Gay marriage

December 3rd, 2011 in Culture. Tags: , , , ,

The Australian Labor Party, which forms the present Australian Government, is having its national conference, where policy ideas are discussed and decided. This year, one of the “hot” topics for discussion is gay marriage. (Technically, I think the proposal is a change to the Marriage Act, which currently specifies marriage is between a man and a woman.)

The main opposition comes from the churches, especially the Anglican and Catholic churches, and Labor party officials with church links. Are they right?

Christians have a right to express their opinions, just like anyone else. And we have a right to seek laws and policies which are clearly in the public interest. But it is hard to see how opposing gay marriage fits either of these categories. Gays are going to live in marriage-like relationships, whether they are called “marriages” or not. Christian marriage will continue regardless of the Government definition. So it is hard to see how a change in the law will be much more than symbolic.

We live in a pluralist society, and we don’t have any mandate from Jesus, that I can think of, to force other people to conform to any christian ethic we may uphold. We would be extremely opposed to any move to discriminate against us, for example by not allowing proselytising, so shouldn’t we be very wary of disallowing other people making their own choices?

We surely have better things to do than expending energy trying to legislate righteousness – for example, loving our neighbours, rather than restricting their freedoms.

The church is not well respected (see Barriers to belief), and this is one of the reasons why.

What do you think?

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  1. Living in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal for over a decade, it’s puzzling to see that opposition is still so strong in a relatively post-Christian country like Australia. Do you know why Gillard is against same-sex marriage?

  2. I doubt she is personally against it – she is an atheist and living in a non-marriage relationship herself. I think there are two reasons:
    1. Politics is mostly poll-driven, and until recently public opinion has perhaps been opposed to gay marriage – or at least vocal public opinion – but things have changed recently, which may explain why the government is willing to change.
    2. There is a dwindling but still strong conservative Catholic dominance in the leadership of some trade unions, which elect half the delegates to the Labor party conference, and these leaders exercise a lot of control.
    I think the whole thing is an anachronism.

  3. If I may, I would like to express my disagreement. Allow me to explain. First of all, it seems to me that somebody who is has a Christian anthropology does not only have different moral reasons for the same values and duties, but rather may also have different values and duties in light of a different anthropology. In other words, a Christian and a secular humanist may have very different reasons for wishing to prevent the death of innocent people, but both may seem, in that instance, to express the same value. However, when a Christian is concerned, let us say, with abortion, the utilitarian parts ways with the Christian (Let us assume for the sake of this argument that secular humanism entails utilitarianism). Why does a Christian think that such a thing as abortion is wrong? Because they have a different view of man than the secular humanist does.
    Another example might be the Christian stance against lying in principle, where the Secular humanist only has reason to oppose lying in general, so that all instances of lying are immortal from the Christian perspective, but not all instances of lying are instances of immorality for the Utilitarian. I could also mention the more politically significant issue of pornography, which the Catholic Church teaches unequivocally that all governments or political bodies have a moral duty to discourage and criminalize.
    Now, in a pluralistic society, is the moral situation any different? It seems to me that the only difference is the political situation. Pluralistic societies do not imply pluralistic moralities in the actual sense. So, in a democratic society, there is always the chance that that which is not for the greatest good of man will be realized, but every citizen whether informed by commitments of Christian theology or utilitarian humanism, or indeed other worldviews or systems of ethics, has the right and the duty to vote according to their deepest concerns informed by their view of the world. Notice that this means that the separation of religion from politics can only ever be a formal one, and thus superficial (and I also am skeptical about the entire project of separating politics from religion in a strict formal sense as well – but I’ll digress for now).
    Now, the Christian is animated not by the concern for what most pleases the people, nor even by the concern to allow people to pursue such ends, but rather by a genuine concern for the good of the human person. As such obviously a Christian anthropology is going to act as an informative commitment for the Christian.
    Provided everything which has been said thus far, it seems to follow from a Christian theology of Sex (I take it that the Theology of the Body is, if not ‘The’ Christian theology of sexuality, at least an example of a Christian theology of sexuality) that man engaging in homosexual relations is not properly realizing the correct ends of sexuality including (though not exclusively) reproduction.
    When you say, with respect, that: “we don’t have any mandate from Jesus, that I can think of, to force other people to conform to any christian ethic we may uphold.” I wonder exactly what you think morality is. For instance, if one person wishes to kill their firstborn child in a religious ritual, do we have any mandate from Jesus to force those people to conform to the Christian ethic instead? It seems to me that the whole question is not being rightly put – instead the question should be, is this a legitimate moral concern from a Christian perspective which ought to inform the way we vote in a democratic system where our voice can be heard just as well as others.
    I submit that the legalization of homosexual marriage is a significant moral, and therefore political, concern, from the perspective of a Christian Anthropology with special attention to a Christian theology of sexuality. One might argue that such a concern is not legitimate from a ‘Christian’ perspective, and that argument would have to be addressed differently, but insofar as your suggestion here is concerned, I think we can never distinguish our moral convictions from our political convictions concerning morally significant issues. Indeed, I am of the opinion that all political concerns are, in one form or another, actually moral concerns.

