's attitude to money, the politician about power, the soldier about just war etc...
One gospel, different vocations.
No different to a homosexually oriented person. one gospel, perhaps a different calling and vocation

Go to marriage and singleness in 1 Cor 7.
    Let's remember that the calling to heterosexual marriage is more morally compromised than the call to celibacy.
    That is, Paul thinks it is harder to be devoted to Jesus if you are married than if you are single and trying to avoid sex. (because of the cares of this world). (The homosexually oriented person may ironically have an advantage here, though I'm sure it does not feel like it!)

Christians need to apologise to the gay community for when we have made out they need a different gospel
1. When we treat them as worse sinners, beyond the love of Jesus and outside the need for our care
2. When the church has treated the gay community as a seperate group that does not need to be challenged to discipleship, even suffering for the sake of the gospel

The gay marriage lobby (arrogantly) thinks it can define marriage.

In this debate, people think they completely know what marriage is.
It is when 2 people love each other. So if 2 people love each other they should be able to get married (The romantic fallacy)
It is about having children. Modern technology allows gays to  have children, therefore they should be able to get married (The realist fallacy)
It is about sex/ companionship/ tax avoidance......
Eph 4- one flesh as a mystery
Even for Paul, marriage may be all the things above, but it is more. It is a mystery
It is a mystery closely tied to Christ's love for the church. An ordered love and care and submission between man and woman, that is mysterious.

But, it might be replied, surely a heterosexual marriage isn't the only place this happens??
Well, did you notice what it is a mystery of? The church.
The whole church are meant to submit to each other
The whole church are meant to care foreach other financially
The whole church are meant to have close committed relationships
THe whole church is meant to be involved in raising children (baptism)
The whole church is meant to love each other.

We have failed the gay community by failing to be the church
(We have failed heterosexual single people too!!)
When we restrict our submission, commitment, money love, children to marriages and blood family, when we reduce the basis of our marriages to romance, (or entertain the idea of secret marriages.. ie, we have had sex so we are married).....we are like the world around us,
but our good news is (should be) that in the community of disciples, these things are opened up beyond the exclusive sexual relationship of marriage.

Ok , so it needs a lot of fleshing out, but I think it is a different (stealing O'Donovan and Hauerwas) to the question, that ultimately says we respond by preaching the gospel and being the church.



Alison said...

I love it, and it's very helpful. Thank you!! Like you said others have written very similar things - calling the church to be the church, to honour marriage, family, and human beings the way that the bible tells us to.

However all these discursives (including yours) stop short at the same point. No one I have read, with this framework, has given any direct advice on the role of Christians in shaping legislation. How does this argument jump from "the church being the church: to the more specific issue of "the church engaging with government"?

Mike W said...

Hi Alison, fair call.
In fact one of the things I was trying to do is go behind that issue, (how to engage the government), because it is so complicated.

There is a saying in the youth group at my church, when the youth minister (who is very well respected), is giving out some wisdom.
"I'm not commanding you, I'm just saying it isn't a good idea to eat your own poo. If you want to eat your own poo, ok, I'm just saying".

I don't think there is much else the church can do, but say "We think this is a bad idea". The church is still somewhat respected as a place where wisdom resides.

If our society decides it wants to eat it's own poo, that will be very sad. And there will be a huge job for the church in caring for those damaged by the bad laws (as there has been from bad divorce laws)

But the issue of whether the church can live out a different vision of marriage and community is far more important. And while the churches life is going to be affected by new laws, it is not determined by those new laws.

On the whole, I think we have been incredibly unfair to homosexuals, because we have swallowed the 'if I have a desire I should fulfill it' attitude of the culture around us in so many respects, and then ask a different level of discipleship of the homosexual.

On the other hand, churches have cooperated in elevating the nuclear family above the church body. This debate has only furthered the churches lionising of marriage. It makes it all that much harder to call people to chaste intimate friendships when you are inviting them to a 'family service', where they can be quietly sidelined unless they are married.

But, back to governments...
Perhaps we need to be more offensive than defensive. That is, we need to be engaging our government on all sorts of issues, not least economic and social justice ones. There is probably a conversation to be had about continuing to fight once we have lost.
Why aren't we battling against Sunday trading? Why aren't we fighting for a 40hr week? Why aren't we looking to have the divorce laws changed? Where on earth are we on refugees...climate change.. foreign aid.
Of course, that last sentence is a bit unfair. The church does talk about all thses things (and act), it is just that no-one cares to listen.
Most of my congregation probably don't engage with government. But they do engage with their friends and collegues. And they do engage with each other. So that is my target at the moment

byron smith said...

Some really interesting thoughts here, and I like the reversal of expectations around which group wants equality and which one claims to define marriage.

I'm interested to hear more of your reflections upon O'D's sermons, since I feel that this answer is more Stanley than Oliver at the moment (not that I don't think SH is making important points about the church as family!).

Mike W said...

Hi Byron.I haven't reflected incredibly deeply on OO'D's sermons, just nicked the bit about discipleship.
There is a whole lot of reflection to do before this hits the ground
(but also 3 funerals to do)