Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thinking out loud about gay marriage

I received an email today urging me to “save marriage” and sign a petition against the bill going before parliament seeking the right for gay people to marry. The email assumed that since I was a Christian minister I would happily sign it and help “save marriage”. I sat at my desk reading the information, which was very brief and irrational. It just confuses me. How can giving two people the right to make a public commitment to a long term, responsible and intimate relationship be a danger to marriage?
I like the diagram my daughter affirmed on facebook. It is true. The real biblical perspective on sexuality and marriage is not as straightforward as it is often assumed. There are a lot of ancient cultural influences, and we cannot willy nilly choose some and not others. Here, briefly, is my perspective on homosexuality/lesbian relationships.
The “nature-nurture” question
I have read so many different articles, essays and the occasional book on this subject. I have known a number of gay people, most of whom were in stable, life enhancing relationships. There are writings that tell us “gayness” is a natural state and that the people do not choose to be gay. Then there are articles and testimonies from “ex-gay” people who claim to have been “cured”.  Of course there are the religious people who say that even if it is a “natural state” such people should stay “chaste” and not express their sexuality. The “act” is the “sin”, not “being gay.” Other articles claim that “gayness” happens because of environmental issues, family dynamics, abuse or some other events in their life. It is assumed by “righteous” people then, that the right counselling, praying or attitudes could set them straight.
I read this one essay that to me had a ring of truth about.  I cannot remember the author or where I found it, but it seemed to me to be true to life. This claimed that we are all, by our birth, somewhere on a continuum between definitely hetero through to definitely gay. Those born gay will be gay, and those who are definite hetero will be hetero. It is not a choice you make. There are those who are somewhere in the middle of the continuum, (perhaps they could be bi?) and for them some environmental factors could lead them to be either gay or hetero. For most in this situation, because our culture favours hetero, they will become hetero.  Others, because of life events could become gay. It seems to me that the gays who claim to be “cured” probably fall into this midstream category. So I see the confusion of articles and essays about the “nature-nurture” question of “gayness” to stem from this sort of reality. I do not think any choose to be gay, it just is the way they are. I cannot conceive of a person choosing to be gay, even in our more liberal and open society, it would bring so many extra challenges into life.  I have concluded that “nature”, ( in some cases, with the added influence of “nurture”) made gay people who they are.
God and Gays
I do not think the God of love would deny a gay person his/her expression of love through sexual intimacy. Love between people is love and to me the expression of that through sexual intimacy and play enhances, affirms and builds the bond between two people. This is true of hetero relationships, but also true of gay partnerships. I do not believe that it is wrong for people to express their love in this way. If you like, I think “God smiles” wherever life-enhancing love is expressed. Now if I am a definite heterosexual I may struggle to accept or find commonality with the lovemaking of a gay couple.  It may even repulse me. This inability to put oneself in another’s situation, I believe, causes much of the anti-gay feeling and reaction. Love though, is love and is good, full stop! Intimacy at its highest, from intimacy of minds and hearts through to the same intimacy expressed in sexual play also is life enhancing and good. This, as I see it applies to hetero couples and gays. (Promiscuity, for both gays and heterosexuals, is to my mind, not life enhancing, nor person affirming.) I have come to believe that our physical intimacy should be representative of and express whatever personal intimacy we have. When the two align, I believe it is “of love” and fits in God’s purposes for wholesome, and fulfilling living and relating.  This is true whether we are gay or hetero.
We have tended to define marriage as between male and female. It is also linked to the rearing of a family. But isn’t it delightful when two eighty year olds find love and commit to marriage? We do not refuse to marry them, even though no family can result.  At it’s heart marriage is a committed responsible intimate relationship between two people who love one another and choose to keep that love alive. It is a public commitment to be responsible, caring toward each other, and to nurture the health of that relationship. A good marriage is one of the greatest experiences in life, you always have that one person you are “at home with” and who is there for you. It is a deeply affirming anchor point in life. The act of becoming married enhances that relationship and can be an ongoing living motivational springboard, which keeps the relationship healthy, bonded, and deepening. I do not believe it is right to deny that sort of relationship, that sort of public commitment to a gay partnership! It can only help gay couples to better express the reality of their life together and what they mean to one another. From my perspective, marriage is defined by the commitment to responsible relationship. Allowing gay’s to marry does nothing to destroy this! In fact it gives the opportunity for others to express its reality in their partnership and their lives.
I will not be signing the petition nor will I be passing the email on.

1 comment:

Linda Myers said...

I'm in a strange place on this. I completely believe gays should have civil unions, with all the rights and responsibilities. But somehow marriage still seems like a heterosexual thing.

Usually I'm quite liberal in my thinking. I have no idea why I have this opinion, and I rarely acknowledge it, but there you are.