  4. Tyler, thanks for your comments, but I can see we are coming from different viewpoints. Here are the areas I can see where we may differ:
    1. I think we need to distinguish between sins and crimes. If we define crimes as offences against society and society’s laws (because they are accepted as being contrary to the best interests of that society), and sins as offences against God, we can see that some things fall into one or the other category and some fall into both. For example, converting to christianity may be a crime in some Arab countries but is not a sin, pride is a sin but should not be a crime, and murder is (generally) both a sin and a crime.
    2. I think we should legislate as crimes only those things which can be clearly seen as the concern of the state, are detrimental to the state or to individuals, and can reasonably be policed and identified. Christians pressing to make things they consider to be sins also to be recognised as crimes is taking away the freedoms God has given to human beings and sets a dangerous precedent – after all, if atheists gain the majority, would we be happy if they made it illegal to give a child a christian upbringing?
    3. I am suggesting that homosexuality, at most, should be considered a moral issue by christians and not considered a crime.
    So in answer to your question, I think morality is that which conforms to true moral values as taught to us by Jesus and many others. But I do not think we have a mandate to impose morality, unless the matter is clearly a crime as well.
    What do you think of that?

  5. I feel I must respond. What you propose is interested, but I feel it is somehow wide of the mark. I shall respond according to the order of points you provide.
    1. Distinguishing between crimes and sins: there is no real distinction between what ought to be criminalized and what is sinful. Consider the definition of crime you provide: that which is harmful to society or society’s laws. First, I would want to say that criminal activity is, — ideally — only that which is harmful to society. When a law exists such that some action which would benefit society becomes illegal (let’s say, like raising your child in the Christian faith), then although it is a criminal act at that time, it should not be a criminal act. Therefore when we are asking the question “what should we criminalize” the answer should always be “we should criminalize whatever will harm society at large” – and this is, again, inevitably informed by one’s anthropology.
    Consider sins. Some things, it is imagined, although perhaps wrong insofar as they damage the human person, are ‘private’. However, this is clearly not true. Consider the analogy that C.S. Lewis gives when he was asked this same question: Imagine that you have a series of submarines or steam boats (or just water faring motorized vehicles in any case, take your pick) and each of them is aiming to arrive at their destination, the opposite shore, however far away. Now, the captain of one ship not only ensures that his boat doesn’t run into other boats, and keeps it going straight on the course, but also regularly maintains the ship’s innards. Another captain ensures only that his boat doesn’t run into others along the way, but also doesn’t bother to maintain his ship from within. Eventually the second captain’s ship is going to be impossible to control properly, and it will inevitably crash into other boats. The picture provided here by Lewis is intended to express the reality that man cannot really concern himself only with not hurting anyone else in the world, but must also concern himself with not hurting himself. This same conclusion is reached by John Paul the second, or even the atheist William Clifford in the “ethics of belief”. The conclusion is that there just is no such thing as a morally private action. In each act, man involves all of mankind in his action – and this is particularly highlighted in Catholic teaching where this vision of morality as fundamentally communal is de fide. This is, however, not denied by anyone who has given it sufficient reflection. What one does privately translates to how one influences the rest of the human community.
    2. I am intrigued by what you say here: “I think we should legislate as crimes only those things which can be clearly seen as the concern of the state, are detrimental to the state or to individuals, and can reasonably be policed and identified.” This is a strong point you are making. Consider, for example, whether masturbation should be made illegal. Obviously it was in the Old Testament law, and there was a legislated penalty (one was unclean ritually for about seven days I think). Obviously that would be a good example of something we might today think is ridiculous (mind you we still do legally penalize masturbation in public places, such as movie theatres, – and not just because it would make a mess, there is a deeper sense of the moral depravity and immediate harm it causes to others). However, you are perhaps right to say that it is almost impossible for the government to realistically regulate that kind of thing, or offer any kind of penalty (though more realistic for any kind of faith-based government, like Israel represented in the Old Testament).
    So far I have agreed that there may be a distinction between criminal acts and sin, but I have tried to express my concern to connect what ought to be criminalized with what is sinful (harmful to the human being and community according to a Christian Anthropology). Finally, I have admitted that some things are, as you point out, just not realistically regulated with the kind of secular government you have in the United States or that we have here in Canada, or elsewhere. However:
    3. Who said anything about criminalizing homosexuality? I’m not even sure what one means when they say that – do we mean criminalizing the ‘having the orientation’ (which itself is not an act)? Do we mean something like criminalizing sodomy (this is what the Torah does)? If the last, then I agree, with our respective governments as we have them today, this is just absurd. However, weren’t we talking about legalizing Gay marriage? I thought we were, and my response was specifically aimed to speak to the issue of legalizing Gay marriage. Consider the repercussions for society implied by constitutionally redefining marriage, and consider the social ramifications. With every political move the human community, like it or not, adjusts it’s collective moral intuition – so that in a country where some drug is legal there is no moral predicament in having it, such as caffeine, whereas in another country where the same drug is illegal (imagine a future country of ‘Mormons’) the moral intuitions are different. Legalize pornography, and what comes with that? Legalize gay marriage, and what exactly comes with that? The change to society at large is, I submit, going to be radical, and radically harmful. This is why gay marriage, I think, should not be legalized, and where legalized (like pornography being legalized) should be criminalized. Perhaps one could argue that my worry that gay marriage, and a policy about gay marriages which allows them, will be harmful to society at large is simply wrong – perhaps it won’t be harmful. However, from the perspective of a Christian Anthropology this seems, to my mind, absurd. Thus, the options are either to argue that Christianity is wrong (or in any case that the Christian Anthropology I am thinking about is wrong) or else that it is harmful after all.
    I would like to temper my comments with a note at this point. I do not write this out of any kind of animosity or homophobia whatsoever, nor do I intend, and I hope this much is clear, to come off as a presumptuous moralist, or even a disrespectful interlocutor. I am simply trying to express what I feel needs to be expressed, which is that which lies (or should lie) at the deepest level of concern for those people who oppose the legalization of gay marriage if they are animated by Christian values.

  6. correction – “What you propose is *interestING*…” I can’t believe I don’t double check my grammar given how many times I find some mistake a moment after I’ve posted. I apologize again. 😛

  7. Thanks again, this is a worthwhile and interesting discussion.
    1. I am a CS Lewis fan, familiar with his ship analogy and agree with it. I don’t doubt that everything that happens can potentially have an impact, the question is whether we should legislate against something.
    2. We seem to agree here. There are some things that we should legislate against (e.g. murder) and some things which may be harmful to society as well as individuals but which we nevertheless shouldn’t legislate against (e.g. pride or jealousy). The question then becomes where does any particular action come along the continuum and where do we draw the line. I can’t help feeling gay marriage is no more of a moral issue than jealousy or pride, and no more or a civil issue either.
    3. I wasn’t talking about criminalising, and if it seemed that way, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear enough. I was talking about legislation, in this case to allow the legal definition of “marriage” to include gay couples.
    4. I didn’t interpret your comments as homophobic, but as arising from your concern to honour God by applying what you regard as his ethics in the public domain. I just think that we have to balance different principles in the public domain, and freedom is a greater virtue than preventing someone calling their gay relationship “marriage”. LIke I said in the post, a change in the law changes nothing in reality, just gives it a different name. I can’t see the gain in that.
    Thanks again.

  8. Interesting indeed. I apologize for assuming you were American – perhaps the discussion in the comments on Australian politics should have tipped me off.
    However, perhaps our point of disagreement is not as fundamental as I suspected, we seem to agree about a great deal.
    Perhaps the disagreement is on two points. The first is the role of the government to uphold always and enforce where possible the entire set of moral values and duties. Thus, though a ban on jealousy cannot be enforced, the value can be consistently upheld – jealousy as a motive may still, on its own, get one in trouble in court, for instance. This is not worth arguing about however, or at least not at present, since much theology would have to be discussed to really make clear where I am coming from (such as the doctrine of the “two swords”). More interestingly I think we disagree about just how significant it would be for society as a whole if we were to change the definition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex. Consider, for instance, how great a social impact it would have if we changed the definition of marriage to include one male spouse with multiple female spouses (or indeed the other way around). Obviously whatever social implications the latter would have, the former has much more significant consequences. Consider the ways in which people think about gender; that it is simply inculcated because of culture, instead of the more traditional view that gender exists in all of reality, and maleness and femaleness are simply physical instances of masculinity and femininity. Consider that if there is any part of homosexuality which is psychological (or at least not entirely innate) then a culture which promotes it as ‘good’ would increase the number of people who would find themselves in those relationships. Consider that, if it is accepted as morally equivalent to a heterosexual then homosexual couples (who are, as I’ve been informed, on average more violent) will also have a right to adopt children and raise them. Of course wanting to raise children is not a bad thing, but sooner of later women who put their children up for adoption on the condition that their child is raised by a heterosexual couple will be recognized as a bigot. Indeed, anyone who ever dares to express the concerns that I’ve raised here is already often called homophobic, fascistic, ignorant and so on.
    Consider, for instance, that in the places where homosexual marriage has been ‘legally’ recognized, statistically speaking there are far fewer gay couples who bother to get married than heterosexual couples. Rather, as has been explicitly said before by many people pushing for this change in the law, once the law changes to allow gay marriage the difference is not how two gay people who are madly in love have the approval of the government, but rather that the culture at large will relate to them differently within a generation. The world will come to accept gay relationships as morally normative. They are not being naive, they are absolutely right.
    I am, for my part, very convinced, as are many of the people pushing for homosexual marriage, that changing the law to accommodate the demands of those pushing for such ‘gay-rights’ is to allow the entire culture to think about the human person in a radically different and very dangerous way. It is in light of these concerns that I so adamantly object to the suggestion that Christians can simply passively sit by and allow such a radical thing to happen as though it’s not our concern. That kind of culture makes it much more difficult to communicate Christianity intelligibly and in such a way as to not seem morally scandalous. Moreover, since a healthy view of family is absolutely an essential ingredient of every successful civilization, the empirical evidence would have us believe that if we loose sight of the vision for a normative-family, we will likewise consign our civilization to eventual dissolution. Cultures with a healthy view of the family as the basis for civilization have always lasted long, such as the Chinese had with Confucian values. Cultures without that same commitment to a right view of the family, such as the Aztecs (and I’m sure there are better examples) have decayed impressively quickly.
    The vision of marriage directly informs the normative ideal of family, which in turn directly informs the entire civilization, and of course all of these are part of what we mean when we say ‘anthropology’. In a culture where marriage is not sacred and informed by transcendent teleology, marriage becomes plastic – flexible according to subjective definition. Ultimately it makes all sexuality something less than sacred. Where sex is a form of prayer in Catholic theology (for instance), it becomes simply a means of physical pleasure between consenting adults. What will this vision of man imply for criminalizing pornography? Contraception? How about Masturbation in general? Prostitution?
    I think there is a real danger here. As G.K. Chesterton has argued, when a person comes across some building for which they don’t know of any purpose it serves, the really dumb thing to do is to knock the building down. First find out what it is there fore, what purpose it serves, and only then can you be qualified to decide to knock it down if you have to. The really scary thing about people pushing for gay-rights is that most of them haven’t the faintest idea why the rule is there in the first place, or why it continues to be a legitimate concern that the ‘building’ be kept standing.

  9. Thanks again for your comments Tyler. I too think we are not thinking too differently about many aspects of this question. But there are other aspects where we differ quite a bit.
    “More interestingly I think we disagree about just how significant it would be for society as a whole if we were to change the definition of marriage to include two persons of the same sex.”
    Yes, I think you are right here, at least in part. I don’t think changing the definition of marriage will change very much at all. There has been an enormous shift in public attitudes towards gays (including the claiming of the word ‘gay’), and I doubt it will change much more if gay marriage is allowed.
    But also, even if it will make a significant change, and even if you are correct that such a change in public opinion will have dire consequences, I still don’t think we should be pressing this issue. I don’t think we can demonstrate objectively that your fears are correct and I don’t think the majority share them. So I don’t see how, in a pluralist society, christians can enforce their views on people who don’t share them (assuming that christians are all agreed, which we aren’t).
    There are many, many things that christians regard as sins which we believe lead to harm to people and society, but we don’t and can’t legislate for them, and I think this should be one of them. Our task may be more to be servants – e.g. to help pick up the pieces when or if people are adversely affected.
    I think in the end, your views on sexual ethics and society are Catholic ones, whereas I am a Protestant and somewhat leftist and anti big-church, so that may also explain where we differ.
    Thanks again, I am appreciating our discussion, though I’m not sure how much more progress we can make.

  10. Sorry for not responding sooner, perhaps I’ll have more time to respond properly later. Unfortunately I had composed a long response and through some technical difficulty I lost it all. It was discouraging, but I thought I’d say that I am still interested in speaking to your last post.

  11. It’s a bummer when you lose your carefully written response. I’ll look forward (patiently) for further discussion. Merry Christmas!

  12. That is a very interesting response, and one I almost totally agree with. I’m not sure why the registration of civil partnerships through religious ceremonies required specific attention, but I guess it must be because religion is established by law in some sense in UK.

  13. It was because when same-sex civil partnerships were allowed in the UK (in 2005), it was prohibited to conduct them in religious premises or to have them conduct by religious ministers. It was not allowed to have any religious ceremonies at those civil partnerships.

  14. Is homosexuality sin or is it not?
    If homosexuality is not a sin then the following applies:
    – We should drop the word “homosexuality” from our vocabulary and only use “gay” since that is the preferred term by those who practice the behavior.
    – We should support gay marriage just as we support heterosexual marriage, ascribing all the rights and benefits to the former that we do to the latter.
    – As members of democratic countries we should vote for and support politicians who advance gay rights and and that we will vote against those politicians who seek to restrict those rights.
    – As members of responsible adult society, we should honor the institution of gay marriage and make it clear to our children that they can be just as blessed by God in a gay relationship as in a heterosexual relationship.
    If homosexuality is a sin, we should do none of the things above. Instead, we should seek first and foremost to practice sexual purity in our own lives, including every thought we think, according to what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. When given the opportunity, we should speak up for the values of Jesus Christ including the admonition in Hebrews 12:4 to hold marriage sacred – recognizing that homosexuality is only one of the ways it can be desecrated. We should be prepared to be persecuted for these beliefs. And if we are outvoted in a democracy we must accept the law of the land. However, we should never forget that what we honor as adults becomes honored by our children and therefore using terms like “gay marriage” invites children to believe that God views it no differently than heterosexual marriage.
    Love always puts the best interests of the other person first. Therefore, when it comes to homosexuality, you have to decide whether it is righteous behavior or not, for otherwise how will you know whether you are dealing with something that is counter to human interests or beneficial to human interests?

  15. Mike, the question I am discussing here is not whether homosexuality is a sin, but whether homosexual marriage should be legalised. It comes down to the question of whether christians should try to impose our ethics on society as a whole via laws. (e.g. Was prohibition a good idea? Should we make pride a crime?)
    What do you think about that issue?

  16. I think you are missing the point by wanting to be ambiguous as to homosexuality’s morality. You appear to think it’s problematic by comparing it to alcohol and pride, but why should someone accept those comparisons if they think homosexuality is perfectly acceptable behavior?
    Since, however, you are determined to avoid the obvious issue, I’ll address your questions on your terms.
    Prohibition was a failed attempt to raise the country’s morality to a level it was not, ultimately, willing to attain. I see no one today trying to use the legislative process to raise morals; rather they’re merely trying to retain the level of sexual morality we’ve agreed to as societies for centuries.
    Pride is an attitude and cannot be properly regulated by human authority. It would meet the classic definition of a “thought crime” and regulating thought crimes is appropriately repugnant to any reasonable person. Only God is qualified to govern our thoughts (and this, by the way, is why Jesus came to bring us the kingdom of God).
    Thus Prohibition and pride are poor points of comparison with the issue of same-sex marriage.
    You seem to dislike the idea of “legislating morality.” Do you not recognize that’s what all countries do? A society’s laws spell out what it considers immoral behavior by its citizens and therefore subject to negative consequences. Thus most societies legislate against murder, against theft, and so on. Now, when it comes to family relationships, most societies have granted certain benefits so as to foster a healthy and orderly society. This usually includes benefits in the country’s tax code. According to my understanding, every time same-sex marriage has come up for a vote in a U.S. state, it has failed. Where it has been declared legal are where it has been ruled so by a court. Thus it’s hard to say that opponents of same-sex marriage are opposing the democratic will.
    If we do get to the point where a majority of citizens want equal rights for same sex couples, then those of us who disagree will not be able to stop it. However, I would offer to achieve that parity by giving up my own benefits in the tax code as a married person than by granting those rights to others. That way, I can help communicate, in a sacrificial way, that those who prefer sexual freedom over sexual purity are inviting the judgment of God upon themselves (see Hebrews 13:4).
    What a society sanctions is noticed by its children. Even if our society chooses to disregard God’s morality, we have a responsibility to patiently and gently communicate to our fellow citizens the wrath they are inviting on themselves (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Otherwise, our children grow up with unclear views about right and wrong. This would only invite further wrath (Isaiah 5:20).

  17. Thanks for your reply Mike. The place where you and I seem to differ most is here:
    “You seem to dislike the idea of “legislating morality.” Do you not recognize that’s what all countries do? A society’s laws spell out what it considers immoral behavior by its citizens and therefore subject to negative consequences.”
    I don’t believe laws are designed to address sin or morality – I don’t know any legal systems that penalise pride, anger, envy, lust, greed, etc, only the actions which might follow from those feelings and harm someone else, which we call crimes.
    If you do believe laws should address morality, then do you think we should try to legislate against all those vices? On the other hand, if your comment was a slip, and you agree with me that it isn’t sins per se which we we legislate against, but only those sins which are also crimes against other citizens, then do you think that allowing gay people, who are already legally allowed to live in homosexual relationships, to call their relationship “marriage” would harm other citizens?
    Which way would you go on the above dilemma?

  18. Eric,
    The answer to both your questions are in my previous comment.
    Perhaps you missed them because you did not notice that I clearly distinguished between any human attempt to govern thoughts (which is foolish, and is addressed in the paragraph that begins “Pride is the attitude…”) on the one hand, and the attempt to govern behavior (which is reasonable and is addressed in the paragraph that begins “You seem to dislike the idea of…”) on the other.
    Again, no reasonable person thinks a human government is capable of properly governing human thoughts and attitudes. What a government can do is regulate behavior that is harmful to society.
    And, again, if homosexuality is contrary to God’s will and invites His wrath, society may be forgiven if it does not attempt to break up such couples for the same reason that it may be forgiven for not enforcing Prohibition. However, should society go so far as to grant its approval of such relationships by calling them “marriage” then has it not defied God by calling good what He has called evil?

  19. “Perhaps you missed them because you did not notice that I clearly distinguished between any human attempt to govern thoughts (which is foolish”
    Mike, I didn’t miss that, and I didn’t ask you about thoughts. But I may not have been clear enough so let me ask you again.
    Pride, greed, envy, lust, etc are not just thoughts, they are also actions, or lead to actions – e.g. to spend money satisfying our own selfish needs). Some of those actions are detrimental to other citizens in a direct way, and some are not. Those that are detrimental in a direct way (e.g. theft) we make crimes and legislate against them. But the ones whose effect is indirect, small or hard to define (e.g. spending more time at work than with our children, or not loving our neighbour as ourselves, or seeking personal wealth rather than seeking first the kingdom of God) we do not make crimes and they remain moral issues only.
    So I still wonder if you would want to legislate against active selfishness, overwork, spending money on trivialities while poor people starve in the third world, etc? If not, why try to regulate gay marriage?
    “And, again, if homosexuality is contrary to God’s will and invites His wrath”
    Do you think homosexuality is any more contrary to God’s will than seeking personal wealth more than seeking the kingdom of God, or not loving our neighbour as ourselves?
    And do you think then, that any action that is contrary to God’s will should be made illegal, or is it only this particular action?

  20. I don’t know of anyone who wants to pass laws that prevent people from seeking personal wealth more than seeking the kingdom of God, not loving our neighbors as ourselves, or engaging in homosexual activity.
    The question is: do you want to pass laws that grant legal status and tax benefits to people who are seeking personal wealth more than seeking the kingdom of God, not loving our neighbors as ourselves, or engaging in homosexual behavior?

  21. Well Mike, I think we are getting somewhere in this discussion. So I now have a question and an answer.
    Question: Is it the legal status and tax benefits that are your main objection?
    I thought your principle was not allowing legally what God didn’t approve (“should society go so far as to grant its approval of such relationships by calling them “marriage” then has it not defied God by calling good what He has called evil?”) Can you therefore clarify please which is your objection, or is it both?
    Now to my answer:
    “do you want to pass laws that grant legal status and tax benefits to people who are seeking personal wealth more than seeking the kingdom of God, not loving our neighbors as ourselves, or engaging in homosexual behavior?”
    No, I do not want to pass laws for any of those things. Most of them don’t need laws, they are already legal, and I don’t think I should oppose any new laws, for the reasons I have already given. There is a clear principle here (for me). Make laws to stop crimes, but not to try (futilely) to stop sins.

  22. Eric, you continue to profess a clarity and consistency that you don’t demonstrate. You say “I do not want to pass laws for any of those things” but your original post suggests that amending Australia’s Marriage Act to sanction gay marriage would be a good thing. Please clarify.

  23. Mike, you have misunderstood and misquoted me. Check my post and you will see I didn’t say amending the Marriage Act would be a good thing – I said opposing other people amending it was a bad thing. That is quite a difference, as I hope you agree.
    So, what is your answer to my questions …..
    1. Do you think we should try to legislate against all things you regard as unrighteous behaviour (e.g. greed), even if they do no direct harm to other citizens, or is it only this particular issue?
    2. And is your opposition to gay marriage based on God’s disapproval or the financial matters you raised or both?
    This is the third time I have asked you to clarify what you are saying on this matter, and I hope we can make progress on it. Thanks.

  24. Eric, you are apparently unaware of your equivocation. That is, you are stating a principle, but applying it inconsistently. Specifically, you are treating homosexuality differently from other sins. Your principle is that you oppose legislation regarding sins, but you would not oppose legislation about homosexuality if the purpose was to grant marriage status to it.
    As for your questions, I have answered them twice before. Here we go again.
    1. I favor as few laws as possible. I certainly do not favor laws which seek to replicate the code of conduct required of us by Jesus. That would be a ridiculous and impossible proposition. I know of no one today who suggests this, and your continuing to argue against this straw man is a waste of time and an obstacle to progress in the discussion. Human governments should only concern themselves with outward behavior, and then only with what is important to maintaining peace and order in the society.
    2. My opposition to calling a homosexual relationship a marriage is the damage done to society, particularly to its children, by granting social approval to a way of life that 1) God has condemned, and 2) has obvious problematic outcomes. I hasten to add that we should not even need the second because God’s warning alone should be sufficient notice that negative consequences will ensue. I believe that for you to quietly accept and not even vote against an amendment to your Marriage Act in this regard is a dereliction of your duty – much as John the Baptist would have been derelict to remain silent in the face of King Herod’s sin regarding his brother’s wife. (Your argument for quietly allowing “gay marriage” would have worked well for Herod, who was wanting John to just shut up about the issue.) On the other hand, if you do not think homosexuality is a sin, then your position is perfect defensible – except that you should be ashamed for likening it to “greed” and other sins.
    The only reason I brought up the “tax benefits to marriage” was to say that I was willing to give up my own financial benefits as the way to achieve parity if society was determined to treat homosexual couples the same as married couples. That is, it is important that I be willing to sacrifice financially rather than be part of a movement that calls evil good. This is particularly important where children are concerned because they need to see us as adults approving of good behavior and disapproving of bad – not the other way around.
    To sum up, I am not for policing homosexual behavior – and neither am I for rewarding it.

  25. As long as I am repeating myself, let me add that while I eschew legislative activity regarding homosexuality and other personal sins (whether to criminalize them or legitimize them), I emphatically acknowledge that it is a sin, as is all sex outside the bounds of a loving marriage, and, as such, inhibits intimacy with our wonderful Christ and, in addition, brings unwelcome consequences on those who practice it.
    To say otherwise, or to be silent on this point, would be a failure of the love I am supposed to have for my fellow human beings, all of whom are going to heaven.

  26. “Eric, you are apparently unaware of your equivocation.”
    You are right, Mike – I am unaware of my equivocation.
    “Your principle is that you oppose legislation regarding sins, but you would not oppose legislation about homosexuality if the purpose was to grant marriage status to it.”
    This is a wrong statement of my views. I do not believe we should legislate against sins that are not crimes (i.e. they don’t have an obvious adverse impact on other citizens). And I don’t think christians should oppose allowing gays to marry. I cannot see how that is inconsistent or equivocating – in fact both are consistent.
    But I am still a little mystified about your views, I’m sorry. You believe governments should only be concerned with “outward behavior, and then only with what is important to maintaining peace and order in the society”, a viewpoint on which we agree. So you must think that:
    (1) gay marriage (as opposed to gay relationships, which are already allowed) threatens peace and order – how would you justify that?
    (2) rampant greed or divorce do not threaten peace and order as much as gay marriage, or do you believe there should be laws against them also?
    But most important for our discussion, and for the subject of this post, is your statement: “I believe that for you to quietly accept …. an amendment to your Marriage Act … is a dereliction of your duty”
    If christians were a minority, I would hope we would be allowed to continue to teach our children the faith, even though some atheists oppose this, and I presume you would agree? So do you think we should expect non-believers to allow us freedoms that we do not grant to them if we are the majority?

  27. Eric,
    I’m sure you think you are being consistent. Enough said.
    Regarding your two questions, it would be the fourth time I’ve answered them (or their equivalents). Enough said.
    On a different subject, a big part of your thinking seems to be distinguishing between Christians and others. You are much more critical of Christians and seem to expect a higher standard of behavior from them than you do others. Having spent the entirety of the 1980’s and a little more as a pastor, and seeing up-close families comprised of Christian and non-Christian members, I can tell you that, from a human viewpoint, there is no significant difference between the moral behavior of Christians and others.
    Lastly, I hope you will eventually recognize that your unwillingness to state a position on whether homosexuality is sin or righteousness dooms all conversations you have on the subject to be ultimately unproductive. Sin matters. If you believe homosexuality is a sin, you see this issue of your original post one way; if you believe that it is not, you see it another. But if you don’t know, or won’t say, whether or not it is a sin, you’re just going to be subject to whichever direction the wind of public opinion is blowing.
    I’m done on this. Thanks for the engagement.

  28. I think you are right, Mike, it’s time to finish. I think you always wanted me to fit into your categories, and I didn’t fit. So it was bound to end without anything being resolved. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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